Best Shows in Denver and Beyond January 2023

SUNN O))) Shoshin Duo performs at The Gothic Theatre on January 31, 2023
Shadows Tranquil in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Autumn Creatures w/Cherished, Bloodsports and Shadows Tranquil
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Autumn Creatures is a band from Colorado Springs whose music bridges the worlds of ambient, post-rock, orchestral post-metal, dream pop and outright shoegaze. So on a solid bill with Denver’s Cherished which has emerged from its early incarnation as more a post-punk and death rock band into the realm of shoegaze but with tweaking the edges of the aesthetic with unconventional vocal tones and rhythms that shift easily from drifty to direct. Bloodsports also from Denver is hitting the sweet spot of slowcore and shoegaze with introspective vocals and flares of noise to give what might be a more amorphous aesthetic some dramatic definition. Shadows Tranquil also doesn’t trade in subgenre adherence by thoroughly fusing chilly shoegaze with a touch of emocore and mathrock but all aimed at expressing direct emotional resonances with a maximalist sonic approach with an impressive level of musical detail and dynamic nuance.

Verhoffst in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Noise Brap: Barbie Bloodbath, Muttering, Verhoffst, Kneiffii, Sheet Metal Skingraft, Wontanii, Ghost Thief, Wolf Larva, Avarice and Mumble w/DJs Ursa, B2B and Combat Sport
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: The concept of the brap was coined by Skinny Puppy and was even the title of the 1996 edition of its Back and Forth Series (3 & 4 for that iteration) which collected early instrumental demos and live recordings from earlier in the decade of collaborative electronic improvisations. And for this show the various artists in the local noise/electronic industrial/glitch scene will be teamed up with another for sessions throughout the evening and into the night.

Bret Sexton and Farrell Lowe in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Summit Quartet & SeFa LoCo
When: 7-9
Where: Mercury Café (Jungle Room)
Why: This is an evening of live improvised music featuring Right Brains Records artists Summit Quartet which includes Swedish pianist Walter Thompson and long time Denver-based avant-garde saxophonist and educator Mark Harris who has performed with the likes of Bob Hope, Roger Waters and Cab Calloway and locally known for his time in art rock projects Thinking Plague and Hamster Theater. Also on the bill is SeFaLoCo which includes not only Matt Smiley and Ron Coulter from Summit Quartet but long time local masters of improvised music Farrell Lowe and Bret Sexton.

Open Mike Eagle, photo from Bandcamp

Sunday and Monday| 01.08 and 01.09
What: Open Mike Eagle w/Video Dave and DVNEHPPY (w/Azon Classic) (on 01.08) and w/S.iah (on 01.09)
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge (01.08) and The Coast (01.09)
Why: Open Mike Eagle has been created “art rap” for more than two decades and has long been a star in the modern alternative rap world. His new album A Tape Called Component System with the Auto Reverse (2022) is a fine dose of his always creative and imaginative lyricism casting every day situations in surreal terms that reveal insights what might otherwise be mundane and everyday situations. The album includes contributions from Armand Hammer, Aesop Rock and opening artist Video Dave. His beats go beyond mere choice sample processing and have a cinematic and literary quality in their own right creating a layered listening experience.

Skyfloor in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 01.12
What: Alphabet Soup #56: Funk Hunk, Savage Bass Goat, Yung Lurch, Furbie Cakes, Skyfloor
When: 9
Where: The Black Box
Why: Alphabet Soup returned in 2022 for every second Thursday of the month at The Black Box to bring you a bevy of local, eclectic and forward thinking dance and techno not getting showcased much at any other event or venue plus there’s no cover.

R A R E B Y R D $ in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.13
What: R A R E B Y R D $
When: 6-10
Where: Rainbow Dome
Why: Rainbow Dome is a project rooted in visual art and community building and this Capricorn Season-themed event involves roller skating, a dance party and a performance from hip-hop trio R A R E B Y R D $ whose music is brash, tender, emotionally rich and deep and incorporates a diverse sound that is an amalgamation of electro soul, ambient, R&B, alternative hip-hop and techno. If one were to count the top live music acts in Denver at the moment these people would have to be included.

Friday | 01.13
What: Modular Synth Night: Enemy Sender, ALX-106, Love Cosmic Love, Sine Mountain and Kent_ucky
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: As the name of the event suggests this is a showcase for some of the local modular synth artists. Normally a show like this happens at a place like Black Box or maybe Fort Greene or with the artists separately at other spaces open to pure electronic music and the more avant electronic dance and techno music but that it’s happening at a venue like Hi-Dive is a testament to what those in the know already knew and that’s that there has been an blossoming interest in synthesizer music beyond the confines of EDM and electronic dance music for many years and maybe a sign of more events like this to come outside the usual venues.

Church Fire in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.14

What: Coastless Creatives Presents Void: Feat. Closegood, Cole3K, Church Fire and Polly Urethane
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Closegood is an experimental R&B duo originally based out of Los Angeles and may still be. Its 2021 album THOTFORM was a colorful set of music that sounded like a bit like R&B, glitch, hyper pop and something that one might expect on the Orange Milk label. Cole3K is similarly-minded in sound with a more hip-hop infused cadence but with production that sounds like the rapid fire shifting pulse of modern life. Church Fire is a hyper political electronic dance industrial trio from Denver but lately it has been incorporating production ideas from the realms of glitch and hyperpop in finding ways to express the reconciliation of self with a fragmented and fragmenting world in a time of great change and crisis where world governments, especially great powers, focus on pointless conflict and a charade of identity politics while the world burns and no one holding the reigns of economic and political power is taking a leadership position to address our collective challenges with the environment, authoritarian politics, economic inequality connected by the domination of global oligarchy. Church Fire’s music is in opposition to that and creating an oasis of joy and solidarity while performing it. Polly Urethane is an evolving visionary artist who seems comfortably situated in creating works that cross the boundaries of classical music, opera, noise, industrial, performance art, dream pop and post-punk. Her shows are an exercise in fearless confrontational challenge of the artist and audience dynamic.

Polly Urethane in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 01.17
What: Alice Does Computer Music, Certain Lives, Polly Urethane and Lanx Borealis
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: Alice Does Computer Music is a New York City-based synth pop/hyperpop artist who incorporates cello into her immersive and playful soundscapes. Fans of Mitski may appreciate this artist’s particular brand of pop composition. Lanx Borealis is a Denver-based, dark ambient electronic artist whose work is in the realm of the sort of thing you might expect to hear on the long running Hearts of Space program on public radio. You never really know what kind of set you’re going to get from Polly Urethane and this might be a repeat of her show the previous Saturday or something more improvised or something new but always imaginative and powerful.

Blondshell in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 01.18
What: Suki Waterhouse w/Blondshell
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Blondshell is the stage name of Sabrina Teitelbaum, a songwriter based out of Los Angeles whose singles have been making the rounds since 2022 when she started touring a bit as well on a national level. Her surprisingly fiery rock songs with lush pop hooks and commanding vocals as heard most recently with the December release of her “Veronica Mars” single are appealing enough but live Teitelbaum is a bit of a mysterious creature whose nearly acrobatic stage poses executed with an unaffected calm adds another dimension of performance style one doesn’t often see at a show like she’s incorporating yoga practice into the performance while keeping it theatrical and emotive. Suki Waterhouse is perhaps best known for her acting and modeling career having appeared in the films The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015) and Ana Lily Amirpour’s gritty horror thriller The Bad Batch (2016) to name but two. In 2022 Waterhouse released her debut album I Can’t Let Go through Sub Pop as well as an EP called Milk Teeth after periodically releasing a single starting with 2016’s “Brutally.” Waterhouse’s hushed vocals and introspective, spacious, cinematic songs offer some insightful and nuanced perspectives on modern relationships.

The Mañanas in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.20
What: The Velveteers w/The Mañanas and Pink Lady Monster
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Velveteers return from a year of playing big out of town shows with their scorching yet joyful brand of blues rock and psychedelia with two performances and this night the Denver show with two of Denver’s finest. The spirited garage rock/power pop group The Mañanas and their breezy rhythms and sound like something that might have happened had indiepop bands taken even more of a cue from tropicalía. Pink Lady Monster seemed to emerge onto the Denver scene fully formed with an aesthetic that perfectly amalgamates dream pop, psychedelic rock and downtempo in a way reminiscent of both Broadcast and Blonde Redhead.

Friday | 01.20
What: Kool Keith w/Stay Tuned and DJ boyhollow
When: 7
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Kool Keith is the eccentric and influential rapper whose music with Ultramagnetic MCs and Dr. Octagon alone earn him an important place in the history of hip-hop. His surreal wordplay, profane humor and chameleonic style coupled with numerous alter egos have exerted a clear influence on hip-hop since the 1980s as a creative figure with a singular and evolving vision. Opening is the great, Denver-based crew Stay Tuned whose own style of hip-hop with two MCs is not short on imaginative culture and media commentary set to supremely creative beats in the vein of the likes of Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest. DJ-ing the show is legendary track selector boyhollow whose long running alternative music dance night Lipgloss recently went from a weekly to a monthly event.

The Velveteers in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.21
What: The Velveteers w/Shady Oaks and The Nova Kicks
When: 8
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: This night The Velveteers play a hometown show with Americana inflected blues and garage rock band Shady Oaks and Denver indie rock band The Nova Kicks.

Instant Empire in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.21
What: Instant Empire w/A Mouthful of Thunder and A Place for Owls
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Since 2011 Instant Empire has been threading together classic New Wave sensibilities with introspective and hazy melodies. A Mouthful of Thunder is the latest band from Stephen Till formerly of Hearts of Palm and Black Black Ocean. Who? At any rate, Till’s sensitive lyrics and knack for dynamic melodies and inventive hooks are present here too as evidenced by its 2020 album Careful Now. A Place For Owls released its excellent self-titled debut full length in 2022 and sure it can be lumped under the clumsy umbrella genre designation of indie rock. But there is a level of orchestral composition that brings to the music a full and rich sound that complements well its yearning and existentially explorational lyrics.

Saturday | 01.21
What: Lykotonon w/Ritual Aesthetic, Noctambulist, Morningstar Delirium and DJ Swarth
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lykotonon includes members of Wayfarer, Stormkeep and Blood Incantation and its music might be described loosely as experimental black metal in that it’s more in the realm of Wolves in the Throne Room than Darkthrone and underpinned with spooky electronics that give the music an otherworldly feel. The group recently released its new album Promethean Pathology (2022) and this might be seen as something like an album release show since the record dropped on November 25. Also on the bill are like-minded denizens of the more interesting end of local extreme metal.

Grief Ritual in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 01.22
What: Velnias w/Ghosts of Glaciers and Grief Ritual
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Velnias is tricky to pin down in clear terms because its music isn’t just doom or progressive psychedelic black metal. But its appealingly forbidding yet melodic and epic songs have found an audience well beyond its unlikely hometown of Nederland, Colorado where it’s not just banjos and jam bands. Ghosts of Glaciers will be a good complement to the bill with its own progressive, doomy post-metal and Grief Ritual’s cutting, hardcore-influenced is a relentless assault on authoritarian nihilism.

Nightshark in 2006, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 01.26
What: Nightshark w/Quits, Tripp Nasty, Sense From Nonsense
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Free jazz/noise rock avant-garde legends Nightshark is playing its first show in over a decade and its first with saxophonist Becca Mhalek in more than fifteen years. The trio of Mhalek, Mike Buckley and Andrew Lindstrom were staples of the Denver underground scene in the 2000s playing small clubs, drive bars and DIY spaces regularly with its mind-altering musicianship and wild energy. Later incarnations of the group included the likes of Neil Keener of Wovenhand fame and Brittany Gould who some may know for her transcendent ambient folk project Married in Berdichev. But the classic trio was the longest lasting and the lineup for this reunion. Sharing the stage will be some other luminaries of the 2000s and 2010s Denver DIY world with composer and modular synth artist Tripp Nasty who has recently launched a new lathe cut label called From the Desk of the Sick Librarian which released the new Sense From Nonsense record. The latter is the solo micro soundtrack and synth and film project of Tom Nelsen who many may know from his tenure in both mutant garage rock band Vicious Women and industrial post-punk phenoms Echo Beds. Quits will also bring its noise rock madness and eruptive energy to the show with former members of White Dynamite, Sparkles, Hot White and Felt Pilotes. All killer.

Pink Lady Monster in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Church Fire, Velvet Horns and Pink Lady Monster
When: 7
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Church Fire will grace the west side with its politically charged industrial dance party and raw emotional power. Velvet Horns is supposedly a pop punk band in the queercore vein and that’s true enough in essence but there’s nothing corny about its intensity and storytelling, like they aimed right for the vulnerable emotions that is part of the best of pop punk. Pink Lady Monster’s art pop psychedelia always seems to have a paradoxical mysterious immediacy with songs that defy easy genre tagging as its songs aren’t readily comparable to any obvious influences.

Circuit des Yeux in 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Circuit des Yeux and Bleak Mystique
When: 7
Where: The Coast
Why: Experimental indie folk artist Haley Fohr has been releasing fascinating records as Circuit des Yeux since at least 2010. Her spectral, almost classical compositions and otherworldly and dramatic vocals seem like something that one might expect from another era or parallel universe in which Alice Coltrane is a figure in her more New Age period was cited as an influence alongside Magma as much as any classic rock or folk artist. Her 2021 album -io is like a long lost Nico record with shades of Julia Holter and Laurel Halo but of course Fohr’s unique and always boundary pushing style.

Haunt Me in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Haunt Me w/Hex Cassette and Julian St. Nightmare
When: 9
Where: The Crypt
Why: Haunt Me is a darkwave post-punk band from Austin, Texas that often performs in a nearly choking cloak of fog so that its echoing melodies seem to indeed come through to you in a disembodied manner grounded by hypnotic beats. This swing through Colorado includes two dates, this one at The Crypt with the confrontational and fun occult darkwave dance style of the inimitable Hex Cassette who always breaks the barrier between audience cajoling performer and manic dancer in the audience. Julian St. Nightmare’s songwriting as a post-punk band is consistently pushing the barriers of the musical style with not only superior musicianship and diverse songwriting but great style and stage presence.

Sunnnner in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.28
What: Haunt Me w/Hex Cassette and Sunnnner
When: 8
Where: Trident Booksellers & Cafe
Why: This second Haunt Me show this time in Boulder out back of the Trident book store on the west end of Pearl Street Mall not only includes Hex Cassette but Denver trio Sunnnner whose weirdo post-punk and noise rock is so idiosyncratic in its presentation it is psychedelic rock by default. Meaning the group is much more exciting and interesting than any possible hints of roots in garage rock might be there.

Why Bonnie, photo by Grace Pendelton

Saturday | 01.28
What: Why Bonnie, Sun June and Porlolo
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Why Bonnie began as a songwriting outlet for singer/guitarist Blair Howerton but by the time of its 2018 debut EP In Water the project had developed into a full band. Howerton’s vivid lyrics and command of loud and quiet dynamics and crafting of warm, evocative melodies has yielded a richly diverse body of work that has been described as shoegaze Americana but the band’s music has more in common with the likes of Rilo Kiley, Soccer Mommy and Julien Baker than Mojave 3. The group’s 2022 album 90 in November is a collection of stories of unromanticized nostalgia. That approach lends the songs an unusual and fascinating aspect of being able to appreciate one’s past as it is and not to over or undervalue how you’ve grown as a person and the ongoing process of personal development. Veteran pop Americana legends Porlolo from Denver opens the show with Erin Roberts’ own insightful takes on personal folly and a life lived without fitting neatly under a subcultural umbrella.

Kali Malone in 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 01.31
What: SunnO))) w/Kali Malone
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In its SHOSHIN (初心) Duo configuration SunnO))) returns to its core, original live form with founders and guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson performing its signature heavy volume ritualistic drones dealing in what they refer to as “profound valve amplification, spectral harmonics, distortion and volume.” From the beginning the duo has crafted primal waves of sound that serve as some of the heaviest ambient music rooted in an abstract rock instrument foundation, warping and mutating both aesthetics in an alchemical synthesis that is transcendent and glacially crushing. Don’t go expecting a doom band, sure it’s not quite the same without long time collaborator, the singular vocalist Attila Csihar, but all configurations of SunnO))) offer a mind-altering live experience unlike any other band in the world of heavy music or really any other. Opening the proceedings is Kali Malone. The composer grew up in Colorado and moved to Stockholm, Sweden in her late teens and has become internationally renowned for her avant-garde works of drone and modern classical music. Anyone that saw Malone performing at house shows and DIY spaces in Colorado got to see an early form of Malone’s gift for meditative, minimalist soundscapes but her 2019 album The Sacrificial Code brought her to wider international audiences. Her new album, the gorgeously layered and transportingly murky Does Spring Hide Its Joy (January 2023) includes contributions from SunnO)))’s Stephen O’Malley and Lucy Railton released on O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ imprint on 3 LPs and 3 CDs.

Best Shows in Denver 3/5/20 – 3/11/20

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Lower Dens performs at Globe Hall on March 6, photo by Yassine El Mansouri

Thursday | March 5

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PUP, photo by Vanessa Heins

What: PUP w/Screaming Females, The Drew Thompson Foundation
When: Thursday, 3.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: PUP started out as one of the new wave of pop punk bands but the inherent psychological insight of its early albums blossomed most fully on its unusually thought-provoking 2019 album Morbid Stuff.

What: Paul DeHaven album release Echoes and Overtones w/Lake Mary/Chaz Prymek
When: Thursday, 3.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Ubisubibi Room
Why: Paul DeHaven (formerly of Paper Bird) is releasing his latest album Echoes and Overtones tonight at an intimate show at Ubisububi Room in the basement of The Thin Man. Time time out DeHaven assembled songs from a large batch of material and found a tonal and thematic resonance among his more mellow compositions and brought in old live favorites “Souvenir American Gun” and “I Love You Love Me” to round out an album of pastoral, vivid stories tied to specific times, seasons and places in DeHaven’s life.

Friday | March 6

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Down Time, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lower Dens w/:3LON
When: Friday, 3.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Lower Dens once again gave us a vibrant, evocative electronic art pop album with 2019’s The Competition in which the band uses creativity as a vehicle for exploring the pain and confusion of the current era of history with human civilization at a perilous crossroads between environmental apocalypse and fascism and a path toward a more compassionate and sane future.

What: Down Time – Hurts Being Alive release w/Bluebook and Bellhoss
When: Friday, 3.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A sonically diverse billing with three of the best bands out of Denver’s indie rock underground will perform this night with Down Time releasing its latest album Hurts Being Alive.

What: Day of Jubilee: Marcus Church and Sliver
When: Friday, 3.6, 5 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Rescheduled from February – Marcus Church is a Denver-based power pop trio. Its gently jangle-y and fuzzy melodies sound like singer/guitarist Dustin Habel spent a whole lot of time obsessively listening to only records produced by Mitch Easter and the complete discographies of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star. That also means there’s a tender earnestness to the songwriting imbued with an uncommon tenderness and humanity. Sliver bypassed the 90s grunge nostalgia wave of recent years by making no bones about its musical roots in its hard driving, explosively emotional guitar rock. Mudhoney influence aside, its aesthetic is most informed by both the self-effacing, sensitive, introspective side of Pacific Northwest noise punk and the wiry, politically conscious end of DC hardcore.

What: Murder By Death w/Amigo the Devil
When: Friday, 3.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

What: Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Kid Mask, Scary Psychological, Motherfucker Theresa and Buttstuff
When: Friday, 3.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Kool Keith w/DJ A-L opheliasdenver.com/e/kool-keith-85677324183
When: Friday, 3.6, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Cult of Luna w/Emma Ruth Rundle and Intronaut
When: Friday, 3.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

Saturday | March 7

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Best Coast, photo by Eddie Chacon

What: Best Coast w/Mannequin Pussy
When: Saturday, 3.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Best Coast is touring in support of its 2020 album Always Tomorrow, its first in five years following a period in which singer Bethany Cosentino felt creatively tapped out and the record is about coming back from that space of feeling trapped inside your own anxieties and emotional exhaustion.

What: Dale Watson w/Chella & The Charm
When: Saturday, 3.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: The Trujillo Company, Elektric Animals, Boot Gun, Holy Roller Baby
When: Saturday, 3.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Monday | March 9

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Freq Boutique 36 featuring Victoria Lundy
When: Monday, 3.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This is the three year anniversary of synthesizer showcase Freq Boutique that includes good food and drink as well as a synth open mic. This edition will include a performance from Theremin and synth artist Victoria Lundy whose own compositions are steeped in pop and the classical avant-garde. She has performed in various Denver bands including The Inactivists, The Goofus Device and Carbon Dioxide Orchestra.

Wednesday | March 11

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Plague Garden, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Gene Loves Jezebel w/Red Wing Black Bird and Plague Garden
When: Wednesday, 3.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: This is the Michael Aston version of Gene Loves Jezebel, the influential 80s post-punk/new wave band whose eclectic aesthetic and lush melodies influenced a segment of what became alternative rock in the 1990s. Opening is darkwave/shoegaze one-man act Red Wing Black Bird whose 2019 album Too Klaus For Comfort was a unique fusion of synth pop and industrial post-punk and swirling guitar. Plague Garden’s flavor of modern death rock seemingly draws inspiration from the early Cure records and Valor Kand-era Christian Death. The duo recently released the haunting and harrowing LEFT IN THE GRAVE.

What: The Wonder Years w/Free Throw, Spanish Love Songs, Pool Kids
When: Wednesday, 3.11, 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall