Kyle Emerson just released his second album as a solo artist, the introspective and thought-provoking Only Coming Down. The songwriter recently relocated back to Los Angeles in August 2019 after a stint back in Denver where he originally came to the attention of fans of psychedelic pop during his stint in the band Plum. For a couple of years, the latter was a bit of a buzz band before it realized that maybe Denver wasn’t the best place to base a band that seemed to have the opportunity expand its reach beyond the local scene, beyond being nominated for local awards and playing the same gauntlet of small clubs and occasionally playing bigger venues like the 550 capacity Bluebird Theater or graduate in draw and popularity to the Gothic Theatre at 1,100. Plum moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and within about a year Emerson had left the band and not long after Plum fizzled out. For some that would have been discouragement enough but not for Emerson who had already relocated once to pursue his dream of being a musician with a career.
Emerson was born in Northern Ohio not far south of Detroit where his father was a worship leader at a non-denominational church. While involved in a worship band Emerson learned some music theory from the group’s leader who also shared his love of Radiohead, indie rock and later era alternative music. Emerson also connected with and studied guitar under a music teacher of a local private school, Patrick Paringer, who had grown up in Seattle and known Elliott Smith. At that time Emerson the current bassist in his live band Dan Volmer who also played in the youth group band.
After high school a number of Emerson’s friends moved to Colorado and Brooklyn. Those that moved to the latter offered to let him join their band and sleep on their couch until he got on his feet. But life in NYC was daunting and Emerson didn’t feel like he was ready to live in the city on his own.
Colorado beckoned in 2014 and before moving to Denver Emerson was blithely unaware of happenings in the state and city. He did not know about the legalization of recreational cannabis or that the city was experiencing its largest and longest period of population growth in many years with many musicians moving to Denver seeking out the opportunity for perceived overnight success of acts like The Lumineers and The Fray or at least to be in a place where music was happening and the scene not yet oversaturated. Emerson’s friend Andrew Bair (now of dream pop phenoms Tyto Alba and other projects), son of the pastor of Emerson’s church in Ohio, had moved to Denver and he felt like with Bair and other friends around he could keep his footing in a less expensive city than New York. So he moved into a two bedroom apartment at Thirteenth Avenue and Marion St. near the former location of the Gypsy House Café and shared a room with Volmer for a few months before moving in with the guys from Plum in the Villa Park neighborhood of west central Denver.
The fledgling band had a lot going for it aside from musical and songwriting talent. Ty Baron was a music business major and did some talent buying at Larimer Lounge, a club where many up and coming acts perform weekly, and Jake Supple had been also playing in Abandin Pictures, a group with some cachet in the local psychedelic rock world (he now performs in Flaural). Both had navigated the local music world both as artists and on the less romantic business end of what it actually means to be in a band that might want to do more than play for a few dollars and free drinks.
But like a lot of bands Plum ran into that often unspoken barrier to a lot of bands from Denver and Colorado generally that prevents most from reaching beyond the local band status. Sure, there are anomalies like the aforementioned Lumineers, The Fray and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and on a smaller scale, Tennis. But outside of jam bands and the EDM world, not a lot of in between being bonafide famous and “local band” status regardless of one’s artistic merits. So even though the move and living in cramped quarters in what was essentially a practice space in L.A. lead to the band breaking up, the decision to relocate was understandable. When you have some hype at home it stands to reason you can build that elsewhere, especially when you’re young.
When Emerson left Plum in 2016 he moved back to Denver where he had some roots and connections and wrote and recorded his moving debut solo album, 2017’s Dorothy Alice. It combined Emerson’s insightful lyrics and storytelling with a folky psychedelia and almost textural atmospheric melodies. The sound has become a bit of the songwriter’s signature sound. Emerson had recently split with his then girlfriend and on top of the other experiences it’s no wonder there is more than a bit of a melancholic vibe to Dorothy Alice that is part of its deep appeal. But recorded with Jeff Cormack of pop band South of France and Justin Renaud of psychedelic rock outfit Sunboy the record reflects Emerson’s renewed hope for his music and his affection for the Mile High City.
“It felt very Denver, very Colorado and it felt great to be back,” says Emerson. “I was living back in that old house where Plum was living. It was like picking up where I had left off in a weird way.”
Emerson didn’t waste any time in writing for his sophomore record nor did he intend for it to come across like a journal entry of the last few years as he moved from Denver to Los Angeles, then repeating that same move and the experiences that framed those moves but it does. In writing the new material Emerson had no working title, which he feels might influence the sound of a record and songs chosen for better or worse, it just came to him one day. “You talk about the come down from anything, a natural high or drugs or alcohol or whatever,” says Emerson. “The more I conceptualize it I don’t know if it gets cooler or more lame but I just think there’s something about if you’re only ever coming down then there was no high on the other side of it.”
Emerson also suffered from a bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a kid and the acronym has the same letters as Only Coming Down. It reflects the fact that Emerson feels that music was the only thing that got him out of that head space of focusing so much on minutiae to the detriment of a productive life. Now in the process of writing his third record Emerson realized that he had to grow up.
“It’s not a conscious thing for a lot of people and you dabble in things you know you need to move on from,” explains Emerson. “The last two records are about the woes of growing into yourself. You’re always growing up your entire life. It’s not like you get to a certain place and you’ve arrived. There was something about putting a bookend on a lot of the themes I was writing about and the things I was feeling. The title summarized that feeling in so many ways with just three words.”
The heaviness that many listeners heard on Dorothy Alice is still there on Only Coming Down but the early feedback has remarked on it being upbeat. Whether it’s Emerson’s recent decision to use more electronics on the new record since discarding a purist’s disdain for technology or the more than a hint of hope in his songs that often contrast hope and despair, or the songwriter’s compassionate take on his role as a musician, the new album definitely tilts toward the positive.
“I don’t play party music, it’s not like that,” says Emerson. “But it’s like I stand in front of a room full of people who at the end of the day are just there to have a good time and as artistic as this can get and as some songwriters and musicians think they are I do believe in the power of positivity. I didn’t think about that so much when I was younger but now if you can say yeah this sucks but I’m here for you, it’s going to get better. I think that’s more worthwhile to say than it’s all shit and then we die. I think there’s power and reality in both of those, I just find it a little bit easier living in the first one a little easier.”
Catch Emerson live during his run of shows in Colorado with Houndmouth:
What:Frankie Cosmos w/Stephen Steinbrink and Ashley Koett When: Thursday, 11.7, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The latest Frankie Cosmos album is called Close It Quietly (out on Sub Pop) which is a title reflecting the tender, sensitive and utterly sincere quality of Greta Kline’s songwriting and psychologically insightful lyrics. Stephen Steinbrink’s golden voice and talent for inventive soundscapes in his pop songs has been brewing for more than a decade while he toured regularly in the DIY world. His 2018 album Utopia Teased is a pinnacle of his recorded output with a diverse array of moods and textures.
What:Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. For this set of shows he’s opening for bluesy indie rock band Houndmouth from Indiana.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 1 When: Friday, 11.8, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Since Denver Noise Fest isn’t happening this year, Johnathan Cash of Sunk Cost is picking up that slack again with the biggest noise festival in Colorado across two nights at Rhinoceropolis bringing together a wide range of artists from Colorado and well beyond. Go expecting the broad spectrum of noise from the presumed harsh noise, to prepared environment soundscaping, ambient, beat-driven industrial drone, noisy post-punk, glitch, weirdo techno, post-metal, organic sound composition, sound collage, field recording processing and more. Honestly, greater diversity here in purely sonic terms than any other festival in Colorado since the last Ultra Metal. See the schedule below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – J. Westerman
6pm – Blarney Mumble
6:20pm – Harms
6:40pm – Kid Mask
7pm – Dragging
7:20pm – Voight
7:40pm – Pat Hopewell
8pm – Genital Stigmata
8:20pm – Culled
8:40pm – John Ingram
9pm – Sounding
9:20pm – Ritual Chair
9:40pm – Developer
10pm – Kiran Arora
10:20pm – Xome
10:40pm – Conscious Summary
11pm – Baby Daddy
11:20pm – PCRV
11:40pm – Scathing
12am – VX Bliss
12:20am – GNO
12:40am – FILTH
1am – H Lite x Techno Allah
1:20am – Clutch Plague
1:40am – J. Hamilton Isaacs
What:Clan of Xymox w/The Bellweather Syndicate and The Siren Project When: Friday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox is a Dutch post-punk band that influenced a generation of second wave Goth bands with its imaginative and bracing sounds and imagery. Adam Wingard featured Xymox tracks in his 2014 action thriller The Guest.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 2 When: Saturday, 11.9, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: See above regarding Ultra Metal. Schedule for night 2 below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – ilind
6pm – French Kettle Station
6:20pm – Goo Age
6:40pm – Earth Control Pill
7pm – Pet Sounds
7:20pm – Rush Falknor
7:40pm – Illicit Relationship
8pm – Sunk Cost
8:20pm – A Fail Association
8:40pm – Primordial Wound
9pm – T.E.F.
9:20pm – Sects
9:40pm – Jackson Pratt
10pm – Sissisters
10:20pm – Blind Date
10:40pm – Circuit Wound
11pm – Ancient, INC.
11:20pm – Tralphaz
11:40pm – Pedestrian Deposit
12am – Dromez
12:20am – Purism
12:40am – Blank Hellscape
1am – Total Mom
1:20am – Many Blessings
1:40am – Page 27
What:Necropanther w/Methane, Incarnit, Draghoria When: Saturday, 11.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death/thrash metal band Necropanther from Denver is celebrating the release of its latest album The Doomed City although it has those great, distorted vocals that you’d expect from a black metal outfit there’s always been something tuneful and catchy about the band’s output.
What:Pile w/Slow Code and Moon Pussy When: Sunday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Pile formed in 2007, the same year as the Canadian band Women, and has exerted a similarly strong influence on underground guitar rock by going off the map of conventional structure, dynamics and tone. Its new album Green and Gray has all of its signature contorted and noisy angularity. Opening is Denver noise rock Moon Pussy whose Big Black-esque bluster is a revelation.
What:Vincent Comparetto Going Away Party When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Vincent Comparetto has been calling Denver home for over 20 years and is now moving to New York City. He got involved in the skating community in the 90s and discovered the local world’s punk and post-punk communities and has been avidly documenting the music scene and the cityscape for years as can be found in his ‘zines Follow Focus, particulary #2 in which he shared several of his shots of shows and the arts world in Denver. Here’s a public chance to say farewell to one of local cultures most cordial and thoughtful preservers of what has been and advocates for what is going on.
What:Hippo Campus w/The Greeting Committee When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Hippo Campus released two albums in 2019 as Demos I and Demos II. While they sound a bit like the titles suggest and recorded between 2017 and 2018, the spare, raw quality of the recordings actually serve to highlight the band’s songwriting further. Its 2018 album Bambi showcased its knack for expertly produced pop songs while the new batch of material is almost the polar opposite like the experiments Magnetic Fields have engaged in over the years with its creative and varied use of technology in songwriting and processing sounds. But whatever its approach, Hippo Campus has proven its mastery of dynamics and tone.
What:The Aquabats When: Monday, 11.11, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: It’s odd to think that The Aquabats has been around for over twenty-five years now. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the quintet’s mixture of ska, punk and pop is as surreal as it is playful. Its singer The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) is better known for his involvement with the kids’ show Yo Gabba Gabba! these days but The Aquabats was a good natured send-up of the Orange County punk scene as the opposite of a macho, violent band. Instead The Aquabats have assumed the personae of super heroes and its multi-media presentation through its own TV shows and sillymusic videos has allowed the band to transcend not just genre appeal but appeal beyond the realm of punk and ska, which the group has long since left behind in favor of greater musical diversity in its songwriting. Go expecting more than just a musical performance, expect the full integration of that with theater and comedy routines and special guest performers along with its usual incorporation of the audience into the proceedings as well.
What:Elephant Stone w/Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Emerald Siam When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Elephant Stone’s psychedelic pop songs have weathered the glut of wannabe psychedelic rock of the past several years by going beyond the tropes and creating transcendent melodies incorporating traditional Indian musical styles and methods for a sound that seems to drift in from some brighter realm than our own. Frankie and the Witch Fingers is a little more traditionally garage psyche but the sheer momentum of its performances elevates it beyond the languid pace and laid back style we’ve come to expect all while maintaining a delicacy of feeling. Emerald Siam from Denver has some of that psychedelic garage rock in its musical DNA but is more like a moody, dark, post-punk band that discovered that musical catharsis comes from overcoming one’s personal momentum rather than sinking deeper into it.
What:FKA Twigs When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: FKA Twigs brilliantly fuses downtempo with experimental electronic music. Her new album Magdalene is basically an environmental noise record with elements of R&B and soul in a pop format in the foreground.
What:Big Freedia w/Low Cut Connie When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Big Freedia’s “sissy bounce” is like some hip-hop performance art spell-casting that is disorienting yet utterly riveting.
What: At the Heart of the World w/Lowfaith and Polyurethane When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis
Wednesday | November 13
What:The Coathangers w/Control Top and Rocket Dust When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Coathangers have evolved a lot since the incendiary and thrilling chaos of their earlier punk rock without losing any of that raw power. Now touring for The Devil You Know, The Coathangers have completely integrated its instinct for tearing down convention with sharply focused songwriting.
What:Sun Seeker w/Duncan Fellows When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Duncan Fellows from Austin unexpectedly makes a blend of Americana, psychedelic pop and 2000s indie rock work through creative layering of instrumentation and vocals giving its songs great dynamic range and an element of unpredictability. There’s a lot of imitation in music at the moment and while Duncan Fellows may not strike some as incredibly original, give them a good listen and it becomes obvious they’re at least following their musical instincts where the mood flows rather than where pre-existing style suggests. In that way the group is a bit like Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra without sounding like either. Its use of synths as a full compositional element sets it apart from most of its peers as well as heard put to full effect on the group’s latest release the Eyelids Shut EP.
Who:Speakeasy Series opener: Demoncassettecult When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Glasss Records is kicking off the 2019 edition of its experimental music showcase the Speakeasy Series at Hooked on Colfax tonight. The artist ringing in the season is Demoncassettecult, Glasss’ Vahco Before Horses solo loops, noise, sample and and synth based soul project.
Who:A Light Among Many w/Ghostsong Elegy and Endless, Nameless, Causer When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Abstract doom juggernauts A Light Among Many returns from its latest tour with this show with experimental guitar/prog band Endless, Nameless, South Dakota post-rock band Ghostsong Elegy and the debut of Causer.
Who:Kyle Emerson w/Anthony Ruptak and Modern Leisure When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Three of Denver’s great songwriters on one bill. Kyle Emerson’s pastoral psychedelia has enough interesting musical flourishes in each song to elevate his work beyond most of his peers. Anthony Ruptak’s conceptual songwriting steeped in his sensitivity to the world around him and deeply informed by his compassion for his follow living creatures, human beings most certainly not excluded, gives his compositions a warmth and richness of emotional expression. Casey Banker of Modern Leisure has been writing insightful and well-crafted pop songs with an undercurrent of intensity and self-awareness that has made his songs going back to his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls incredibly compelling.
Saturday | April 6
Who:Doo Crowder w/Rachael Pollard When: Saturday, 04.06, 9:30 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Doo Crowder, former member of indie pop orchestra Pee Pee and indie rock/punk band The Dinnermints, is finally releasing his album One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims). His earlier releases have all been insightful explorations of the human experience in its myriad manifestations. The new album sounds like he took the Harry Nilsson route and added great production flourishes and imaginative treatments to solid yet minimal foundations of song. He does not spare himself self criticism (listen to “Doo Crowder Song”) but as with every Crowder record there’s much more than meets the eye while not hiding the essential meaning. It’s made to be able to be taken on and comprehended at one’s leisure and in the ways that suit you. The first truly great indie pop record of 2019 and one of the best of the past decade by virtue of sounding effortless while clearly being the product of much work, much soul-searching, much refinement and in the end something that feels like it manifested like a perfect backed good that is delicious and nutritious and makes the labor that went into it part of one’s appreciation of it.
Who:FAVX w/Ned Garthe Explosion and Total Trash (tape release) When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: FAVX from Madrid aren’t easily musically defined outside of rock. But it’s sometimes noisy, sometimes driving, sometimes poppy, sometimes heavy, sometimes whimsical but always emotionally nuanced music is performed with great enthusiasm. Good thing because Ned Garthe Explosion, for a bunch of guys who have been playing for “10 trillion years,” you know, since the Big Bang or whatever has happened several times, they’re able to muster some verve in humorously delivering their surreal punker than punk and psycher than psych songs. They’ve been road dawgz since before there were roads and after people didn’t need roads where they were going and back to no roads and then roads again. The never ending cycle. Seems legit. Total Trash is comprised of current and former members of Lil’ Slugger, Eye Beams, Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Quantum Creep. Which means nothing if you’ve not been steeped in Denver underground music for the past decade and a half but it does mean that the band’s music and songwriting has the level of sophistication and sonic inventiveness that is immediately striking and, well, it doesn’t sound much like any of the aforementioned. It is more melancholy but the sonic details and evolving dynamics across each song of its debut album Field Guide (released this night) give the music a sonic depth, diversity and emotional complexity that seems rarer than it should be these days.
Who:Dirty Few “Losing Our Minds Farewell Show” w/Gymshorts, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Lloyd and Saviour When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Sure, sure, “party rock” and the Stone twins raise hell, cans of beer tossed on stage and off, rowdy, nearly unhinged performances, some of them sloppy and chaotic. But always performed with heart with songs that are fun, surprisingly well-written and which encapsulate an era of Denver music that all but began and ended with Dirty Few. So the group will probably pull out the stops for this final rager with some of its friends and peers including the great power pop band Bud Bronson & The Good Timers from Denver and Lloyd and Saviour from Boise.
Who:Kero Kero Bonito w/Jaakko Eino Kalevi When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Kero Kero Bonito sounds like its music is made in the early morning as the sun is rising and also as the sun is setting. That sometimes hazy quality of light that can blur the landscape some as the sun comes to dominate the sky or retire for the night over the horizon, burning away fog and casting colorfully through the dusk pollution. Even from its earlier more straightforward electropop phase its lush production and fluid dynamics has given the band’s songs an air of self-awareness that feels futuristic while tapping into the cooler end of classic commercial pop sensibilities. The band’s producers, Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, were influenced by Japanese hip-hop and pop and found Sarah Bonito, herself half-Japanese, who could give voice to a synthesis of cultures particularly since Bonito sings and raps in both English and Japanese. The group’s 2018 releases, the TOTEP EP and the album Time n’ Place, displayed the influence of rock bands, at least according to interviews with Fader and i-D, like Mount Eerie and My Bloody Valentine who are no strangers to creating and sculpting atmosphere in ways that feel entirely organic. Formerly pretty much all electronic instrumentation and vocals, for its current tour Kero Kero Bonito is bringing on board a guitarist and a drummer. Difficult to pigeonhole, one might even clumsily call it indie dream jazz, Kero Kero Bonito’s international flavor of the amalgam of hip-hop, dance music, J-pop, downtempo lounge and melancholic guitar rock is undeniably interesting.
Opening the show is Finnish multi-instrumentalist and producer Jaakko Eino Kalevi whose 2018 album Out of Touch could be a cousin to the aforementioned Kero Kero Bonito’s album Time ‘n Place. Its tone has a liminal quality that allows for the melodies to operate at an almost subconscious level, dream-like. A decade ago maybe someone would have called it “chillwave” and it resonates with the better end of what made 80s synth pop bands and their own production methods so compelling and ultimately influential.
Who:Bad Sounds and Broods When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Bad Sounds are opening for the great electro pop band Broods. But its blend of R&B and hip-hop beats, like a modern take on the rich musical hybrids that were part of the 70s Stax roster, will probably win over more than a few fans. The duo’s 2018 album Get Better goes beyond mere throwback imitation and with expert production and attention to sonic detail it attains the soulfulness of some of its influences.
Who:An Evening With Spiritualized When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Even at his most soul-and-R&B-inspired moments, and there are many on Spiritualized’s 2018 album And Nothing Hurt, J. Spaceman brings to bear a broad range of subtle emotional expression and its counterpart as a controlled tidal wave of feeling. The shows also tend toward a well-selected set list that gives the performance a dynamic quality that somehow feels just right. Folk, soul, R&B, ambient space rock from across Spaceman’s career in Spiritualized. Maybe you’ll even get to see the band cover Laurie Anderson’s “Born Never Asked” as its been known to do well beyond the 1995 touring cycle for Pure Phase.
Sunday | April 7
Who:SUSTO w/Whitacre and Frances Cone When: Sunday, 04.07, 8 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: SUSTO’s new album Ever Since I Lost My Mind has all the sophistication and beautiful subtlety of instrumentation of its previous records. But this time it sounds like the band has added a layer of atmosphere that gives the typically affecting and introspective lyrics a more focused immediacy that can be a bit slow slipping into your mind but when it hits it strikes deep. SUSTO excels at giving the songs room to breathe and manifest and bringing listeners in with a warmth of tone and a sense of understanding.
Monday | April 8
Who:Acid Mothers Temple w/Yamantaka//Sonic Titan When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple may “only” have been around for nearly a quarter a century but its rotating and core membership, including band leader guitarist Makoto Kawabata, has roots going back to Japanese folk, psychedelic, noise, punk and prog bands of the 70s and 80s. With AMT the musicians create a mind-bending sonic experience that blurs the lines between the aforementioned genres of music to make the kind of space rock that should inspire a generation of manga artists writing stories in a future where interdimensional and intergalactic communities are interacting, thriving and exploring worlds and cultures as yet unimagined by our current creative collective unconscious.
Who:Mdou Moctar w/Galleries and Kwantsu Dudes When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: It’s incredibly rare to get to see a musician from Africa in Denver much less a Tuareg phenom from Agadez, Niger like Mdou Moctar. The guitarist is an early adaptor of traditional Tuareg guitar pop into the electric context. As with the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baaba Maal and, of course, Fela Kuti before him, Moctar’s lively and fine crafted songs (steeped in folk music of Africa and the Islamic world) garnered fans outside of Africa. Because of that touring has been a viable prospect including his current run through the USA. His latest album is 2019’s Ilana.
Tuesday | April 9
Who:WaZeil & UaZit w/Claudzilla, f-ether and Kandin When: Tuesday, 04.09, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: UaZit’s music is like if alternative hip-hop got even weirder and more experimental. Working with WaZeil the production and sound design is even more unusual like what Harmony Korine might make if he went into creating music after Mister Lonely. F-ether isn’t quite as much of a weirdo but his original and playful take on electronic music craft is decidedly outside the conventions of that broad genre. Claudzilla, though, full-on weirdo since its “keytar rock” with surreal lyrics and let’s just call it eccentric picks of covers but surprisingly solid renditions of the originals through her peculiar lens of interpretation.
Who:Erik B & Rakim w/Stay Tuned When: Tuesday, 04.09, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Erik B & Rakim are clearly one of the most influential duos in hip-hop. Rakim’s rhyming had great versatility and range because he broke with the simple rhyme schemes of early hip-hop and had more in common with free jazz and free verse poetry. So while not sounding too avant-garde the duo’s music could be as out and fluid in its rhythms as its presumed jazz influences. Eric B’s heavy use of sampling and creatively crafting and sculpting the sounds could also be heard echoed in most hip-hop since the 1987 release of the Eric B & Rakim album Paid in Full. Splitting in 1993, Eric B & Rakim reunited in 2016 to perform live in 2017. Will there be a new record? We can only hope but for now catch one of the legends of hip-hop on this tour.
Wednesday | April 10
Who:HXXS w/Church Fire, Morlox and Feigning When: Wednesday, 04.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: HXXS from Portland, Oregon make a kind of dance-dub darkwave with glitchy edges. When minimal synth was all the rage in various corners of the American underground, HXXS seems to have taken that foundation and the sort of 8-bit crushed beat-making to make a surprisingly playful, surreal form of synth pop. Good match with Denver’s Church Fire whose tribal industrial dance music came out of similar impulses toward melding hip-hop beat production with dark, noisy pop informed by insightful, sociopolitical commentary. That the group worked with gifted producer Morlox whose career has been steeped in the noise, glitchcore and underground hip-hop scene in Denver and beyond makes this booking perfect. Haunted, dark drone project Feigning is just a bonus.
Who:DeVotchKa When: Wednesday, 04.10, 6 p.m. Where: Twist & Shout Why: It would help if you bought a copy of the 2018 DeVotchKa album This Night Falls Forever in order to get first entry into this intimate show at Twist & Shout. Otherwise, the Denver-based gypsy-punk chamber pop group usually doesn’t play places smaller than The Gothic. The following night the band will perform at e-Town in Boulder.
Who:Boy Harsher w/Special Interest and Poptones DJs When: Wednesday, 04.10, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Boy Harsher show is sold out but if you can get in you can see the fog-shrouded, enigmatic, New-Order-gone-full-dub-minimal-synth duo Boy Harsher at a small club before its crowd expands to larger venues.
Who:Daughters w/Echo Beds When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: When noise/experimental rock band Daughters reunited in 2013 there was no guarantee the group would do more than play a limited number of shows before going on hiatus again. Its first attempt at a record was scrapped because it didn’t feel, according to vocalist Lex Marshall, authentic to what the band was about. Its music was confrontational and visceral, executed with a savage precision and it didn’t fit too well into the boxes in which the group was often thrown: grindcore, math rock, art-metal, post-hardcore. Daughters bridged the gap between the disorientingly surreal and amped emotional immediacy. Its 2018 record You Won’t Get What You Want pushes the band’s sound into greater vistas of experimentation with its core sound, coming upon what sounds like some forgotten chapter of an industrial, post-punk and noise hybrid from the 80s. The words and the sounds of the record, however are very much of the now with a world teetering on the brink of chaos, a darkly liminal period that might make for the perfect backdrop to a J.G. Ballard novel. That Echo Beds, which recently released its own similarly-minded record, Buried Language, will open the show and set the stage for the sonic mayhem to follow.
Who:Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin created some of the most iconic horror movie soundtracks of all time having done those for Dario Argento’s Deep Red as well as the European release of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. But perhaps the group’s crowning musical achievement was the score for Argento’s 1977 supernatural horror classic Suspiria. The haunting music and unsettling vocalizations (often done by Simonetti himself) was the perfect companion to a movie not short on rich color and deeply affecting atmosphere. This version of Goblin lead by Simonetti will perform the soundtrack live during a screening of Suspiria with what Simonetti jokes about as Goblin’s other “greatest” hits following the film.
Who:Galleries, Grass and Wild Call When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: There was a time not so long ago that Denver had, to put it charitably, way too many “psych rock” bands in the trendy mold. But lurking around in that world and a step or more apart from it were bands developing decidedly in their own directions while still rooted somewhat in the realm of psychedelic rock. Wild Call’s gritty, atmospheric, emotionally-charged songs seem like something from another era when subgenre’s didn’t matter so much as ethos and approach, finding your own voice rather than operating in a style even if you pulled from various styles in your songwriting but having something meaningful to say and an interesting way to say it. Grass borrowed a bit of that warped warble from My Bloody Valentine but sounds more like it learned a lot about edgy and nearly unraveled sounds from some of the more blustery bands on Siltbreeze in the 2000s like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit. Maybe a few nods in the direction of the Reatards. A maximalist lo-fi. Galleries is more like a band re-imagining classic rock through the lens of the influence of grunge and 2000s garage rock so it sure does sound a little different from any of that.
Friday | November 16, 2018
Who:The Flux Crew in concert When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m. Where: Pine Street Church Boulder 1237 Pine Street Why: Dino J.A. Dean will be the conductor of this fifteen piece ensemble that will engage in, according to the Facebook event page “real time collaborative composition.” What this means is essentially improv in the overlapping contexts of jazz, contemporary classical and the avant-garde. The musicians performing come from a broad spectrum of local artists from noise, jazz, classical, funk, folk, rock etc. all sonically synergizing toward a mutual musical goal. Dean’s illustrious career in theater, jazz, punk, dance and experimental music of a broad stripe from when he was in funk bands in the Los Angeles area, working as a sideman for Ike and Tina Turner and in the 80s playing trombone controlled synthesizer in the 80s with Jon Hassell. Dean has also worked with the late jazz great Butch Morris, acclaimed playright/actor/director Sam Shepard and modern dance choreographer Colleen Mulvihill. To name a few. Dean will bring that experience in collaborating with other artists in guiding the proceedings in this unique performance with his musical group The Flux Crew.
Who:Gouge Away, Drug Church, Heart Attack Man and Cheap Perfume When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Drug Church is an hardcore band from Albany, NY, but one that isn’t on the nostalgia trip that some hardcore has been on in recent years. Drug Church has more in common with IDLES from the UK whose own expansively sonic songs tackle personal and social issues with an unbeatable combination of wry wit and sheer emotional intensity. Gouge Away from Fort Lauderdale has been making some of the most powerfully compelling punk of the last few years. But, and especially on its 2018 album Burnt Sugar, Gouge Away brings a particularly imaginative approach to its headlong rush of energy by not just writing most songs with the same dynamic, injecting atmosphere into its sustained bursts of fiery noise. In that way it has more in common with 90s noisy punk bands like Unwound and Karp. Unabashedly political, minus any boring didactic perspectives, Gouge Away is one of the bands keeping punk relevant a quarter a decade after it seemed to have been co-opted by the mainstream.
Who:The Motet w/Escort When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: The Motet is celebrating its twentieth year as a band in 2018. Founded by drummer/arranger Dave Watts, the group’s blend of Afrobeat, jazz and funk may be something one would expect from a band from Boulder but it’s also surprisingly fresh and the musicianship legitimately respectable. Also joining the veteran Colorado band is Escort from Brooklyn. Like-minded in some ways, Escort performs music that one can trace roots to back to when 70s funk and disco met in fruitful rather than laughable ways. Think more in the vein of Commodores and Chic but updated after American musicians absorbed European influences and the resurgence of jazz reclaimed from academia and the ossified old commercial jazz market. The Motet performs same time same venue on Saturday, November 17 The Motet but with with Cory Wong who will include special guest Antwaun Stanley of Vulfpeck in the line up.
Saturday | November 17, 2018
Who: Wax Trax Fortieth Anniversary w/Slugger When: Saturday, 11.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Mercury Café Why: Wax Trax might be the longest running record/music store in the Denver metropolitan area. While music stores might be considered a bit of an anachronism today they still serve an important function as a place to discover stuff you may not know about without the awkwardness of algorithms making suggestions based on what you view on a website. They are also places where you can meet other humans who might have a shared interest and where one might encounter something as quaint as a flyer for a show for bands you know nothing about and might find interesting. Also, not all local bands worth your time have a robust, easily found online presence. Besides, what music fan doesn’t enjoy organically finding something by browsing and not having something specific in mind? Wax Trax has been more than that. It has employed local musicians, one of its owners, Duane Davis, wrote incisive music reviews and other articles for several years and he and others at Wax Trax were involved in the local imprint Local Anaesthetic which put out records by some of the best punk and post-punk bands of the 80s. With the documentary about the store and the label that emerged out of that when the store’s founders moved to Chicago having screened in Denver last weekend it only seemed reasonable to have the actual celebration of the store’s first forty years at the Mercury Café. In the 80s both businesses were neighbors on 13th Avenue and Mercury Café was a hub for live, underground music—the relationship was somewhat synergistic. While there may not be a lot of live music for this event, aside from the psychedelic rock band Slugger fronted by current Wax Trax employee Gabriel Abelo, some of the memorabilia and stories shared will be worth attending to witness.
Who:J Mascis w/James Elkington When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: J Mascis is rightfully known as the influential guitar shredder extraordinaire of influential rock band Dinosaur Jr. His buried vocals amidst blistering yet melodic songs turned out to be perfectly capable of laid back utterances that articulated the feelings and thoughts of someone that was checked out of the sanitized insipidity of much of 80s popular culture, offering an alternative, more personal, and ultimately more truthful perspective of living as a kind of weirdo in Reagan’s/Bush’s America. Mascis wrote most of those songs and for years he’s established a solo career that parallels the subject matter he has explored with Dinosaur except he’s able to be more nuanced in his vocal delivery and in later years, his broad songwriting palette has become more obvious. The 2018 record Elastic Days is lush and eclectic with contributions from Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession, Miracle Legion’s Mark Mulcahy and Zoë Randell of Luluc. But on the road, and for this show, it’ll be J and what he describes as “a little fort around” himself of amps, various stands and other refinements. At Ophelia’s the intimacy of the room will surely make this a memorable show.
Who: Hive w/Weathered Statues, Rotstrotter, Aseethe and Vexing
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Hive from Minneapolis is a melodic crust band not to be confused with the band HIVE from Chicago who are also from the Midwest and no strangers to blackened metal. So the excellent Denver-based crust/grind band Rotstrotter is a good fit on the bill as is the like-minded Vexing. Iowa’s Aseethe is a doom band and not too far removed from the same milieu of heavy music. Weathered Statues, though, are a dark, post-punk band whose musical DNA seems to include Xmal Deutschland, The Cure and DA! But there’s an undercurrent of dance rhythms that thankfully are nothing like what all these post-punk revival era “dance punk” bands were peddling. Just a clear sense of rhythm and pacing that draws you into the song as surely as its dusky atmosphere’s and Jennie Mather’s commanding vocals. Weathered Statues plays first and may confuse some people expecting all conventionally heavy music for the night.
Who:Municipal Waste w/Toxic Holocaust and Haunt When: Saturday, 11.17, 6 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: At a time when metalcore was reaching its apex, Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste was making the kind of crossover music that would come back into vogue again nearly a decade after its 2001 inception. For the uninitiated, that crossover meaning the kind of music that emerged around the mid-80s when bands like DRI, which may have started out as hardcore punk, fed into its metallic instincts and synthesized hardcore and thrash metal, which itself was informed by punk. Because it was an early re-adopter, Municipal Waste became a bit of a cult band. Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind was also someone who was tapping back into that crossover sound in the late 90s but injected into his songwriting some of the evil sound and brutality of black metal.
Sunday | November 18, 2018
Who:Wrong, Portrayal of Guilt, Abrams, False Cathedrals When: Sunday, 11.18, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Wrong is the kind of noise rock band that probably wouldn’t have quite happened in the 90s or earlier. While the Unsane and Helmet influence is there giving the music a precise yet savage edge, one can hear the stretch of sounds into distended otherworldliness as though steeped in the industrial psychedelia of post-Twitch Ministry and the haunted sludge of pre-Superunknown Soundgarden. It also has a bit of the near hysteria catharsis one hears in Daughters. The band’s 2018 album Feel Good has positive intentions but the songs themselves are all about feeling bad and purging that low end of one’s life.
Portrayal of Guilt’s 2018 album Let Pain Be Your Guide is a nightmarish set of pronouncements about the acceptance of life’s seemingly unacceptable but all too real aspects. It’s not all relentless, grind-y hardcore because there’s a nuance of sounds and dynamics that give harsh and brutal music a fascinating dimensionality that makes what might be forbidding music to many an accessibility built on how relatable the lyrics really are in the current social and political climate worldwide. Many songwriters express well the pains of some aspects of existence, Portrayal of Guilt’s songs sound like a direct line to that experience in case anyone is confused.
Tuesday | November 20, 2018
Who:Shallou w/Japanese Wallpaper When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Japanese Wallpaper is Gab Strum who seems to be a bit of an electronic music prodigy. In 2014, when he was a mere 17 years old, his song “Breathe In (ft. Wafia)” was featured in Zach Braff’s film Wish I Was Here. Strum’s brightly ethereal compositions sound like the next two steps in the evolution of chillwave and informed by the same production methods born out of hip-hop that informed that musical movement. Soothing without being soporific, Strum’s songs would be perfect for when you want to take some time to contemplate something important with clarity of mood and mind. Some of his newer material like “Fooling Around” is celebratory yet introspective and reveals Sturm’s clear evolution as an artist into realms of music beyond the tranquil minimalism of his earlier offerings.
Who:Odonis Odonis w/Church Fire and Voight When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Toronto’s Odonis Odonis sounds like DAF reborn in the techno/rave scene of Detroit 90s. At least on its latest album, 2017’s ominously luminous No Pop. The duo is joined this night by two Denver bands whose own music embody a similar wedding of darkwave industrial beats and a masterful command of incorporating noise with the more electro-dance-oriented Church Fire whose cathartic live show never disappoints and the post-punk/dark techno band Voight who are arcing out of a long period of legit A Place to Bury Strangers worship into more fascinatingly beat-driven territory.
Wednesday | November 21, 2018
Who:Kyle Emerson, Stelth Ulvang and Down Time When: Wednesday, 11.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: If Kyle Emerson isn’t already making waves on the indie touring circuit, he should be soon. The veteran Denver songwriter has been paying serious dues for a few years now touring small clubs and venues across America. His psychedelic folk pop are imbued with emotional warmth and insight as heard most recently in recorded form on his 2017 full-length album Dorothy Alice. The album closer “Post Egomania” is a perfect way to sum up the emotional and spiritual journey of the rest of the album. For this homecoming show from his most recent tour Emerson will share the stage with Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers and one of Denver’s best indie rock bands, the not-so-obviously-but-unmistakably experimental Down Time.
Who:Reverb & The Verse When: Wednesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: Bonacquisti Wine Why: Reverb & The Verse is one of the longer running hip-hop crews in Denver and one of the most diverse and boundary pushing in a way that’s difficult to say where the root of its music might lay beyond that of the breadth of palette that exists in hip-hop. Shane Etter, one of the band’s main producers from its early days is well-versed in a wide range of electronic music and recently did mastering on the 2018 album from literate documentarians of dystopian America, hip-hop duo Curta. Here is an infrequent opportunity to catch one of Denver’s finest live.
Who:Desert Daze Caravan 2018: Ariel Pink w/DIIV When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall Why: Desert Daze Caravan is the traveling mini-version of the Desert Daze festival in California that features some of the best of the more psychedelic-leaning bands existing today. While the festival happens in October, for this touring edition, Desert Daze brings along a couple of the most interesting artists playing music in its wheelhouse. Los Angeles based lo-fit mutant pop renegade Ariel Rosenberg, aka Ariel Pink, has had a varied and storied musical career that should be the subject of a book someday because it’s not short on drama, controversy and artistic achievement. In 2017 Rosenberg released Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, a collection of songs that bridge dream pop, psychedelic rock, what one might called garage soul and lo-fi funk. As with all of his records, Rosenberg plays with the form of genre with an offbeat use of sound and weaving together aesthetics that most other artists wouldn’t. At times one is reminded of some early 80s German synth pop, others of Get Lost-period Magnetic Fields and of the music of his friend and contemporary, John Maus. Unlike many of his contemporary synth artists Rosenberg isn’t trying to show how big a sound he can get with a synthesizer, he makes it serve the song as much as any other musical element and not as the basis for the composition.
DIIV became a bit of a cult band for Zachary Cole Smith when Oshin came out on Captured Tracks in 2012. Though the record felt a bit indistinct it made krautrock’s repetitive beat structure softer like downtempo with a little more emotional urgency. The follow-up, 2016’s Is the Is Are found Smith embracing the raw and vivid emotionalism of Elliott Smith’s lo-fi pop and the messy, atonal trash rock of Royal Trux. It’s challenging to hear that on the beautifully melodic songs of Is the Is Are but that the songwriting is growing beyond the band’s earliest phase is obvious and at times Is the Is Are sounds like Smith is training himself to deconstruct his own musical instincts to make something more creatively rewarding.
Who:In/Planes Radio Wave tape release w/Down Time and Kyle Emerson When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: In/Planes’ music has a very soft touch and is the “Mixtapes” single from its new tape, Radio Waves, is any indication, the duo has a gift for taking fairly common experiences and making them resonate with an immediacy of the deeply personal. Joining the band for the tape release show are like-minded tender pop band Down Time and Kyler Emerson with his jazz-inflected, incisively poetic, desert-y folk pop gems.
Who:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series season 2: Lepidoptera, MYTHirst, Bow Shock When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: MYTHirst’s sound is part bright, modular-synth sounding beats with organic string sounds and textured percussion. The Denver version of Lepidoptera, not the Palm Beach, Florida band, has a dream-like guitar and minimal atmospheric sound reminiscent of mid-90s Flying Saucer Attack but not quite as noisy. Bow Shock is somewhere between improvisational electro jazz funk and whatever it is one might call Prefuse 73 with its own mixture of samples of records and live instruments in a way that expands the parameters of what constitutes electronic dance music.
Friday | May 4, 2018
Who:Jane Doe, Television Generation and Meet the Giant When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m. Where: Skylark Lounge Why: Three of Denver’s best off the beaten path rock bands are playing the Skylark on this bill. Jane Doe is in the realm of post-punk but there are elements of noise rock and avant-garde jazz and performance poetry as delivered by Becca Mhalek. The latter spent some time playing with Nels Cline as well as Denver experimental bands Nightshark, MVP and Aenka. Television Generation takes the harrowing intensity of early grunge and mixes it with melodic and energetic post-punk. Meet the Giant has taken what could be fairly gloomy music and given it a driving rhythm and grit that somehow perfectly captures urban melancholy and desperation as experienced by anyone living in American west: uncertainty, disconnection, disaffection, undercurrents of fatalism and a sense of pondering whether or not its foolish to hope for things to change for the better where or not you give it a good try. All while sounding scrappy and not ready to give up on the rewards of creative expression for one’s own fulfillment. Meet the Giant’s self-titled full-length releases digitally on May 15 with a vinyl release later in Spring or Summer.
Who:Porlolo (album release) w/Land Lines and Spirettes When: Friday, 05.04, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Porlolo released Awards on April 27 but this is the official release show. Erin Roberts, the lead singer and guitarist in Porlolo, has kept the band going for years while not exactly breaking through to a mainstream audience, Roberts’ songwriting has been noteworthy for its humor, wisdom and sensitivity. Maybe some of the roots are in folk and Americana but at this point Porlolo transcends both and has as much in common with Luna, Cat Power, Mojave 3 and Mazzy Star as it does with anything fully in the country spectrum of songwriting. Getting to see Land Lines’ experimental, string driven pop and Spirettes’ incandescent dream pop in person just makes this show three times worth seeing.
Who:SPELLS, Quits, Wild Lives When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: SPELLS is a poppy punk band that is as much a party as a band. Wild Lives is more in the realm of punk bands from the 80s and 90s who were melodic but not pop punk. Like The Didjits, New Bomb Turks and Blatz. Quits, a little different from the rest of the lineup in being more a noise rock band than punk. Which makes sense in that every member of the band has contributed to some of the most noteworthy post-hardcore and noise rock out of Denver of the last two decades including former Hot White members Tiana Bernard and Darren Kulback as well as Luke Fairchild and Doug Mioducki who were last in a band together in the early 2000s with Sparkles who always seemed to play like they were ready to explode.
Saturday | May 5, 2018
Who:Alice Glass – Snowblood tour w/Zola Jesus and Pictureplane When: Saturday, 05.05, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: When Alice Glass released her self-titled EP in August 2017 it sounded like a a purging of several years of having told hold back in revealing her own truth and a declaration of her identity as an artist viable beyond any past associations with Crystal Castles. In the latter, Glass was a riveting performer and a singer that channeled perfectly the synthesis of 8-bit music, synth pop, modern dance music and hip-hop that was the essence of Crystal Castles and its being ahead of a curve in modern electronic music that embraced lo-fi and collage production as much as more conventional compositional techniques. For this tour Glass paired with one of the other powerful songwriters in electronic underground music with Zola Jesus whose own 2017 album Okovi represented her own breaking with the methodology and career path of an “indie” artist that might have been open to her. Instead, she trusted her personal and creative instincts and put together an album that was awash in ambient sounds and an hypnotic melodies and sonic structures reminiscent of classical music and black metal. Pictureplane is an old friend of Glass’s from his days as a Denver artist living at Rhinoceropolis. As an artist whose work traverses noise, electronic pop, hip-hop and dance, Pictureplane has a broad palette of sounds and sensibilities employed in his songwriting and performance style.
Who:Al Scorch (full band), Gun Street Ghost, Matt Rouch & The Noise Upstairs When: Saturday, 05.05, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chicago’s Al Scorch earned a name for himself as an energetic and engaging performer with his blend of punk and Americana. Sure, a ton of punks have turned country and the great Camper Van Beethoven and Green On Red, among others, set a high bar for that sort of thing. A number of punk and country artists have even threaded in some eastern European and non-Western musical ideas into their mix. But Scorch does so with an irresistible energy and charisma. His most recent record, 2016’s Circle Round the Signs, contained more than a small amount of poignant social commentary about class and the consequences of war and conflict.
Sunday | May 6, 2018
Who:HIDE, Curse, Echo Beds and Jump Scare – DJ Brian Castillo When: Sunday, 05.06, 8:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Chicago-based post-industrial duo HIDE makes a return visit to Denver in the wake of the release of their 2018 album Castration Anxiety. Using samples, pounding beats and corrosive drones, HIDE’s shows are like confrontational rapidfire snapshots into our culture’s nightmares and insecurities set to a heady soundtrack and as embodied in vocalist Heather Gabel’s ritualistic performance style. Fortunately, the band’s tour intersected with that of Baltimore industrial/darkwave punk band Curse whose own synth-driven heavy music predates some of the current darkwave renaissance and yet sounds like a future form of the music. Curse recently released a split 7” with noteworthy Austin-based industrial act Street Sects. Also on the bill are local industrial noise phenoms Echo Beds and Jump Scare, which includes Anton Kruger, formerly of experimental electronic dance project Bollywood Life. Brian Castillo will DJ the night with some rare cuts from his extensive vinyl library of underground and not-so-underground darkwave music.
Who:Flesh Buzzard, Sporehive, Morlox, Nighttimeschoolbus, Mirror Fears, Yardsss, Ghost House, visuals by Clark Nova, DJ sets by JusJo When: Sunday, 05.06, 6 p.m., show 6:30 Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: A night of mostly local noise and electronic acts at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Patrick Urn of Morlox has long bridged the worlds of noise and electronic music production and has released a fairly diverse body of work including hip-hop and ambient music beyond the noise and industrial music for which he’s best known. Whether as a member of defunct industrial legends In Ether, as Herpes Hideaway, as Syphilis Sauna or Morlox, Urn’s imaginative compositions are highly worthy of exploring in recorded form and witnessing live if you can. Nighttimeschoolbus is an underground hip-hop duo comprised of Toby Hendricks of Otem Rellik and vocalist extraordinaire Robin Walker. The name tells you a bit about the aesthetic and sense of play involved in the songwriting but it also articulates perfectly the necessary emotional state in which you’re indulging your whimsy as a refuge from the rest of the time in life when you’re dealing with the heavier side of human existence. Mirror Fears will not be short on bringing the feels with her melancholy yet cathartic, beat driven electronic pop songs. Yardsss from Portland, Oregon in this configuration is the three-piece band so the show is more like a post-punk, industrial ritual performance than the inspired, hermetic electronic performance art piece it was when Krist Kruger performed as Yardsss solo in Denver in 2017.
Monday | May 7, 2018
Who:MGMT When: Monday, 05.07, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: MGMT came up a time when many of the big time electronic pop acts of the 2000s were getting going. That LCD Soundsystem, Paramore, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Matt and Kim and MGMT and the like started experiencing the first stirrings of popularity in roughly the same timeframe before chillwave became a thing should be noteworthy to future popular music historians. MGMT, though, started when Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were students at Wesleyan and like many dorm/bedroom projects in the 2000s the early musical ideas were noisier and more experimental than their more developed work. But when MGMT got more accessible it also became more interesting and its weirdo psychedelic pop struck a chord with an increasingly wide audience. The 2007, Dave Fridmann-produced Oracular Spectacular took MGMT out of the underground for good and when the band returned to Denver after the release of that album it wasn’t playing the Hi-Dive, it was much larger venues. The band’s subsequent albums, Congratulations and MGMT, didn’t seem to advance the band’s musical ideas much but 2018’s Little Dark Age finds the group not returning to form so much as a re-embrace of the band’s core idiosyncratic vision of electronic pop and dance music that made it interesting in the beginning.
Who:Curse w/Echo Beds and Ghost House When: Monday, 05.07, 8 p.m. Where: Triple Nickel Tavern (Colorado Springs) Why: This is your second chance to see Curse (see above) in Colorado also with Echo Beds. It’s not too common that these kinds modern darkwave and industrial bands perform in the Springs so don’t sleep on the opportunity if you’re into that kind of music.
Who:Smoking Popes (acoustic) w/The Bigger Empty (feat. Mike Felumlee) When: Monday, 05.07, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Smoking Popes were one of the best of the 90s Chicago punk bands. It came out of the same scene that produced Screeching Weasels and Pegboy. But Smoking Popes was a bit more melancholy than than many of their peers even when the pace was high energy and one might even say the Popes were basically an emo band. Combining a punk edge with an emotional vulnerability wasn’t terribly common in the early 90s but the Popes did it in a way that seems more a feature of punk than an anomaly these days. The band flirted with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s but by the end of the decade Josh Caterer found his newfound strong religious convictions didn’t jibe with what the band was about the end group broke up in January 1999. Six years alter, the band played a reunion show in Chicago before which Caterer explained that songs he didn’t think he could perform again weren’t songs the band tended to play live anway. But the reunion would happen without original drummer Mike Felumlee. Over a decade later, Felumlee is back in the fold and playing this current “acoustic” tour as well as playing with opening act The Bigger Empty.
Tuesday | May 8, 2018
Who:Curse, Church Fire, Kill Your Darlings When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m. Where: Downtown Artery (Upstairs) Why: Baltimore darkwave band Curse makes it to Fort Collins for a show with Denver-based electro-industrial-dance band Church Fire and Fort Collins’ industrial band Kill Your Darlings which includes Brett Scheiber of Stella Luce and formerly of dance pop band Pep*Squad and noise project Four Pins Pulled. Sure, darkwave but all of these bands have an emotional intensity on stage that may have an element of the melancholy yet never a downer.
Who:Pseudogod, Hellfire Deathcult, Abysmal Lord, Casket Huffer When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Perm, Russia-based black metal band Pseudogod converges with like-minded bands Hellfire Deathcult from Chicago, New Orleans’ Abysmal Lord and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne for a show that, if fantastical conceits could be true, open a gate into the dimension where the Great Old Ones are partying to music like this. Pseudogod’s cover for The Pharynxes Of Hell, part humorous, part spooky, visually arresting seems to encompass the spirit of what this show will be like to see.
Wednesday | May 9, 2018
Who:Tricky w/Young Magic When: Wednesday, 05.09, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Tricky is one of the artists directly responsible for what came to be called trip-hop in the 90s. As an early collaborator with Massive Attack, and having contributed vocals to that band’s 1991 debut Blue Lines, Tricky demonstrated a versatile talent and when he embarked on a solo career in 1993, he brought with him a gift for borrowing musical ideas and production methods from a variety of musical styles resulting in his debut album, 1995’s Maxinquaye. A hybrid of downtempo, post-punk, dub, hip-hop, Tricky’s music was an antidote to the increasingly conformist and bland alternative rock of that mid-decade. Over twenty years later, Tricky continues to make evocative, deeply atmospheric music. Although, his 2017 album Ununiform, co-engineered by Jay-Z, finds Tricky focusing on spare, uncluttered melodies and strong, minimal beats. It has the feel of Tricky’s least abstract and ethereal record while not sacrificing his ability to set a vibrant mood.
Who:Brazilian Girls w/Tiger Party (Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits and Josh Fairman of Sunsquabi and Analog Son) When: Wednesday, 05.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: New York City has been a melting pot of popular musical styles for decades. But in the 2000s a particular brand of mixing Latin, African and non-Western musical ideas in general with dance music, post-punk, pop and noise emerged in various forms including the tropical pop of early High Places and the no-wave funk of bands like These Are Powers. Or, if you prefer, more above-ground acts like Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend who re-popularized polyrhythms and less conventional vocal styles. Brazilian Girls came in on the dance music end of that wave with its always eclectic and lively live show and songs that wove together ghostly, downtempo melodies, pulsing low end, dub-esque percussion, sex positive messaging and singer Sabina Sciubba’s otherworldly jazz vocals and enigmatic, theatrical stage presence – something akin to Björk fronting a lounge band. In April 2018 the band released Let’s Make Love, it’s first in a decade. Not as cool and sonically smooth as its previous efforts, Let’s Make Love, nevertheless, finds Brazilian Girls more thoughtful but musically more urgent, highlighting the band’s talent for reconciling contrasts.
Ever since the founding of Treefort Music Fest, Colorado bands have been a staple of the event as Treefort was inspired by The UMS in Denver. This year is, Colorado based bands are on the bill virtually every night of the Fest and what follows is a rundown of those bands and the time and place where you can catch them. Esmé Patterson is being included because, well, she became a significant artist before she moved from Denver. The organizers of Treefort Music Fest have done a great job of providing links and photos so click on the links for each band to find out more information and in most cases give the artists a listen.
Who:L.A. Witch w/Honduras and Palo Santo When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: L.A. Witch’s 2017 self-titled album has a kind of post-Loaded-era Velvet Underground stark shimmery pop grit coupled with a languid psych spookiness. In the songs there is a strong, often urgent, rhythm giving the songs some oomph even when they’re introspective. Any roots the band may have in surf rock or psych garage or whatever trendy of the sounds of the past five to ten years, it has definitely moved on. “Drive Your Car” could be an updated Wipers song. Singer/guitarist Sade Sanchez has a smoky cool voice reminiscent of a world weary Hope Sandoval. Whatever comparisons seem valid, L.A. Witch has turned tired conventions on their head into an incredibly compelling sound. Denver’s Palo Santo is cut from a similar cloth in every way with haunting yet fiery guitar work and Mimi Nissan’s trance-state style vocals.
Who:Revolting Cocks (Big Sexy Land Tour) and Front Line Assembly w/CHANT, DJ Slave 1 and Ritual Aesthetic When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: This show signals the end of the train of noteworthy industrial bands, newer and more established, that came through Denver in 2017. Revolting Cocks started with Front 242’s Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker writing music produced by Al Jourgensen, who was often a collaborator. While clearly irreverent at its heart given the band’s name and album titles like Beers, Steers, and Queers and Linger Ficken’ Good the former of which includes a cover of Olivia Newton John’s “(Let’s Get) Physical,” the latter a cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart, Revolting Cocks have interesting and respectable and influential original music across its spate of albums. The current lineup includes Richard 23 and Van Acker, of course, but also former Ministry and Blackouts bassist Paul Barker and longtime Cocks partner in crime, Chris Connelly whose 2008 memoir Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible, and Fried: My Life As A Revolting Cock was a candid, amusing and revelatory account of being in the industrial and alternative music world in general from the 80s forward.
Front Line Assembly’s vision of dystopian global civilization has unfortunately borne out since it sprang to life in 1986. Up to that time frontman Bill Leeb had been a member of Skinny Puppy and his subsequent music in FLA continued that quality that’s difficult to completely nail to a sub-genre of industrial music. The samples put into the music mirrored the influence of hip-hop production on Skinny Puppy, the extensive use of electronic instruments and synths right in line with that like the EBM bands of that day as well as FLA’s imaginative blending of it all to comment on the nature of technology and its impact on human civilization and our everyday lives. Turns out it has continued to be a fruitful subject for not only FLA but science fiction writers mining that rich dystopian nugget of inspiration.
Who: Cindy Wilson (of B-52s) w/Olivia Jean and Battle Pussy
When: Thursday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Cindy Wilson is a member of influential new wave band The B-52s and her unique vocal style alongside that of bandmates Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider made for some arresting melodies amid the incredibly dance-worthy pop songs that were so idiosyncratic in the specific subject matter, no one else could have made it. And yet there was a universal quality to that individual vision that resonated with the oddball and eccentric inside of most people. Currently, Wilson is touring her solo material. Earlier in 2017 Wilson released a fairly experimental, electronic pop EP called Supernatural and on December 1st she is putting out her debut solo album Change, some 41 years into her music career. If the song “Mystic” is any indication, Wilson still has plenty of relevant and inventive music left in her.
Who:Today’s Paramount, Samvega, Alex Culbreth, Buffalo Party, Mynewt When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: Samvega from Napa Valley, California doesn’t fit in a simple box: Its music is heavy, it’s psychedelic, it’s avant-garde and bluesy. Melissa and Mercedes Baker are unconventionally charismatic singers who sound like and come off like they spent a couple of decades touring with Heart and went on to do something weirder. The band’s 2016 album The King is Asleep was one of that year’s most interesting rock albums for its diversity and obvious care for making it a unique from the songwriting to the painting for the cover art. Also on the bill is experimental rock band Today’s Paramount. They look like they might be in a ska band, and maybe on the side some of them are, but their weirdo take on prog, jazz and psych is not like much of anything going on in Denver.
Who:Melkbelly w/Super Bummer, Princess Dewclaw When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Initially, Melkbelly may sound like yet another modern rock band copping the vibe of 90s post-grunge underground music. But Melkbelly is way weirder than that and its jazz underpinnings and willingness to sculpt pure noise into something musical is what makes its 2017 album Nothing Valley so listenable to anyone looking for a band that isn’t trying to go full retro these days. One might liken Melkbelly’s sound to stuff like Magik Markers or Shearing Pinx but Melkbelly is often more melodic than that even if it sounds like it too took some cues from Unwound’s sonic fearlessness. Opening are excellent Denver bands Super Bummer with its melancholic, lo-fi, soaring songs of heartbreak and isolation and Princess Dewclaw, who seem to have found a new way to combine noise rock, punk, synthesizers and elemental vocals into something both confrontational and rivetingly fragile.
Who:Roska with Rabit, Trisicloplox, Ulmo, Rameau Contnrol, Laru and ilind When: Thursday, 11.16, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Rameau Control you can’t really fit into a narrow category of electronic music from melodic bass, dub techno, straight techno to whatever. Calling this bill merely “experimental electronic” does a disservice to the individual artists who all come at electronic music partly from a dance perspective but also as composers of music that absorb ideas and exchange methods and sounds with like-minded artists and co-influencing each other whether from Denver or otherwise. For example, ilind is Isaac Linder who often played Denver DIY venues as a noise and performance artist but one who was into house music.
Friday: November 17, 2017
Who:Tommy Stimson’s Cowboys in the Campfire When: Friday, 11.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bruz Beers Why: Cowboys in the Campfire is Tommy Stimson of The Replacements fame (he has also played in numerous other bands including Guns N’ Roses) and Chip Roberts of Uncle Sippy playing songs together as the name suggests but usually electric. Country punk? For fans of NRBQ? Whatever it is, it’s Stimson and Roberts playing lively, fun songs in a duo format in small venues, record stores, private homes and various other situations across the country this tour. Next time you see Stimson play it’ll probably be in a large theater or bigger so hey, make it to this and you might even get to interact with the musicians, something that would probably never happen at Red Rocks or The Fillmore without paying for some kind of wack VIP access ticket.
Who:Flobots w/Wesley Watkins & Grumpy Uncle (Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan) When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Yes, the famous hip-hop band from Denver, Flobots, playing at Larimer Lounge. The opening act, though, is a collaboration between former Night Sweats trumpet player, and leader of The Other Black, Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp. So expect something wonderfully weird but with solid songcraft and inspired lyrics.
Who:The Blasters night 1 w/Reno Divorce When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Reno Divorce, a rootsy punk band from Denver, opens this night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.
Who:Lost Walks w/Midwife When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Lost Walks is sort of a high concept Americana-esque band. High concept in that there is a prepared theatrical element to the live shows as the band collaborates with a visual arts group. Also, the lyrics, steeped in a pastoral and noir literature aesthetic, lend themselves to dramatic performance and grand, emotive gestures from the band’s various vocalists including former Bad Luck City frontman, Dameon Merkl. The band’s debut album, 2017’s Wolf, Woman, Man, is a fascinating contrast of bright, dark, moody, reflective and observational. Opening the show is avant-folk artist Midwife whose own 2017 debut, Like Author, Like Daughter, is one of the the best albums of the year for its delicate, fragile evocation of emotions so broad and deep that it always catches you by surprise with its subtle but irresistible power.
Who:Slow Magic w/Point Point and Qrion When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Slow Magic exists outside of time. The interdimensional creature occasionally releases albums like 2017’s ultra-chillout pop extravaganza Float. You can witness the superstring hopper yourself tonight at The Gothic Theatre.
Who:Big Lo (Florida), RAREBYRD$, iiwii and Brett Gretsky When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: An experimental hip-hop show at Tennyson’s Tap isn’t unheard of and this time it’s Big Lo from Florida whose beats include a mix of samples and turntablism to create a sense of introspection in the face of impending danger. Before and since moving from Saint Louis to Denver, Rooster Jake has been involved in various hip-hop and experimental projects over the years, his latest being iiwii. Brett Gretzky recently migrated to Denver from Saint Louis as well bringing their mixture of hip-hop and soul. RAREBYRD$ will break your heart with sincerely, deeply felt yet gentle expressions of the lowest points a person can reach in the psyche and still come back with one’s soul intact. They use drum machines, synths and sequencers but it always sounds like it’s coming right out of their imagination and plugged into the P.A..
Who:Ice Troll, Never Kenezzard, Heathen Burial and White Dwarf When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Pit Stop Tavern Why: Doom shows don’t happen in far West Denver much but tonight doom orchestra Ice Troll will play Pit Stop Tavern along with sludge metal thrashers Never Kenezzard, noisy death metal trio Heathen Burial and stoner rock outfit White Dwarf.
Saturday: November 18, 2017
Who:Dead Boys 40th Anniversary tour w/The Roxy Suicide When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: For four years Dead Boys were one of the most outrageous and influential of the early punk bands. With just two albums under its belt, 1977’s Young Loud and Snotty and 1978’s We Have Come for Your Children, Dead Boys set a high bar for inventive guitar work between Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero, a primitivistic yet inspired rhythm section in Johnny Blitz and Jeff Magnum and literate yet gritty lyrics from charismatic frontman Stiv Bators. The original band split in 1979 but in its wake a lot of the more interesting and scary punk bands of the 80s emerged. In 2017 the band officially re-formed and issued a re-recording of Young Loud and Snotty called Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40 with its new lineup including Chrome and Blitz as well as new members Jason Kottwitz on guitar, Ricky Rat on bass and frontman Jake Hout. The original record was meant as a demo and the new record is of a much higher quality if missing the genius alchemy of the original band. But you’re not getting a second rate re-tread this time around. This version of the Dead Boys may be older but it still packs a punch.
Who: Galaxy Express 555 (MN), Hippies Wearing Muzzles, J. Hamilton Isaacs When: Saturday, 11.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Historic Grant Avenue Church Why: Galaxy Express 555 is Christopher Farstad’s project that incorporates elements of ambient music, experiential sound environment composition, sampling and loops to create music that has the effect of being a soundtrack to some non-dystopian future society of wide open spaces and minds. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is a modular synth project from Denver. J. Hamilton Isaacs is basically Dugout Canoe so you know the beats and analog synth combination will be beautifully transporting yet feel grounded at the same time. All of this is taking place in church where the natural acoustics will give otherwise electronic music a warmth it doesn’t often project.
Who:Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series featuring Equine w/Mondo Obscura When: Saturday, 11.18, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked on Colfax Why: This is the latest in Glasss’s Speakeasy Series in the basement of Hooked on Colfax. This time with ambient duo Mondo Obscura and experimental guitar minimalist Equine. Kevin Richards of the latter played drone guitar for years as Temples after having spent several years in weirdo post-hardcore outfit Motheater where he made strange jazz chords fit into a punk context. This show will be a collaborative set between the two projects.
Who:King Eddie – Holographic Universe Album release w/Kyle Emerson, Panther Martin and déCollage DJ set, visuals by DenVR When: Saturday, 11.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: King Eddie is releasing its debut album Holographic Universe and celebrating the occasion with friends Kyle Emerson (whose pastoral psych pop songs are graced with Emerson’s insightful, observational lyrics) and Panther Martin (if indie rock could have come out of late 1970s New York City, it might have sounded like Panther Martin). King Eddie’s songs sound like the band synthesized modern psychedelic rock with math rock rhythms as though assembling a beat over which the band created a colorful and transporting imagery. Reed Fuchs of déCollage will do one of his unique DJ sets and be prepared for some truly unusual and inspired images from DenVR.
Who:It’s Just Bugs, Nearby Liars, Mouthfeel, Falsetto Boy When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This’ll be a weird one for some people because few of the bands are anything alike. It’s Just Bugs is an industrial hip-hop band. Nearby Liars are somewhere between slowcore and late 90s emo with all the glitter and drifty, sweeping, swelling, dramatic emotional experiences you’d want vicariously from that kind of music to purge the Fall blues. Mouthfeel includes members of Wrinkle, Altered State and Laurium. Falsetto Boy is some post-emo, lo-fi singer songwriter type of music.
Who:The Blasters w/O.G. Country When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why:The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Its 1980 debut album American Music really was a demonstration of how much American music the Alvin brothers, Bill Bateman and John Bazz had absorbed, learned, reinterpreted, amalgamated and reinvented. O.G. Country from Denver, opens this second night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.
Who:Liam Gallagher w/Warbly Jets When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Oasis’ 1995 hit “Wonderwall” made way too many people think maybe they too can sing in a pop band. Part of it was Liam Gallagher’s borderline tone deaf vocal delivery. But Gallagher is a gifted, powerful singer with some charming rough edges to his voice. And to his personality, for that matter. His conflict with brother Noel was the stuff of tabloid news. But one thing we can thank Oasis for was in finishing off some real dreck in popular music by offering something better and more genuine because you knew the Gallagher brothers weren’t faking it. Endless naff covers of “Wonderwall” plaguing karaoke nights and dire YouTube videos aside, Liam Gallagher’s real legacy was not just his music but some truly amazing moments of comedy and inspiredly uncharitable bits of rhetoric over the years as well as tender and earnest expressions of appreciation for other artists even when, such as the case with The Verve in recent years, those expressions come off as a bit of a headscratcher. He probably had a good laugh about that. Gallagher’s debut solo album, As You Were, came out in October 2017. It’s a bit reminiscent of 60s blue eyed soul and David Bowie’s more R&B moments but the songwriting is solid.
Opening the show is Warbly Jets from Los Angeles. It’s self-titled debut album is a bit slick and polished for a bunch of young musicians who clearly have it in them to go full on into the kind of gritty yet tuneful rock and roll that inspired them. But that’s what happens in the music industry often enough and you just have to check out the band in their, one would presume, element, on stage. With any luck you’ll see a band that has shed the self-conscious quality of the record and even where it might be derivative, play like the band believes in itself.
Sunday: November 19, 2017
Who:Chad VanGaalen w/NE-HI When: Sunday, 11.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chad VanGaalen may not necessarily be known for this now but at some point in the future he may be more widely acknowledged as one of the most influential guitarists and producers of his generation. His bedroom recordings for Infiniheart was picked up by SubPop in 2005. His gift for articulating the anxiety and alienation of the modern era clearly struck a chord and his subsequent music has explored some dark and some merely troubling corners of the human psyche with an ear for the perfect harmonic atmospherics and texture. In 2008, Van Gaalen began his relationship with the math rock/post-punk band Women, a band now oft-cited by younger guitar bands as an influence for its creative use of tone, angular rhythms and dynamics. Members of Women are now in Preoccupations. VanGaalen’s 2017 album Light Information sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Mission of Burma, Helium, 80s minimal synth music and various Jay Reatard projects but the alchemy of that and his own well-developed aesthetic has rendered the songs into something that sounds like something from a long time ago in a place some of us wish existed. It has the kind of vintage sheen like a Ti West film.
Chicago’s NE-HI put out one of the years most repeatedly listenable albums of the year with OFFERS. It’s labyrinthine melodies and straightforward rhythms are a winning combination because it transforms lo-fi garage rock into something extraordinary. Comparisons could be made to Palm, Pavement and Parquet Courts. But its urgent jangle is coming from a different place and that’s what sets the band apart.
Who:Tori Amos w/Scars on 45 When: Sunday, 11.19, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Tori Amos was one of the earliest artists to attain mainstream commercial success to sing about sexual abuse, her struggle to attain her own creative liberation in a sexist music industry that often could (and often can, truth be told) value women as objectified entities that must fit a fairly narrow mold to present to potential audiences. And otherwise just refreshingly vulnerable and honest depictions of life. Though Amos spent much of the rest of her career exploring and writing thoughtfully on these subjects, in the 2000s, Amos put more focus on more mythical expressions, giving her work new dimensions only hinted at in her earlier work. 2017’s Native Invader is about how we can heal ourselves and the world through facing our challenges and conflicts honestly—which has more or less been Amos’ core message as a songwriter since her solo debut album, 1992’s Little Earthquakes.
Tuesday: November 21, 2017
Who:In the Company of Serpents, Goya, Matriarch and Palehorse/Palerider When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A handful of Denver’s best heavy bands are on this bill. Matriarch is a doom/drone band whose 2015 album Magnumus: The 44th Scribe and Lorde of the Hallucinauts has two tracks. And it’s not an EP. It’s also just two lengthy songs that take you on a journey of crushing epics like the soundtrack to Vikings exploring the lands of Irish legend set in South America. Blend all that imagery together and that’s the Matriarch sound. In the Company of Serpents has cracked the monolith of its own sound this past year and the result is 2017’s Ain-Soph Aur, where the band’s songwriting beyond devastating riffs emerges for some of ITCOS’ best songs to date. Palehorse/Palerider is the kind of band where people who have generally played more punk-oriented music got into the soundcaping possibilities of heavy music whether metal or the deep atmospherics of the best shoegaze and post-rock music. Its own 2017 epic masterpiece is Burial Songs.
Who:Mom Jeans. (Side One Dummy), Prince Daddy & The Hyena (NY), Kississippi (PA), Old Sport and Blue Lane Frontier When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: The lazy thing to do would be to say this is an emo show. Mom Jeans from Berkeley, California is unabashedly so and thus part of that band’s appeal. And more like the late 90s, borderline indie rock variety with the spidery, jangly guitar work. Old Sport from Denver is on the more math-y end of emo with intricate guitar work and song dynamics that sound like someone is thinking in terms of film editing with dramatic drop-outs and sparkling guitar melodies, emotionally charged vocals and a variety of rhythm and texture not common enough in punk generally. Kississippi from Philadelphia is fronted by singer and primary songwriter Zoe Reynolds whose lyrics possess an impressive insight into her own emotional landscape and the ability to translate that into instantly relatable songs.
Wednesday: November 22, 2017
Who:Git Some, Zebroids, Fast Eddie, Jane Doe When: Wednesday, 11.22, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Post-hardcore band Git Some has been around for well over a decade when it started in Chicago in the early 2000s. Through various line-up changes members of the band (Charles French and Neil Keener) have also become members of Wovenhand, bringing another level of grit and intensity to a project not short on that already. It’s essentially noise rock with a sense of humor. Speaking of humor, punk band Zebroids is essentially a ridiculous joke of a punk rock band with absurd lyrics and an equally absurd stage presence. Nevertheless, the band is a lot of fun. Jane Doe is a combination of dark, starkly intense poetry, jagged noise rock and free jazz sensibilities. Fronted by the charismatic Becca Mhalek, Jane Doe is one of Denver’s best kept secrets. For now. Fast Eddie is a hard rock band from Denver which includes Micah Morris who some may know as one of the main people behind Barf magazine. Silly name, perhaps, with some fairly absurdist content, but the magazine has provided some of the better content about Denver music and beyond of recent years
Who:Cannibal Corpse w/Power Trip, Gatecreeper and Of Feather and Bone When: Wednesday, 11.22, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Cannibal Corpse has been getting under the skin of cultural conservatives and squeamish faux-do-gooders for years with music that itself isn’t something we’re going to hear much of any time soon on commercial radio. But the lyrics, quotable by gore horror fans and metalheads for years, almost gleefully crafted to outrage with being so cartoonishly over the top, is what has landed Cannibal Corpse in some hot water with would-be censors. But the live show isn’t littered with corpses and zombies or anything like that so just go expecting one of death metal’s greatest bands. Opening the show are Dallas-based thrash band Power Trip, Arizonan death metallers Gatecreeper (whose music video for “Desperation” from 2016’s Sonoran Depravation is a harrowing depiction of violence and a bit of a commentary on what leads to that sort of thing), and Denver’s deathgrind powerhouse, Of Feather and Bone.