Best Shows in Denver 4/4/19 – 4/10/19

Acid Mothers Temple perform at Larimer Lounge on April 8. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | April 4

Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Friday | April 5


Modern Leisure circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Faim, Sore Eyes (Springs), Bi-Proxy (first show, members of Herse, Caffeine and Eternal) and Implied Risk (first show)
When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Faim is one of the great, noisy hardcore bands from Denver. Eruptive and pointed in its energy. If you go, you’ll also get to see the first show from a couple of other like-minded bands who are keeping local hardcore alive and interesting.

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

DooCrowder_Mar 12_2011_TomMurphy
Doo Crowder circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Kero Kero Bonito, photo by Tracey Ng

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

SUSTO, photo courtesy the artist

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

Mdou Moctar, photo by Nikkl Cells

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

Claudzilla, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Morlox, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Motherhood’s Exuberant Art Rock is Rooted In Fredericton, New Brunswick’s Underground Scene

Motherhood, photo by Emulsion Lab/Kyle Cunjak

Motherhood is a trio from Fredericton, New Brunswick in eastern Canada that has been developing its unique and eclectic sound since 2010 when its members met while at university. When critics and fans make unusual and diverse comparisons between a band and personal musical reference points, you know the band in question is onto something refreshingly different from prevailing trends. For this writer, hearing Motherhood there are resonances between the band’s music and the otherworldly, carnival-esque sounds of a Danny Elfman soundtrack, the frayed folk art punk of the Mekons and the strongly thematic and sonically diverse yet focused conceptualization of Rubblebucket. Some might hear in its songs the sort of amalgam of slackery looseness and precision that has made Pavement so interesting and unpredictable. Of course Motherhood, as you’ll see in the interview below with bassist/keyboard player Penny Stevens, doesn’t really sound like any other band touring in the underground precisely because its influences are so disparate even as the alchemy of its creative process and its evolution over several years has resulted in music that one might expect from artists who developed early on in a small city (Fredericton even now has a metropolitan area population of under 110,000) with no entrenched musical sub-scene to easily access.

On March 1, 2019, Motherhood celebrated the release of its new album Dear Bongo (out on Forward Music Group) and its songs informed by humor and brimming with tender emotional immediacy even as it explores the folly of seeking and demanding perfection in our lives whether through our relationships, our psychology or in our creative work. Motherhood is currently on tour throughout North America including the following shows coming up in Colorado and at the Treefort Music Fest in Boise, ID.

Sunday | March 17 at Lion’s Lair, Denver
Tuesday | March 19 at Seventh Circle Music Collective
Thursday | March 21 — Treefort Music Fest, 8 p.m. at Boise All-ages Movement Project
Saturday | March 23 – Treefort Music Fest, 9 p.m. at Tom Grainey’s Basement

Queen City Sounds: Your band has been around longer than I had assumed. Has it been around for about eight years?

Penny Stevens: Yeah, Brydon [Crain] and Adam [Sipkema] have been playing together since high school and I joined them during our university days. 2019 will make nine years since we formed Motherhood.

How did you meet them?

They’re from a small town kind of in the middle of nowhere and they moved to Fredericton, which is where we all live now, to go to college. I needed a place to live and I ended up moving in with them and we started jamming in the basement.

Did you grow up playing music?

S: Yes, I’m the only one that took actual music lessons in band except I took a semester in classical guitar and Adam took two drum lessons, I think. I took classical piano lessons while growing up. So I write the piano stuff. When we started out we had a bass player and when he quit I took over bass duties and had to pick it up pretty quick. We’ve been playing music all our lives. I guess a lot of it has been at this point in Motherhood and we learned to play instruments while in this band. A lot of of artists have had other projects that they developed in and formed something later on but we kinda grew up with Motherhood. It’s been a constant for a long time. We didn’t experiment too much outside of Motherhood so we spent our experimentation years inside this band and we sound completely different now than when we started out. Now we can identify what we’re going for. There’s a more clear vision of where we’re headed next.

We all had little projects in middle school and high school but this is our first “real” band that played actual venues. It took us a long time, when we first started out, to figure out how to BE a band. Coming from a really small town with not a lot of other bands around it took us some time to learn how to book a show, make a record and stuff like that when there’s not really anyone else to follow.

Was there a local music scene and places to play for you starting out?

There’s one sweet venue where we booked one of our first shows, The Capital. We were horrible but they kept booking us and asking us to come back. We still play The Capital all the time. The record label that we’re on now, Forward Music Group, is based out of Halifax but it was formed in Fredericton and a lot of bands that were on the label we consider kind of the grandfathers of the music scene there. A lot of them are still playing in awesome bands. They’re older and have families now but we kind of came up going to see those bands play and watching them. Grand Theft Bus is like a prog jam band, they’re pretty cool and still playing. Bands like Force Fields, Share, The Slate Pacific—they’re not as active anymore but those folks are still around and will come and see us once in awhile. That was the only record label we were familiar with coming up so nine years later we’re working with them and it feels pretty good to be a part of the family after all these years.

Is The Capital an all-ages venue?

No, it’s a bar. Some friends of ours started booking there in the late 90s, taking a risk because there wasn’t really any live music happening in Fredericton and touring bands weren’t coming through much but they begged the owner to have a show there and it went really well. The guy that started booking the shows now owns the bar and he’s a huge supporter of the music scene and keeps the Fredericton music scene alive and he does a lot for other bands too.

Did you get a chance to see many bands not from there coming up?

It comes and goes. There’ll be a few years when a lot of touring bands are coming through and there’s a lot of activity. We’re in a little bit of a quiet space now. I lived in Fredericton when I was a teenager and I would sneak out of my mom’s house and go see all-ages metal shows when I was 14 or 15. Those were my first shows and I didn’t even know you could do that thing. That scene isn’t really alive in Fredericton anymore. When we released our record Dear Bongo on March 1 we put on a big all-ages show and we had probably close to seventy high school kids come out. It’s pretty rare to have an all-ages show in Fredericton right now but I hope they’ll be able to have the kinds of experiences I had when I was a teenager going to see all-ages shows and thinking, “Oh, I should be in a band!” That show was at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre, which is a community art center that has a big auditorium.

Presumably this isn’t your first big tour.

This is the biggest we’ve done yet, it’s six weeks long. Last year we were gone a month. We came through Denver [at Seventh Circle Music Collective] and across to Idaho and Northern California and up the coast and back. We won’t have to drive as long this time but we’ll be out longer. Our music is diverse so we can fit into a lot of different places. We can play a legit venue and we can play a punk house and it’s not really that different for us. It translates to a lot of different audiences. In Boise we’re playing at Treefort on Thursday and Saturday. We played Treefort last year at Neurolux and another place. It’ll be nice playing with DIY bands we’ve been in contact with across the US like Charcoal Squids from Missoula, Montana and Lloyd and Saviour from Idaho.

Dear Bongo is not your first full-length.

We’ve had two full-lengths and put out our first in 2013.

Dear Bongo is a name I associate with something people might name their dog but I assume that isn’t the case here.

No, but a lot of people make that association. The dog’s name is Tesla.

You made a video with footage from a GoPro attached to Tesla?

Yeah, we made the video for “Bird Chirp.” We shot that in one of our favorite places in the world called the Nashwaak Flats. You gotta know it to know it, you’ve got to know where the little path is but it’s very close to where we all live. We can bike there from where we live in a few minutes. You basically leave downtown and follow a little path for a few minutes and come out onto this huge, open field. It’s close to downtown Fredericton but it’s quite secluded so we spend a lot of our summer there hanging out and having fires and stuff. We took Tesla down there, she loves it there, and she rants around for twenty-five minutes and collapses and has a naps. So we just strapped a GoPro to her and took her off leash and had a really good day at the Flats. She’s a greyhound and she’s so fast so it kept flopping onto the side so we had to stuff socks between the leash and her shoulder blade so it would stand up.

Kyle Cenjuk took photos and did some performances on the new record?

Yes, he co-produced the record and he runs Forward Music Group so we asked him to produced the record not having any knowledge of how we were going to put the record out. When he came to produce the record he kind of fell in love with it a little bit and asked to put it out on Forward Music Group. We were super stoked about that, obviously. He plays in a bunch of Canadian bands and he plays upright bass so we had him play upright bass on a couple of tracks. He helped with vocals and arrangements. Right now he’s touring with David Miles, who is a pretty well-known folk, pop artist. He also plays in Olympic Symphonium, which is a five piece chamber folk group and he plays in Force Fields, a really intense post-rock band. He has his fingers in many pies as far as East Coast music goes.

When people hear your music they probably accept it for what it is but it gets interesting comparisons like The Mekons, which seems fitting.

Usually when we get comparisons a lot of the time we don’t know the projects. I don’t know who The Mekons were until someone wrote that about us and I checked it out and thought, “Okay, I can kinda see that.” We get Primus a lot, which is fine. I don’t think that makes a lot of sense but I can see where they’re coming from.

There’s some playfulness in the music and it’s not obvious if there’s some genre it’s coming from.

Yeah. When we write something with an obvious influence we like to make it very obvious. Our influences are thinly veiled but very diverse. On Dear Bongo we have a song that we were like, “Let’s try to make this sound as much like a Beach Boys song as we can.” Because we all love the Beach Boys. There are songs like that throughout the record, homages to artists we really care about. Either way, we’re not trying to sound like any particular band but there are bands we like to pay our respects to for really setting the stage for us.

On the Forward Music Group there was a reference to a story associated with the new album about a painter who was pursuing perfection, which is something many people aim for but don’t really find.

S: Pretty much every album we produce is conceptual and completed in one album. So there’s a running theme that carries through every song lyrically and sonically. The lyrics for sure play a part in telling the story but also in the music we have themes that will repeat in different songs in different ways to add cohesion and completeness on the album. This record tells the tale of a painter who is going through a horrible breakup of some sort, falling out of love with someone. He uses painting to try and solve his problems, to paint the world that he wants to see but perfectionism doesn’t mean it can be too perfect. There’s a lot of metaphors and it’s not just one kind of painting. He paints lines on the highway, his house and pictures. By the end he’s playing every blade of glass, tree trunks, trying to paint the world as he thinks it should be but he’s never going to get it quite right.