What:Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.
What:Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.
What:Angel Olsen w/Vagabon When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.
What:Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.
What:Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.
What:Empath w/American Culture and Reposer When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.
Lot Lizard from Sioux Falls, South Dakota recently released its self-titled full length album on Different Folk Records. The single “Ice” is an example of how the post-punk quartet isn’t taking its cues from the most predictable influences. It’s noisy guitar work, disaffected and loping vocal style and urgent rhythms have as much in common with Iceage and Protomartyr as Scratch Acid and bands from the Amphetamine Reptile imprint. The song’s cutting, screaming guitar line is reminiscent of Rikk Agnew’s work on Only Theatre of Pain the way it spirals and incandesces. The vocals border on snotty but come off more resigned yet desperate. Maybe it’s because of the relative geographic isolation and the resultant different set of immediate cultural and musical influences on hand but Lot Lizard while bearing the hallmarks of classic, arty post-punk, doesn’t sound like it’s trying to mimic something from the 80s so much as serving as an expression of the internal resistance to the crushing social and political pressures of a culture that seems so dead set on having no future. Listen to “Ice” on Spotify and follow Lot Lizard at the links provided.
Who:Tokyo Rodeo w/The Born Readies, The Vashon Seed and Landgrabbers When: Thursday, 02.21, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: There’s a not insignificant segment of Denver underground music consisting of bands that play all the dive bars and small clubs, garnering an audience but playing music that isn’t being championed much by the local press. But solid bands with good energy and presence and songwriting chops. Some of it straight ahead, bluesy, or southern fried, rock, some of it with a leg in other styles of music but always respectable. In recent years some of these bands included Cutthroat Drifters, The Patient Zeroes and, of course, Tokyo Rodeo. Meaningful storytelling, unexpectedly interesting moods mixed in with layered dynamics and nuanced rhythms that a straight-ahead rock band eschews in favor of run-of-the-mill rocking. There’s more depth to Tokyo Rodeo than all of that and while probably not for everyone that might read this site for the weird music, absolutely worthwhile.
Who:The Gones, Calamity Champs and Sunrise Drive When: Thursday, 02.21, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Matt Sumner and Kelly Prestridge are the rhythm section of weirdo art pop band The Inactivists. Sure, plenty of humor there, but also a lot of respectable musical talent. The Gones are their power pop band. Because of who they are along with songwriter and guitarist Jef Krauth there is a sense of humor informing the music but really just a great pop band with some punk energy driving it.
Friday | February 22, 2019
Who:Bison Bone album release w/The River Arkansas and Jess Parsons When: Friday, 02.22, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bison Bone is releasing Take Up The Trouble tonight. The Denver-based Americana band has always written sonically diverse story songs with a literary flair. The new set of recordings seems less dusky than previous offerings but ineffably more direct and confident. Live, like a great honky tonk band that hasn’t devolved into self-parody.
What:Lifeforce 35mm When: Friday, 02.22, 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: This concludes The Scream Screen series celebrating the films of Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. Lifeforce is his 1985 homage to Hammer horror films in the science fiction disaster fame with the antagonists in the form of three naked vampires from space. Which sounds more lurid and corny than this dark and unusual movie happens to be.
Who:The Bellrays w/The Atom Age and Hot Apostles When: Friday, 02.22, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The BellRays are what a lot of bluesy garage rock bands want to be. From Riverside, California, sounding like they hung out with the MC5 in the late 60s. Fronted by the charismatic Lisa Kekaula since the early 90s, The Bellrays are one of the greatest American rock and roll bands right now.
Who:How to Think, Full Bleed, I’m a Boy When: Friday, 02.22, 7:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: The latest in the Get Your Ears Swoll series at The People’s Building in Aurora. I’m A Boy is one of the most underappreciated, yet best, most dynamic live rock bands out of Denver. Part glam, part power pop, the group includes former and current members of 40th Day and Gata Negra. How to Think claims to be an experimental rock band and it is but its soundsculpting on various songs is like if a funk band abstracted that a whole lot and made use of loops and a sampling aesthetic. Other times How to Think is an unadulterated yet unusual, noisy rock band the likes we saw more of in the heyday of alternative rock before that whole thing got reduced to a limited genre.
Saturday | February 23, 2019
Who:Plastic Daggers EP release w/Its Just Bugs, FATHERS When: Saturday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Kind of a Sailor Records showcase but this time in celebration of the release of Plastic Daggers’ latest EP Stitches. Somewhere between punk and bluesy garage rock, Plastic Daggers are appropriately named with their fuzzy riffs honed to a fine edge propelled by a nearly mechanistic drive. Its Just Bugs blends hip-hop, metal, punk and noise for a sound and presentation that seems coherent and of a while despite its eclectic sonic palette. FATHERS is a post-hardcore band for fans of the likes of Glassjaw and Dillinger Escape Plan.
Who:American Standards, Kenaima, Tuck Knee, Didaktikos When: Saturday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This is a hardcore show featuring some of Denver’s best younger bands in that vein of music. Catch them early on in their development before they have it figured out.
Who:Rat Bites (last show), Grave Moss (last show), Moon Pussy and Dead Characters When: Saturday, 02.23, 9 p.m. Where: Carioca Café Why: Noise rock band Grave Moss has the vibe of an early death rock band but the exorcistic quality of some 80s and/or early 90s performance art like something Diamanda Galas or Karen Finley might have done. Unfortunately, the band is calling it quits after this show. And so is Rat Bites, a group that might have fit in best during the heyday of 31G Records where its unconventional punk wouldn’t have seemed as out of step with where punk went boring. Moon Pussy is similarly-minded and its use of truly inventive guitar treatments built from the onboard electronics out alongside cathartic vocals and rhythms that operate at odd angles against rock orthodoxy makes it one of the most interesting bands in Denver or anywhere now. For fans of Daughters and Parts & Labor.
Sunday | February 24, 2019
Who:Bryce Vine w/Travis Thompson and 7715 When: Sunday, 02.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Bryce Vine is not yet widely known but that’s likely to change with the spring 2019 release of his debut full-length Carnival on Warner Brothers. His deftly executed raps combine aspirational fantasizing (while making it seem attainable if not already inevitable) and introspective speculation. His coolly confident vocals seem to transfer that quality to the listener. With beats that wouldn’t be out of place in a well-crated, electronic indie pop song, Bryce’s music has a cross-genre appeal with undeniable swagger and elegance.
Monday | February 25, 2019
Who:Talos with Aurora When: Sunday, 02.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Talos, aka Eoin French, recently released his second album Far Out Dust on February 8, 2019. It’s emotionally soaring, richly melodic synth pop. French is skilled at putting together tiny details in a song like he’s live composing an impressionistic film that evolves into something with greater density of detail and color as it progresses on its timeline. His vocal range lends his songs an unconventional range of sonic texture with interesting upper register intonation. Fans of Perfume Genius will find much to like with Talos and his articulation of yearning without desperation.
Who:Peter Murphy with David J: 40 Years of Bauhaus When: Monday, 02.25, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Peter Murphy and David J were two of the four founders of influential art rock/post-punk band Bauhaus. For this tour the two musicians will perform selections from the band’s iconic albums in celebration of the forty years of the group’s founding. Though inspired by glam rock, punk and dub, Bauhaus was also steeped in the avant-garde in film, music, literature and theater. It gave their performances a ritualistic quality that its members took to their projects after Bauhaus initially split up in 1983 (with reunions in 1998 and a brief return from 2005 through 2008). With Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins having toured in 2017 playing Tones On Tail songs as Poptones, maybe we’ll get to see a Love and Rockets tour for Hot Trip To Heaven (as the band never toured for that record, one of its best) or even a full-fledged Bauhaus reunion. Until that now remote possibility this is as close as you’re going to get to seeing these songs get their proper delivery.
Tuesday | February 26, 2019
Who:Serengeti w/French Kettle Station and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Tuesday, 02.26, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: David Cohn aka Serengeti is a prolific musical and artistic chameleon. He often adopts a persona that shapes the aesthetic of a musical project so that when he performs those songs you’ll get a truly idiosyncratic show. Whether that’s as Kenny Dennis or his numerous collaborations with other notable underground/alternative hip-hop artists like Why?, Jel & Odd Nosdam, Sufjan Stevens Sicker Man, Cohn’s imagination and creative vision brings a focus to the project that would be difficult to duplicate or imitate. Opening the show is synth pop/performance art superstar French Kettle Station and R A R E B Y R D $, Denver’s premiere ambient gangsta rap/abstract dub mystic trio. Maybe the only one but an act not to miss on any bill.
Who:Bob Mould Band w/The Trujillo Company When: Tuesday, 02.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: For those not in the know, Bob Mould was the pioneering guitarist for Hüsker Dü, a band that operated between the late 70s through the late 80s and one that often played and toured in the punk underground of its hometown of Minneapolis and far beyond. But it never fully fit in with the hardcore scene because its sonics were too weird and its knack for beautiful melodies amidst sometimes abrasive music too much like pop. Hüsker Dü was making a music for the future and exerted a massive influence on all guitar music of the alternative rock era by the early 90s. Mould would start a new band called Sugar as well as launch a solo career immediately after the 1987 dissolution of Hüsker Dü and has navigated a respectable musical career since. Mould still plays with the drive and passion that informed any of his previous projects and his 2019 album on Merge, Sunshine Rock, could be a safely personal record, and it’s not short on that, but Mould injects some of the sharp social and political critique that made Hüsker so interesting but poetically taking on modern concerns with an ear for nuance.
Who:Frankie and the Witch Fingers w/Lot Lizard and Eye and the Arrow When: Tuesday, 02.26, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Frankie and the Witch Fingers sound like they absorbed a ton of early garage and surf rock and the Nuggets compilation then realized they couldn’t simply regurgitate and mime it in the 2000s after so many other bands had done that so well since the 60s. Their music isn’t that fast, silly riffing and then primal scream formula that “worked” for too many bands in the 2010s. Rather, as evidenced on the group’s excellent full-length ZAM, Frankie and the Witch Fingers brought the elegant and intricate leads and the imagination to its songs. They have songs called “Dracula Drug,” “Dark Sorcerer” and “Head Collector” so clearly an offbeat sense of humor and appreciation for kitsch is part of the group’s musical DNA. Yet, the band never comes off as gimmicky or silly. Direct support is post-punk band Lot Lizard from Sioux Falls, South Dakota (read our interview with bassist Patrick Nelson here) whose own ghostly garage psych underpinnings fit in well with this bill.
Wednesday | February 27, 2019
Who:Thumpasaurus w/Boogie Mammoth and Denver Jamtronica When: Wednesday, 02.26, 7:30 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Sure, Thumpasaurus drummer/producer is Henry Was, son of Don Was. But pedigree is not necessarily and indication of one’s artistic talent. But Thumpasaurus, on the surface a wildly eclectic, weirdo funk band and one informed by a bizarre creative vision that incorporates meme culture (see their video for “You Are So Pretty”), outfits that look like someone borrowed liberally from designers who were told to make clothes for an adult contemporary punk band inspired by a peak EDM light show and the strangeness of Frank Zappa telling listeners to talk to any vegetable. Whatever the constellation of influences, Thumpasaurus have made it their own and now the group is touring in support of its 2018 album The Book of Thump.