Best Shows in Denver 02/08/18 – 02/14/18

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Emerald Siam at Lost Lake on Friday, February 9, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | February 8, 2018

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lib.eriana, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Who: Musical Mayhem: lib.eriana, Klaus Dafoe and Brian Parton
When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This edition of Musical Mayhem looks like a doozy. Alan Muñiz is probably not someone you think of when you think of Denver’s music scene much less the avant-garde end of it. But he has been part of multiple projects that have been exploring sounds and musical ideas out on the edge of accessibility while rooted in a very organic approach to composition. His current project, lib.eriana is a mix of elegant acoustic-electronic music and abstract dub IDM. The moody, gorgeous pieces he’s shared on his Soundcloud account are just a taste of what you’re in for tonight. Also on the bill is post-punk/Canadian avant guitar aficionado solo artist Klaus Dafoe and Americana pop artist Brian Parton. Eclectic line up as should happen more often.

Who: Telefon Tel Aviv w/Dean Grenier, Bones and Peter Vaughan
When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper started Telefon Tel Aviv in the late 90s composing IDM ambient music with sounds suggesting specific natural environments. The duo’s debut album, 2001’s Fahrenheit Fair Enough, established a sound that later became popular among the post-EDM/deep house set—a new kind of dance music for chillout zones. The project went on to explore various extensions of its root aesthetic across five albums before the untimely death of Cooper shortly after the release of Immolate Yourself, Telefon Tel Aviv’s up to now final album. Since then, Telefon Tel Aviv became a bit of a legendary band in the realm of IDM. Eustis became a touring member of Nine Inch Nails in 2013 as well as Puscifer. But since that year, Eustis has presumably worked on the recent reissues of classic Telefon Tel Aviv material and has apparently been working on new material that you can hopefully catch if you make it out to this show.

Who: Ice Troll, New Standards Men, Transmutation
When: Thursday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Calling this a post-rock show might be a bit misleading because Ice Troll is clearly more in the realm of what one might call a doom orchestra. New Standards Men have more in common with noise sculptor punks and post-punks like Unwound and A Minor Forest than something as calming as Explosions in the Sky. But it’ll be instrumental and not adhering to basic genre formats of any kind.

Friday | February 9, 2018

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Jessica Lea Mayfield, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Who: Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sun Seeker and Porlolo
When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jessica Lea Mayfield’s 2017 album Sorry Is Gone sounds noisier and more conflicted than perhaps her earlier efforts. But having gone through a breakup with an abusive spouse with songwriting as one therapeutic outlet, Mayfield nevertheless expertly writes in a way that comes across emotionally honest and poetic. With her life so disrupted Mayfield would have been excused for sounding angry but the record is more melancholy and expressive of hurt buoyed a bit by a spirit of defiance. Musically, Mayfield combines a soulful Americana with the desert-y atmospheric rock of Rain Parade or bits of Meat Puppets II. Though there is a bit of throwback to Mayfield’s melodies the tone of emotion in her voice is poignantly immediate.

Who: The Velveteers EP release w/Plastic Daggers, Bud Bronson + The Good Timers
When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Velveteers are releasing a new EP with songs informed partially by singer/guitarist Demi Demitro’s love of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with at least some of the material written in a graveyard. The duo has always sounded larger than seems possible with just drums, guitar and vocals. But with the new EP, Demi and her brother John push the envelope of their format further and guitar harmonics in the main riffs give the sound broader dimensions than has ever had. The Velveteers have always been a surprisingly compelling and powerful band with fire and bite in their songwriting and performances. The new EP confirms the promise that The Velveteers have plenty more to offer ahead with imaginative hard rock. To help celebrate the release of the debut EP are fuzz rock punks Plastic Daggers and Bud Bronson + The Good Timers, one of the few straight ahead rock bands that isn’t boring us with leaning on the crutch of a sound established completely by bands from decades past.

Who: Wrinkle album release w/American Grandma, Club Soda, Terremoto
When: Friday, 02.09, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: With its new album, A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies, Wrinkle from Denver has some self-effacing laughs amid its signature melancholic stories of the decaying American culture and its erosion of anything resembling the American dream while trying to survive and make sense of anything that could be worth doing, holding on to the bits of life that bring any joy or relief from the grim reality that faces all of us but specifically anyone under 30 that didn’t learn some technocratic trade, had a leg up in the financial industry or otherwise had advantages in life most of us don’t possess. Wrinkle has articulated the anomy of our times so well in its full catalog of songs but A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies finds the band using a broader palette of sounds and dynamics beyond any band inspired by late 90s emo and melodic hardcore. Wrinkle is more interesting than any throwback could be because its expanding what the music could be rather than merely putting on an individual stamp.

Who: Male Blonding, Plume Varia and Emerald Siam
When: Friday, 02.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This is the show of the year so far when post-punk and dream pop will be well-represented on stage between Male Blonding’s gift for making dynamics really create an architecture for atmosphere without having to make it obvious, Plume Varia’s deeply evocative yet gentle melodies and Emerald Siam’s layered, burning of the midnight lamp tones and dipping into wells of disappointment and gloominess and transforming it into something darkly beautiful. The latter released its most recent single, “Clean Split” on January 31, 2018. emeraldsiam.bandcamp.com/track/clean-split

Sunday | February 11, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sliver, Television Generation, Mr. Atomic and Bad Nostalgia
When: Sunday, 02.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Chris Mercer may have had a bit of a troubled life of struggle like Kurt Cobain. But all of it has fueled his lyrics and the music he makes with Dylan Jammes and Hollis Pierman. Obvious comparisons could be made to Nirvana pre-Nevermind and Tad. But there’s plenty of the DC hardcore Mercer encountered and witnessed firsthand before he moved to Colorado from the East Coast. There’s an edginess to the emotional catharsis the band lays out on stage but also an ear for melody that bands so noisy and unapologetically intense sometimes don’t bother to cultivate. Television Generation is cut from similar cloth except that its fuzzy pop songs, especially on 2017’s excellent Peel, are reminiscent of some amalgam of Love Battery, Love & Rockets and Love. Scratch the latter even if it fits and think more like Green Day or Weezer. And because there’s a clear pop-punk and early 90s alternative rock influence informing the music. But also a touch of early psychedelia and a melancholic, sometimes otherworldly, undertone to the songs. Mr. Atomic sounds like it grew up on the last gasp of the legitimate group of alternative rock bands but in forming decided being essentially a tribute band for an era wasn’t going to work out and its songs reflect a modern sensibility. Boneth Ahaneku’s tuneful vocals coupled with the band’s overall songwriting are reminiscent of Letters to Cleo or Veruca Salt in their ability to sound joyful and even playful while not cheapening essentially thoughtful lyrics. And, really, Amy Heckerling should tap this band for her next soundtrack.

Wednesday | February 14, 2018

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Chella And The Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Bonnie and the Clydes, Chella & The Charm, Ryann & Lee, Jennifer Jane Niceley, Five Mile Woods
When: Wednesday, 02.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sure, Valentine’s Day Special at the Hi-Dive called “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.” And if it were a show in which vapid, soulless “country” musicians told stories that weren’t an amped up attempt to imbue limited life experience with faux gravity it might be worth it. But no, if you choose to attend you will get to see talented people like Bonnie Sims, the singer and main songwriter in Bonnie and the Clydes whose songs about life and love have a flavor that reveal her Texan roots but in doing so also a sensibility that more than suggests she’s been around the block a few times with laying her heart on the line. Also, Chella & The Charm’s songs about love and heartache come from a place of striking self-examination and contemplation of the essence of what it all means without bogging it all down with intellectualizing the experience yet not also having a perverse need to dumb it down for accessibility. A great country and Americana show for people who think they don’t like any of that music.

Who: Mandy Yoches & The Hell Knows
When: Wednesday, 02.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Soul and R&B singer extraordinaire Mandy Yoches and her band The Hell Knows will perform a set of songs for Valentine’s Day. Probably not a cynical take on the subject of love because that’s not Yoches’ style but surely the set list will be interesting with some surprises from Yoches’ diverse repertoire.

Best Shows in Denver 12/14/17 – 12/20/17

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Esmé Patterson, photo Joseph Nienstedt

Thursday: December 14, 2017

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f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether
When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.

 

Who: Prayers
When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.

Friday: December 15, 2017

The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro
When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.

Who: Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway
When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Deerpile
Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.

Saturday: December 16, 2017

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Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder
When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.

Who: Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.

2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.

Who: Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres
When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.

Sunday: December 17, 2017

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Esmé Patterson, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time
When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.

Monday: December 18, 2017

Gary Numan
Gary Numan, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1
When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.

Tuesday: December 19, 2017

Agnostic Front
Agnostic Front, photo by Todd Huber

Who: Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.

Who: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.

Wednesday: December 20, 2017

Mandy Yoches
Mandy Yoches circa December 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.

Who: Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.