Best Shows in Denver 8/2/18 – 8/8/18

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CHVRCHES performs at The Ogden Theatre on August 6 and 7 with Pale Waves. Photo by Danny Clinch.

Thursday | August 2, 2018

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American Aquarium, photo by Cal Quinn

Who: Glasss Presents: Freak//When//Scene and Lost Dog Ensemble
When: Thursday, 08.2, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Freak//When Scene is not a band so much as a collection of musicians given a theme or a concept and, collectively, they interpret it how they will and, in the spirit of, say, Miles Davis in giving loose guidance to the members of his band to synergize and let their talents and instincts and ability to flow with one another to produce something they could never accomplish individually. Sometimes this works out beautifully, sometimes it’s just interesting to witness. For this debut of the project there will be about fifteen musicians participating including local jazz and hip-hop legend Venus Cruz, Drew Miller (of Brother Saturn), Wesley Davis (bios+a+ic), Michael Blomquist, KoKoLa and Khey-Lady (all three of experimental hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $), Kevin Richards (Equine), Robin Walker (Shocker Mom), Liv Perils (Pearls & Perils), Vahco Before Horses (Gold Trash), Daniel Farrand, Doron Rediscovering, David Clay Bridges, Machete Mouth and David Dinsmore (Judge Roughneck, The Horns of Dilemma). Dinsmore will also perform with opening act, Lost Dog Ensemble, Denver’s premiere Tom Waits cover band.

Who: The Psychedelic Furs w/X
When: Thursday, 08.2, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Two of the great bands of the 80s on one bill representing different countries and moods. The Psychedelic Furs hit the mainstream early on with its moody yet melodic post-punk with its second album, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk. Something about the way The Psychedelic Furs mythologized the zeitgeist of the era of the first generation of musicians inspired/creatively liberated by punk and taking in diverse influences and interests to make sophisticated and literate yet accessible guitar cemented it as one of the most popular acts of the era. Its song “Pretty In Pink” was adopted as the title of John Hughes’ 1986 movie about authenticity, class struggles, the vagaries of romance and friendship—all of which can be heard in the Furs’ song. But also to not let your dreams be limited by what you’re told is the horizon of expectation.

X began simply enough when John Doe and Exene Cervenka met in poetry circles and brought that sensibility to a punk rock band with roots in country and the blues. X may not have been as commercially as successful as The Psychedelic Furs but its impact on popular music since is undeniable as its imagery was striking and both Doe’s and Cervenka’s lyrics captured a Southern California, and an America, in crisis for its very soul in the 80s in the face of creeping fascism during the Reagan administration which sought to subvert official channels in funding the Contras and, as has been suggested during those investigations, manipulating the American electoral system. All while rank materialism and greed became very much a feature of the culture. X’s music, like that of the Furs, represented a romantic rejection of those questionable values, embracing instead a humanism and freedom of the human spirit that could never really manifest as wealth for the sake of wealth at the expense of the unfortunate.

What: Stomping Ground Thursdays: Deadline, Visc, Pragmatist, Ilind and Retina
When: Thursday, 08.2, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: This Stomping Ground Thursdays includes sets from 8-bit composer, one might say progressive dubstep producer Deadline, Pragmatist’s broken beat techno, Retina’s propulsive and textured, dark bass music and Ilind’s avant-garde/abstract electronic dance beats.

Who: American Aquarium w/Jaime Wyatt
When: Thursday, 08.2, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Named after that line in Wilco’s “I’m Trying To Break Your Heart,” American Aquarium from Raleigh, North Carolina is definitely worth more than a cursory listen. Like Wilco, it’s not just a band writing music with roots in various musical traditions. American Aquarium, sure writes songs about the travails of everyday life and being a working band. But it’s 2012 album Burn.Flicker.Die may be one of the most poignant and insightful depictions of trying to be a working artist in a culture that generally treats creativity like a disposable commodity as well as the people involved in those industries. The group’s latest record, Things Change, is a uncommonly focused confrontation of personal challenges and doubts as well as providing one of the most direct criticisms of Trump’s America in the song called “The World Is On Fire.” No platitudes, no didactic utterances, just down to earth observations about what the future under the Drumpf might hold for us all.

Friday | August 3, 2018

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Down Time, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Susto w/Whitacre and Down Time
When: Friday, 08.3, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Named after a folk illness in which one’s soul is separated from one’s body through emotional trauma, Susto is an Americana band from Charleston, South Carolina. Songwriter Justin Osborne had spent the years between 15 and 26 being in bands and releasing albums when he decided to quit music for a while and moved to Cuba with the intention of creating a new life for himself. But like many people who run off from their lives abruptly, Osborne found himself hanging around with musicians in Cuba and seeing live music there. He’d already started conceiving of songs when his Cuban friends encouraged him to go home and make a go at being a musician. A full band line-up and two albums later and Susto has garnered a bit of underground following for its sparkling, introspective alt-country songs. Also on this bill is Denver based American act Whitacre and indie pop group Down Time. The latter is a bit more experimental than many of its peers with a combination of delicate, finely textured songs and rich atmospheres. Will David Weaver play both drums and bass for this show? You’ll have to show up to find out.

Who: Dick Dale w/Kerry Pastine & The Crime Scene
When: Friday, 08.3, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Dick Dale is the godfather or surf rock. He influenced The Beach Boys. He influenced Jimi Hendrix. Modern guitar amplification is now a thing thanks to his unique relationship with amp makers before the modern rock era by blowing the amps with his guitar until an amp could be built that was suitable for delivering electrified rock and roll. He lives on a plot of land in the desert with his own runway reachable by plane. These things are all probably true. What is true is that Dick Dale is a a true pioneer of rock and roll and one of the few living legends from that early era that you can still see play live.

Saturday | August 4, 2018

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MOURN, photo by Noemí-Elías

Who: Chastity w/MOURN and American Culture
When: Saturday, 08.4, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Chastity is a post-punk band from Whitby, Ontario and its recently released album Death Lust distills the isolation, fatalism, desperation and hope for connection that comes from being a creative and imaginative person in a small city. Its incandescent, fuzzy tones recall the mood, tenor and urgency of the likes of Quicksand and Swervedriver. Its catharsis of modern anomy feels as though it is coming from deep within. On this same tour is Barcelona-based post-punk/noise rock band MOURN. Its own new record Sopresa Familia is brimming with a bright energy modulated by angular rhythms. Its unconventional dynamics might be compared to that of Portland, Oregon’s Lithics in how it drives the momentum of the music and gives it an irresistible drive. American Culture from Denver has been through a variety of changes since its inception. Drawing upon the ethos of punk and 90s indie pop, American Culture’s songs are about and are an apt soundtrack to disaffected working class youth navigating a rapidly changing culture and economic landscape and the struggles endured and the joys to be savored in the face of an uncertain future.

Who: Dylan Carlson w/Mary Lattimore
When: Saturday, 08.4, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Dylan Carlson is the guitarist for doom pioneers Earth. He is currently touring in support of his 2018 solo album Conquistador. In typical fashion, it is a masterful evocation of a time and frame of mind. Considering the titles of songs, Carlson seems to invoke a time when the whole dream of wealth for the average Spanish conquistador was over on the fringes of New Spain, only the reality of the reaping of the backlash of the hubris of conquest and overextension. Much more Aguirre the Wrath of God than Apocalypto. Opening for this show is harpist Mary Lattimore whose own elegant yet deeply evocative melodies and loops, captured on her own 2018 album Hundreds of Days, suggest a mythical narrative of their own.

Who: The Giraffes with Throttlebomb
When: Saturday, 08.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Bull & Bush Brewery
Why: Brooklyn’s The Giraffes occupy an unusual place in hard rock and post-punk. Like Unsane, its blunt, dark storytelling is akin to something out of an Abel Ferrara movie—sludgy, borderline nihilistic yet it sticks with you for a while afterward. Denver sludge metal band Throttlebomb opens. Not many shows in Cherry Creek and that this one is happening there is definitely out of the ordinary.

Who: The Union w/eHpH and Faces Under the Mirror
When: Saturday, 08.4, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This electro-industrial show includes metallic industrial duo The UnioN, EBM/experimental electronic project eHpH and darkwave/industrial two-piece Faces Under the Mirror.

Sunday | August 5, 2018

Who: Deafheaven w/Drab Majesty and Uniform
When: Sunday, 08.5, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Deafheaven’s 2013 album Sunbather seemed to be indie rock fans’ gateway to transcendental black metal if they weren’t already on to that introduction through Wolves in the Throne Room. Absurd and inaccurate comparisons to My Bloody Valentine were made. And sure, MBV may have been A influence of Deafheaven but guitarwise one might even look more to the aforementioned WITTR or Krallice. But at the heart of the band’s songwriting is a kind of pop sensibility making what could be forbidding music accessible. Its latest album, 2018’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love has even more flourishes of combining even power pop structures and melodies with the more thorny sonics of black metal and the animalistic vocals. On this tour is darkwave alien stars Drab Majesty. Deb Demure used to tour solo early on but these days tours with Mona D on keyboards and backing vocals. The project’s 2015 Careless was an entrancing trip to a futuristic world perhaps best exemplified in the writings of Thomas R. Disch, J.G. Ballard and Pat Cadigan—not fully dystopian, not utopian, just imperfect with its own challenges imagined by some of science fiction’s most accomplished world builders. Musically think a dreamy shoegaze band and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry got together and you’re in Drab Majesty’s wheelhouse.

Monday | August 6, 2018

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Pale Waves, photo by Brian Griffin

Who: CHVRCHES w/Pale Waves ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/353496
When: Monday, 08.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For its third album Love Is Dead, Glasgow, Scotland’s CHVRCHES worked with outside producers for the first time. And although working with David Stewart of Eurythmics, Matt Berninger of The National and album producer Greg Kurstin (who also produced music with Adele, Pink and Lily Allen), the new albums sounds oddly less produced than even the band’s first two records. This works to its benefit because the band has already proven it can put on the gloss and high production on its own and Love Is Dead sounds more textured, more organic and though high energy, upbeat pop, more intimate without sacrificing the bright and and larger-than-life sound of its earlier work. CHVRCHES, like any great pop band, takes subject matter relatable to just about anyone and makes it mythical with words that give it the poetry and the music that sets the emotional tenor that lift the drab everyday into the realm of imagination and transcendence thereby.

Along for this tour is up-and-coming synth pop band Pale Waves from Manchester, UK. The quartet garnered a bit of buzz in 2017 for its singles “There’s a Honey” and “Television Romance.” Looking like a post-punk band from the 80s but with exuberant pop songs, Pale Waves cast an interesting contrast of image and content that suggested to fans that one needn’t let preconceived expectations determine what you can do with your art and your life. 2018 has been an active year for the band with the February release of its All the Things I Never Said EP and the forthcoming full-length My Mind Makes Noises due in mid-September. Anyone that saw the band playing small clubs in the USA in spring 2018 got to see a group with no small amount of chemistry and confidence.

Who: Geoff Tate’s 30th Anniversary of Operation Mindcrime
When: Monday, 08.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Queensryche’s 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime was a poignant and, so it seems, semi-prophetic tale of a man disillusioned and disgusted with the economy, political corruption and hypocrisy in the world who gets recruited into becoming a political operative and assassin for a secretive organization supposedly dedicated to overthrowing the system by the demagogic Dr. X. In a complex and dark story, that man, Nikki, is introduced to a former prostitute turned nun Sister Mary by one of Dr. X’s associates and his relationship with and affection for Mary brings him to question the nature of the organization and his own identity. Things end tragically in one of the most fascinating rock operas of all time. Very classic Frank Miller-esque. Geoff Tate, the band’s former lead singer, will perform the album in its entirety for its 30 year anniversary.

Who: T-Rextasy w/Blacker Face
When: Monday, 08.6, 9 p.m.
Where: Was at Your Mom’s House now at TBA (ask a punk)
Why: T-Rextasy is referred to as pop-punk often enough but don’t go in expecting the usual three chords and interchangeable songs about teenage heartbreak. Of course most pop-punk is about more than that as well, but T-Rextasy’s songs use the format of catchy songs, fun and humor to make poignant commentary on identity, sexism and all the things that plague the psyche no matter who you are. Its 2016 album Jurassic Punk is a collection of great pop songs informed by a radical political perspective. Soon the New York band will release its new album but you can catch that stuff live before it’s officially released in full on its current tour.

Tuesday | August 7, 2018

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Dentist, photo courtesy Dentist

Who: Dentist w/Pout House and Hairclub
When: Tuesday, 08.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Dentist’s 2018 album Night Swimming is refreshing proof that a band can grow beyond the music trends that shaped its earlier creative development. It’s still fuzzy surf punk at its root but the riffs and experiments with atmosphere and dynamics signal a major step forward for Asbury Park trio.

Who: CHVRCHES w/Pale Waves
When: Tuesday, 08.7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: See 8.6 entry above for CHVRCHES and Pale Waves.

Who: T-Rextasy w/Blacker Face
When: Tuesday, 08.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: See 8.6 entry above for T-Rextasy.

Best Shows in Denver 06/14/18 – 06/20/18

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Japanese Breakfast performs Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at The Ogden Theater with Belle and Sebastian. Photo by Joyce Jude

Thursday | June 14, 2018

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Reuben And The Dark, photo by Kaelen Ohm

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Equine, Death In Space, Shawn Mlekush and JAMF
When: Thursday, 06.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This edition of the series focused on more experimental artists mostly from the Denver area includes Equine, the guitar and sometimes beats and other refinements project of former Epileptinomicon and Moth Eater musician Kevin Richards. Death In Space is Aleeya Wilson’s guitar and electronics project. Her December 2017 release Demo EP2 basically combined lo-fi slowcore with minimal synth techno but you never really know exactly what you’re in for at one of Wilson’s shows, which is no knock. Shawn Mlekush is one of the minds behind experimental synth band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory and his solo work has a similar quality of meditative, melancholy ambient guitar, synth and loops like you’re getting a peek into someone’s solitary but restful vacation in the subtropics in early Spring when pretty much no one takes time off to get away. It gives the music a quality that is truly out of step with the hurried pace of modern life in post-industrial America.

Who: Reuben and the Dark w/Florea and Bright Silence (solo)
When: Thursday, 06.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Reuben and the Dark is certainly operating in the realm of indie folk with its soaring melodies and uplifting song dynamics. But the Canadian band’s lyrics are brimming with a sweeping emotionalism that work in perfect sync with an inventive and fluid rhythm scheme working underneath the foreground of frontman Reuben Bullock’s expressive vocal delivery. The band’s 2018 album Arms of a Dream has a refreshing array of songwriting styles and its music video and lyrics for “All Or Nothing” challenges culturally entrenched ideas of gender roles and how we relate to one another.

Saturday | June 16, 2018

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Bacon Brothers, photo by AJ Fasano

Who: Bacon Brothers
When: Saturday, 6.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Stanley Hotel
Why: Michael and Kevin Bacon are rightfully better known for their work in cinema and television. Michael, the older brother, for his scoring countless TV and movie soundtracks and Kevin as an iconic actor whose distinguished career spans the past four decades beginning with his role as Chip Diller in 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House. The brothers have played music together from a young age but their band didn’t take on a formal existence until 1995. The band’s country rock and folk songs has more than its fair share of soul in part due to Kevin’s resonant voice which has just enough grit to give it some character. Of course live there will be plenty of banter and humor and an ease of connection between the Bacon Brothers so that the band never comes across as some vanity act in the way we’ve seen with some other people from the acting world who try their hands at music.

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Speedy Ortiz, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Speedy Ortiz w/Anna Burch and Xetas
When: Saturday, 06.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Since starting Speedy Ortiz as a solo project in 2011, Sadie Dupuis has established herself as one of modern indie rock’s most interesting voices. She was drawing upon the fuzz pop sound of the 90s late alternative rock era before it became a feature of a not small stripe of underground American rock in recent years before it was even remotely trendy. But Dupuis is a multidimensional artist whose work reflects various creative interests that influenced her art including comic, collage and tarot art and their associated signifiers/symbolism. Speedy Ortiz was on the edge of releasing its new album in 2016 or early 2017, a collection of songs about the usual, everyday concerns given poetic and creative life through the lens of Dupuis’ imagination. But the results of the election gave the band pause because, according to a February 2018 interview with Dupuis with Consequence of Sound, the more personal aspect of the songs seemed to lose meaning given the seriousness of the moment. So the group scrapped the album. 2018’s Twerp Verse is a fairly different record from all previous Speedy Ortiz releases in tone and overall subject matter. The songwriting chops and keen ear for evocative melodies are there but the lyrics are so vividly incisive it makes you appreciate even more how articulate Dupuis has been all along in her music career. Read the words to any song from the album and you have to be in awe at Dupuis’ ability to write fairly pointed words that tell it like it is without reeling back in an attempt to let certain people feel okay with their abuse and creepiness—all of course written into well-crafted pop songs. Bravo.

Who: Mike Huckaby (Detroit), Mark Hosler, Normal Ones and Sassmouth
When: Saturday, 06.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Mike Huckaby is one of the great modern practioners of techno and seeing one of his sets along would make this show worthy of attendance especially at the Mercury which has a great sound system but doesn’t host as many live music shows as it once did. But also on this bill is Mark Hosler of Negativland who will bring something unique and unusual to perform.

Who: Scrunchies (MN), Surf Mom, Rat Bites, Bad Year
When: Saturday, 06.16, 6-10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Bar & Bites
Why: Scrunchies are an all female punk band from Minneapolis that just released its new album Stunner. Fans of Seven Year Bitch, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and early Sleater-Kinney would do well to check this band out. But if you show up you’ll also get to see Surf Mom, arguably Denver’s best fuzz rock/punk duo as well as Rat Bites, the latest project to include former Rainbow Sugar, Sin Desires Marie and Old Time Relijun drummer Germaine Baca.

Sunday | June 17, 2018

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Iceage, photo by Steve Gullick

Who: Iceage w/Mary Lattimore
When: Sunday, 06.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird
Why: Iceage has never fit fully into any specific musical subgenre despite the best attempts to do so. New Brigade had too much atmosphere to be a hardcore record but enough edge and intensity to appeal to fans of hardcore. You’re Nothing was refreshingly like a melodic, raging noise rock album. With Plowing Into the Field of Love, though, began a change toward expanded musicality and songs that recalled the ragged punk and decadence sound of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Beyondless, Iceage’s 2018 album, finds the band pushing more into that realm and the expressive range of the music has been enhanced with expansive, drifty dynamics that might draw comparisons with psychedelic rock bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre except that the BJM is likely not an influence. Rather an attempt to express and navigate contorted and conflicting emotions and sense of being at ease with uncertainty even as it floods and crashes into your world.

Monday | June 18, 2018

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CHRCH, photo by Hannah Stone

Who: CHRCH w/Body Void, Boar Worship, Terminus and Matriarch
When: Monday, 06.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: CHRCH’s cavernous soundscapes are reminiscent of those of SunnO))) but it has a more organic, feral quality to its sonic palette. Eva’s vocals pierce the lingering, pummeling flood of cthonic drone of the band as though carving an incantation on rapidly cooling lava with sheer power of her words. Meaning there’s something magical, dark and powerful about the band’s music and its new album Light Will Consume Us All captures that as well as it can outside of the live setting. Fortunately, you’ll have a chance to see CHRCH for yourself tonight at the Hi-Dive with some of extreme music’s heaviest.

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Quiet Slang, photo by Charlie Lowe

Who: Quiet Slang w/Abi Reimold
When: Monday, 06.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: James Alex is best known in recent years as the exuberant frontman of punk/pop band Beach Slang. Although a punk veteran going back to 1990 with his old band Weston, Alex struck a chord with the utter sincerity and emotional glow of Beach Slang. Probably some people thought it was overcompensating positivity but the band’s songs deal with the deep heartbreak and disappointment and other struggles of life, it’s just that the presentation is that of an amplified enthusiasm. With Quiet Slang, Alex tries on a more subdued presentation and it might be said it’s sort of an acoustic take on Beach Slang with the usual thoughtful lyrics and heartfelt delivery. Alex’s music is clearly one meant to reach out for connection to other people who want something real in a cynical world where we’re encouraged to hide genuine feelings in order to avoid hurt. Alex encourages himself and others to risk that hurt because the alternative is a soul dead world where everyone plays it safe and never really gets to experience a vibrantly full life.

Tuesday | June 19, 2018

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Japanese Breakfast circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Belle & Sebastian w/Japanese Breakfast
When: Tuesday, 06.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Belle and Sebastian is practically the template for bedroom pop if written by especially imaginative and thoughtful people. Belle and Sebastian’s body of work sometimes sounds like Stuart Murdoch spent a lot of time creating the back stories of the people he encountered in the street or at the grocery store during his seven years recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome prior to starting the band. But the level of detail and psychological insight is what has long made the band’s music relevant past any connection to any trend. Early in 2018 the group released its latest set of songs on three EPs called How to Solve Our Human Problems Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Sharing the bill with Belle and Sebastian is Japanese Breakfast. The band based out of Eugene, Oregon is a bit different from singer/guitarist Michelle Zauner’s previous rock band Little Big League. With Japanese Breakfast Zauner used pop songcraft to address issues of exoticism, sexism and talking about heavy life issues with a refreshing honesty and poignancy. The group’s second album, 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet shed any creative artifice further while also bringing to the songwriting a focus and musical inventiveness that made it one of the most interesting guitar pop records of recent years. Zauner and company take the musical ideas further than you would expect, giving its music a timeless quality that many of its trendier peers won’t enjoy. But all informed by Zauner’s native compassion and wry, but never distancing, sense of humor.

Who: JJUUJJUU w/déCollage and King Eddie
When: Tuesday, 06.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Phil Pirrone of JJUUJJUU is the mastermind behind the psychedelic music festival Desert Daze and its wandering offshoot Desert Daze Caravan. His band, rather than a prime example of the tamed, watered down “psych rock” of recent trendiness, is more experimental and more genuinely aimed at taking the listener on a mind-altering journey through the use of drones, raw noise, evolving melodies and hypnotic rhythms. It’s still rock but refreshingly weird and fans of New Fumes’ and Black Angels’ gift for pushing their own envelope by going outside conventional uses of sound will find much to appreciate here. Local support from local psych music visionaries should set the stage perfectly with experimental pop band déCollage and its freeflowing, freeassociating visuals and sound and King Eddie’s cosmic rock excursions.

Wednesday | June 20, 2018

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Rotten Reputation, photo by Spencer Lovell

Who: Rotten Reputation w/Mr. Atomic, Television Generation and The Couch Bombs
When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle
Why: Rotten Reputation drops its new EP, Castration Station, tonight in advance of its upcoming tour. The Denver-based punk band is one of the few that is creating its own mythology and symbols, including its mascot Nancy (a mannequin torso), while making powerful songs commenting in no uncertain terms on sexism, gender identity, abuse and authoritarian government seem fun. Rotten Reputation will be in good company with neo-alternative/noise pop bands Mr. Atomic (listen to it’s excellent new single “Mr. Sadie” here) and Television Generation (which also released a new single “Stay” here) as well as pop punk band The Couch Bombs.

Who: Snail Mail w/Bonny Doon and Down Time
When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lindsey Jordan has made quite a name for herself at age 19 for crafting winsome, noisy pop songs of uncommon emotional complexity. Her debut full-length Lush came out in early June 2018 to great critical acclaim. Many of Jordan’s songs have a simply melody throughout but she’s capable of expanding the sonic range on a dime with her guitar work as can be heard clearly in her single “Heat Wave.” Drawing obvious comparisons to Liz Phair and other talented 90s songwriters that got their start in the 90s articulating inner space so vividly, Jordan’s project Snail Mail has plenty of room to build on an already strong creative foundation.

Who: Gomez w/Eldren
When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Gomez hit it big with its 1997 debut album Bring It On. At a time when it might have been easy to try to ride the late Britpop wave, Gomez sounded more like a twangy American alternative rock band. But with more creativity than many of its States-side contemporaries. While the band’s sound has evolved over the years, gaining an almost orchestral quality as of its latest album, 2011’s Whatever’s On Your Mind, its core gift for making music that has a distinctly Americana flavor but made by guys from England has remained. For this tour the band will perform Bring It On in its entirety as well as choice cuts from across its long career.

Who: Karl Blau w/Patrick Dethlefs and Evan Holm
When: Wednesday, 06.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Karl Blau’s contribution to American pop music probably won’t be fully appreciated any time soon as the prolific artist always seems to be on to a new experiment in songwriting and soundscaping. Pick up any record across his career and you’ll find something worthwhile and inventive even if it’s well within the realm of accessible pop music. His Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society series was a brilliant example of artist-driven releases as a subscription service to Blau’s diverse musical imagination. A master of the loop pedal and rhythm generally, Karl Blau’s songwriting knows few bounds and his performances always containing something ahead of the curve. A frequent collaborator with Phil Elverum (The Microphones and Mount Eerie) and Laura Veirs, Blau pushes pop music in interesting directions whether the rest of the pop music world has yet to catch on.

Best Shows in Denver 05/17/18 – 05/23/18

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Le Butcherettes perform Friday, May 18, 2018, with Hot Snakes and Git Some at The Oriental Theater. Photo by Lyndsey Bynes

Thursday | May 17, 2018

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Brian Jonestown Massacre circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Pale Sun
When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre didn’t kick off any of the handful of psychedelic rock revivals since the 60s but it is one of the few bands that had the emotional resonance and quality of songwriting that made the original wave so interesting. The BJM also brought to the music a musical sensibility that didn’t emerge and synthesize until the 90s after the impact of the alt-country and Paisley Underground of the 80s refined psych, until after house and electronica generally, shoegaze and slowcore brought about different ways to use drones, atmospheres and beats in different contexts. The BJM freely absorbed all of that sort of thing and produced more consistently interesting rock music than most bands of its era. On later records, Anton Newcombe even brought in musical ideas that one might usually attribute to synth pop and krautrock for a hybrid music that pushed far past the bevy of modern psych bands it directly influenced. Pick up pretty much any of their early records and you’ll hear those echoes across a broad stripe of modern rock music. Pick up any of the band’s albums and you’ll hear something interesting that not anyone else is doing quite as well if at all. This show will probably be a more classic Jonetown Massacre set but that just means a good deal of emotionally changed, tonally nuanced songs that come from the heart. Even people who are stuck on the depiction of Newcombe in the great 2004 documentary film Dig! have to admit that he at least seemed like a sincere artist even at his lowest points. Opening is Denver-based shoegaze band Pale Sun, which includes former members of two of the best bands out of that realm of music that never quite hit national prominence in guitar genius and singer Jeff Suthers of Bright Channel and Moonspeed and multi-faceted drummer Kit Peltzel formerly of Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.

Who: Bevin Luna album release w/Jen Korte & The Loss and Wildflowers
When: Thursday, 05.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Like most of the musicians/bands that come out of Memphis, Bevin Luna’s songwriting is quite eclectic but not in that trying-to-please-too-many-people way. You get the feeling that Luna had to prove herself to some unforgiving audiences before she moved to Denver and started playing in the local scene in 2005. It’s rock haunted by country, traditional blues, folk and played with the energy of what a punk band should be. While not as swamp-haunted as, say, Gun Club or as countrified as Green On Red, Bevin Luna’s songwriting has roots in similar musical territory. Her new album, Baby Dragon, is fuzzier than some of her earlier music and the raw quality of the recordings really enhances Luna’s natural grit.

What: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: R A R E B Y R D $, Shocker Mom, Pearls & Perils
When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Oh, sure, these artists play more than a few shows together. But it’s an example of some of the best bands/artists going playing shows in less-than-fancy situations to friends regardless of whether strangers will get it, thankful for friends showing up and putting on a great show anyway. To call any of these projects “hip-hop” would be technically accurate but wouldn’t encompass the imaginative soundscaping and beats and the use of natural dance moves in performing the music in a way. A short list of the most emotionally moving vocalists in Denver now would have to include KokoLa and Key Lady from R A R E B Y R D $, Robin Walker who is Shocker Mom and Olivia Perez who is Pearls and Perils. Fans of downtempo, lushly produced hip-hop and R&B should make the effort to check out these artists whether tonight or another time.

Friday | May 18, 2018

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Hot Snakes, image by Rick Froberg

Who: Hot Snakes, Le Butcherettes and Git Some
When: Friday, 05.18, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Hot Snakes’ Jericho Sirens, out March 2018 on Sub Pop, is the band’s first album since 2004’s excellent Audit in Progress. And, of course, it’s less playful than Rick Froberg’s and John Reis’s other projects (Obits, Rocket From the Crypt), and has perhaps more in common with their pioneering noise rock band Drive Like Jehu. Angular, at times clashingly atonal, jagged breakdowns, the songs somehow have an anthemic quality that one might attribute to a pop punk band. Except that Jericho Sirens is a seething commentary on how every part of our culture and world civilization in general seems to be on the verge of collapse with public and political rhetoric amping up a kind of Manichaean world view in which one must pick a side or one will be presumed for you. The title of the album, alone, brilliantly and poetically clues one in on the constant state of alert that is encouraged in everyone everywhere all the time now. On this leg of the tour is Le Butcherettes, a band whose own music embodies the violence and contrasts of modern Mexico while examining the nature of identity and the role it plays in our lives and how notions of such can warp perception and impose a harmful cognitive framework. But all headiness and doom and gloom aside, both Hot Snakes and Le Butcherettes are bands whose live show is so viscerally entertaining that even if you don’t look beyond the surface level you won’t regret going. That bands aren’t creating essentially content-free art right now, though, is incredibly refreshing. Git Some, from Denver, is cut from a similar cloth and even if you see Luke Fairchild moving around like a marionette drive by forces beyond his control, what he’s singing about also cuts to the quick of the harrowing reality of modern human, especially North American, life.

Saturday | May 19, 2018

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Marisa Anderson, photo by Jason Quigley

Who: Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/Marisa Anderson
When: Saturday, 05.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Marisa Anderson’s guitar compositions channel the sound of the natural world around her. Pastoral in tone with a detail of sound that suggests emotions rendered as sonic texture. Her forthcoming album, Cloud Corner (due out June 15, 2018 through Thrill Jockey), is like a step into that part of America that is off the main roads and outside the thought patterns and resultant culture that pushes us all to go, go, go at the expense of our own long term psychological health. It is music that if we take it in on its own terms reminds us to make time for being human and not the servants of modern post-industrial society. So it makes sense that Anderson is opening for one of the few bands that has maintained some sense of mystique and one that makes futuristic music commenting on world culture using a more classic music approach but not held back by a sensibility and tradition that emphasizes canon through interpreting the works of past masters. Godspeed! You Black Emperor shows how a group of small, committed people can use their talent and work to use conventional tools to demonstrate unorthodox, and even rebellious, ideas. Its 2017 album Luciferian Towers was released along with a statement reflecting a radical, yet completely sensible, view on international human rights. Maybe the band thought it better to think ahead than let the horrible leaders of the world try to dictate all its narratives.

Sunday | May 20, 2018

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Mary Lattimore, photo by Rachael Pony Cassells

Who: Mary Lattimore w/Hannah Samano and Bellhoss
When: Sunday, 05.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mary Lattimore branches out on her latest album, Hundreds of Days. It’s still the beautifully detailed, intricate ambient melodies that have distinguished her earlier releases. This time out she has experimented more with electric and electronic instruments and equipment as well as her own voice to augment her masterful harp work. Lattimore’s playing has garnered her chances to tour (as a live performer) and collaborate with the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Thurston Moore, Julianna Barwick and gigs doing soundtrack work for the biographical documentaries about Marina Abramović (2012’s The Artist is Present) and Fred Rogers (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, also from 2012). Lattimore’s broad expressive range and ability to write pieces with a keen ear for the percussive and tonal quality of her instruments is impressive. And timeless. Except for the electronic elements it would be difficult to place Lattimore’s music in time and seeing it live or even listening to it on a recording. Of course if you go see it live you will also get to see how visceral an instrument a harp can be even as its ethereal tones seem to float off into infinity.

What: Noise Night at Syntax Physic Opera: Ambigere (WA), Rasmussen, eMMAoWEN, Mirror Fears, Clutch Plague and Sunk Cost
When: Sunday, 05.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ultra Metal presents this edition of Noise Night at Syntax. Noise isn’t for everyone but this lineup will be a much more than the cliché of harsh noise and simple pedal chaining. Rasmussen is a member of local noise legends Page 27 but his solo work is often ambient or even in the realm of dance music. Sunk Cost is Ultra Metal founder Johnathan Cash’s harsh noise project and to some it may sound like tuning in to amplified dead stations on the radio. But there is some soundsculpting going on and the visceral impact of those sounds through a P.A.. Mirror Fears is generally known for her brilliantly crafted, melancholic experimental, industrial pop music but as part of her overall musical identity there is the sensibility of noise and the use of sound in ways that simply don’t fit into a standard pop context. Clutch Plague has a more old school industrial, beat driven sound. EMMAoWEN uses soundscaping, harsh noise and sampling to make impactful commentary on culture and touring act, Ambigere from Olympia, Washington, creates sonically tactile environments that are technically ambient but clearly on the harsh end of that spectrum because there’s nothing soothing about it.

Tuesday | May 22, 2018

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Japandroids circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Wolf Parade w/Japandroids w/Adrian Teacher and The Subs
When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden
Why: Canadian post-punk band Wolf Parade went on indefinite hiatus in 2010 after producing a few of the most interesting rock albums of that time. Rather than the dance punk or Joy Division-esque mode of post-punk, Wolf Parade’s dusky atmospherics were more akin to those of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Singer and keyboardist Spencer Krug’s multifaceted career in and out of Wolf Parade included stints in noteworthy indie bands Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake as well as his solo project Moonface. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Boeckner subsequently formed Handsome Furs as well as The Divine Fits (the latter with Britt Daniel of Spoon). Wolf Parade announced its hiatus was over in January 2016 and in 2017 it released Cry Cry Cry on Sub Pop. In support of the album, with clear stylistic nods to recently passed rock icons with David Bowie’s lush and emotionally rich songwriting and Tom Petty’s knack for pop storytelling, the band is currently on tour with another of Canada’s most dynamic rock bands of the moment: Japandroids.

From Vancouver, British Columbia, Japandroids played its own brand of punk and what one might call post-garage with a fiery energy at pretty much every show. Influenced by the likes of The Sonics and Gun Club, Japandroids put out an impressive, albeit relatively small, body of work at two full-length albums and two EPs (collected into a compilation humorously titled No Singles) before going on hiatus itself in 2013. And, purely coincidentally, announced it was back together in 2016 with Near to the Wild Heart of Life, which the band said in interviews was its first attempt to craft an album in a more traditional sense rather than written piecemeal in a headlong rush of being a band in its earlier days. If it didn’t have quite the urgency or ferocity of 2010’s Post-Nothing or 2012’s Celebration Rock, the traces of the record’s Replacements-esque, anthemic power pop was already present on the early material. Japandroids now just sounds bigger to match the intensity with which Brian King and David Prowse continue to bring to the live show.

Who: Kimbra w/Son Lux
When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Kimbra earned her bona fides by making soulful and eclectic indie rock that reminded fans and critics of other artists. Fortunately, Kimbra had the chops and talent to warrant glowing comparisons. Her debut album, 2011’s Vows, was a combination of upbeat lounge jazz and electronic pop and reminiscent of an Amy Winehouse record. And the album was critically acclaimed, garnering Kimbra the attention of future high profile collaborators like Mark Foster, Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the latter of which performed on Kimbra’s 2014 album The Golden Echo. With the 2018 album Primal Heart, Kimbra has broadened her songwriting palette and vocal range, now establishing a style that’s not so easy to compare to her peers and influences.

Who: Y La Bamba w/Malahierba, Stelth Ulvang, DJ A-Train
When: Tuesday, 05.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza was born in San Francisco to parents from Mexico and coming up she took in the folk music and folklore of Mexico. She mostly grew up in Oregon and when she formed Y La Bamba in Portland, Mendoza found musicians who shared her musical tastes and inclinations. But rather than a straightforward folk and Americana act, Y La Bamba included, of course, lyrics in Spanish as well as subtle use of electronic instruments to enhance a sense of the otherworldly present in the group’s vocal harmonies and acoustic instrumentation. In a way, the music suggests the feeling one gets from reading the more mystical works of Zora Neal Hurston in which the material world is very tactile but informed by the presence of the spiritual world in the subject matter and the tone of Hurston’s writing. As with Hurston, Mendoza channels her ancestors and their cultural traditions but bringing her own rich imagination and intelligence to bear in her creative interpretation and expression and extension of those ineffable influences.

Wednesday | May 23, 2018

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Wye Oak, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Wye Oak w/Corsicana
When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Wye Oak is the rare band that has recognized a rut as it’s threatening to happen. With its 2011 album Civilian, the duo’s music was finding placement in film and television and that would have reinforced a creative tendency by rewarding creation using a generally specific method. So the band took some time off from Wye Oak with drummer Andy Stack moving away from Baltimore in search of being around a different sort of artistic climate in Texas and Portland. Guitarist and vocalist Jenn Wasner put time into Dungeonesse, an electronic pop and R&B project with producer Jon Ehrens. When Wye Oak was working on new music it took a different direction with less emphasis on Wasner’s admittedly imaginative and evocative guitar work and more on beats and textured, composed melodies. Thus the 2014 album Shriek and Tween, the 2016 album that all but outlined that transition from the musical thinking of Civilian to that of Shriek. The 2018 Wye Oak album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is the kind of album a band releases after it has reinvented itself and then considered what it would like to say next before doing so.

Who: Starjammer vs. Lunetta, Atari, Sleepy Nemo, Human Hearts and Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess
When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Starjammer is difficult to categorize beyond it’s self-described “Avant-Garde/Dub-Reggae.” Seems legit as Squids Madden was recently seen playing sax on stage with Godspeed You! Black Emperor at The Ogden. He will also probably bring his lighting rig to add another layer of otherworldliness to this collaborative set with Lunetta, a project that could be described as lo-fi industrial psych. Atari cuts together vinyl records to produce truly unique samples that he manipulates by hand at the live show giving less actual control over frequencies and rhythms from the sample proper. He gives the sounds the contexts and thus the art of what Atari is doing. Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess sounds like some kind of weirdo field recording project mixed with intentional music and noise. Basically, the show with the weirdest music this month unless you’re going to an Ultra Metal event.

Who: Bob Log III w/Simulators
When: Wednesday, 05.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bob Log III is a one man band who, sure, plays a mutant version of Delta blues but he does wearing a face-obscuring-ly tinted helmet and otherwise looking like maybe he was pulled from a band in Judge Dredd or a reconstituted civilization following the era depicted in the Max Max movies. When he was a member of Doo Rag, Bob Log III’s confrontational performance style won over audiences when he was opening for much more famous bands. Probably because not many people had seen anything quite like it. Opening for Bob in Denver is SIMULATORS, the noise rock/post-punk band comprised of Bryon Parker formerly of Accordion Crimes and Raleigh and Brian Polk of Joy Subtraction. The band’s jagged rhythms and blunt, to the point music should appeal to fans of Shellac because it often does sound that savage.