Best Shows in Denver and Beyond December 2022

Palm performs at Larimer Lounge on December 6, 2022, photo by Eve Alpert
Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | 12.01
What: Wild Pink w/Trace Mountains and Knuckle Pups
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Wild Pink’s John Ross wrote one of the great story albums of recent years with 2021’s A Billion Little Lights and its themes of coming to terms with adulthood while staying connected with one’s creative life and navigating the temptations to ditch music as the occupation of adolescence. And how through creative work one can explore an evolving sense of meaning that hits you throughout your thirties and the rest of your life. 2022’s ILYSM (an acronym for “I Love You So Much”) takes that perspective to examine the details of life that deepen one”s bond with the people in your life. Knuckle Pups in from Denver released a deeply self-reflective album with 2022’s TV Ready in which the ambitious pop band fuses radical vulnerability with a compassionate honesty that is not nearly common enough in the realm of indie rock or any form of music today. Sometimes earnestness can seem like a pose but with Knuckle Pups it seems inspirational in its lack of pretension.

Cold Cave in 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.02
What: Cold Cave w/Voight and Hex Cassette
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Wesley Eisold of Cold Cave has been mostly been releasing singles and EPs since the most recent full length album Cherish the Light Years came out in 2011. His most recent Fate in Seven Lessons (2021) is well within the realm of modern darkwave post-punk with his usual gift for teasing grit and darkness out of the songwriting although plenty of the music has a beautifully melodic melancholia reminiscent of New Order. Eisold has also been involved in a bit of writing including his work with the late, great Mark Lanegon on the book of poetry Plague Poems (2020). Opening the show are two Denver acts. Hex Cassette’s confrontational industrial dance music challenges notions of the role of artist and audience and breaking that barrier for a collective experience. Voight seems to be making good on its threat of completely injecting techno into its own searing shoegaze-infused post-punk and emotionally intense music.

Cannibal Corpse, photo by Alex Morgan

Friday | 12.02
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 1: Cannibal Corpse, Dark Funeral, Immolation, Black Anvil, Onyx and In The Company of Serpents
When: 5
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: This unique event includes some pretty extensive beer tasting for those so inclined but the real reason is to get to see some of the great extreme metal acts of today. That includes death metal legends Cannibal Corpse whose over the top gory lyrics have been banned in various countries despite how obviously absurd they are in the vein of the most demented horror movies of the 80s but really just more creative than a lot of those films. And the music itself stands up well in upholding the brutality of the lyrics with a technical proficiency worthy of the name of the band. Get there early to catch the bluesy, cinematic doom band from Denver In the Company of Serpents who don’t play Denver as much as they once did these days.

Wayfarer, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 2: Pig Destroyer, Skinless, Wayfarer, Of Feather and Bone and Wake
When: 4
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Day two of this event includes more noteworthy acts out of the broad world of extreme metal including performances from Denver’s masters of cinematic doom, Wayfarer, the caustic death grind onslaught of Of Feather and Bone, the blackened grind of Calgary’s Wake and grindcore legends Pig Destroyer whose contorted and savagely brutal music is a fitting companion to JR Hayes’ darkly incisive lyrics about human experiences on the edge.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Sophie Hur

Saturday | 12.03
What: Soccer Mommy w/TOPS
When: 7
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Sophia Allison has been writing music and performing as Soccer Mommy since she was in college before dropping out and moving back to Nashville to pursue her career as a musician full time. It helped that she had a record deal with Fat Possum which released her debut album Clean in 2018 before she turned twenty-one. The album’s emotional openness and unabashed embrace of unconventional melody and song structure while crafting undeniable hooks garnered the record widespread critical acclaim. The most recent Soccer Mommy album Somtimes, Forever (2022) was produced with Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never and the team-up brought to Allison’s particularly confessional lyrics and always imaginative guitar work an experimental edge and sound design element for the songwriter’s most musically adventurous recording of her career thus far. Additionally, the lyrics probably startled listeners that expect artists to be vague in their sentiments in a pop song setting but hasn’t Allison been poetically pointed and vivid in her words all along? Opening the show is Montreal’s indie pop band TOPS whose gentle yet passionate compositions seem like they’d be pretty light and airy live as well but at the show the band seems to exude an unexpected vitality.

HaemoGoblin, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: HaemoGoblin and Fast N Loose at L. Lazer art opening
When: 9
Where: The Crypt ($10 cash)
Why: HaemoGoblin is an electronic duo that will be performing what it calls a ritualistic invocation. Calling the performance “Inauguration” what you will see is a “mini stage play set to music, designed to disorient, disturb and ‘shake awake’ the audience for a half hour or longer.” What will this look like? Well, veteran carnie frontwoman Ortenzia von Deadworry and S.S.G. her “summoned demon” synth player will definitely bring some theater to an often very predictable local music scene. Also on the bill for this art opening featuring the work of L. Lazer is Fast N Loose is a Motorhead tribute band.

The Soft Moon in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 12.04
What: The Soft Moon w/Nuovo Testamento and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Luis Vasquez was a little ahead of the curve when he launched The Soft Moon in 2009. Originally a solo project, The Soft Moon evolved to become more of a live band that brought Vasquez’s songs of nervy energy and anxiety-purging urgency to life. His most recent album is 2022’s Exister which in the wake of one of the most challenging periods in recent world history on a wide scale is a catharsis of overcoming the enervating influences that come your way and considering the mere continuation of existence a triumph in itself. The songs seem to have leaned more into the industrial side of Vasquez’s songwriting with some real visceral power driving the moody atmospherics. Los Angeles-based darkwave/synth pop band Nuovo Testamento opens the show.

Hembree, photo by Jonny Marlow

Sunday | 12.04
What: Hembree w/Little Hurt, False Report and Mae Mae
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Hembree from Kansas City, Missouri that formed in 2015 and its big break to a national audience was the placement of its single “Holy Water” in an Apple ad during Super Bowl LII. The group’s tight rhythms serve as a foundation for the rest of the songwriting to stretch out whether into focused, unadorned rock songs or expansive, moody pieces and the techno-underpinned indie funk that is at the core of its sound. The group’s new album It’s a Dream! is a record tinged with nostalgic examinations of the roots of current anxieties and insecurities expressed in hazy melodies and resonating tones driven by a hypnotic beat. On the surface it may sound like another current indie rock offering with more than its fair share of more imaginative songwriting but Hembree really charts an internal journey in which one is prepared to exit the gauntlet of lucid dreams trapped in feeling everything until it makes sense and after one is able to move through tangled emotional memories.

The Lemonheads, photo by Barry Brescheisen

Monday | 12.05
What: The Lemonheads w/Bass Drum Of Death and On Being an Angel https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/443688
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Lemonheads are one of few still extant bands to have come to prominence during the alternative rock era that didn’t quite fit in with the more trendy subgenres that made that era one of the most vibrant in the history of popular music. Its own brand of power pop was a vehicle for the songwriting of only constant member, singer and guitarist Evan Dando. The latter seems to have an ability to look into situations and people and extrapolate poetic insights with a compassionate perspective. The title track of the group’s 1992 breakthrough album It’s A Shame About Ray isn’t just about a troubled person who doesn’t fit in with any school and its politics, it’s about feeling like a perpetual outsider and the rest of the songs on the record are vivid stories about people we all know and might even be in a way that didn’t comport with the tales of desperation one heard in a lot of grunge and too “dark” for more faux posi faire of that era to now. Ever since The Lemonheads went on hiatus in 1997 and returned to operations in 2005, the group hasn’t been prolific with original material but Dando’s interpretations of artists that have influenced him on Varshons (2009) Varshons 2 (2019) have been a peek into what Dando’s brain has latched onto for inspiration and perhaps for this performance we’ll get to hear what the veteran songwriter has been up to in recent years. One thing is for certain his own songs have aged far better than those of many of his contemporaries owing in part to the gentle but raw honesty of the songwriting. Also on this bill is Bass Drum of Death originally from Oxford, Mississippi whose blues tinged noisy garage rock has a refreshing level of grit and menace befitting the name of the project.

Monday | 12.05
What: W.A.S.P. w/Armored Saint
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: W.A.S.P. is the kind of band out of the glam metal era in Los Angeles of the 1980s that more than any other group out of that world that courted controversy. Its music was and is a spirited, melodic hard rock with a strong sense of theater even in the songwriting. Sure its cover art for its debut single “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” with the circular saw codpiece offended people that took it more literally than could even remotely be intended. Certainly former guitarist Chris Holmes looked the buffoon drunk in a pool with his mother sitting by in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years seemed to affirm the extreme and self-destructive hedonism associated with the band. But at its best W.A.S.P. were avatars of a music scene that could be cartoonish, bombastic and puerile while offering an alternative to a conformist puritanical culture with its lurid and triumphant storytelling. Perhaps co-headlining though less notorious is Armored Saint who also started in 1982 in Los Angeles and also pre-dated glam metal though often associated with that world of music due to the big hair and knack for solid melodic hooks. But like W.A.S.P. there was something with more edge than most of its glam rock contemporaries. While never quite having any mainstream breakthrough hits, Armored Saint was a staple of 1980s metal that has held up better than much of the music out of the 1980s Los Angeles heavy metal scene has.

Water From Your Eyes, photo by Ana Fangayen

Tuesday | 12.06
What: Palm w/Water From Your Eyes
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: As Water From Your Eyes, Nate Amos and Rachel Brown have made a career of using an eclectic and ever evolving palette of sounds to explore ideas and concepts through what could be considered dance pop. That is if your frame of reference might be the experimental electronic and punk out of New York and Los Angeles of the last fifteen years. Its 2020 album 33:44 is something you’d expect more out of a band on the Northern Spy label with its beautifully dire, ambient and modern classical soundscapes that are almost an homage to Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” crossed with Howard Shore’s work for the films of David Cronenberg. But the duo’s most recent album Structure at times sounds like what might have happened if Aphex Twin in writing Selected Ambient Works Volume II had decided to turn those into pop songs. Except that Water From Your Eyes inserts enigmatic spoken word elements that serve as a a meta narrative that re-configures traditional album structure and gives the whole album a non-linear quality made cohesive by reimagining the nature of how creative work is structured. Fitting that this arty yet incredibly accessible group is sharing the stage with Philadelphia’s art rock weirdos Palm touring in support of Nicks and Grazes, an album that sounds like the band challenged its members to go on separate retreats to clear their minds of contemporary influences and to immerse themselves in non-musical art forms and come back to make the kind of psychedelic rock record that comes across like a collage of playful daydreams and arranged in a way that brushes aside conventional structure itself.

OFF! photo by Jeff Forney

Thursday and Friday | 12.08 and 12.09
What: OFF! w/Zulu
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: OFF! is of course the newer hardcore project fronted by legendary vocalist Keith Morris formerly of Black Flag and of Circle Jerks. The current lineup includes founding member Dmitri Coats of Burning Brides on guitar and as of 2021 Autry Fulbright II on bass and Justin Brown on drums. After an eight year hiatus on releases, OFF! released Free LSD in 2022. It’s still the searing hardcore sound you’d expect from the group but there are some clear differences with what sounds like synth and other ambient sounds giving the songs a psychedelic feel that wasn’t so much a part of its earlier sound. A refreshing update for a band that still maintains the intensity and edge without being stuck in a stylistic rut. Opening both dates at the Hi-Dive is anti-racist powerviolence band Zulu which injects its music with R&B samples and eschews the tough guy stance of hardcore.

Pond, photo by Matsu

Friday | 12.09
What: Pond w/Cryogeyser — rescheduled to April 16, 2023
When: 8
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Pond has shared membership with Tame Impala over the years with lead singer Nick Albrook being involved with both bands for a few years and Kevin Parker serving as drummer in earlier years and as a producer until 2020. The polished psychedelic pop of its first eight albums was helped in no small part due to Parker’s influence in the production department but with the 2021 album 9, Pond has given us its most interesting record to date with more grit in its overall sound, some edge to its funk elements and a willingness to embrace some rawness in its sound as well as take its atmospherics into a realm flirting with space rock. Los Angeles-based jangle fuzz trio Cryogeyser opens the show with its melancholic, lo-fi dream pop.

Obituary, photo by Tim Hubbard

Friday | 12.09
What: Obituary w/Amon Amarth, Carcass and Cattle Decapitation
When: 5:30
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Obituary is touring ahead of the 2023 release of its new album Dying of Everything. After nearly 40 years as a band exploring the outer edges of the death metal format and pioneering some of that aesthetic it can be challenging to have something new to say with your music and a return to form can be tedious. But Obituary this time decided to stick to writing a strong set of material worthy of its pre-1997 split output. The dire messaging delivered with still convincingly brutal vocals but without cartoonish lyrics. Rounding out the bill are Seattle grindcore outfit Cattle Decapitation who are somehow both keenly aware of the absurdity and cruelty of modern human civilization and the need to ridicule the hubris of our species without making light of the situation in which we and other animals find ourselves due to a tolerance for savage forms of economic and social organization. And yes, grindcore/death metal legends/pioneers Carcass and Swedish, melodic death metal group Amon Amarth and its proclivity for lyrics about the Viking Age and a time before the Christian domination of Nordic culture.

The Smile, from the band’s Facebook page

Saturday and Sunday | 12.10 and 12.11
What: The Smile w/Robert Stillman
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Smile is Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame with drummer Tom Skinner of Sons of Kemet. The trio made its debut at Glastonbury Festival in 2021 and its music produced during the limitations of association and collaboration during the COVID-19 lockdown emerged as an intimate and spacious, lonely set of melodies and fragile emotional expressions. In 2022 the group released its debut album A Light for Attracting Attention. The record is contemplative as one might expect with the musicians involved but also vulnerable and open in sentiments embracing a massive level of uncertainty and peril that continues to flow seemingly unchecked in a world beyond the ongoing pandemic and perpetuating a sustained anxiety that will have untold impacts for decades to come and written about in history books or their equivalent in some future time should such indulgences be permitted in a post-authoritarian era. The Smile seems to have written a record from the perspective of people keenly attuned to these concerns and not knowing if they’ll live long enough to see better days but not being attached to a sinking spirit of despair.

Bartees Strange, photo by Luke Piotrowski

Wednesday | 12.14
What: Bartees Strange w/Pom Pom Squad and They Hate Change
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Bartees Leon Cox Jr. has worn various hats in his career both musical and otherwise. But he is perhaps best known for his music under the moniker Bartees Strange following his stint in in the post-hardcore band Stay Inside. With the release of his 2020 debut Live Forever, Cox has proven himself a master of writing emotionally nuanced and vulnerable pop songs that incorporate elements of indie folk and, synth pop and hip-hop but with a production element that seems to make the music and its complex arrangements hit with a stirring immediacy. Fans of Twin Shadow will hear some similar sonic touchstones and the sophomore album Farm to Table (2022) revealed more of Cox’s gift for genre bending to great effect in delivering songs that are at once deeply personal and politically charged.

Twin Tribes, photo from Bandcamp

Thursday | 12.15
What: Twin Tribes w/Dancing Plague and Plague Garden
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Twin Tribes from Brownsville, TX have garnered no small amount of buzz for its blend of minimal synth and post-punk and a kind of vitality amid melancholic tones. Its most recent studio album Ceremony (2019) sounds like songs written during a flurry of peak emotions and capturing the urgency and desperation of a recent breakup. In most cities of size, Twin Tribes is performing in medium sized clubs but in Denver we’re fortunate to be able to catch the popular band in a small club like HQ. Dancing Plague is a darkwave solo act from Portland, OR whose dusky synth pop is like a darker OMD with some touches of influence from John Maus. In the interest of full transparency, the author of this blurb is in Plague Garden, a noteworthy post-punk/New Wave band from Denver.

ABANDONS, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.15
What: ABANDONS w/Old Soul Dies Young, Almanac Man and Fainting Dreams
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This show is a nice split of experimental noise rock and shoegaze. ABANDONS might at another time be considered a post-rock band but in its mix one hears bits of post-metal, noise rock and ambient and it live shows have a visceral quality with music that one might more expect to be performed in a more meditative spirit. Old Soul Dies Young is the kind of band that happens when guys who were way into post-hardcore and doom drop that sound palette for something more melodic and atmospheric but with the same level of sonic bombast. Almanac Man is like a collision of doom and borderline aggressive, Chicago style noise rock. Fainting Dreams is the kind of dream pop band that comes about when its members maybe came up through hardcore and death metal and are shedding the aggression and mathematical precision and heaviness for radical vulnerability and dreamlike tones.

Organ, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.16
What: Sounds for Charity: Avarice, Organ, No More Cheering, Gabriel Albelo
When: 7
Where: Glob
Why: Proceeds from this show go to Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Warm weather gear and hand warmers also accepted. For your donation you can catch the glitch industrial dance stylings of Organ, Gabriel Albelo’s solo performance of his heavy psychedelic rock, Avarice’s dark, menacing industrial techno and the prepared noise environment soundscapes of No More Cheering.

Meet the Giant in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Love Stallion w/Shanghai Metro Temple and Meet the Giant
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Love Stallion is basically an 80s style glam metal band and if that’s your thing they’re definitely on the better end of the modern version of that with of course stage antics and style and the level of musicianship you’d expect. Shanghai Metro Temple is a fairly straight ahead indie rock band that sounds like it is heavily influenced by late 90s alternative and hard rock. Meet the Giant fuse downtempo electronic pop with post-punk, heavy shoegaze and imaginative soundscapes on the production end.

Wave Decay in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Bluebook w/Wave Decay and Mon Cher
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Bluebook these days isn’t the experimental indie folk jazz band of its early days. Instead there is a darkness and not so buttoned downed, controlled intensity to the performances. Seems like Julie Davis is letting her flaws, anxieties and dreams hang more loosely with this version of the band and that has just meant its music has blossomed more and its sound palette greatly expanded with the inclusion of formery Monofog and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake singer Hayley Helmericks on drums and backing vocals, Jess Parsons on keys and other instrumentation and maybe even Anna Morsett on guitar. Wave Decay is the kind of band that sounds like it took the door through psych garage into more shoegaze sounds and all the better for it. Mon Cher’s music is a particularly transporting and lies somewhere between dream pop and downtempo jazz.

Milk Blossoms in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Milk Blossoms w/Meek and Knuckle Pups
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Knuckle Pups write radically vulnerable and thoughtful indie pop in the classic mold and its 2022 album TV Ready is both heartbreaking and uplifting. Milk Blossoms play a rare show with Michelle Rocquet now that she spends much of her time in New York City for professional and academic pursuits. So with this configuration of the band you’ll get the full dual vocal effect of powerfully rendered, tender pop songs that are irresistibly twee and cathartic.

Master Ferocious in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 12.18
What: Never Kenezzard w/Zingaro, Sea of Flame and Master Ferocious
When: 3
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Never Kenezzard don’t really fit in with the metal scene so much though its blend of progressive rock sensibilities, doom and psychedelia finds it in a particularly more interesting corner of that realm of music. Sea of Flame are a sludge rock/doom band whose epic arrangements are not the rote edition of what doom has become. Master Ferocious somehow mix classic power metal with glam rock without seeming corny because the musicianship is so strong and the performance bordering on theatrical.

Alaska Thunderfuck, photo by Albert Sanchez

Sunday | 12.18
What: Alaska Thunderfuck Presents: The Red 4 Filth Tour
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Alaska Thunderfuck is perhaps best known for her competing in RuPaul’s Drag Race but over the last several years she has cultivated a pop music career. Steeped in modern electronic pop and a showcase for her outsize stage persona. Her latest album Red 4 Filth leaves behind some of the camp and humor of previous releases with a more obviously sincere set of pop songs that bring together sounds from hip-hop and classic modern pop including a cover of “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base.

Faceman in 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.22
What: FaceMan Western Jupiter vinyl release, Tivoli Club Brass Band and Anthony Ruptak
When: 7
Where: The Skylark Lounge/Bobcat Club
Why: Faceman celebrates the release of its latest album on vinyl as well as making available on vinyl for the first time its 2016 album Wild and Hunting. The band fronted by Steve Faceman has long offered finely crafted pop Americana with an experimental edge though its new album Western Jupiter shows an embrace of a more straightforward approach to songcraft. But every release is fulled with songs that have heartfelt and sharply observed lyrics in stories about life that feel like they’re part of your life because Steve has honed in on an aspect of culture and social reality that seems to be in the air in that moment. In years past Faceman has put on theatrical performances with set pieces and costumes that help to illustrate the music in dramatic fashion in collaboration with local visual artists who have helped to make these outfits and elaborate sets and pieces of artwork like the stage Megalodon of several years ago or the huge tornado of paper made for the epic Faceman’s 100 Year Storm event of 2016 at The Oriental Theater in which Faceman invited 100 bands to perform. So there’s a bit of community involvement and creative vision behind what drives the band even if it’s not necessarily abundantly obvious from listening to its excellent songs on their own.

SORROWS, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.23
What: Baby Baby, Gila Teen, SORROWS and Ray Diess
When: 7
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Baby Baby is the indie dream pop project of Lily Conrad. Reminiscent of bedroom pop artists of the late 90s and 2000s and has the aesthetics of lo-fi but with better sound production than much of that stuff often had. Gila Teen is the genre defying emo-shoegaze-post-punk band whose eccentric songs nevertheless always seem to be a direct line into the anxieties and affections coursing through the cosmos at the given moment of the performance. SORROWS is an emotionally charged downtempo band comprised of vibrant vocals, elegantly crafted rhythms and electronic production. Ray Diess is one of the Denver scene’s most compelling darkwave pop artists operating today.

Julian Street Nightmare, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.23
What: Fast Eddy, Julian Street Nightmare and Morning Oil
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall (free)
Why: When garage punk and the more mundane end of psychedelic rock collapsed under the weight of its own hubris and fake excitement some of the people who were on one end of that broader scene with any talent or imagination had to do something different and Fast Eddy came out of that milieu as a solid power pop band. Julian Street Nightmare create music from a thrilling nexus of post-punk, surf rock and art rock. Morning Oil sounds like it took some bit of inspiration from the better part of 80s glam metal and The Dead Boys.

Tuesday | 12.27
What: The Roots and BIG K.R.I.T.
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Roots are the influential, jazz rooted hip-hop band from Philadelphia that many may also know for serving as the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Its use of live musical instrumentation has always set The Roots apart from most hip-hop groups whose use of samples is most often used to craft the beat and thus its live performances have a powerful physical presence that is impossible to duplicate otherwise. Big K.R.I.T. is the acclaimed rapper and producer from Mississippi whose eclectic production and socially conscious lyrics seem to hit at a very grassroots level of appeal with an accessible sound and a way of presenting heady ideas in a way that is both creative and personally relatable.

Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.29
What: Watch Yourself Die, Voight, Sell Farm https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sell-farm-voight-wyd-at-the-mercury-cafe-tickets-481076160747?aff=ebdshpsearchautocomplete
When: 8
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Watch Yourself Die is kind of a post-punk supergroup comprised of members of Hex Cassette, Ray Diess and Julian Street Nightmare. Voight has long blurred the line between shoegaze, post-punk, darkwave and techno and infused it with emotionally intense live performances. Sell Farm might be an indiepop band but one that doesn’t see a reason why heavy dub and industrial music can’t be a part of the overall wheelhouse of sounds going into the project’s eclectic but always interesting songwriting.

Thursday | 12.29
What: Discomfort Creature w/Curious Things, Nightfishing
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Discomfort Creature is a punk band from Denver whose lineup includes current and former members of Gamits and Uphollow and this show signals the vinyl release of its 2021 self-titled debut on Snappy Little Numbers now that Chris Fogal is back in town for the occasion from his current residence in Switzerland. The record is an energetic fusion of pop punk and the more angular, Dischord-esque variety of punk.

Brotherhood of Machines at Deep Club event in 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.30
What: FOANS, Brotherhood of Machines (album release) and Luxury Hearse
When: 9
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: FOANS is the brainchild of producer Andrew Dahabrah whose melancholic house and techno music has been at the center of Denver’s underground dance music world for several years. Luxury Hearse is the project of Dan Coleman (Blank Human) and Rin Howell (Psychic Secretary) that breaks the barrier between techno, ambient and musique concrète. Brotherhood of Machines is apparently returning with its first new release and album in over six years. The project live has been a mysterious and sonically rich example of where ambient, abstract industrial, techno and noise converge to produce a sound that establishes a deep sense of mood and place.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 8/29/19 – 9/4/19

Phonebooks_Nov20_2010_TomMurphy
Phonebooks (Colin Ward and Stephan Herrera L-R) circa 2010 at Rhinoceropolis. CRFW Benefit at Rhinoceropolis on August 29, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 29

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Cop Circles circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: DJ Fresh Kill, Earth Control Pill, Cop Circles and H-Lite
When: Thursday, 08.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This is a benefit show for the CRFW Fund which supports the body of work of the late Colin Ward and which “assists artists via grants and other means of support.” Ward would have turned 29 on this August 29 and the artists on the bill were friends and creative comrades of the artist and musician. A lot of high energy electronic dance music from DJ Fresh Kill and H-Lite, conceptual No Wave afrobeat post-disco from Cop Circles and the chill soundscaping of Earth Control Pill.

What: The Sugar Hill Gang w/Furious 5 and White Fudge & The Antagonist
When: Thursday, 08.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: For a lot of people The Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap band. But hip-hop pre-dated that by some years beginning with the soundsystem parties thrown by DJ Kool Herc. The Sugar Hill Gang was probably the earliest, commercially successful rap group with its 1979 hit song “Rapper’s Delight.” Also on this bill is the Furious 5 who, with Grandmaster Flash, had been a pioneering hip-hop crew before The Sugar Hill Gang hit the charts. So this is a bit like getting to see some of the earliest days of hip-hop as we know it in one show.

Friday | August 30

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Paw Paw circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Meek, Future Scars, Kali Krone, Madelyn Burns
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Meek mixes live drums with 31G and-esque processed vocals and electronic beats for a result that’s somewhere between noise and industrial. But really not like much except for maybe, maybe, solo USAISAMONSTER minus guitar. Santa Fe’s Future Scars is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole except to say it’s a rock or a pop band but it has the cutting, hard hitting guitar drive of metal, the delicacy and texture of the most tender indie rock, the soaring vocals of some torch song pop and post-punk rhythmic drive. And that’s for one song. Other times, meditative, heavy drone with introspective melodies like Emma Ruth Rundle. Kali Krone’s dreamy slowcore seems about perfect for the swelter cool off. Madelyn Burns’ spooky singer-songwriter should appeal to fans of early Grouper.

What: Mutual Benefit w/Paw Paw and Card Catalog
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mutual Benefit’s moody, soundscape-y pop songs are like getting a glimpse into someone’s having processed some deep thinking and distilled it to the poetic essence of those collective feelings. Loosely in the realm of Americana but with some great sound collage in the songwriting. Paw Paw is the project of former Woodsman drummer Eston Lathrop. Sort of ambient, sort of organic electronic pop, experimental solo guitar and synth songs to transport you to another, better place for a half an hour or so.

What: Nuancer LP release w/SSIIGGHH, Dr3aMC@$T, Larians and Andy AI
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Daniel DiMarchi is the genius bass player in the great dream pop band Tyto Alba and great indie rock band Oxeye Daisy. But part of what makes him a great bass player is his true ear for tonality and composition which he brings to his experimental electronic pop project Nuancer and this is the release show of I Hardly Know Her. Also on the bill is a rare show from Larians, the solo project of former Male Blonding guitarist/singer Noah Simons. Though a guitarist, Simons has long had an interest in left field and forward thinking electronic music like Burial and Larians is the manifestation of that interest. And tonight Larians releases the first EP Looming Boy. If Nicolas Jaar made trap it might sound something like that.

What: I Hate It Here, Causer, $addy, Eraserhead Fuckers and Kid Mask
When: Friday, 08.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: The noise/heavy processed dance ambient/industrial show of the week. Granted the only one but heavy hitters like noise rapper Eraserhead Fuckers, hypnogogic environment sculptor Kid Mask and post-Goth ambient noise genius $addy alone make this a noteworthy lineup.

Saturday | August 31

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The Velveteers, photo by VOSSLING

What: The Velveteers UK tour kickoff w/Boot Gun, The Kinky Fingers and Bitter Suns
When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Velveteers is a rock and roll trio from Denver whose live show is surprisingly powerful, forceful and grippingly emotional. The group is headed to the UK for a tour and this is the kickoff show with some of Denver’s other great, local, non-subgenre-specific rock bands including The Kinky Fingers who may be in the garage psych vein but its songwriting so tight and poignant it’s strikingly original.

What: To Be Astronauts, Meet the Giant, The Center and Bad Britton
When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hard rock band To Be Astronauts is relasing its “Thoughts and Prayers” single tonight. Hard rock is a little generic a term. So yeah, in their sound you’ll hear a bit of industrial rock, grunge and anthemic punk without being stuck on any of that. And other like-minded bands are on the bill including Meet the Giant who, despite their ethereal and moody atmospheric rock gets heavy and driving often enough that they’ll fit in here.

Sunday | September 1

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Molly Burch, photo by Dailey Toliver

What: Molly Burch w/Jackie Cohen and Bellhoss
When: Sunday, 09.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Molly Burch has the kind of classic pop voice that many try to imitate but few nail the cadence and tonality that she seems to do so effortlessly. Her songs are intricate and delicate but her poetic observations sharp and illuminating. Jackie Cohen taps into an earlier era of music but her sound is more like a strange strain out of ABBA and 60s girl groups. Bellhoss is in good company here with Becky Hostetler’s idiosyncratic storytelling and inventive guitar work somewhere betwixt Dinosaur Jr, Edith Frost and Joanna Newsom. Yeah, let’s go with that until a better description of this unique songwriter and performer comes to mind. Hostetler will also make all the charmingly awkward jokes on stage so you don’t have to.

What: The Wes Watkins (EP release) w/Dr3@m Ca$t and Snubluck
When: Sunday, 09.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Wes Watkins is the brilliant trumpet player and vocalist whose talents have brought grace, cool and imagination to a broad swath of Denver music including his stint in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. But The Other Black, playing with poet, mystic, avant-garde hip-hop songwriter Bianca Mikahn, Wheelchair Sports Camp and others? His track record speaks for itself and tonight he’s releasing his new EP, a collection of jazz-inflected pop songs that seem to be streaming from a time in the future while sounding like it had to be recorded in the past putting Watkins out of time thus timeless, as seems appropriate for his soulful musical stylings.

Tuesday | September 3

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Shonen Knife circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shonen Knife w/Me Like Bees and Sexy Pistils
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Shonen Knife is the legendary Japanese punk bands whose roots go back to the late 70s when not many women were playing music in Japan much less in a punk band. Its songs are often about fanciful and mythical things but its songwriting is sharp, powerful and uplifting.

What: Holy Grove (PDX), DØNE (SLC, ex-SubRosa), and Shepherd
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: A kind of doom metal show including the latest project from former SubRosa drummer Andy Patterson, DØNE.

What: Ian Svenonius DJ set / Dream Wish of a Casino Soul Closing Party
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: Philosopher, brilliant social commentator, media mogul and genius frontman (The Make-Up, Nation of Ulysses, Weird War, Chain and the Gang etc.) Ian Svenonius will hold court with one of his unique DJ sets for the closing party for the art exhibit Dream Wish of a Casino Soul.

Wednesday | September 4

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SunnO))) circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: SunnO))) w/David Pajo and BIG BRAVE
When: Wednesday, 09.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: SunnO))) creates such intense, dense frequencies and slow dynamics with, assuming Atilla Csihar will be on hand, otherworldly vocals that run a broad spectrum of tonality that your brain may work differently after the show. Calling it “extreme metal” just doesn’t cut it as it’s a truly ritualistic experience and so engulfing you feel like you’ve really been through something by the end. David Pajo is the iconic guitarist of Slint, The For Carnation and a host of other bands including a short stint in the death metal group Dead Child. His solo material runs a fairly wide range of sounds and emotions and as Papa M he recently toured with Mogwai. Not to be missed. BIG BRAVE is a cathartic collision of industrial, drone metal and emotional exorcism.

What: Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Dorian, Hypnotic Turtle Radio DJ, Cabal Art
When: Wednesday, 09.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday is the monthly musical showcase that lives up to its name and curated by Claudia Woodman. This time she will be performing in her persona of Gothsta and for this performance she says, “Gothsta covers goth songs on the melodica that have some link to climate change-related themes, because Gothsta is depressed about global warming. Gothsta will have some extra special content that has to do with the Amazon burning and will be joined by Hypnotic Turtle’s Diablo Montalban for dueling melodicas/improv along with noise loops generated for this performance.” It’s rare that anything lives up to hype like that but this show probably will.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 8/30/18 – 9/5/18

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CJ Boyd performs at various venues in Colorado this weekend. Photo circa 2008 by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 30, 2018

Who: A.M. Pleasure Assassins and CJ Boyd
When: Thursday, 08.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery, Fort Collins
Why: Fort Collins’ great lo-fi post-punkers A.M. Pleasure Assassins share the stage with internationally renowned avant-garde punk/folk/ambient/one-man pastoral classical artist C.J. Boyd. The latter is one of the few artists in general that has played in all fifty of the United States. For a decade, Boyd has traversed the country and collaborated with artists from every state and written some of the most accessible and evocative experimental music that defies any absolute categorization. Pick up at any point in his extensive catalog and you’re in for something interesting that will stretch your musical horizons in some fashion. Boyd is playing other shows in Colorado on this leg of his tour and if you’re not able to make this Fort Collins gig it would be worth seeking out where those other shows are happening whether in a house or a DIY space in Colorado Springs like the new Flux Capacitor.

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Smokescreens, photo by Gina Clyne

Who: Smokescreens, The Molochs and American Culture
When: Thursday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chris Rosi and Corey Cunningham were once members of Plateaus and Terry Malts having toured together during the ascent of the garage/psych revival. But by mid-decade both moved to Los Angeles where they formed Smokescreens out of a mutual love for the off-standard melodic strategy of American pop and more in the vein of New Zealand weirdo, jangle-y punk bands of the 80s on the Flying Nun imprint as well as noisier American music like The Velvet Underground and The Aislers Set. One might make a good case for some influence of The Feelies and a touch of Jay Reatard and No Age in there. All of those influences would mean nothing if the songwriters weren’t capable of doing anything interesting or original out of their own skill set. The band’s 2018 album Used to Yesterday is proof that Smokescreens is making some of the more sonically interesting, guitar-driven pop music today. Combining a tenderness and delicacy of tone and texture with great momentum and energy, Smokescreens is a band that is as idiosyncratic as its influences, which is no mean feat given Flying Nun’s catalog of unique greatness alone.

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The Magpie Salute, photo by David McLister

Who: The Magpie Salute w/Brent Cowles
When: Thursday, 08.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Formed in 2016 by former members of Black Crowes including Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien, The Magpie Salute is perhaps less beholden to the blues rock that was the bedrock of Black Crowes. At least if the band’s new album, 2018’s High Water 1 is any indication. Sure, some of the structure and tones are there but the sonic palette is broader with the band at this point. The title track suggests psych Americana but the album refreshingly doesn’t get stuck in a single mode, mood or dynamic. There’s a 70s feel to the record but one that gives you a greater appreciation for the details that make that songwriting style compelling even today even if you’re heard enough of that sort of thing. Robinson and his bandmates grew up with and within those musical traditions and with this band they’re giving those influences a renewed vitality that is oft-imitated and rarely manifested with this degree of credibility because it doesn’t feel forced and the highly developed songcraft born out of years playing in other bands speaks for itself.

Who: Equine, Tunica Externa, biostatic
When: Thursday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Depth of sound field throughout this show with the guitar drones and tone sculpting of Equine, Tunica Externa’s super minimal soundscapes with guitar and loops and biostatic’s synth, live sampled trumpet and processed sounds. None of the artists is much alike, uses very different methods of making their sounds but all have grounded in a way of making music that isn’t rooted in any particular, pre-established style, which should be recommendation enough for going to this show if you’re looking for something well outside the mainstream.

Friday | August 31, 2018

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Brotherhood of Machines, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Under the Floorboards Celebration: Midwife, Bigawatt, Brotherhood of Machines, Curta and Multicast
When: Friday, 08.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: KGNU’s Under the Floorboards program showcases music that is decidedly left field. So this show will include the minimalist, ambient folk/lo fi production of Midwife, Bigawatt’s operatic avant-post-punk paired with experimental drummer Death Pose, Brotherhood of Machines’ Popol Vuh/dub techno-esque ambient in collaboration with Jake Danna of hip-hop duo Curta. And Multicast, which has been doing ambient music in Colorado for longer than most of the people in Colorado’s quite large ambient scene. With biostatic hosting and serving as a DJ for the night.

Who: Sympathy F
When: Friday, 08.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Sympathy F came on to Denver stages during the early days of the alternative rock era. Early members of the band included current guitarists Doug Seaman and Tony Morales (who has also been a vocalist in the band from the beginning) and both lived in a building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called The Blenheim, notable for its gateway looking like something from a medieval urban house, where they lived across the hall from future and current vocalist Elizabeth Rose who became fast friends with the two musicians who one day heard her singing along to the music they were writing. The band became a bit of a fixture in the local scene throughout the 90s, releasing one, self-titled album and a handful of cassette and compilation releases before the focus of the musicians went to other projects even though Sympathy F never disbanded. Over the past decade or so, the group has been more active and in 2016 releases its first album in over twenty years with its second self-titled album. It was a compilation of new and older recordings and demos that the members of the band rendered for a more modern release augmented by overdubs and a proper mixing and mastering treatment. At that time the band had intended to release a double album to get its backlog of material out into the world but that didn’t make sense and now the group is releasing what would have been the second half of the double album with a couple of new tracks that reflect new musical ideas that hint at where the group may go in the future with electronics a part of its lushly atmospheric, moody hard rock.The new album, available tonight, is The Blenheim, a nod to the band’s roots and the creative frisson that launched its fruitful and prolific, if not widely available on a recording until recently, career. See our upcoming interview with Seaman on the history of the band and its recent painstaking recording of at least one of its new songs.

Who: EVP w/Pearls and Perils and Gold Trash
When: Friday, 08.31, 9 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: Glasss Records occupies BarFly for the night. EVP’s pointed personal/political commentary informing its impassioned industrial noise pop will bring some edge to the laid back environs. Gold Trash’s noise-scape-y, beats collage electroclash will demonstrate how you can keep it weird and confrontational yet fun. Pearls and Perils makes downtempo R&B with a rich emotional quality and theatrical stage presence that is impossible to ignore.

Saturday | September 1, 2018

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Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Temple Tantrum Day 1
When: Saturday, 09.1, 12 p.m., music starts 1 p.m. runs to 10 p.m.
Where: The Temple Studios
Why: Temple Tantrium is a two day festival that encourages attendees to arrive in costume and join in the festivities with twenty musical acts, fourteen art installations, comedy and performance art. For list of artists featured see below.
Music: Council of Word, Porcelain, F-ether, Halo Halo, Ginger Perry, JL Kane, R A R E B Y R D $, Princess Dewclaw, Church Fire, Plantrae

Visual/installation Artists: Ancient.Future, Charles Russel, Alex Anderson, Kat Nechleba, Kristina Rolander, Ryan Wurst, Izzy Jarvis, Regan Rosberg, Queen City Harlequinade, Kelly ShortNQueer, Tara Worley, Suchitra Mattai, Katine Lowe, Marsha Mack, Sandra Fettingus, Naomi Scheck, Joanne Shminke, Lori Owicz, Brendan Macleod.

Performance art and comedy: No Gods No Masters, Punketry, Gallagher Fest, Jessica L’Whor, Jaguar Morning Show

Who: Big Business w/Simulators and Quits
When: Saturday, 09.1, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Big Business is the sludge metal/noise rock band from Seattle comprised of former KARP and Murder City Devils members Jared Warren and Coady Willis. The duo spent a handful of years playing in Melvins where its bombastic, playful and joyous sound fit in with Melvins’ sense of the absurd. For this show the duo will be joined by sharp-edged post-punk band Simulators and eruptive noise rock supergroup Quits which includes former members of Denver-based noise rock outfits Sparkles and Hot White.

Who: Pink Fuzz LP release w/Love Gang and Boot Gun
When: Saturday, 09.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: BANDITS from Boulder honed its hard blues rock sound for a few years under that name before adopting its new moniker, Pink Fuzz. The group releases what may be it’s first full-length record tonight. Though not a stoner rock band, fans of bands like Fu Manchu and Nebula will probably find a lot to like here.

Sunday | September 2, 2018

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The Speedholes circa 2001, photo by Rebecca Bauer

What: Temple Tantrum Day 2
When: Saturday, 09.1, 12 p.m., music starts 1 p.m. runs to 10 p.m.
Where: The Temple Studios
Why: See the entry for this event above on September 1, 2018. The list of visual/installation artists and performance art and comedy is the same. But musical guests for this day include: Machu Linea, MEEK, Entrancer, ETERNAL, Baby Tony & The Teenies, L.A. Zwicky, Oxeye Daisy, Vic N’ The Narwhals, NEEFF, Nasty Nachos and Pictureplane.

Who: Merrick 25th Anniversary Party with debut of Rocket Dust, Vashion Seeds and Sam & Catherine from AKA Belle
When: Sunday, 09.2, 5 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Kelly and Dan Merrick were members of noisy garage punk band The Speedholes in the 90s and early 2000s and were active participants in the vibrant Denver punk scene of that time. Both had roots in the Seattle underground scene of the 80s and 90s and were impacted by Denver musicians who made it to the Pacific Northwest regularly or even made it a home like maybe The Derelicts but certainly The Fluid and Spell. They’re celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with the debut of their new band Rocket Dust with this show at Globe Hall.

Tuesday | September 5, 2018

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Mondo Obscura, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Mondo Obscura and The Counselor (DJ set)
When: Tuesday, 09.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Chiba Bar | Colorado Springs
Why: Denver futuristic new age/ambient band Mondo Obscura lands in Colorado Springs for a two hour live set followed by DJ set from local weirdo The Counselor at a Japanese themed bar. Fortunately it won’t be the “Chiba City Blues” but if some guy named Case shows up looking like he might be hyped on stims and babbles something about Molly Millions and the Panther Moderns just be glad for the distraction and ask him how Acacia Park is treating him.

Wednesday | September 5, 2018

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, photo by Warwick Baker

Who: Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever w/Jo Passed
When: Wednesday, 09.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: On the strength of the material on its first two EPs, 2016’s Talk Tight and 2017’s The French Press, Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever drew favorable comparison by critics like Robert Christgau and Stephen Deusner to influential Australian jangle pop band The Go-Betweens. With the sparkling guitar tone and effluvient, often urgent, dynamics the comparison seems apt. But the band never really sounds like a throwback and especially not so on its 2018 full length Hope Downs wherein the guitar play weaves hanging chords into its bright melodies to convey more fully melancholic undertones and introspective moods. Like American indie rock band LVL UP, RBCF has a real knack for writing songs with a depth of composition using dissonance, textural rhythms and percussive melodies alongside more straightforward guitar work. Live the group performs with a nervy energy that gives what might otherwise be simply solid pop songs a palpable intensity.

Who: Weird Wednesday: KRBS (from Ludlow), Bonnie Weimer, Whimsically Macabre Music
When: Wednesday, 09.5, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This latest edition of Weird Wednesday features artists whose music doesn’t necessarily scream out “weird” but in the larger musical sense really is. Bonnie Weimer whose spare, banjo songs are reminiscent of Maureen Tucker solo or on her rare and excellent vocal performances in The Velvet Underground (particularly “After Hours”). Meaning it’s intimate, powerful and a bit mysterious. Presumably KRBS is Josh Kirby from the great Colorado folk/punk band Ludlow doing a solo performance. Kirby has an offbeat, often surreal sense of humor so that’s bound to be part of the set too. Whimsically Macabre Music is a solo piano project of Stacy Fahrion. The music doesn’t hit you over the head with its strangeness. In that sense it has more in common with how many Erik Satie pieces are haunting or various Shirley Jackson novels have an atmosphere just off enough to get under your skin without having to resort to cheap thrills.