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
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
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
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
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: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
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.
What:Earth w/Helms Alee When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Earth is as much an influential and pioneering drone metal band as it is an avant-garde blues folk group imbued with mystical overtones. It’s 2019 album Full Upon Her Burning Lips finds the trio channeling more than the usual measure of its crawling, Black Sabbath-esque gloom. Seeing the live show it’s always fascinating to see how Adrienne Davies moves in an orchestrated string of slow sweeping moves and fast, accenting flourishes as Dylan Carlson and their collaborators of the moment drone with a smoky fluidity.
What:Meet the Giant, The Jinjas, Monty O’Blivion and Zealot When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Zealot would be a Mountain Goats cover band but Luke Hunter James-Erickson would find that too rote so he injects his own eclectic tastes into the songwriting. Recently released the “Snake Goddess” single, a typically eccentric, high energy, angular indie rock gem. Meet the Giant, informed by electronic music and hip-hop beat-making, write and perform deeply evocative, brooding rock songs that maybe now would overlap with the whole darkwave thing except that Meet the Giant often crosses over into the realm of hard rock in a way most of those bands don’t.
What:Cholo Goth Night featuring Dave Parley of Prayers When: Thursday, 06.27, 9 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Just like it says, Cholo Goth Night at Streets Denver with Dave Parley of Cholo Goth and spinning Darkwave and Goth for the evening. When this event happens in the Los Angeles area and select other cities Parley brings in other darkwave musicians of note to guest a set but not for tonight.
Friday | June 28
What:The Kinky Fingers w/Vic N’ the Narwhals and Colfax Speed Queen When: Friday, 06.28, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Now that the Denver “party rock” scene has withered away and garage psych/surf is going the way of pop punk in the early 2000s only the strong and more interesting survive. In the case of these three bands it’s partly because their songwriting was always good and their individual sounds not so susceptible to the blowout of trendiness. Each has also evolved.
What:Tyto Alba and Steele Douglas When: Friday, 06.28, 5 p.m. Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver Why: Tyto Alba is always surprisingly evocative with music coming from the tender places of the psyche and coloring the tones in warm, incandescent tones and hypnotic rhythms. Seeing them on a rooftop while a thunderstorm threatens to hover in but never does? Seems symbolic and entirely appropriate.
What:Blue October w/Mona When: Friday, 06.28, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Blue October has been around for nearly a quarter of a century now and its career has crossed over from the old way of major labels and the album release cycle to the modern mess and disarray of the industry now that offers bands to connect directly to an audience more so than ever before but to earn far less for their efforts. That the group has weathered that period is impressive itself. Oddly enough its own style of power pop seemingly inspired by late 80s proto-alternative rock like Icehouse and The Outfield and their dramatic presentation of being a bit on the outs of true emotional fulfillment but yearning for that special connection with another human with music that is a little too triumphant in tone and uplifting to be sad bastard music. But Blue October didn’t stay trapped in a past style and its newer music reflects a diversity of newer influences.
What:Westword Music Showcase When: Saturday, 06.29, 12 p.m. Where: Golden Triangle Neighborhood Why: This is the longest running music festival of its type in Denver. Held on just one day in the Golden Triangle neighborhood near the Westword offices off Tenth Ave and Broadway, it is arguably the most concise way all year to see a broad spectrum of the local scene without having to walk too far. This year’s line-up includes several of the local luminaries. Here is a list of see-if-you-can acts at each of the stages and a given set time. Tastes will vary and I’m certainly no expert on big chunks of the local music world.
Breckenridge Brewery Stage
6:10 Jai Wolf
White Claw Stage
12:50 Techno Allah
2:30 Erin Stereo
12:50 Venus Cruz
6:40 Lady Gang
7:30 RARE BYRD$
12:35 Gora Gora Orkestar
5:35 Wes Watkins
7:15 Roka Hueka
8:05 Los Mocochetes
12:50 Hail Satan
2:30 Ghosts of Glaciers
6:40 Plasma Canvas
7:30 Cheap Perfume
1:40 Brianna Straut
2:30 Bevin Luna
5 Vic n’ the Narwhals
6:40 The Hollow
1:40 Bret Sexton
5:50 Los Dog Ensemble
6:40 The Maybe So’s
7:30 Joshua Trinidad Trio
What:PUP w/Ratboys and Beach Bunny When: Saturday, 06.29, 9 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: PUP started making waves a handful of years ago outside its hometown of Toronto, Ontario among aficionados of pop punk and emo who missed that brashly confessional style of songwriting before the music hit maximum saturation level in the early-to-mid 2000s. When the band began in 2010 a quasi-movement was under way across the North American continent in making fun, melodic punk that was raw and expressive. With PUP and others the key difference was embracing the relatively unrefined side of that songwriting and how that opened possibilities for the music to go where it will rather than fall directly in a worn out style. This has given PUP’s songwriting a freshness that even if at first it seems completely within the realm of standard pop punk. Its new record, 2019’s Morbid Stuff, arguably its best to date, revealed the influence of the more vital garage punk and 2000s lo-fi noise rock on its sound. Like the Reatards and perhaps No Age. Its irreverent spirit and deft local cultural references that are relatable to people who experience similar social phenomena in their own cities makes for a consistently endearing listen.
What:Luxury Hearse, Timelord SFX and blank human When: Saturday, 06.29, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: Luxury Hearse combines the forces of blank human’s ambient/noise sound sculpting and Psychic Secretary’s beat-driven experimental electronic music. What to call it? Some might think industrial because of its sometimes sharp edges but it’s more in the vein of edgier yet dream-like dance music.
What: Blue October w/Mona ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/369899
When: Saturday, 06.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: For Blue October see above for 6.28.
Monday | July 1
What:Culture Abuse w/Tony Molina, Young Guy, Dare, Regional Justice Center and Cadaver Dog When: Monday, 07.01, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Culture Abuse has big melodic hooks for a band that came up through the milieu of garage punk. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream greatly expanded its range as a band both tonally, dynamically and emotionally as it’s informed by a sensitivity to the inevitability of the death of those close to you and a wry sense of humor and irony. After all Culture Abuse has a song called “Dave’s Not Here (I Got The Stuff Man)” referencing the classic Cheech & Chong skit. While there’s plenty of wiry punk energy behind the material, especially live, it’s really more of a great power pop record. Tony Molina got started in music playing in hardcore bands but his solo work is more in line with jangle pop and C86 with a sprinkling of The Byrds. His own 2018 record Kill the Lights wouldn’t have been out of place in the same musical realm as Teenage Fanclub circa 1992. Except with more folk-inflected, introspective songwriting throughout.
What:Muscle Beach, Buildings (MN) and Simulators When: Monday, 07.01, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Buildings form Minneapolis is a vital cross between a math-y noise rock and post-hardcore. Muscle Beach is of similar mind but its own version of post-hardcore is a splintery assault on the senses that drags you down emotional pathways that purge angst and personal darkness – all done with a cathartic sense of joy. Simulators are an angular noise rock duo whose music is both cutting and unhinged yet mathematically precise. It’s always an interesting contrast.
Wednesday | July 3
What:Bud Bronson + the Good Timers, The Right Here, Bad Licks, DJ Sara Splatter When: Wednesday, 07.01, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bud Bronson + The Good Timers are always surprisingly good. Its earnest power pop sounds like it’s of today but has a quality and a vibe that is reminiscent of the stories and sentiments one heard in the music of late 70s/early 80s Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Also on the bill is Bad Licks who somehow do a kind of psychedelic blues rock that is legitimate and high energy because good songwriting transcends pre-conceptions.
What:Weird Wednesdayl: Total Trash, Pretty Loud, Klaus Dafoe When: Wednesday, 07.01, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl Why: Total Trash is a band comprised of luminaries of Denver’s indie rock scene going back nearly two decades and yet it’s not all middle aged people. If you remember Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Lil’ Slugger, it’s people from those bands. It’s psychedelic, shoegaze-y jangle pop is transporting yet relatable and down to earth. Klaus Dafoe is an instrumental band that collides together 2000s math rock, weirdo punk and indie pop for a sound that is familiar yet unusual.
What:Pale Sun, Palehorse/Palerider, Random Temple and Grass When: Wednesday, 07.01, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Palehorse/Palerider’s drummer Nathan Marcy said to bring earplugs. Good idea, because his own group is the kind of doom/shoegaze/dark desert psych band that makes beautifully dark, atmospheric, consciousness expanding music with ritual/tribal flourishes that is, yes, in fact, quite loud. In good company with gritty psych band Grass and Pale Sun. The latter’s dreamy yet dense rock music will take you to a different psychological space than the one with which you walked into the show. Includes former members of Bright Channel, Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.
Who:Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.
Who:Life After Earth and Brother Saturn When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.
What:Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5 When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.
Who:Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.
Who:Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m. Where: Tandem Bar Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.
Saturday | April 13
Who:DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.
Who:Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m. Where: People’s Building Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.
Who:Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.
Who:Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.
Who:Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.
Sunday | April 14
Who:Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”
All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.
In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.
Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.
Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.
After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.
2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.
What:Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.
Monday | April 15
Who:Ex Hex w/Moaning When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.
Tuesday | April 16
Who:Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.
Who:Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.
Who:Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.
Wednesday | April 17
What:HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.
Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.
Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.
Who:The Drood, Church Fire, blackcell, Mudwulf and dizypixl When: Thursday, 03.14, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: The Drood could be described as a horror ambient band with a penchant for subverting the dark music paradigm with wry humor and deeply imaginative reworking of tropes into new shapes. It’s what gives the band a kind of timeless and otherworldly quality even as it uses familiar sounds and moods to weave its unusual narratives. Church Fire similarly uses the vocabulary of dance and industrial music to enter mythic psychological spaces to comment on culture and political issues without boring us with didactic and topical platitudes. Blackcell is the longest running industrial/EBM band in Denver but one that has evolved so much since its early days as essentially and industrial noise act into one of the great the abstract/ambient dance/darkwave bands today. Mudwulf will bring an unpredictable collection of underground electronic music to DJ and Dizypixl, known for her work with Skinny Puppy, will provide brain-stirring visuals.
Who:Ian Svenonius’ Escape-ism with his “FoundSoundDreamDrama” When: Thursday, 03.14, 9 p.m. Where: Lane Meyer Products Why: Even though The Lost Record, the debut from Escape-ism, the latest project from Ian Svenonius, the frontman of The Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Weird War and other noteworthy musical entities over the years. Musically it sounds like lo-fi electroclash (or an even more lo-fi take on that musical movement). But that jibes with what is obviously a concept with music videos that look like its borrowing the aesthetics of an un-cool era, particularly the Super-8 vibe of the video for “Nothing Personal,” to pull listeners, and presumably those attending the show, out of everyday consciousness. Across his career as a musician, Svenonius and his partners have attempted to make music to engage both body and mind whereas much of modern culture and entertainment seems aimed at atomizing us as people from each other but also within ourselves. That the show is booked at something outside the usual purview of a bar or conventional venue should be telling as well regarding the aims of the performance.
Friday | March 15
Who:Adia Victoria wNina and the Hold Tight and Brother Sister Hex When: Friday, 03.15, 7:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Adia Victoria’s 2016 album Beyond the Bloodhounds introduced the world to the songwriter’s brooding, expressive, bluesy songwriting. Her 2019 album Silences finds Victoria expanding her sound, now operating in a realm somewhere between Rubblebucket’s soulful pop and Nick Cave’s smoldering intensity.
What:LEAF Night 1: Performances When: Friday, 03.15, 7 p.m. Where: Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts Why: This year’s edition of the Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival kicks off with a bevy of visionary avant-garde electronic music. This year’s programme of performances will inclue: Derek Holzer – Vector Synthesis AV Performance, Janet Feder and Joshua Ott – Prepared Guitar & Electronic Image, L’Astra Cosmo – AudioVisual Vector Synthesis, Sean Winters & Angie Eng – Piano and Electronic Image. In the cozy yet spacious performance space that is the Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts, these performances showcase some of the new ways in which creative people are integrating technology in both the musical and visual realm with concepts driving their application. Curated by David Fodel, LEAF strives to bring unique experiences that connect cutting edge artists with audiences/participants open to experiencing something you’re not likely to at a conventional music venue of any kind or all that much in academia either. Heady stuff.
What: Meet the Giant, Dead Orchids and Altas facebook.com/events/326517057982697 When: Friday, 03.15, 8 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: A free show and a bill that includes some of the best bands in Denver. Meet the Giant is an emotionally charged dream pop/rock band who are playing music with atmosphere and delicacy and nuance but delivered like its three members spent a youth in punk. Dead Orchids is a beautifully gloomy, bluesy, experimental rock project. Altas may be collectively the funniest band in Denver but the electrifying grandeur of its visceral instrumental rock lacks not for serious explorations of inner space.
Saturday | March 16
What:LEAF Night 2: artistTalks When: Saturday, 03.16, 7 p.m. Where: Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts Why: This second night of the Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival includes the presentations/artistTalks, rather than performance, component of the event with a programme as follows: Derek Holzer – A Media Archaeology Of Vector Graphics, Jason and Deborah Benagozzi – What IS Signal Culture? The Signal IN the Culture, libi rose striegl – Digging In: A hands-on Guide to Media Archaeology, Janet Feder – Trip Sitting: A guided journey along the timeline of psychedelia.
What:Lipgloss pressents: Alice Glass DJ set w/Boyhollow When: Saturday, 03.16, 9 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Alice Glass’s musical output since her departure from Crystal Castles in 2014 has been a showcase for a gift for poignant expressions of agonizing emotional turmoil and strength in the face of being torn up from the inside out.
What:Johnlukeirl fka DJ Clap, Techno Allah, Kid Mask, DJ JFK, Timelord SFX, Blank Human and Wayzout When: Saturday, 03.16, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: A night of music where ambient, experimental dance and noise meet. A bit more on the bright tones and compositions bordering on an updated version of chillwave on the beats with Johnlukeirl and downtempo ambient noise and glitchcore with Kid Mask along with analog-synth driven ambient with Blank Human so definitely not all of a piece.
Sunday | March 17
What:Sliver, Motherhood (CAN), Weep Wave (Seattle) and Thatcher When: Sunday, 03.17, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This’ll be an eclectic bill with Sliver’s post-grunge bursts of arresting emotional intensity, Weep Wave’s lo-fi psychedelia akin to the likes of Caustic Resin and some of the weirder bands on the Siltbreeze imprint, Motherhood’s math-y art punk rendering of high concept pop songs (see our interview with the band here) and Thatcher’s Velocity Girl-esque shimmery melodies.
Monday | March 18
What:Vince Staples w/JPEGMAFIA and Trill Sammy When: Monday, 03.18, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Vince Staples and JPEGMAFIA are two of the most incisive critics of modern culture and the music industry. With a massive knowledge of music far beyond hip-hop both artists have some of the most sonically interesting beats going.
What:Endless, Nameless, Balms, Wander, YUFI64, Old Soul Dies Young When: Monday, 03.18, 8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Denver-based, introspective math rock band Endless, Nameless celebrates its return from its most recent tour this night. Also on the bill is Balms from San Francisco whose fuzz-tinged shoegaze sounds like the melodic analog of waves crashing against jagged rocks. Fans of Ceremony’s most recent music or True Widow will find much to like about Balms. Its debut full-length Mirrors was released in February 2019. Wander is a post-rock band from the Bay Area (San Leandro) whose own dynamic buildups are reminiscent of the subtle yet irresistible flow of ocean tides and coastal breezes.
What:Blood Incantation, Of Feather and Bone, Black Curse, Prison Glue and Many Blessings When: Monday, 03.18, 7 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Blood Incantation is a band that sounds like its members are having fun with the sonically absurd possibilities inherent to an over-the-top-yet-technically-challenging genre like death metal. The result is one of the most unusual and powerful live bands you’re likely to see in the realm of metal or anything else. But the band and everyone else on this bill is coming together for a fundraiser for James Trejo of Cadaver Dog and various other projects who was assaulted on tour resulting in a broken orbital floor in his face. Some people’s children.
Tuesday | March 19
What:The Black Queen w/Uniform and SRSQ When: Tuesday, 03.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: The Black Queen is a darkwave band from Los Angeles comprised of former members/associates of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Nine Inch Nails (including Joshua Eustis who also writes and performs music as Telefon Tel Aviv). Its sound combines ethereal dream pop guitar sounds with the sort of soulfulness found in a lot of 80s synth pop. But with a more modern take as though vocalist Greg Puciato wasn’t just familiar with Talk Talk and Heaven 17 but Perfume Genius and Big Black Delta. In 2018 the group released its second album Infinite Games the day it played the prestigious Cold Waves festival (the Los Angeles edition). But this bill isn’t short on noteworthy artists out of the new industrial and darkwave era. Uniform’s confrontational and political minimal synth and industrial assault is along for this show as well as SRSQ (pronounced seer-skew), the now project from Kennedy Ashlyn, the vocalist and keyboard player of Them Are Us Too. The new music is ethereal with emotionally arresting vocals as one might expect but also with more a downtempo, yet majestic, after-hours dance club vibe. The SRSQ album, Unreality, came out on Dais Records in 2018.
What:Mike Krol w/Vertical Scratchers and Slugger When: Tuesday, 03.19, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Mike Krol did it right. Emerged during the wave of the recent garage rock/psychedelic rock revival of the 2010s where his fuzz-drenched, wiry melodies fit in with the biggest movement in underground rock in years. Then came out the other end of the wave with his knack for snappy, wiry melodies and charmingly lo-fi production intact. Sure maybe you can hear the touches of Jay Reatard and the Oblivians in the music but Krol’s own spiky highlights and tonal gyrations are his own and his 2019 album out on Merge Records, Power Chords, showcases all of that as well as the songwriter’s keen psychological insight and gift for poetic turns of phrase. What:Remain and Sustain, Meth., Motherhood, Its Just Bugs and Non Systemaddict When: Tuesday, 03.19, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Seventh Circle gets plenty of experimental music through the door but this night is one that’ll be fairly mixed. Meth. is a Chicago-based noisecore band that mixes some genuine soundscaping into its set. Its Just Bugs is a confrontational hip-hop band from Colorado that often uses industrial beats and noise. Motherhood is a trio from Fredericton, New Brunswick that combines high concept songwriting with playfully intricate art rock. Remain and Sustain is a sort of deathgrind/hardcore band from Denver. To name a few.
Wednesday | March 20
What:Metric & Zoé w/July Talk When: Wednesday, 03.20, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Metric’s latest album, 2018’s Art of Doubt, crafts a complex narrative commentary on the factious times in which we live. Rather than something so heavy-handed and topical., the lyrics explore the psychological and existential gyrations that seem to have been reflected on the backdrop of a time of great peril, tension, hope and a desire for relief knowing that tough decisions can no longer be put off as we sit on the brink of climate disaster and extinction. That, in fact, an overwhelming sense of doubt blooms from everyone’s psyche inspiring extremes of feeling and the expression thereof. Across the album the band channels those feelings and rides out the eddies of the flow of feeling and the maddening peaks of heightened emotion. In the live setting Metric manifests its colorful and passionate songwriting in a cathartic and captivating manner so this might be a tour to catch.
Who:Meet the Giant w/Dead Pay Rent, Mr. Atomic When: Thursday, 01.24, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Meet the Giant, perhaps unintentionally, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps entirely by plan, has drawn on both 80s and 90s sounds at a time when the various aesthetics of those decades are firmly back in vogue. Downtempo, brooding post-punk, the rhythms of sample-driven composition and emotionally rich vocals make for a band that sounds instantly like something beyond having an appeal to nostalgia while drawing on a hint of that. The group spent nearly a decade honing its songcraft and chemistry as a unit and more than a small amount of the intimacy that comes out of such extended wood shedding comes through in the music like you’re getting to experience that connection that friends have who can share much with each other and be real. Many bands put on some kind of ego-driven facade fueled by a kind of borrowed rock and roll myth bravado. Meet the Giant comes about its rock and roll power honestly and with tender emotions laid bare, which is always more compelling than tough guy strutting any day of the week. Do yourself a favor and see them or at least check out their remarkable 2018 self-titled debut.
Who:DSTR, eHpH, Cutworm When: Thursday, 01.24, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: DSTR is Destroid, a project of Daniel Meyer who some may know more for his work as half of influential EBM band Haujobb. Distorted vocals, imaginative soundscaping, strong, pulsing beats and menacing, glitch-hazed atmospherics. Denver’s eHpH has been making an interesting hybrid of industrial rock and dark EBM of their own but refreshingly unlike any of their peers in the Mile High City. Cutworm is a bit of a left field choice for a bill like this if its 2018 Swallow EP is any indication with its sound being unfruitful in placing in a particular genre box. Its sounds range from modern downtempo darkwave to especially beautifully moody IDM. Live, though, Cutworm definitely brings the industrial edge into the production.
Friday | January 25, 2019
Who:Red Tack, George Cessna and Blindrunner When: Friday, 01.25, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Red Tack is the solo, somewhat weirdo singer-songwriter project of Ted Thacker who should be remembered widely for being in 90s alternative rock band Baldo Rex and later as a member of indiepop band Veronica. Whatever his pedigree, Thacker has remained one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and personalities. George Cessna is the son of Slim Cessna of Auto Club fame. The younger Cessna’s own work is both not too surprising considering his father’s legendary musical legacy but he is far from a carbon copy and his use of raw sound and atmosphere in his recordings and his wide ranging musical style in a broader realm of Americana and weirdo folk is noteworthy on its own merits.
Who:Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 and 2 When: Friday, 01.25, 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: Tobe Hooper passed away in 2017 leaving behind a legacy of unusual and influential films beginning, in terms of impact, with 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie so graphically violent and darkly disturbing for the time, because it felt more like a documentary than the mostly tame horror cinema up to its release. In 1986 he released the sequel as a horrifying kind of parody. Between that, the 1982 Poltergeist film, 1985’s space vampire spectacle Lifeforce and numerous other films, Hooper’s unique cinematic vision will be celebrated for years to come including this month-long or so series hosted by Theresa Mercado kicking off this night on the director’s birthday.
Who:Flaural, Panther Martin and The Eye & The Arrow When: Friday, 01.25, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The kind of line up you want to see more often in the realm of indie rock with Flaurel’s psychedelic pop, Panther Martin’s visionary lo-fi rock and The Eye & The Arrow’s re-working of Americana into something we’re not hearing ad infinitum on playlists and radio stations with a fairly vanilla stream of content.
Who:Klaus Dafoe, New Standards Men and Simulators When: Friday, 01.25, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Klaus Dafoe seems to be a sort of instrumental rebirth of late 90s to mid-2000s indie math rock but deconstructed to be more fractured and potentially more interesting than some of the bands mining that neo-mathcore/emo sound of late. Simulators are the kind of post-punk that carves out the overtly atmospheric quality for stark contrasts of tone and angular rhythms that somehow still flow without getting splintery and yet, despite that intentional minimalism, bursting with Bryon Parker’s raw emotional vocals.
Saturday | January 26, 2019
Who:Hippo Campus w/Now Now When: Saturday, 01.26, 9 p.m. Where: The Ogden Why: Hippo Campus has been writing finely crafted pop songs since its early days and challenging itself to make each record reflect not just personal and creative growth, qualities you’d want in any band worth your continued attention, but an evolving approach to larger cultural narratives. The group’s 2018 album Bambi offers no pat answers or platitudes. It is a record brimming with questions instead of the instant opinion/instant expert tendency that permeates our culture from the way people interact and present themselves on social media and how one must conduct oneself in various contexts lest one be thought indecisive rather than recognizing and learning to identify nuance—not in a way to placate all sides but in order to avoid the hubris of being unaware of one’s own limitations of knowledge and comprehension. It can be enjoyed as just a solid pop album but there’s a great deal of dimensionality and content for anyone wanting to listen deeper.
Who:Space Jail, Snaggletoothe and Claudzilla When: Saturday, 01.26, 7:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: Space Jail might be described as a psychedelic synth band. Snaggletoothe as psych prog. Claudzilla as a one-person keytar rock weirdo extravaganza. All in likely the only venue in Aurora where you might see music anywhere within he realm of these bands.
Who:Soulless Maneater, Sliver, Endless Nameless, Fox Moses, Equine When: Saturday, 01.26, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Soulless Maneater is somewhere between the best death rock band in Denver and a moodily creepy doom band. Sliver is “Diet Nirvana.” Fox Moses sounds like a gloomier neo-grunge band and all the better for that. Endless Nameless sounds like a hybrid of math rock, shoegaze and post-rock—not that those are mutually exclusive concepts. Equine is the avant-guitar and synth solo project of former Epileptinomicon and Moth Eater guitarist Kevin Richards.
Sunday | January 27, 2019
Who:Sumac, Divide and Dissolve, Tashi Dorij When: Sunday, 01.27, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Aaron Turner’s guitar work and songwriting in partnership with fellow musicians has helped to define some of the boundaries of the more experimental, heavy music. As the leader of Hydra Head Records he also encouraged the development of that music throughout the 90s and 2000s. As a member of Isis, Old Man Gloom and Mamiffer, to name a few projects, Turner has crafted consistently interesting material that is undeniably within the realm of metal but with an ear for abstracting sounds into noise and then back together into coherent expressions of emotion outside the realm of standard songwriting in the genre. With Sumac this may be especially so in particular the band’s 2018 album Love In Shadow where the trio takes the concept of love at its most primordial level pre-marketing device, pre-narrowing the concept down to a relatively trite, or at least limited, word casually thrown around. Also on this tour is Bhutanese guitarist Tashi Dorij whose noisescapes could be considered loosely as avant-garde but also seem to contain a kind of personal ritualistic expression. See his own 2018 album gàng lu khau chap ‘mi gera gi she an example of the sorts of music you’re in for during his set. Since Dorij and Turner have collaborated on at least one record maybe you’ll get to see some of that this night as well.
Tuesday | January 29, 2019
Who:Nadia Bolz-Weber – The Shameless Book Tour When: Tuesday, 01.29, 7:30 p.m. Where: Tattered Cover — Colfax Why: Nadia Bolz-Weber is the activist and Lutheran pastor whose 2014 memoir Pastrix: the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner & saint traced her personal growth from a kind of bohemian comedian to sober theology student and pastor. The book, brimming with irreverent humor and sarcasm as well as plenty of illuminating insights into human psychology, whether you’re Christian or not, struck a chord with a fairly sizable audience. In humanizing challenges many people face, Bolz-Weber made a good case for how we can embrace an expanded sense of our own best selves. In July 2018 left her pastoship of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. Now she is releasing her new book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. As a candid reexamination of “patriarchy, sex, and power” (from the Tattered Cover website), Bolz-Weber will likely further cement her reputation as something of a refreshingly maverick religious thinker and writer.
Who:Big Paleo album release w/Places Back Home, The Maykit and Quentin When: Tuesday, 01.29, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Denver-based math rock Big Paleo is releasing its, presumably, debut album. One of the opening bands, The Maykit, may not be math rock but its intricate musicianship and songwriting and Max Winne’s indisputably sincere vocal delivery will be a standout of the evening.
Wednesday | January 30, 2019
Who:Gnash w/Mallrat and Guardin When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Mallrat is Grace Shaw from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Since high school, Shaw has been writing sophisticated pop songs that bring together elements of electronic dance production, hip-hop style beats and the informal structure of modern indie rock—really an ideal synthesis and vehicle for expressing one’s ideas with nuance but a direct emotional quality. Her 2018 EP In The Sky is an interesting blend of contrasts: dusky atmospherics speckled with bright highlights, onomatopoeic cadences and vivid lyrics and soaring, saturated melodies dissolving into introspective minimalism. Headlining the show is Gnash, aka Garrett Nash, who released his debut full-length We on January 11, 2019. Nash made waves with his early breakup EPs and his far better than average beat-driven R&B.
Who:Hackedepicciotto w/DBUK When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Hackedepicciotto is a multi-media, experimental music duo comprised of Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke. De Picciotto was one of the founders of the long-running electronic music festival The Love Parade in Berlin. The festival was initiated as celebration of innovative electronic music but also as a subversive kind of demonstration for peace through love and music. Hacke is the bassist for influential industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten. The aforementioned couldn’t completely encompass either artist’s work, output and collaborations and it would be worthwhile to explore their work in depth. But with this project the two bring together a set of skills in composition, performance, film making and storytelling. The word “immersive” gets thrown around a lot these days but it definitely applies to a Hackedepicciotto show. It isn’t just that the sound design and visuals and songwriting are striking, they are, it’s also because before it quite became a widely articulated phenomenon, de Picciotto, in her 2013/2015 graphic novel We Are Gypsies now vividly and powerfully captured what it’s like to be noteworthy, internationally renowned artists have to uproot from one’s home and home city of decades due to gentrification. Then, as explored in further detail on the 2016 album Perserverantia and 2017’s Menetekel how the way the world economy functions now globally has not only all but dismantled the way independent artists and not-so-independent artists can live, function and thrive. The albums alone are worthwhile experiences in the listening but the live show is where you truly get to experience a deep emotional manifestation of faith and hope nearly crushed by despair at the state of things supported by a drive to seek what must be better over the horizon. There is no naivete to the work, de Picciotto and Hacke both know they can never really regain what they once had, but a reminder that one’s compulsion to pursue one’s life work can be a beacon through difficult times. The duo’s latest release is the 2018 meditation soundtrack Joy.
Who:The Pink Spiders w/Television Generation and Smile Victoria When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Pink Spiders are a power pop band from Nashville who had a minor hit in 2006 with “Little Razorblade” from their Ric Ocasek-produced album Teenage Graffiti. Smile Victoria sounds like it’s still wearing its Pixies and others 90s alternative music fairly freshly. But not in the neo-grunge kind of way as the trio has more atmosphere and melody than some of its peers tapping into the same era. Television Generation somehow perfectly blends grunge with power pop without sounding like Nirvana or like Cheap Trick gone metal. Is there a bit of sonic DNA in there out of Love Battery and Buzzcocks? Probably but live the band has plenty of grit and emotional darkness to keep it from ever feeling derivative.
Who:Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.
Who:Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.
Who:Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street) Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.
Friday | August 10, 2018
Who:Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.
Who:Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.
Who:Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.
Who:Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.
Saturday | August 10, 2018
Who:Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.
Who:Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.
Who:Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.
Who:GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.
Who:Goon, faim, Soul Vice When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.
Who:Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.
Tuesday | August 14, 2018
Who:The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.
Who:Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.
Who:Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.
Wednesday | August 8, 2018
Who:Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2 When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.
Who:Beach House w/Sound of Ceres When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.
Who:Father John Misty with TV On the Radio When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.
Who:Blood Orphans, Cuckoo, Kali.Krone and You Beside Me While I Have a Heart Attack When: Thursday, 07.19, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Most of the bands on this bill are either dream pop/ambient/math rock/experimental guitar bands including Blood Orphans from Olympia, Washington. Their 2017 album you’re dead is reminiscent of some of the post-rock/slowcore bands of the early to mid 90s and partly in that the band goes from spacious minimalism to standing waves of distorted melody. Think something like a modern version of Codeine. Kali.Krone is in the slowcore vein with expertly bent string modulation in its gentle atmospheric riffs. Cuckoo has been more punk but all along the band has had some jazz/math rock underpinnings that have basically taken over at this point.
Who:Glasss Presents: Lady of Sorrows and eHpH When: Thursday, 07.19, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 at Hooked On Colfax features dark downtempo artist Lady of Sorrows and the only local EBM-inflected band outside of Velvet Acid Christ worth listening to for someone that isn’t enamored with the 90s incarnation of that sort of thing: eHpH. The Denver-based duo blends EBM, industrial rock, deathrock and punk into a cohesive whole.
Friday | July 20, 2018
Who:J.J. Grey & Mofro with String Cheese Incident When: Friday, 07.20, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Blues rock and soul can be the justifiable butt end of a joke these days since so many people who shouldn’t do it have tried their hand at it. J.J. Grey, though, and his band are drawing on the milieu and culture that produced the blues as musicians from Jacksonville, Florida. It’s not the Mississippi delta, New Orleans, Kansas City or Chicago but the vibe is similar and it’s something Mofro seems to have absorbed and learned to interpret it through their own musical lens. Harmonica can often sound pretty wack but Grey brings to it a soulful expressiveness that not every players not to mention the rasp that gives his vocals some character. The band has been embraced by the jam band world, and thus this gig with String Cheese Incident, but its own songs, even when the band jams out a little, are brimming with passion and come off more like the bluesier, more fiery end of Jeff Buckley more so than perhaps some of its putative musical peers.
Who:Jason Boland & The Stragglers When: Friday, 07.20, 8:30 p.m. [see other Colorado dates below through Monday 07.23.18] Where: Grizzly Rose Why: In an era when a lot of people’s idea of country music is the purely pop variety, Jason Boland & The Stragglers seem like the kind of hard touring band that had it existed 40 years ago might have come to open for Charlie Rich or George Strait at the Zanzibar in Aurora, Colorado. And like those artists, Boland writes the kind of storytelling honky tonk-esque country that reflects a life and a perspective that is either not seen in popular entertainment or treated with a kind of curiously fetishistic celebration/mythologizing as to be off-putting. Rather than indulge in that sort of thing, Jason Boland & The Stragglers are living it as one can these days playing towns and venues off and on the beaten music tourinc circuit. In Colorado the band is playing tonight at The Grizzly Rose in Denver, Saturday July 21 at the Chaffee County Fair & Rodeo in Salida, then back up north to play Moxi Theater in Greeley on Sunday, July 22 and southwest to Crested Butte at Crested Butte Center For the Arts on Monday July 23.
What:Mile High Parley 4 Day 1 When: Friday, 07.20, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café, Hi-Dive and Gary Lee’s Why: Not so long ago Mile High Parley was a kind of rebellious parallel event to the UMS at the same time as the UMS smack in the middle of the whole event but featuring bands that weren’t likely to play the bigger, more commercial festival. Since the event has returned for 2018 it’s simply a great cross section of Denver music, comedy, culture and crafts that you may not get to see in such a short time frame in close proximity. While any of the artists would be worth checking out, on Saturday night, at Gary Lee’s at 10:45 p.m., the great Denver garage/punk band Boss 302 reunites for one of two shows this summer. The other being at The Oriental Theater on August 24. The lineup for these shows will be that of the band’s 1997-1998 period during which it recorded arguably its best record, Whatever Happened to Fun? That means former The Fluid bassist Matt Bischoff will bring his masterful playing to the show. Below is the schedule for Friday night.
Mutiny Information Café
8 The Enigma / Opening Ceremony
9:15 Luke Schmaltz
10:15 High On the Mountain
11:15 New Standards Men
12:15 Negative Trace
1:15 After Party w/Starjammer
9 Modern Goon
10 Brother Sister Hex
11 Hot Apostles
Who:Angry Hand of God, Sea of Flame and Ora When: Friday, 07.20, 6 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Sort of a sludge rock show but one that includes former Skivies guitar wizard Zahari Tsigularov in Ora and a reunion of one of Denver’s best sludge metal bands, Angry Hand of God, who haven’t graced Denver stages in close to half a decade. Its 2014 EP Just The Tip is a good introduction to the dark and menacing universe of Angry Hand Of God’s dystopian science fiction repertoire shot through with Sabbath-esque riffs.
Saturday | July 21, 2018
What:Mile High Parley 4 Day 2 When: Saturday, 07.21, 8 p.m. Where: Various South Broadway Venues near Ellsworth and Broadway Why: See Friday’s listing for Mile High Parley. Below is the schedule by venue. The great Denver garage rock/punk band Boss 302 plays this night at Gary Lee’s 10:45 p.m.. All times p.m. unless otherwise made obvious.
Mutiny Information Café
1:15 Violet’s Gun
2:15 Ghost Towners
3:15 Hangman’s Hymnal
4:15 It’s Just Bugs
7:15 Jane Doe
8:15 Green Druid
10:15 Git Some
11:15 After Party – Can Tribute
Sportique Scooters Outdoor Stage – 160 South Broadway
1 – Smith’s Grove Band
1:45 Hail Satan
2:30 Meet the Giant
3:15 Blue Kings
4 Dangerous Friends
4:45 Haley and the Crushers
5:30 Granny Tweed
7 Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts
8 Bud Bronson and the Good Timers
9 MF Ruckus
6 Sleep Union
9:45 Sixes and Sevens
10:45 Boss 302
What:Ashe w/Hobo Johnson & The Lovemakers When: Saturday, 07.21, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: According to an interview Ashe did with PopCrush in 2018, when she was a student at Berklee didn’t have the confidence in her abilities to become an artist per se, beyond being a songwriter. But once she connected with electronic pop artists Whethan and Louis the Child Ashe and the underground world of music out of which they came, Ashe realized she could do something viable of her own beyond being a featured artist on someone else’s tracks. In June 2018 Ashe released her debut EP, The Rabbit Hole, through Mom + Pop. The EP’s seven tracks sound like an update on late 90s electronic pop as heard through a filter of youthful nostalgia. You know, as if Ashe took threads of modern, throwback psychedelic pop and interpreted it through EDM production methods. The result is a pleasant, summer set of melodic gems. “Real Love” is the lead single with its timeless, dreamlike quality.
What:Sorted 9: Hodge (Bristol), Lone Dancer When: Saturday, 07.21, 11 p.m. Where: TBA Why: Bristol-based producer/ambient artist Hodge will do a four-hour, late night set at a venue to be announced (details in link above). Hodge’s music blends organic, live instrument samples with textured atmospheres and lushly, downtempo beats. Also for this edition of Sorted, the long-running curated electronic dance night, is Denver’s Lone Dancer whose own blend of experimental electronic dance music and ambient will fit in perfectly with the event.
Sunday | July 22, 2018
What:Mile High Parley 4 Day 3 When: Sunday, 07.21, 12 p.m. Where: Various South Broadway Venues near Ellsworth and Broadway Why: Final day of Mile High Parley with the schedule below.
Mutiny Information Café
12 – 1 Yellow Rake/Suspect Press Showcase
2 – 3:30 Ground Zero Comedy featuring Nathan Lund, Allison Rose, Preston Tomkins, Andres Becerril and Shanae Ross
4:30 – 6 Punch Drunk Press – Punketry
Who:S. Carey w/H.C. McEntire When: Sunday, 07.22, 9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: For his 2018 album Hundred Acres, S. Carey pared back the instrumentation to the bare essentials. In doing so, the songwriter took the already delicate, intimate quality of his songwriting and pushed the possibilities of the aesthetic and form further. The subtle layers of sound that provided the beautifully shifting backdrop of his earlier albums are largely gone replaced with space that function similarly as a device to bring the listener’s imagination to bear. But rather than suggest a mood, a color or sounds that conjure visuals, S. Carey’s songwriting this time around invite the listener to project and engage in an informal conversation outside the explicit songs themselves.
Tuesday | July 24, 2018
Who:Foreigner w/Whitesnake and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening When: Tuesday, 07.24, 5:30 p.m. Where: Pepsi Center Why: It’s easy to dismiss Foreigner as being a product of its time and of oversaturation of decades of being on mainstream and classic rock radio. Foreigner is also one of the few hard rock bands that emerged in the 70s that was able to make the transition to being a viable pop band in the 80s and one that can still command large audiences today when many of its peers are basically stuck only on the nostalgia circuit playing small clubs and county fairs. Likely the group has had its share of those experiences at some point but for this tour of large venues Foreigner is the clear headliner over the likes of Whitesnake (whose own roots in 70s hard rock are respectable enough) and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening (though Bonham played in Foreigner for a few years). Even though iconic Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm has long been out of the band, former Hurrican vocalist has been ably singing the Foreigner classics since 2005. A few of the older bands that have been touring of late are a good reminder that even if you’re skeptical of their music the live show speaks for itself and Foreigner is one of those.
Who:Covet (Yvette Young) w/Vasudeva and Quentin When: Tuesday, 07.24, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Yvette Young made a name for herself with her use of Facebook, YouTube and other online services to share her sketches of songs with friends and other fans of math rock and Midwest emo. For the past four years, Young has been performing with her band Covet. With the release of 2018’s Effloresce, Young and her bandmates have pushed their music well beyond the creative and sonic limitations of math rock. Young’s songs have always suggested fantastical storytelling and in going beyond genre stylistic canon, her music has an appeal beyond her vaunted abilities as a guitar shredder. Read our interview with Young here.
Wednesday | July 25, 2018
Who:Animal Collective performing Sung Tongs w/Lonnie Holley When: Wednesday, 07.25, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: In September 2003, Animal Collective sequestered themselves to a house in Lamar, Colorado to record in a house on a property where Avey Tare’s parents lived (not in the same house). Working with their friend Rusty Santos, Animal Collective released Sung Tongs the following year. The album garnered critical accolades and has long been a favorite among fans. It featured acoustic instruments used in a way that suggested an electronic music aesthetic and a collage approach to making pop music with unconventional rhythms, drones and layers of sound. At times freak folk, at times pure, abstract soundscaping as a kind of musical story/experience. In that way, Animal Collective tapped into a similar space as Microphones on he Glow Pt. 2 and Mount Eerie. But not as dark, more playful, but as fearless in seeing where the music could go separate from having to write anything resembling a conventional pop song while writing an essentially pop album. The group will perform the album in its entirety on the current tour and likely with songs from across its discography.
Who:Harry Tuft – Shady Grove Picnic series When: Wednesday, 07.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Four Mile Historic Park 715 S. Forest Why: Harry Tuft is one of the godfathers of the folk and Americana scene in Denver. Tuft’s involvement in the Denver Folklore Center and Swallow Hill Music created a place to acquire and learn traditional acoustic instruments, to see the music live and to foster a local culture around that music. While not unique in the nation by a long shot, the members of bluegrass band Hot Rize met through those connections and in their way helped to rekindle a folk and Americana revival from the 80s onward by popularizing the musical forms and updating them slightly for the modern era. Tuft finally started to perform his own music in his late 70s and early 80s and to release his own music. He also retains a mind open to new musical forms and that openness of spirit can be heard in his originals. Tuft is a true OG hero of underground music from Colorado.
Who:Flasher w/Eternal and Hot Trash When: Wednesday, 07.25, 7 0op.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: DC’s Flasher put out one of the best rock albums of 2018 so far with Constant Image. The band’s full length debut with Domino is a blend of post-punk and synth pop-esque electronics in a tasty counterpoint to its nuanced social critique and self-examination. Not didactic so much as holistic. Not unlike Parquet Courts’ own 2018 release Wide Awake!!, Constant Image minces no words but does so with imaginative wordplay and music that is couched in both an 80s New Wave flavor and a modern blurring of musical timeframes hinting that the dystopian 80s are not so different from the often nightmarish political climate of today. Heady stuff for what could be enjoyed as simply incredibly well-crafted pop songs. But Flasher’s genius is in making music that isn’t inherently alienating to lay out some stark truths that aren’t so abstract from most people’s lives struggling to get by as rents, home prices and daily necessities rise in price and increase in scarcity with no clear solution in sight.
In an era when any musician, regardless of talent or ability, can release whatever, figuratively speaking, falls out of their head with no quality control impeding its release, Meet the Giant is a bit of an anomaly. The rock trio formed in 2009 and released its self-titled debut album on May 29, 2018. Most bands wouldn’t incubate for that long in any way. “Our first album from the beginning is basically ten years,” says bassist/vocalist Micaela Naranjo. “But we’re not on anybody else’s agenda. It’s tempting to fall into the traps of doing a genre based approach or marketing to people. But it’s not for us.”
“We were of the mindset of let’s just make music for us,” says guitarist Erin Cisney. “Keep it in the basement.”
The group germinated initially when drummer Lawrence Snell, whose shoegaze-rimmed Americana band Colder Than Fargo had recently split, talked to his friend Cisney about jamming for fun. The two would get together from 1 to 3 p.m. with electronics rigs set up facing opposite walls. In Colder Than Fargo Snell had triggered electronics as well as played drums and Cisney had extensive production work under his belt having worked for a label in England that did reissues and released albums by classic bands in their later era in which, say, the lineup might only include the original bass player. After several sessions jamming and creating some of the threads that would become Meet the Giant, Cisney mentioned he had a friend who was a bass player that might be interested in coming in to play. Naranjo heard some of the recordings, liked them and the three formed a band with no stated or unstated intention of making music to share with anyone else.
The English connection was something Cisney and Snell had in common. Cisney was born in Salida, Colorado but grew up in Littleton and had played in local bands like Whirling Dervish and Vena Cava before getting a production job overseas. Snell grew up near Leicester, England in a working class family but one that had an appreciation for music. Snell’s father was not into the Rolling Stones so much as American songwriters like Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. Though Snell’s family sold potatoes at nearby music festivals including one memorable year at Reading when the 1986 headliners were Killing Joke, Saxon and Hawkwind.
“My dad said the first night is going to be the punk rockers, the second night is going to be heavy metal and we’re going to have trouble,” recalls Snell. “The third night it’s going to be all peace and love. But people were on acid and they robbed my mom and dad’s potato wagon and lit the speakers on fire.”
Soon after, though, Snell was taken with American music in the form of hip-hop and Public Enemy and the art pop funk of Prince. It was a heady time in the late 80s and early 90s and Snell found himself swept up in the momentum of the cross-Atlantic musical co-influence as New Order borrowed hip-hop production techniques and the Manchester “Baggy” scene synthesized the aesthetics of dance music and post-punk. That music was in all the pubs on jukeboxes in a way that might seem odd to Americans. Britpop became almost ubiquitous. “ Everybody had that first Oasis album in their car,” quips Snell. “:Even your grandma had a Liam Gallagher haircut.” That monocultural wave is what made Snell appreciate America’s proclivity for regional scenes that weren’t so closely connected. Especially at that time when not all music and culture was so easily accessible as it is now.
Colorado in the 80s and 90s seemed pretty far removed from centers of culture in general. But as with many places so relatively isolated, idiosyncratic creative endeavors develop in spite of having not much support from the immediate culture and government. Cisney played in a band starting in high school called Guru Picnic that played pep rallies and football games. But after a few months that project dissolved and Cisney formed Wasteband, which recorded an album in 1989 at Freewheelin’ Recording Studio where Denver New Wave band The Corvairs had recorded its five song demo a decade prior.
It was during his college years in Boulder that Cisney played with Platypus and shared stages with the likes of Fat Mama and Chief Broom. Boulder funk/jam/rock band The Motet was just starting up. Soon enough Cisney joined Vena Cava and his circle of friend bands would play The Fox and come down to Denver to play The Bluebird thinking it was a common occurrence within the reach of any band. But he was soon disabused of such notions.
“One show it was half full and we thought that was a shitty gig,” says Cisney. “I’ve never had a gig like that since.”
Naranjo was later in life getting into bands than many people. Coming in and out of town during colllege, Naranjo became involved in what was called the “Broken Mic Scene” which included the venues The Bank, The Park Tavern and The Flying Dog. Naranjo, who grew up in a musical family but never considered themself talented enough to be in the music scene, joined The Late Jack Redell and played with Garrett Carlin, now in art noise rock band Jane Doe. Naranjo found playing with the band comfortable and that gig led to playing in other bands like Fallout Orphan, Legendary Beep Beeps and Penelope Project. “For me being in the local scene is more about people who have the same malfunction you do,” says Naranjo.
Around 2015, Meet the Giant had written and recorded various songs occasionally sharing them with close friends and the trio felt some momentum in the band that inspired an interest in playing a debut show. The proper environment for doing so came with two shows at Rocky Mountain Sound Garden, a now defunct recording studio and rehearsal space. It seemed safer to do that more DIY type of show before heading back into the waters of bar and small venue shows that is the common experience of most bands in any city. The opportunity to break that egg was a barbecue show on a Sunday at Larimer Lounge where Meet the Giant played after a jug band and a Christian worship band.
“I like getting on a bill like that to get exposed to different sides of the scene but sometimes its a shitshow,” says Naranjo. “We chased everyone out of the bar quickly.”
But Meet the Giant persevered and found appreciative audiences in the metal scene because its own sound has a bit of grit and heaviness to it despite being atmospheric, melancholic music. Then again, bands like Kylesa, True Widow, Emma Ruth Rundle, Myrkur and Chelsea Wolfe have a crossover appeal in that way. In fact, Bart McCrorey of Throttlebomb, offered to do some recording for the band at his Crash Pad studio where he is best known for recording hard rock, punk and metal records including the fantastic 2017 Weaponizer album Lawless Age.
“The metalheads were good to us on the scene,” comments Snell. “To me they’re the last people that are genuinely into music. It’s like ska, reggae, two-tone and punk. Different music but the same ideals.”
For the new record, the band recorded two tracks with McCrorey and others with Danny Ke at Orchid Studios and Dave Schleitwiler at Sunnyside Recording Studio. But the whole album was mastered by Brad Smalling who assembled the various recordings into a sonically cohesive whole at Evergroove Studio, the place where enigmatic, experimental, instrumental band Itchy-O has been recording of late. And it is with Smalling in a studio in Taos, New Mexico that Meet the Giant recently recorded its follow-up album prior to heading out on its first tour in spring 2018 spanning June 3 through June 8.
After years of playing in bands and spending over half a decade developing its music, Meet the Giant has no illusions of rock stardom in the making or hitting it big in the local scene either. Its dark, lush, sometimes scrappy music doesn’t fit in an easily marketable genre box. It reflects a hybrid rock and electronic aesthetic that happened naturally given the band’s musical interests going in. In fact, the group has an electronic side called Shadow of the Giant that is all electronic that it may someday unveil.
There was a time, not so long ago, when the rock and electronic blend in the dark, atmospheric way that Meet the Giant does so well was out of style in a climate where entirely too much dry earnestness. Modern takes on classic rock, garage rock, garage punk and pretty but not really mind-altering psych rock seemed fairly trendy not just in Denver but nationally. Odd for Denver which long had a tradition of moody, brooding, majestic, heady bands. Given the growing popularity of bands like Black Marble, Drab Majesty and Wye Oak those tides have been turning for a few years and Meet the Giant may be emerging in the right climate for its sound.
“We’re really into the Bristol scene and common elements and retrospectively there’s probably this sort of emotional expression that’s consistent in the music that we like,” says Naranjo.
“What we’re writing is dark, for the most part. There’s an introspection and tenderness there that we all like,” says Cisney. “The spectrum for us is typically on the sadder, darker side of things but we have some throw your fists in the air rockers.”
“We’ve been together nine years,” says Snell. “We’ve been through deaths, break-ups and a myriad of stuff and the thing that has kept us together is the music, even though that’s a bit of a cliché.”
Meet the Giant’s debut album is available digitally through the usual outlets including Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon. The band will have a vinyl release show on August 10, 2018 at Syntax Physic Opera where it will celebrate the occasion sharing the stage with Church Fire and The Patient Zeros.
Who:Desert Daze Caravan 2018: Ariel Pink w/DIIV When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall Why: Desert Daze Caravan is the traveling mini-version of the Desert Daze festival in California that features some of the best of the more psychedelic-leaning bands existing today. While the festival happens in October, for this touring edition, Desert Daze brings along a couple of the most interesting artists playing music in its wheelhouse. Los Angeles based lo-fit mutant pop renegade Ariel Rosenberg, aka Ariel Pink, has had a varied and storied musical career that should be the subject of a book someday because it’s not short on drama, controversy and artistic achievement. In 2017 Rosenberg released Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, a collection of songs that bridge dream pop, psychedelic rock, what one might called garage soul and lo-fi funk. As with all of his records, Rosenberg plays with the form of genre with an offbeat use of sound and weaving together aesthetics that most other artists wouldn’t. At times one is reminded of some early 80s German synth pop, others of Get Lost-period Magnetic Fields and of the music of his friend and contemporary, John Maus. Unlike many of his contemporary synth artists Rosenberg isn’t trying to show how big a sound he can get with a synthesizer, he makes it serve the song as much as any other musical element and not as the basis for the composition.
DIIV became a bit of a cult band for Zachary Cole Smith when Oshin came out on Captured Tracks in 2012. Though the record felt a bit indistinct it made krautrock’s repetitive beat structure softer like downtempo with a little more emotional urgency. The follow-up, 2016’s Is the Is Are found Smith embracing the raw and vivid emotionalism of Elliott Smith’s lo-fi pop and the messy, atonal trash rock of Royal Trux. It’s challenging to hear that on the beautifully melodic songs of Is the Is Are but that the songwriting is growing beyond the band’s earliest phase is obvious and at times Is the Is Are sounds like Smith is training himself to deconstruct his own musical instincts to make something more creatively rewarding.
Who:In/Planes Radio Wave tape release w/Down Time and Kyle Emerson When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: In/Planes’ music has a very soft touch and is the “Mixtapes” single from its new tape, Radio Waves, is any indication, the duo has a gift for taking fairly common experiences and making them resonate with an immediacy of the deeply personal. Joining the band for the tape release show are like-minded tender pop band Down Time and Kyler Emerson with his jazz-inflected, incisively poetic, desert-y folk pop gems.
Who:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series season 2: Lepidoptera, MYTHirst, Bow Shock When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: MYTHirst’s sound is part bright, modular-synth sounding beats with organic string sounds and textured percussion. The Denver version of Lepidoptera, not the Palm Beach, Florida band, has a dream-like guitar and minimal atmospheric sound reminiscent of mid-90s Flying Saucer Attack but not quite as noisy. Bow Shock is somewhere between improvisational electro jazz funk and whatever it is one might call Prefuse 73 with its own mixture of samples of records and live instruments in a way that expands the parameters of what constitutes electronic dance music.
Friday | May 4, 2018
Who:Jane Doe, Television Generation and Meet the Giant When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m. Where: Skylark Lounge Why: Three of Denver’s best off the beaten path rock bands are playing the Skylark on this bill. Jane Doe is in the realm of post-punk but there are elements of noise rock and avant-garde jazz and performance poetry as delivered by Becca Mhalek. The latter spent some time playing with Nels Cline as well as Denver experimental bands Nightshark, MVP and Aenka. Television Generation takes the harrowing intensity of early grunge and mixes it with melodic and energetic post-punk. Meet the Giant has taken what could be fairly gloomy music and given it a driving rhythm and grit that somehow perfectly captures urban melancholy and desperation as experienced by anyone living in American west: uncertainty, disconnection, disaffection, undercurrents of fatalism and a sense of pondering whether or not its foolish to hope for things to change for the better where or not you give it a good try. All while sounding scrappy and not ready to give up on the rewards of creative expression for one’s own fulfillment. Meet the Giant’s self-titled full-length releases digitally on May 15 with a vinyl release later in Spring or Summer.
Who:Porlolo (album release) w/Land Lines and Spirettes When: Friday, 05.04, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Porlolo released Awards on April 27 but this is the official release show. Erin Roberts, the lead singer and guitarist in Porlolo, has kept the band going for years while not exactly breaking through to a mainstream audience, Roberts’ songwriting has been noteworthy for its humor, wisdom and sensitivity. Maybe some of the roots are in folk and Americana but at this point Porlolo transcends both and has as much in common with Luna, Cat Power, Mojave 3 and Mazzy Star as it does with anything fully in the country spectrum of songwriting. Getting to see Land Lines’ experimental, string driven pop and Spirettes’ incandescent dream pop in person just makes this show three times worth seeing.
Who:SPELLS, Quits, Wild Lives When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: SPELLS is a poppy punk band that is as much a party as a band. Wild Lives is more in the realm of punk bands from the 80s and 90s who were melodic but not pop punk. Like The Didjits, New Bomb Turks and Blatz. Quits, a little different from the rest of the lineup in being more a noise rock band than punk. Which makes sense in that every member of the band has contributed to some of the most noteworthy post-hardcore and noise rock out of Denver of the last two decades including former Hot White members Tiana Bernard and Darren Kulback as well as Luke Fairchild and Doug Mioducki who were last in a band together in the early 2000s with Sparkles who always seemed to play like they were ready to explode.
Saturday | May 5, 2018
Who:Alice Glass – Snowblood tour w/Zola Jesus and Pictureplane When: Saturday, 05.05, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: When Alice Glass released her self-titled EP in August 2017 it sounded like a a purging of several years of having told hold back in revealing her own truth and a declaration of her identity as an artist viable beyond any past associations with Crystal Castles. In the latter, Glass was a riveting performer and a singer that channeled perfectly the synthesis of 8-bit music, synth pop, modern dance music and hip-hop that was the essence of Crystal Castles and its being ahead of a curve in modern electronic music that embraced lo-fi and collage production as much as more conventional compositional techniques. For this tour Glass paired with one of the other powerful songwriters in electronic underground music with Zola Jesus whose own 2017 album Okovi represented her own breaking with the methodology and career path of an “indie” artist that might have been open to her. Instead, she trusted her personal and creative instincts and put together an album that was awash in ambient sounds and an hypnotic melodies and sonic structures reminiscent of classical music and black metal. Pictureplane is an old friend of Glass’s from his days as a Denver artist living at Rhinoceropolis. As an artist whose work traverses noise, electronic pop, hip-hop and dance, Pictureplane has a broad palette of sounds and sensibilities employed in his songwriting and performance style.
Who:Al Scorch (full band), Gun Street Ghost, Matt Rouch & The Noise Upstairs When: Saturday, 05.05, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chicago’s Al Scorch earned a name for himself as an energetic and engaging performer with his blend of punk and Americana. Sure, a ton of punks have turned country and the great Camper Van Beethoven and Green On Red, among others, set a high bar for that sort of thing. A number of punk and country artists have even threaded in some eastern European and non-Western musical ideas into their mix. But Scorch does so with an irresistible energy and charisma. His most recent record, 2016’s Circle Round the Signs, contained more than a small amount of poignant social commentary about class and the consequences of war and conflict.
Sunday | May 6, 2018
Who:HIDE, Curse, Echo Beds and Jump Scare – DJ Brian Castillo When: Sunday, 05.06, 8:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Chicago-based post-industrial duo HIDE makes a return visit to Denver in the wake of the release of their 2018 album Castration Anxiety. Using samples, pounding beats and corrosive drones, HIDE’s shows are like confrontational rapidfire snapshots into our culture’s nightmares and insecurities set to a heady soundtrack and as embodied in vocalist Heather Gabel’s ritualistic performance style. Fortunately, the band’s tour intersected with that of Baltimore industrial/darkwave punk band Curse whose own synth-driven heavy music predates some of the current darkwave renaissance and yet sounds like a future form of the music. Curse recently released a split 7” with noteworthy Austin-based industrial act Street Sects. Also on the bill are local industrial noise phenoms Echo Beds and Jump Scare, which includes Anton Kruger, formerly of experimental electronic dance project Bollywood Life. Brian Castillo will DJ the night with some rare cuts from his extensive vinyl library of underground and not-so-underground darkwave music.
Who:Flesh Buzzard, Sporehive, Morlox, Nighttimeschoolbus, Mirror Fears, Yardsss, Ghost House, visuals by Clark Nova, DJ sets by JusJo When: Sunday, 05.06, 6 p.m., show 6:30 Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: A night of mostly local noise and electronic acts at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Patrick Urn of Morlox has long bridged the worlds of noise and electronic music production and has released a fairly diverse body of work including hip-hop and ambient music beyond the noise and industrial music for which he’s best known. Whether as a member of defunct industrial legends In Ether, as Herpes Hideaway, as Syphilis Sauna or Morlox, Urn’s imaginative compositions are highly worthy of exploring in recorded form and witnessing live if you can. Nighttimeschoolbus is an underground hip-hop duo comprised of Toby Hendricks of Otem Rellik and vocalist extraordinaire Robin Walker. The name tells you a bit about the aesthetic and sense of play involved in the songwriting but it also articulates perfectly the necessary emotional state in which you’re indulging your whimsy as a refuge from the rest of the time in life when you’re dealing with the heavier side of human existence. Mirror Fears will not be short on bringing the feels with her melancholy yet cathartic, beat driven electronic pop songs. Yardsss from Portland, Oregon in this configuration is the three-piece band so the show is more like a post-punk, industrial ritual performance than the inspired, hermetic electronic performance art piece it was when Krist Kruger performed as Yardsss solo in Denver in 2017.
Monday | May 7, 2018
Who:MGMT When: Monday, 05.07, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: MGMT came up a time when many of the big time electronic pop acts of the 2000s were getting going. That LCD Soundsystem, Paramore, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Matt and Kim and MGMT and the like started experiencing the first stirrings of popularity in roughly the same timeframe before chillwave became a thing should be noteworthy to future popular music historians. MGMT, though, started when Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were students at Wesleyan and like many dorm/bedroom projects in the 2000s the early musical ideas were noisier and more experimental than their more developed work. But when MGMT got more accessible it also became more interesting and its weirdo psychedelic pop struck a chord with an increasingly wide audience. The 2007, Dave Fridmann-produced Oracular Spectacular took MGMT out of the underground for good and when the band returned to Denver after the release of that album it wasn’t playing the Hi-Dive, it was much larger venues. The band’s subsequent albums, Congratulations and MGMT, didn’t seem to advance the band’s musical ideas much but 2018’s Little Dark Age finds the group not returning to form so much as a re-embrace of the band’s core idiosyncratic vision of electronic pop and dance music that made it interesting in the beginning.
Who:Curse w/Echo Beds and Ghost House When: Monday, 05.07, 8 p.m. Where: Triple Nickel Tavern (Colorado Springs) Why: This is your second chance to see Curse (see above) in Colorado also with Echo Beds. It’s not too common that these kinds modern darkwave and industrial bands perform in the Springs so don’t sleep on the opportunity if you’re into that kind of music.
Who:Smoking Popes (acoustic) w/The Bigger Empty (feat. Mike Felumlee) When: Monday, 05.07, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Smoking Popes were one of the best of the 90s Chicago punk bands. It came out of the same scene that produced Screeching Weasels and Pegboy. But Smoking Popes was a bit more melancholy than than many of their peers even when the pace was high energy and one might even say the Popes were basically an emo band. Combining a punk edge with an emotional vulnerability wasn’t terribly common in the early 90s but the Popes did it in a way that seems more a feature of punk than an anomaly these days. The band flirted with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s but by the end of the decade Josh Caterer found his newfound strong religious convictions didn’t jibe with what the band was about the end group broke up in January 1999. Six years alter, the band played a reunion show in Chicago before which Caterer explained that songs he didn’t think he could perform again weren’t songs the band tended to play live anway. But the reunion would happen without original drummer Mike Felumlee. Over a decade later, Felumlee is back in the fold and playing this current “acoustic” tour as well as playing with opening act The Bigger Empty.
Tuesday | May 8, 2018
Who:Curse, Church Fire, Kill Your Darlings When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m. Where: Downtown Artery (Upstairs) Why: Baltimore darkwave band Curse makes it to Fort Collins for a show with Denver-based electro-industrial-dance band Church Fire and Fort Collins’ industrial band Kill Your Darlings which includes Brett Scheiber of Stella Luce and formerly of dance pop band Pep*Squad and noise project Four Pins Pulled. Sure, darkwave but all of these bands have an emotional intensity on stage that may have an element of the melancholy yet never a downer.
Who:Pseudogod, Hellfire Deathcult, Abysmal Lord, Casket Huffer When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Perm, Russia-based black metal band Pseudogod converges with like-minded bands Hellfire Deathcult from Chicago, New Orleans’ Abysmal Lord and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne for a show that, if fantastical conceits could be true, open a gate into the dimension where the Great Old Ones are partying to music like this. Pseudogod’s cover for The Pharynxes Of Hell, part humorous, part spooky, visually arresting seems to encompass the spirit of what this show will be like to see.
Wednesday | May 9, 2018
Who:Tricky w/Young Magic When: Wednesday, 05.09, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Tricky is one of the artists directly responsible for what came to be called trip-hop in the 90s. As an early collaborator with Massive Attack, and having contributed vocals to that band’s 1991 debut Blue Lines, Tricky demonstrated a versatile talent and when he embarked on a solo career in 1993, he brought with him a gift for borrowing musical ideas and production methods from a variety of musical styles resulting in his debut album, 1995’s Maxinquaye. A hybrid of downtempo, post-punk, dub, hip-hop, Tricky’s music was an antidote to the increasingly conformist and bland alternative rock of that mid-decade. Over twenty years later, Tricky continues to make evocative, deeply atmospheric music. Although, his 2017 album Ununiform, co-engineered by Jay-Z, finds Tricky focusing on spare, uncluttered melodies and strong, minimal beats. It has the feel of Tricky’s least abstract and ethereal record while not sacrificing his ability to set a vibrant mood.
Who:Brazilian Girls w/Tiger Party (Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits and Josh Fairman of Sunsquabi and Analog Son) When: Wednesday, 05.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: New York City has been a melting pot of popular musical styles for decades. But in the 2000s a particular brand of mixing Latin, African and non-Western musical ideas in general with dance music, post-punk, pop and noise emerged in various forms including the tropical pop of early High Places and the no-wave funk of bands like These Are Powers. Or, if you prefer, more above-ground acts like Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend who re-popularized polyrhythms and less conventional vocal styles. Brazilian Girls came in on the dance music end of that wave with its always eclectic and lively live show and songs that wove together ghostly, downtempo melodies, pulsing low end, dub-esque percussion, sex positive messaging and singer Sabina Sciubba’s otherworldly jazz vocals and enigmatic, theatrical stage presence – something akin to Björk fronting a lounge band. In April 2018 the band released Let’s Make Love, it’s first in a decade. Not as cool and sonically smooth as its previous efforts, Let’s Make Love, nevertheless, finds Brazilian Girls more thoughtful but musically more urgent, highlighting the band’s talent for reconciling contrasts.
Who:Fever Dreams, Galleries, Baby Baby, Hair Club When: Friday, 04.13, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: The psych rock and neo-classic rock wave that energized and later burned out in an underground music world in America and beyond perhaps inadvertently spawned a post-wave of rock bands who took those roots and did something more interesting and original. That’s what this show represents. Fever Dreams is a noisy psychedelic band in a gentle mode. Not dream pop because it’s more gritty than that, but fans of that music will find much to like with Fever Dreams. Galleries came out of some guys who listened to a whole lot of Led Zeppelin and fuzzy 90s rock but through the process chamber of imagination and practice Galleries manages to not really sound like their forebears.
Who:Diva 93 (Minneapolis), 269 Bone (Minneapolis), Merma & Roberta (ABQ), Polyurethane When: Friday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Cafe Why: Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Diva 93 sounds like a combination voice sampling, tape collage infused minimal synth band. What public access stations were to cable conglomerates in the 80s and 90s, Diva 93 is big, synth pop bands—making a virtue of lo-fi, low budget sounds with sheer creativity.
Who:Big City Drugs, DJ Erin Stereo, Mara Wiles, Louis Johnson and Adam Cayton-Holland, benefit for Corey Rhoads who needs a new kidney When: Friday, 04.13, 10 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Cafe Why: Some heavy hitters in the local comedy and music world are coming together for this event to benefit Corey Rhoads who needs a kidney transplant. In a sane world, events like this wouldn’t be necessary but we haven’t lived in one for a long while now. So if you show up you get to see Denver-based comedy stars Adam Cayton-Holland, Mara Wiles and Louis Johnson as well as DJ sets from Erin Stereo and a musical performance from Big City Drugs, a band that is comprised of comedians but whose take on punk rock is cathartic and not trying to fit into some subgenre of punk with riveting results.
Saturday | April 14, 2018
Who:Meet the Giant, Plastic Daggers, Dead Orchids When: Saturday, 04.14, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Meet the Giant is releasing its “Drive” single this night. The Denver-based post-punk band makes some pretty lush and moody music for a three piece. “Drive” in particular is reminiscent of the criminally overlooked L.A. 80s post-punk world and bands like 3D Picnic and Opal. Except that Meet the Giant doesn’t sound dated or retro. Also on the bill are Plastic Daggers, a punk band with a drop of rockabilly in its sound without sounding like they’re trying to cop some neo-classic rock vibe, and Dead Orchids. The latter has a kind of chamber pop quality except the music sounds more like the members of the band are more than passingly familiar with Crime and the City Solution and its raw emotional quality is enhanced, not tempered, by melancholy melodies and introspective atmospherics.
Who:The Still Tide (EP release) w/Panther Martin and Bluebook When: Saturday, 04.14, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Still Tide have long been one of the most interesting pop bands in Denver. So it comes as no particular surprise that the band has developed a bit of a following outside the Mile High City as well. Anna Morsett’s voice, seemingly well suited to Americana as well as rock, with her widely expressive intonations is immediately striking but inside the context of well-crafted melodies that balance a sense of yearning and acceptance. The group’s new EP, Each, After is more introspective and sparse than 2017’s Run Out but not short on that EPs energetic quality. Since art-folk band Bluebook is also on the bill, perhaps Julie Davis will join The Still Tide on a number or two.
Who:Amigo the Devil w/Jonny Fritz, Hang Rounders and DJ Brian Buck When: Saturday, 04.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Amigo the Devil took the Gothic Americana thing and focused on the murder ballad tradition of the blues that influenced that music to produce a pleasant-sounding but disturbing body of work about the musings of serial killers and the like. Denver’s Hang Rounders aren’t exactly mining similar thematic territory, it’s just a legit country band from people who aren’t short on a healthy sense of humor and irony. But there’s really no irony here. 2017’s Outta Beer, Outta Here may have an amusing title and maybe the musicians don’t take themselves too seriously but it’s a refreshingly not pop-country or overly retro country offering. Jonny Fritz is to modern country what Ray Stevens was to an earlier era of country. That is to say he takes anecdotes and stories from life most other songwriters among his peers wouldn’t use for fodder for songs. Also, an impeccable sense of melody and the ability to engage the audience with a truly idiosyncratic performance in an established musical style. Turns out Ray Stevens is not just the novelty songsmith for which many may remember him, he’s a talented songwriter with an interesting body of work and the same could be said of Jonny Fritz.
Who:Trevor Green When: Saturday, 04.14, 12-4 p.m. Where: Mile High Spirits Why: Trevor Green is a multi-instrumentalist solo songwriter who performs with a brace of guitars, some didgeridoos and various other instruments that he brings into the mix as he performs. He looks like a guy who wandered into town from looking for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine but got mixed up with Native American mystics in the desert and decided to seek his fortune in making music that reflected the sounds and ideas he learned there rather than delusions of some modern day quest for Cibola. All fanciful references aside, Green’s 2016 album Voice of the Wind is a rewarding hybrid of New Age world music and Americana-inflected rock. That Green can pull this music off live with some creative stage set-up is impressive in itself.
Sunday | April 15, 2018
Who:Trevor Green When: Sunday, 04.15, 10 p.m. Where: Mountain Sun Why: See above for 4.14.
Who:The Jinjas, JINMO (Tokyo) and Gothsta When: Sunday, 04.15, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: JINMO is a prolific avant-garde guitar and synth composer from Tokyo who is currently touring throughout the US with musical performances and demonstrations of the methods and technology he uses to make his often ambient and soundtrack-y songs. Denver’s The Jinjas is a synth/dance rock duo. Who even knows what exactly to call Gothsta except anti-climate and environmental destruction and how she more or less describes herself as “Depression melodica, polka Euroamericana.” Which tells you you’re in for something different than any one of those singly could completely encompass.
Monday | April 16, 2018
Who:Cradle of Filth w/Jinjer and Uncured When: Monday, 04.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Cradle of Filth has been placed in various heavy metal subgenre buckets. But it doesn’t really fit the black metal mode because Dani Filth has never taken the Satanic imagery itself too seriously—it’s part of the theater and it’s amusing to somehow still rankle stuffy, conservative religious folk without really trying. Maybe Cradle of Filth was in the beginning and certainly now more akin to the kind of Gothenburg death metal sound. Except Cradle of Filth is from England and not tapping into that whole “viking metal” thing either. Is it Goth metal? What does that even really mean? Cradle of Filth is also part punk and the political subtext of much of the band’s music along with its embrace of the feminine in spirituality from its 1994 debut album The Principle of Evil Made Flesh to its most recent record, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay from 2017. But whatever one might think of the music, Cradle of Filth brings theater to all its shows in a way that some of its more commercially successful peers don’t.
Wednesday | April 18, 2018
Who:The Breeders w/Flasher When: Wednesday, 04.18, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Kim Deal of Pixies started The Breeders in the wake of the release of Surfer Rosa as an outlet for releasing music she wrote. Early on she recruited Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses and various other musicians to record the first album, 1990’s Pod, and the follow up EP, 1992’s Safari. While the records found an audience on college radio it wasn’t until the 1993 post-Pixies album that The Breeders found a wide audience with the release of Last Splash and its hit single “Cannonball.” While, in terms of publically-released music, The Breeders haven’t been the most prolific band all of its albums have been imbued with a swagger, honesty and sense of humor along with finely crafted, fuzzy rock songs that have a warmth and relatability that many rock bands lack. All Nerve, the group’s 2018 release, its first in a decade, is surprisingly vital and a showcase for Kim Deal’s ear for expressive nuance in tone and creative song dynamics. It’s a mature record without sounding like Deal is toning things down.