What:Hot Snakes w/SPELLS When: Thursday, 09.05, 7:30 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: It would be too facile to cite biographical information about Hot Snakes at this point. Influential noise rock band from San Diego comprised of former/current members of Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From the Crypt, Pitchfork and Obits. Its shows are incendiary, its songs imbued with a dark yet dry sense of humor and its angular guitar rock also not short on dynamic grooves that seem too confrontational to work as unconventional dance music but don’t tell that to John Reis. The group is currently re-touring in support of its monumental 2018 album Jericho Sirens. If you go early to catch SPELLS, just think of them as an 80% version of Hot Snakes because that’s good enough. And other inside jokes that don’t work on the internet.
What:The 126.96.36.199s w/The Ghoulies and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: The 188.8.131.52s are a lively surf rock and rockabilly band from Japan who came to a larger public consciousness in the West after appearing in Kill Bill Vol. 1. The Ghoulies are a similarly-minded sorta rockabilly garage punk band and The Vanilla Milkshakes will make all the awkward jokes that desperately need to be made and break up the evening some with its well-crafted, outsider pop punk.
What:The Funs, Sweetness Itself, American Culture, Natural Violence When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: The Funs is a band from Illinois that combines a twee indie pop sensibility with a dream pop sound palette. Think Black Tambourine post-shoegaze. American Culture took the Dinosaur Jr and Meat Puppets thing and put it through an indie pop lens and listened to a bunch of Cure records and came up with something different but bearing the fingerprints of all of that in its sound and ethos. Natural Violence is Michael Stein’s (Homebody, School Knights) latest project. A kind of spindly, super refined post-punk pop band.
What:Mystic Wool, Arc Sol and Total Trash When: Thursday, 09.05, 9:30 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Arc Sol is former Silverface guitarist Michael Thompsons’s new band that somehow welds Neil Young-esque rock wih psychedelia without really sounding like he’s trying to be in the same lineage as any of that in the past decade and that’s impressive on its own. Total Trash is a Denver indie rock supergroup including former and current members of Fingers of the Sun, Fissure Mystic, Lil’ Slugger, Quantum Creep and Eyebeams. Mystic Wool’s synth compositions sound as though someone had to go on some prolonged retreat with no access to the internet and just a music player that had the Deerhunter discography, early Air albums, Candy Claws and Harmonia albums.
Saturday | September 7
What:TEARS to LI6HT, Hate Minor and Claudzilla When: Saturday, 09.07, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This show is a fundraiser for ProgressNow Colorado’s Keep Abortion Safe initiative and it will include sets from experimental electronic artist TEARS to LI6HT, experimental noise rock duo Hate Minor and Claudzilla’s melodica Goth strangeness.
What:Mannequin Pussy w/Destroy Boys and Ellis When: Saturday, 09.07, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Mannequin Pussy’s melodic punk is anthemic, emotionally raw and affecting. Like some sort of power pop band from the 80s with the expansive songwriting style and inventive dynamics but whose lyrics are soul searching and pointed but never cruel. The group’s 2016 album Romantic was full of joyful chaos exorcising trauma and sadness with bursts of sound and energy. The new record, 2019’s Patience, is more introspective but no less imbued with the radical vulnerability and personal insight that has made its music worth a deep listen from the beginning.
What:Audio Dream Sister, Whiskey Orphans, Austin Sterling When: Saturday, 09.07, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Audio Dream Sister hasn’t played in a million years. Meaning maybe in half a decade or more or so it seams. The sludge rock band from Denver was a staple of the heavy rock and punk scene for years and its adept songwriting and psychedelic sensibilities set it apart from the “stoner rock” set of the day.
What:De La Soul w/DJ Mick When: Saturday, 09.07, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: De La Soul brought something a little strange to hip-hop when it came onto the scene in the 80s blending psychedelic rock aesthetics with weirdo funk and rap. It also used that perspective to examine social issues from a different angle and in its own way had as incisive a social critique as contemporaries like Public Enemy and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
Sunday | September 8
What:King Crimson When: Sunday, 09.08, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: King Crimson was one of the earliest of the progressive/art rock bands to have emerged in the late 60s, incorporating classical music concepts and a sense of dramatic orchestration into ambitous rock songs. Its 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King set a creative high water mark for the progressive rock genre with imaginative lyrics and songwriting that employed musical chops with real creativity to write emotionally arresting songs like the title track and “21st Century Schizoid Man.” While guitarist Robert Fripp is the sole remaining original member he has been the musician in the band that has steered the ship consistently from the beginning through its various phases from the early sort of amalgam of folk, rock, jazz, classical and psychedelia through the experimental hard rock phase of the 2000s through to today.
What:King of Heck (NV), Endless, Nameless, Old Sport and Zephyr When: Sunday, 09.08, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: King of Heck from Nevada is a “desert rock” band that sounds like it came up on a lot of Gravity Records bands, Fugazi, melodic post-hardcore and modern underground emo. Old Sport from Denver is a great blending of post-hardcore and noisy proto-alternative rock like Dinosaur Jr.
Monday | September 10
What:Voight, Dancing Plague (OR), French Kettle Station and Luxury Hearse When: Monday, 09.09, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: A darkwave show at Seventh Circle with Denver’s shoegaze/post-punk/industrial synthesists Voight, EBM/dance Goth group Dancing Plague from Oregon, French Kettle Station and his animated 80s adult contemporary/avant-garde/New Wave music and Luxury Hearse’s beat driven ambient pop.
What:Hazel English w/Modern Leisure When: Monday, 09.09, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Hazel English is oft compared to another Oakland, California artist Day Wave. But one might just as well compare her hazy, bright dream pop to the work of Alvvays because it has a similarly wistful and expansive quality that gives one a sense of introspective yearning. Joining her on the bill is Denver indie pop group Modern Leisure. Singer Casey Banker has been crafting some of the more thoughtful and impassioned pop songs out of Denver for more than a decade and Modern Leisure is the continuation of his legacy.
Tuesday | September 10
What:Kristin Hersh (electric trio) w/Fred Abong When: Tuesday, 09.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kristin Hersh formed post-punk band Throwing Muses with Tanya Donelly in 1981 when both were fourteen years old. But that band went on to be one of the early alternative rock bands that helped to define the aesthetic of the UK record label 4AD with its emotionally powerful music and inventive songwriting. In that band and as a solo artist Hersh has used mythology and culture and her own struggles with mental illness to produce a body of work that is both startlingly intimate and imaginatively far reaching in scope. Her latest record, 2018’s Possible Dust Clouds draws on specific mythologies and personal history to deliver a set of songs that strikes deep emotional chords expressed with Hersh’s signature, textural voice and warmth as well as unconventional rhythms and guitar voicing. Somehow Hersh’s songs seem like manifestations of archetype and the forces of nature cooperating to speak eternal yet personal truth through her.
What:Silence in the Snow, Echo Beds, Blood Loss and Causer When: Tuesday, 09.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Oakland’s Silence in the Snow sometimes comes off like a neo-darkwave band because it is but its root is an urgent post-punk akin to the likes of Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry and Xmal Deutschland. Its new record Levitation Chamber finds the band mixing ethereal guitar with high emotive vocals and deep, irresistible rhythms.
Who:Speakeasy Series opener: Demoncassettecult When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Glasss Records is kicking off the 2019 edition of its experimental music showcase the Speakeasy Series at Hooked on Colfax tonight. The artist ringing in the season is Demoncassettecult, Glasss’ Vahco Before Horses solo loops, noise, sample and and synth based soul project.
Who:A Light Among Many w/Ghostsong Elegy and Endless, Nameless, Causer When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Abstract doom juggernauts A Light Among Many returns from its latest tour with this show with experimental guitar/prog band Endless, Nameless, South Dakota post-rock band Ghostsong Elegy and the debut of Causer.
Who:Kyle Emerson w/Anthony Ruptak and Modern Leisure When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Three of Denver’s great songwriters on one bill. Kyle Emerson’s pastoral psychedelia has enough interesting musical flourishes in each song to elevate his work beyond most of his peers. Anthony Ruptak’s conceptual songwriting steeped in his sensitivity to the world around him and deeply informed by his compassion for his follow living creatures, human beings most certainly not excluded, gives his compositions a warmth and richness of emotional expression. Casey Banker of Modern Leisure has been writing insightful and well-crafted pop songs with an undercurrent of intensity and self-awareness that has made his songs going back to his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls incredibly compelling.
Saturday | April 6
Who:Doo Crowder w/Rachael Pollard When: Saturday, 04.06, 9:30 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Doo Crowder, former member of indie pop orchestra Pee Pee and indie rock/punk band The Dinnermints, is finally releasing his album One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims). His earlier releases have all been insightful explorations of the human experience in its myriad manifestations. The new album sounds like he took the Harry Nilsson route and added great production flourishes and imaginative treatments to solid yet minimal foundations of song. He does not spare himself self criticism (listen to “Doo Crowder Song”) but as with every Crowder record there’s much more than meets the eye while not hiding the essential meaning. It’s made to be able to be taken on and comprehended at one’s leisure and in the ways that suit you. The first truly great indie pop record of 2019 and one of the best of the past decade by virtue of sounding effortless while clearly being the product of much work, much soul-searching, much refinement and in the end something that feels like it manifested like a perfect backed good that is delicious and nutritious and makes the labor that went into it part of one’s appreciation of it.
Who:FAVX w/Ned Garthe Explosion and Total Trash (tape release) When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: FAVX from Madrid aren’t easily musically defined outside of rock. But it’s sometimes noisy, sometimes driving, sometimes poppy, sometimes heavy, sometimes whimsical but always emotionally nuanced music is performed with great enthusiasm. Good thing because Ned Garthe Explosion, for a bunch of guys who have been playing for “10 trillion years,” you know, since the Big Bang or whatever has happened several times, they’re able to muster some verve in humorously delivering their surreal punker than punk and psycher than psych songs. They’ve been road dawgz since before there were roads and after people didn’t need roads where they were going and back to no roads and then roads again. The never ending cycle. Seems legit. Total Trash is comprised of current and former members of Lil’ Slugger, Eye Beams, Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Quantum Creep. Which means nothing if you’ve not been steeped in Denver underground music for the past decade and a half but it does mean that the band’s music and songwriting has the level of sophistication and sonic inventiveness that is immediately striking and, well, it doesn’t sound much like any of the aforementioned. It is more melancholy but the sonic details and evolving dynamics across each song of its debut album Field Guide (released this night) give the music a sonic depth, diversity and emotional complexity that seems rarer than it should be these days.
Who:Dirty Few “Losing Our Minds Farewell Show” w/Gymshorts, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Lloyd and Saviour When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Sure, sure, “party rock” and the Stone twins raise hell, cans of beer tossed on stage and off, rowdy, nearly unhinged performances, some of them sloppy and chaotic. But always performed with heart with songs that are fun, surprisingly well-written and which encapsulate an era of Denver music that all but began and ended with Dirty Few. So the group will probably pull out the stops for this final rager with some of its friends and peers including the great power pop band Bud Bronson & The Good Timers from Denver and Lloyd and Saviour from Boise.
Who:Kero Kero Bonito w/Jaakko Eino Kalevi When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Kero Kero Bonito sounds like its music is made in the early morning as the sun is rising and also as the sun is setting. That sometimes hazy quality of light that can blur the landscape some as the sun comes to dominate the sky or retire for the night over the horizon, burning away fog and casting colorfully through the dusk pollution. Even from its earlier more straightforward electropop phase its lush production and fluid dynamics has given the band’s songs an air of self-awareness that feels futuristic while tapping into the cooler end of classic commercial pop sensibilities. The band’s producers, Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, were influenced by Japanese hip-hop and pop and found Sarah Bonito, herself half-Japanese, who could give voice to a synthesis of cultures particularly since Bonito sings and raps in both English and Japanese. The group’s 2018 releases, the TOTEP EP and the album Time n’ Place, displayed the influence of rock bands, at least according to interviews with Fader and i-D, like Mount Eerie and My Bloody Valentine who are no strangers to creating and sculpting atmosphere in ways that feel entirely organic. Formerly pretty much all electronic instrumentation and vocals, for its current tour Kero Kero Bonito is bringing on board a guitarist and a drummer. Difficult to pigeonhole, one might even clumsily call it indie dream jazz, Kero Kero Bonito’s international flavor of the amalgam of hip-hop, dance music, J-pop, downtempo lounge and melancholic guitar rock is undeniably interesting.
Opening the show is Finnish multi-instrumentalist and producer Jaakko Eino Kalevi whose 2018 album Out of Touch could be a cousin to the aforementioned Kero Kero Bonito’s album Time ‘n Place. Its tone has a liminal quality that allows for the melodies to operate at an almost subconscious level, dream-like. A decade ago maybe someone would have called it “chillwave” and it resonates with the better end of what made 80s synth pop bands and their own production methods so compelling and ultimately influential.
Who:Bad Sounds and Broods When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Bad Sounds are opening for the great electro pop band Broods. But its blend of R&B and hip-hop beats, like a modern take on the rich musical hybrids that were part of the 70s Stax roster, will probably win over more than a few fans. The duo’s 2018 album Get Better goes beyond mere throwback imitation and with expert production and attention to sonic detail it attains the soulfulness of some of its influences.
Who:An Evening With Spiritualized When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Even at his most soul-and-R&B-inspired moments, and there are many on Spiritualized’s 2018 album And Nothing Hurt, J. Spaceman brings to bear a broad range of subtle emotional expression and its counterpart as a controlled tidal wave of feeling. The shows also tend toward a well-selected set list that gives the performance a dynamic quality that somehow feels just right. Folk, soul, R&B, ambient space rock from across Spaceman’s career in Spiritualized. Maybe you’ll even get to see the band cover Laurie Anderson’s “Born Never Asked” as its been known to do well beyond the 1995 touring cycle for Pure Phase.
Sunday | April 7
Who:SUSTO w/Whitacre and Frances Cone When: Sunday, 04.07, 8 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: SUSTO’s new album Ever Since I Lost My Mind has all the sophistication and beautiful subtlety of instrumentation of its previous records. But this time it sounds like the band has added a layer of atmosphere that gives the typically affecting and introspective lyrics a more focused immediacy that can be a bit slow slipping into your mind but when it hits it strikes deep. SUSTO excels at giving the songs room to breathe and manifest and bringing listeners in with a warmth of tone and a sense of understanding.
Monday | April 8
Who:Acid Mothers Temple w/Yamantaka//Sonic Titan When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple may “only” have been around for nearly a quarter a century but its rotating and core membership, including band leader guitarist Makoto Kawabata, has roots going back to Japanese folk, psychedelic, noise, punk and prog bands of the 70s and 80s. With AMT the musicians create a mind-bending sonic experience that blurs the lines between the aforementioned genres of music to make the kind of space rock that should inspire a generation of manga artists writing stories in a future where interdimensional and intergalactic communities are interacting, thriving and exploring worlds and cultures as yet unimagined by our current creative collective unconscious.
Who:Mdou Moctar w/Galleries and Kwantsu Dudes When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: It’s incredibly rare to get to see a musician from Africa in Denver much less a Tuareg phenom from Agadez, Niger like Mdou Moctar. The guitarist is an early adaptor of traditional Tuareg guitar pop into the electric context. As with the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baaba Maal and, of course, Fela Kuti before him, Moctar’s lively and fine crafted songs (steeped in folk music of Africa and the Islamic world) garnered fans outside of Africa. Because of that touring has been a viable prospect including his current run through the USA. His latest album is 2019’s Ilana.
Tuesday | April 9
Who:WaZeil & UaZit w/Claudzilla, f-ether and Kandin When: Tuesday, 04.09, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: UaZit’s music is like if alternative hip-hop got even weirder and more experimental. Working with WaZeil the production and sound design is even more unusual like what Harmony Korine might make if he went into creating music after Mister Lonely. F-ether isn’t quite as much of a weirdo but his original and playful take on electronic music craft is decidedly outside the conventions of that broad genre. Claudzilla, though, full-on weirdo since its “keytar rock” with surreal lyrics and let’s just call it eccentric picks of covers but surprisingly solid renditions of the originals through her peculiar lens of interpretation.
Who:Erik B & Rakim w/Stay Tuned When: Tuesday, 04.09, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Erik B & Rakim are clearly one of the most influential duos in hip-hop. Rakim’s rhyming had great versatility and range because he broke with the simple rhyme schemes of early hip-hop and had more in common with free jazz and free verse poetry. So while not sounding too avant-garde the duo’s music could be as out and fluid in its rhythms as its presumed jazz influences. Eric B’s heavy use of sampling and creatively crafting and sculpting the sounds could also be heard echoed in most hip-hop since the 1987 release of the Eric B & Rakim album Paid in Full. Splitting in 1993, Eric B & Rakim reunited in 2016 to perform live in 2017. Will there be a new record? We can only hope but for now catch one of the legends of hip-hop on this tour.
Wednesday | April 10
Who:HXXS w/Church Fire, Morlox and Feigning When: Wednesday, 04.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: HXXS from Portland, Oregon make a kind of dance-dub darkwave with glitchy edges. When minimal synth was all the rage in various corners of the American underground, HXXS seems to have taken that foundation and the sort of 8-bit crushed beat-making to make a surprisingly playful, surreal form of synth pop. Good match with Denver’s Church Fire whose tribal industrial dance music came out of similar impulses toward melding hip-hop beat production with dark, noisy pop informed by insightful, sociopolitical commentary. That the group worked with gifted producer Morlox whose career has been steeped in the noise, glitchcore and underground hip-hop scene in Denver and beyond makes this booking perfect. Haunted, dark drone project Feigning is just a bonus.
Who:DeVotchKa When: Wednesday, 04.10, 6 p.m. Where: Twist & Shout Why: It would help if you bought a copy of the 2018 DeVotchKa album This Night Falls Forever in order to get first entry into this intimate show at Twist & Shout. Otherwise, the Denver-based gypsy-punk chamber pop group usually doesn’t play places smaller than The Gothic. The following night the band will perform at e-Town in Boulder.
Who:Boy Harsher w/Special Interest and Poptones DJs When: Wednesday, 04.10, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Boy Harsher show is sold out but if you can get in you can see the fog-shrouded, enigmatic, New-Order-gone-full-dub-minimal-synth duo Boy Harsher at a small club before its crowd expands to larger venues.
Who:Adam Faucett, Esmé Patterson, Bellhoss When: Thursday, 08.23, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Arkansas-based folk/Americana artist Adam Faucett performs in Denver ahead of the August 24 release of his new record It Took The Shape of a Bird. Faucett’s creative use of vocal tones and dynamics along with his poetic imagery gives his music real character. The same could be said of Esmé Patterson whose creativity in storytelling and richness of emotional colorings in her songwriting makes her noteworthy artist in a realm of music that can sometimes seem same-y. Becky Hostetler’s Bellhoss is also a great fit for this bill since her own spare songwriting provides the skeleton of mood and atmospherics in a way that brings your imagination to bear to fill in the spaces.
Who:short[circuit]circus #1: Structures Beavers Make (ATX noise-ish), Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess, Housekeys, Rose Alley When: Thursday, 08.23, 7:30 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This is the beginning of what will hopefully be a series focused on more experimental music. Structures Beavers Make is an act based out of Atlanta, Georgia that doesn’t limit itself to just lo-fi moody guitar and voice over subtle, ambient beats, as the artist says (jokes) on her Bandcamp page that she might do bad Avenged Sevenfold covers. We can only hope. Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess fortunately also doesn’t fit comfortably in a single, discernible genre somewhere betwixt ambient, experimental electronic dance and samples manipulation. Housekeys is Tiffiny Costello’s ghostly guitar and vocals ambient project. The most obvious comparisons are Grouper and Juliana Barwick or the less noisy period of Flying Saucer Attack. Rose Alley is a “drag noise poet” in that it’s kind of a trippy spoken word performance with environmental sounds to enhance the words.
Friday | August 24, 2018
Who:Boss 302 w/The Landgrabbers and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Friday, 08.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Boss 302 started in the early days of 1993 on the cusp of the breakup of the band that inspired its existence: The Fluid. However, Boss 302 spent several years establishing its own reputation as a fun, rowdy garage punk band with a charismatic frontman in Rich Groskopf and a solid band that wrote songs good for a party in the classic sense rather than the self-parody of party rock in more recent years. Boss 302 had a handful of releases including 1997’s Whatever Happened To Fun, which included its only recordings with Matt Bischoff of The Fluid on bass. The group split in 1999 and reunited in 2008 around the same time The Fluid came unexpectedly out of retirement for a time to play Sub Pop’s 20 year anniversary show as well as a string of other performances, a reminder that it was and still was one of post-punk’s greatest bands. Ten years hence Boss 302 reunited once again in July 2018 for the Mile High Parley with a spirited performance at Gary Lee’s. Even if you’re not familiar with the band’s music, you’ll get to have some laughs and see one of Denver’s best punk bands of the 90s. Also on the bill are country punk band Landgrabbers and post-grunge pop outsider punk band Vanilla Milkshakes.
Who:Lady of Sorrows, Church Fire and Mirror Fears When: Friday, 08.24, 7 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Lady of Sorrows is the downtempo, brooding R&B solo project of Lady Justice of industrial/darkwave band Angel War. Church Fire is a band that should be everyone’s radar in Denver at this point but in case not the emotionally charged, noise-infused dance-darkwave band never disappoints with its cathartic live show. Mirror Fears too is in a similar vein but with a more ethereal vocal style and presence whose emotional power washes through you, cleansing the psychic detritus that seems to be stuck in everyone with a heart these days.
Saturday | August 25, 2018
Who:Archipelaghost at final Alligator Party When: Saturday, 08.25, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Archipelaghost, an electronic/psychedelic rock band extraordinaire, is moving away as is Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth who will also DJ this show. Maybe they’ll be back through on a tour but for now this is your last if not only chance to catch them before they’ve relocated.
Who:Lead Into Gold, ohGr and Omniflux When: Saturday, 08.25, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Paul Barker was the iconic bassist and co-producer of Seattle post-punk legends the Blackouts as well as EBM/industrial rock band Ministry during its most popular and productive era. Lead Into Gold was a side project Barker put together in the late 80s/early 90s. The project was basically put on the shelf until 2015 when Low & Slow was released, making available some tracks originally recorded in 1990. With 2017 performances including that at Chicago’s Cold Waves festival, Lead Into Gold became an active band again with a new album titled The Sun Behind the Sun appearing in 2018.
ohGr is the band formed by Nivek Ogre and Mark Walk of Skinny Puppy. Its music is not as dark or as heavy as Skinny Puppy can be, rather more a focus on the playful side of both musicians. Devils in My Details showcased a noisier side of ohGr and a more sound design approach to composing the music, a method Walk and Ogre also applied more to the then subsequent Skinny Puppy album 2011’s HanDover. As per Ogre’s performances with Skinny Puppy, from the early tours for ohGr in 2001 to now his stage appearance is theatrical and dramatic reflecting the flavor of the music. So for the 2018 album Tricks we can probably expect some heavy emphasis on animal imagery for the stage set and Ogre’s costuming.
Sunday | August 26, 2018
What:Textures: Pythian Whispers, Finnocitta and lib.eriana When: Sunday, 08.26, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This is the latest edition of Textures the ambient showcase hosted by Wesley Davis of biostatic and his Symbolic Insight imprint. Included on this bill is experimental electronic/ambient duo Pythian Whispers and lib.eriana, the acoustic and production project of Alan Muñiz, former member of avant-garde jazz band Malamadre. Drone, loops and beats artist Finnocitta from Gainesville, Florida will also make an appearance.
Who:Straight White Teeth, Modern Leisure, Briffaut and Whole Milk When: Sunday, 08.26, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Patrick McGuire was a member of one of the more promising Denver pop bands Flashbulb Fires before he moved away to Philadelphia in 2015. After sustaining a severe injury that damaged his right arm putting any notion of every playing guitar and piano again in jeopardy. Two surgeries later and McGuire had full use of his arm back only for, according to the Straight White Teeth bio on its bandcamp page for the track “Lifetime,” McGuire and his girlfriend/former bandmate Ella Trujillo had to leave their home due to violence in the neighborhood. Now rootless with no permanent residence McGuire and Small White Teeth has managed to tour with McGuire as a solo act with tracks and what bandmates he can pull together for a show or performance. For the past year, McGuire has been recording and releasing singles rather than a full-length album all at once, a gesture that may give potential bandmates in any given city he may play a frame of reference. That this show will include the great Colorado indie pop bands Modern Leisure and Briffaut, from Denver and Colorado Springs respectively, suggests that maybe someone in either band could join McGuire for this performance.
Monday | August 27, 2018
Who:David Byrne When: Monday, 08.27, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: David Byrne is rightfully known for his idiosyncratic and visionary music art and performances going back to his days with punk/pop band Talking Heads in the 70s and 80s. His solo material as well as his various collaborative albums including those with Brian Eno (in particular the 1981 non-western ambient/electronic drone/samples masterpiece My Life In The Bush of Ghosts) and St. Vincent (for 2012’s Love This Giant) have been products of a unique imagination and curiosity that illuminate American culture and the human condition in ways that are both eccentric and relatable. Byrne’s body of work is proof that he’s not been one to fully rest on his laurels. This includes his 2018 album, American Utopia, which has been hailed as a return to form by critics. In some senses that is the case with Byrne’s inimitable songwriting style incorporating traditional instruments used in both traditional and decidedly unconventional ways alongside production methods as compositional tools, both giving his deceptively simple songs a sonic and emotional depth to enhance the experience of listening both in the recorded and life form. American Utopia is also a component of the multimedia project Reasons to Be Cheerful which aims to give people a reason to have some joy and hope in a time of seemingly unremitting bleakness and destructive political impulses with their inevitable consequences for the planet including human civilization.
For this tour Byrne is bringing a sprawling lineup to manifest the music of American Utopia as well as material from across his long career. People who purchase a ticket for this current run of shows can also redeem a coupon for a free CD copy of the album with details on the ticket. But the real treat is to see a master of the artform of pop in full bloom well into an already lengthy career.
Tuesday | August 28, 2018
Who:David Byrne When: Tuesday, 08.28, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: For David Byrne see above for Monday, 8.27.
Who:The Binary Marketing Show, New Standards Men, Equine and Sporehive When: Tuesday, 08.28, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: The Binary Marketing Show is from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Its layers of drones, simple percussion, minimalist guitar, lo-fi production and spare vocals have an intimate, warm quality that is reminiscent of bedroom recordists and the more imaginative indie pop weirdos of the 2000s like Microphones, Dntel and Casiotone For the Painfully Alone. Going out on a limb maybe you’ll hear a hint of cLOUDDEAD in the way the controlled distorted instrumentals vibe with the understated vocals. Also on this bill are Denver drone guitar experimentalists New Standards Men and Equine as well as avant-instrumental improvisational band Sporehive.
Wednesday | August 29, 2018
Who:Cop Circles, Staggered Hooks, Techno Allah, Goo Age When: Wednesday, 08.29, 9 p.m. Where: The Meadowlark Bar Why: Cop Circles is an artist that subverts the tropes of No Wave jazz, indie pop and Afrobeat to make the kind of catchy songs that are fun and danceable on their own but which are often sharp and thoughtful critiques of culture and the way social policies and economic models erode human dignity and our collective quality of life in ways that aren’t obvious unless you take the time to pay attention. Cop Circles music has a way of helping to clarify your way of thinking about these things without hitting you over the head with didactic platitudes. Staggered Hooks is Dean Inman of Dream Hike’s more industrial and ambient project and this may be the last time you get to witness Inman’s gift for sound design live before he moves out of Denver. Techno Allah is sort of a glitchy IDM dance artist. Goo Age makes environmental soundscapes populated by the sonic, abstract equivalents of ambient creatures in 16 bit video games. Not the kind you can or have to overcome, they’re just there to give the scene some character and Goo Age’s IDM-esque beats some serious flavor. Think a way more playful early-yet-updated Future Sound of London circa Lifeforms.
Who:Yob, Bell Witch and Primitive Man When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Yob’s sludgy doom has always been accompanied with a healthy sense of play. Yes, the crushing heaviness of the band’s music is undeniable but so is the group’s obvious self-awareness. It’s latest record, 2018’s Our Raw Heart subverts doom conventions with almost buoyant melodies and dynamics and a layering of conventionally pretty sounds and gritty, deeply textured atmospherics. It’s only fitting that the trio is touring with fellow Pacific Northwesterners in the duo Bell Witch from Seattle. The latter has crafted majestic and minimalist soundscapes since its 2010 founding. With the tragic death of former drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra in 2016, bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond recruited Jesse Shreibman to continue with the project. The first album with Desmond and Shreibman, 2017’s Mirror Reaper, is both a continuation of the colossal sonics of the band’s first two albums but also a step further into a powerful and moving expression of grief and despair as well as an evocation of cosmic time and our place in it. Conceived of as a single track at over eighty minutes, Mirror Reaper may move slowly and employ repetitive dynamics but it never seems to overstay its welcome. Opening the show is Denver’s own juggernaut of death metal and doom, Primitive Man.
What:Musical Mayhem: Spyderland, Enji and Snaggletoothe When: Thursday, 07.12, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Musical Mayhem had a home for quite some time at The Skylark Lounge. But now the night curated by Claudia Woodman is happening at Lion’s Lair. Spyderland is a weirdo music duo including Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth and Drew McClellan of Archipelaghost. Enji is TripLip bassist Kevin Schultz doing solo material that sounds like Hella doing music for an 8-bit video game. Snaggletoothe is a noisy, improvisational rock guitar and drum duo.
What:Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Fringe Class and Dorian When: Thursday, 07.12, 6 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: How Portland, Oregon’s synth pop dance band Fringe Class is going to play at Hooked On Colfax is anyone’s guess. But paired with the more ambient Denver project Dorian maybe the group will do a more stripped down set than it will do in other rooms during its trip through Denver.
What:Lou Barlow When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m. Where: Bruz Beers Why: Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh playing a solo set at Bruz Beers? Given Barlow’s love of brilliantly unusual guitar styles like those of Joni Mitchell, it could be a chance to see something unlike anything you’ll see from Barlow in Denver again.
What:The Dandy Warhols w/Uni When: Thursday, 07.12 and Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: The Dandy Warhols are still kicking along and remain one of the great live bands that came out of the alternative rock milieu that’s still around and not milking some nostalgia circuit. Normally the band plays much larger venues making this string of shows at Ophelia’s a rare chance to catch the band in an intimate environment.
Friday | July 13, 2018
What:A$AP Ferg w/IDK and Buddy When: Friday, 07.13, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: For a guy that did visual art and fashion before doing music, realms in which he excelled, A$AP Ferg has done well for himself. While not a pioneer of trap, which had its roots in music that came out before he was born, Ferg nevertheless became one of the genre’s most skilled practitioners in the 2010s. Having the nerve to name his 2013 album Trap Lord, Ferg could at least back-up the bravado and embody the claim. What has kept the rapper interesting is the fact that there’s an unmistakable unusual quality to his beats and wordplay. Perhaps grittier than the work of his A$AP Mob cohort A$AP Rocky, Ferg nevertheless shares a sensibility that aims beyond genre and beyond hip-hop. Even when he engages in lyrics rife with hip-hop tropes, Ferg uses them as elements rendering them meta and more like musical elements than anything to be taken at face value. 2017’s Still Striving showcases the artist’s ever-evolving incorporation of musical elements that give his songs a layered dimensionality.
What:Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Timmy The Teeth When: Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Sarah Shook’s country songs of survival and struggle reflect her upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian family that made the town elders in the movie Footloose seem open-minded by comparison. The video for “New Ways to Fail” (doesn’t the title tell a lot already) shows some everyday urban rebels skateboarding as Shook lays out immediately relatable, self-deprecating lyrics. But every song on the band’s 2018 album Years is, as Henry Rollins once said of early Black Flag records, a direct line to what the fuck it’s all about in America for anyone that can’t expect much out of a society and a culture built on getting us to neglect ourselves and each other on a rat race to nowhere. But there’s an inherent hope in Shook’s music because she’s out there touring and expressing so eloquently and understanding of the everyday lives of anyone that might come to catch one of the band’s shows.
What:Compost Heap Day 1 When: Friday, 07.13, 4 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: The first day of a festival that is to some extent a celebration of the more folk end of punk and bands within that general realm of music. Schedule for today: Real Lyin’ Rohr 4, Just Hanging Out (TX) 4:40, Violet Valentine 5:20, Fire Ant Season (TX) 6, Marissa 6:35, Paul Ski & The James Joyce Letters 7:15, Bird Teeth (WA) 7:55, Long Sought Rest (WA) 8:35, JSR 9:15, Whistlepig (AZ), Crow Cavalier 10:35
What:Quintron & Miss Pussycat w/Phallic Meditation When: Friday, 07.13, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Quintron & Miss Pussycat from New Orleans somehow combine a high energy weirdo cabaret/psychedelic rockabilly show with a mind-altering puppet theater performance. Always entertaining and it will transport you outside your everyday life if you let it.
Saturday | July 14, 2018
Who:Great American House Fire When: Saturday, 07.14, 10:30 a.m. Where: Ross Cherry Creek Library Why: Someday more bands will figure out that the emotional rawness of emo, the diverse songwriting methodology of 2000s indie rock bands, Americana’s textures and warmth and soulful vocals are completely complementary elements for a band. But for now you can catch a group that excelled at that going back to the days of Denver’s Spokeshaver, from which Great American House Fire draws some of its membership. Now presented on a Saturday morning at the Cherry Creek branch of Denver Public Library,
Who:Rowboat, Wild Call and Grass When: Saturday, 07.14, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Sam McNitt’s roots in folk music and literature probably account for some of the sophistication and poetic sensibility to his music. When he was writing music with his old space rock band Blue Million Miles he met the challenge of amplifying his expressive and emotionally taut vocals. Rowboat is more an expression of McNitt’s more sonically gentle work but the emotional colorings are still vibrant and complex. Wild Call is one of Denver’s best psychedelic rock bands because it’s gone beyond the whole psychedelic bandwagon of the past decade with grittier sounds and lyrics that tap into psychological spaces that can’t be reduced to a celebration of mind altering chemicals and partying. Grass is a noisy shoegaze band from Boulder whose 2016 album Dragwire is pleasantly reminiscent of Night Beats and the more dirty dream pop acts on the Siltbreeze label.
What:Compost Heap 3 Day 2 When: Saturday, 07.14, 3 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Schedule for day 2 of Compost Heap 3, a kind of folk punk festival (Sliver isn’t folk punk unless someone wishing they were Bad Brains is folk punk–the argument could be made) featuring artists from Colorado and far beyond: open mic 3, Murder Person For Hire (IL) 4, Sliver 4:40, Old Fox Road (IL) 5:20, Rascal Mikes (OR) 6, Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists 6:35, Hello Darkness 7:55, Human Behavior 8:35, Shooting Tsars (TX) 9:15, Fun Abuse (CA) 9:55, Suspicious Activity 10:35.
Who:Modern Leisure album release w/Down Time and shark dreams When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Indie pop band Modern Leisure is celebrating the release of its new album, Super Sad Rom-Com. As usual, Casey Banker’s songs are well crafted pop gems with lyrics that are self-deprecating but never maudlin. This time around Banker seems to have a chuckle at the excesses and absurdities of life in America now and navigating interpersonal hurdles while finding it all a bit wearisome. Banker’s employment of melancholic tones has always been good but with Super Sad Rom-Com he’s taken it to places he hasn’t before with his keen ear for emotional and tonal nuance. Also on the bill is Down Time who have quietly been one of the most interesting pop bands out of Denver since its inception two or three years ago combining the intimacy of folk, rock and an experimental streak born of needing to do things in your own way with available equipment and personnel like a drummer/bassist at one point. Not unlike a Young Marble Giants but one that could only have happened in the Twenty-First century.
Who:SPELLS (album release) w/Cheap Perfume, Future Perfect, People Corrupting People When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: SPELLS is putting out its odds and sods album Loose Change, Vol. 1 at this show. The band’s joke, and song, is “80% is Good Enough” and isn’t it really? Forget that oh so American overpromising, boastful nonsense that seems to be an angstrom of our president’s ego and narcissism. Trying too hard without adequate compensation makes chumps of everyone. At any rate, the Denver-based punk band is releasing the compilation through guitarist Chuck Coffey’s scrappy little label Snappy Little Numbers as well as Chicago imprint Anxious and Angry. On red vinyl. So get them while you can. The other bands on the bill are pretty alright too including Colorado Springs’ unabashedly fun feminist punk band Cheap Perfume. At this point having to say a band is feminist seems redundant and regressive because it’s a perspective that should be the part of the thinking and ethos of anyone in America in this century and if not, do some catching up. Maybe start slow and check out some bell hooks, Betty Friedan, Adrienne Rich, Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Inga Muscio. It could happen.
Sunday | July 15, 2018
Who:Jackie Cohen w/Jobless and Hillary Susz When: Sunday, 07.15, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Jackie Cohen just put out her first proper music EP, 2018’s Tacoma Night Terror Part 1. If you’ve spent any time in Tacoma this might be a truthfully humorous exaggeration of a memory from time spent there. For a Colorado specific reference, big stretches of Tacoma are a lot like Commerce City and Thornton but even more worn out with blocks of dubious legitimacy. Cohen’s songs may have some connection to that vibe on some level. The recordings sound older like finding a well-listened to pop cassette from the 70s including the hiss. But none of these songs could really have come out back then. It’s the post-jaded self-discovery vibe that Cohen nails that makes the best Fleetwood Mac songs worth listening to after enduring repeated broadcast of those songs on the radio or friends who never had to experience that music the first time getting obsessed with entire too much music that came out of artists who were entirely too familiar with cocaine and quaaludes. Cohen’s performance isn’t jaded and that’s what makes the difference. She sounds like she’s been through it, man, but finds that dulled emotions don’t work for her and that life must go on even if you’re not over the pain of a bad experience in relationships and other disappointments in life. That you get to see Denver’s great folky, experimental indie rock trio Jobless is more than a bonus, it would be reason enough to go.
What:Compost Heap 3 Day 3 When: Sunrday, 07.15, 3 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This is the third and final day of Compost Heap. Less on the folk punk side this day with the likes of hip-hop artist Adam Selene, noise punks Plasma Canvas and hard rock band The Velveteers but the ethos is one shared between the artists. Today’s schedule (all times being p.m.): open mic 3, Patrick the Pirate 4, Adam Selene 4:40, Queen Ren Faire Dance Party (TX) 5:20, Davey Dynamite (IL) 6, Bert Olsen 7:15, Wayfairy 7:55, Ludlow 8:35, Dandelion Massacre (CA) 9:15, Plasma Canvas 9:55, The Velveteers 10:35
What:Final Show at The Climax Lounge When: Sunrday, 07.15, 4 p.m. Where: The Climax Lounge Why: A Taste of Denver to most 80s punks, The Raven to punks in the 90s and in the 2000s mostly The Climax Lounge (its original name), this building at 2217 Welton Street was one of the most important venues for a real underground music world in Denver. It will be knocked down to build yet another shitty, cheaply built condo that downtown doesn’t need or maybe yet another brewery or some other Nü Denver crap that has become the inevitable for all the cool, historic buildings that made Denver a worthwhile and interesting place to live and make art and music for decades. It’s not the nail in the coffin by any means and it hasn’t been a terrible active music venue in years but for many it’s like seeing your favorite high school hangout get the axe. The bands playing on such short notice include the following: Sputnik Slovenia, Scooter James, The Narrow Down, Bourbon Brawlers, Dangerous Friends and National Blues Arsenal.
Monday | July 16, 2018
Who:Marisa Anderson w/Howling Hex and Cuckoo When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Marisa Anderson’s masterful, expressive, guitarwork, on mostly instrumental songs, evokes moods, landscapes and memories in a way more vivid and emotionally immediate than many artists. One might consider her music in the realm of folk but in the more experimental vein of a John Fahey or Michael Hurley. Her 2018 album Cloud Corner finds Anderson sketching in different ways with her guitar, more impressionistic than solid, if intricate, lines. She shares the bill with Colorado-based Howling Hex whose music is a hypnotic, for lack of a better word, avant-garde Mariachi/norteño band led by Neil Michael Hagerty whose legacy of experimental guitar music includes his stints with influential bands like Pussy Galore and Royal Trux as well as noise super group Dan’l Boone. Cuckoo pretty much blurs the line between noise rock, punk and mathy-folk.
Who:Unknown Mortal Orchestra w/Shamir When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Ruban Nielson probably could have enjoyed a respectable career in music in his home country playing in his Flying Nun-signed band The Mint Chicks. But New Zealand is a small place and Nielson relocated to Portland, Oregon as he and his brother Kody have dual citizenship with their mom having been a hula dancer from Hawaii. Their new band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, formed in 2010, had that quality of just off of standard guitar rock that seems to be the hallmark of all New Zealand Bands but it also introduced a kind of psychedelic flavor that wasn’t basically following what would become a popular musical trend in America and elsewhere. UMO had crafted its own flavor of transporting music that suggested a parallel dimension where pop music could reconcile atonality, unusual shifts in rhythm the likes of which one might expect out of one of the weirder prog bands like Can or Faust. UMO has done well enough and produced a solid body of work up to and including the 2018 album Sex & Food. Lead single “Hunnybee” with its yacht rock leanings probably confused some fans because it sounds a bit like an old Foxygen track but the whole album has plenty of UMO’s wonderful weirdness.
Wednesday | July 18, 2018
Who:Neurosis w/Converge and Birds in Row When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Neurosis evolved out of the San Francisco Bay area’s post-punk/hardcore scene and its earliest albums have more in common with the likes of English anarcho punk bands like Amebix and Crass than perhaps some of their hometown’s well-known punk luminaries. Yet by 1992 the group had garnered the interest of former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra who mixed that year’s Neurosis record, the decidedly more metal Souls at Zero. Neurosis has since then established itself firmly as a powerful live act whose records have pushed the boundaries of metal, hardcore and psychedelic music more than almost another other single band. Most of the truly interesting and innovative modern extreme metal bands can trace a strand of influence to Neurosis. Tourmates Converge were pioneering their own form of metal and hardcore crossover in Salem, Massachusetts. By 2001, the group had developed a particularly savage and precise form of posthardcore whose sound and aesthetic permeates a good deal of the extreme metal of today as well as any hardcore band that wants to taken seriously. Its live shows are legendarily intense and be prepared for the cascade of would-be stage divers and crowd surfers.
Who: Greg Hill presents the Zebra Skin Shirt release
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Tattered Cover – Colfax location
Why: Former Six Months to Live and current Manotaur frontman Greg Hill will present the release of his latest novel, Zebra Skin Shirt, the third and final installment in the Stratford County trilogy all set in Colorado (including 2012’s East of Denver and 2015’s The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles). Hill’s gift for incorporating the supernatural and even science fiction concepts into deeply personal novels about people struggling with their personal shortcomings in life and in their relationships or attempts thereof are always incredibly engaging and entertaining brimming with Hill’s vivid descriptions, sense of humor and attention to detail whether that’s in recreating past Denver and Joes, Colorado locations or intricacies of plot. Zebra Skin Shirt may be Hill’s most unusual novel to date and his best. If you have to miss the release it’s easy to find the book online including at Amazon.
Who:Chief White Lightning w/Keef Duster When: Wednesday, 07.18, 9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Josh Logan may be cultivating that look somewhere between Elvis, Zach Galifianakis and Joaquin Phoenix from I’m Still Here, but seeing as he is a member of Austin stoner rock band Blind Pets, his music pleasantly flies in the face of the expectations one might have just looking at his stage persona. The band’s fuzzy, poppy punk and country mix shouldn’t work and the kitsch should render it difficult to take seriously but the group’s new self-titled album is impossible to dismiss as anything but a great rock and roll album with more diversity of sound and songwriting style than a lot of bands who have delved into modern rock and roll.
Casey Banker of Modern Leisure, photo by Paul Banker, article by Tom Murphy
Casey Banker has certainly left his mark on Denver’s indie rock world over the last nine years. While living in Greeley, he started The Don’ts and Be Carefuls with some friends in 2008, his brother Paul joining a year later. Although the name was a bit unwieldy the music was lively and Banker’s lyrics strikingly well composed. The Don’ts flourished at a time in Denver and America generally when indie rock wasn’t some tired thing watered down by imitation and oversaturation. And even as trends wended in the latter direction, Banker’s gift for sharp observations about his own life and the world around him remained strong and great songwriting never really goes out of style. The band split in September 2012.
Banker went on to play in member of Shady Elders in which he shared songwriting duties with Fox Rodemich. That group had a moodier, dream pop side to its sound that garnered a respectable fanbase. But there were the inevitable creative differences and resulting personal differences and Banker exited the band (which has since gone on indefinite hiatus circa July 2017). But in 2016, Banker re-emerged with a new group called Modern Leisure that more fully reflected his creative vision and sensibility.
Modern Leisure has been releasing singles since summer 2016 but its latest, “The Secret Art,” has been released (listen and download below the interview) with plans for the full length, Super Sad Rom-Com to drop on October 20, 2017. Banker recently shared some thoughts on his new band and the ways in which his songwriting has evolved since his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls. Modern Leisure performs at the Hi-Dive with Kyle Emerson and Down Time. Doors 8:30, show 9 p.m. 21+, $10. At the show you can pick up a copy of the 7″ of “The Secret Art” backed with “Girls in Black.”
QCSA: You’ve been in prominent Denver bands of the past including The Don’ts And Be Carefuls, The Outfit and Shady Elders (maybe others). What do you get to do or put forth with Modern Leisure that maybe you weren’t able to in the past?
Casey Banker: It started a few years ago after I found myself without a band again. I had just got out of the longest relationship I’d ever been in. So I moved into a cheap studio apartment in the Speer neighborhood in Denver. I lived there for about 18 months and over two summers. A little bit after moving in I started writing. The ideas came out fast. I found myself reflecting on relationships and experiences I’d had since moving to Denver in 2010. About a lot of the people that came in and out of my life and all the shows and crazy experiences I’d had. My time living in that apartment was also kind of wild since I was on my own again and it felt like the last hurrah of my 20s. Living in that neighborhood, which is near the Denver Country Club and a lot of rich people, informed the music too. Seeing such a large growing income gap felt like the end of a Denver era… Denver felt pretty different than it had 5 years ago and my life did too.
So I wrote most of the songs while I was there and when I moved out I put the band together and started figuring out how to record the album. That’s when I named it too. With Modern Leisure I’m finally able to be creatively in charge of a band, which is ideal. It’s not something I ever had before. All the bands I’d been in before had been democratic and those never worked out for me. I wanted to run things from the ground up this time, for better or worse, and felt like I had enough experience to make it work.
Why did the name Modern Leisure suggest itself to you?
Modern Leisure just popped into my head one day. I think the 2 words came from some early Blur albums. Someone mentioned to me that it sounded like an ode to The Modern Lovers and I’m just fine with that. I was also going through a yacht-rock phase at the time and felt that the name perfectly described the inviting yet schmaltzy nature of that music. The name also helped serve as a sort of mission statement that helped direct the music. It’s fun to use an abstract idea to help guide a creative process and Modern Leisure just seemed to encapsulate this weird idea of a seductive malaise that I wanted to get across. It’s also fun to say with an english accent.
You got to experience being in a band during Denver’s DIY and indie rock heyday. What do you think the current era is better for and/or lacking in regarding being a band in Denver and trying to play shows and get your music out there?
I don’t know if it ever felt like a heyday at the time. I started playing in bands about 9 years ago. The difference now, I guess, is that everything is much more confusing with social media. There’s a lot more internet pressure to build a relationship with your audience. I do miss how simple it was with Myspace. Making your band a brand will always seem a bit besides the point to me. But you can still have fun with it and make like coasters and frisbees which is fun. Mod Leis yo-yo’s are currently in production.
How do you think the local scene and the cultural infrastructure around it (venues, publications and radio) could do better to cultivate local music?
Open Air, The Colorado Sound, and Radio 1190 are all pillars of local music. I could’ve never dreamed that commercial-free independent music would be blasting 24 hours a day on FM but here we are. A lot of my friends listen to the those stations. Bands could be more discerning on what they are being paid by venues. A lot of artists just think it’s an honor to book a show somewhere but they need to have frank discussions on pay out and where the money is going. The venues aren’t going to do that for you so you have to come to that conversation informed.
What is The Secret Art? Or what does it represent as a theme for the song?
The Secret Art is essentially a song about being in a terrible situation in your life and still finding a silver lining. It’s me feeling like I’m living in a real-life purgatory and finding comfort in the idea that even the people that I respect the most experience that feeling too. It’s probably the most positive song on the album.
You’re releasing a single, why not wait to release an EP or an album?
I booked the hi-dive a few months back thinking the album would be finished but it wasn’t. So releasing a 7” single was the next best thing. Plus I love singles. They’re so precious.
As a veteran songwriter, do you find your focus in songwriting has changed over the years? What do you feel like you tend to write about now as opposed to the sorts of stuff you wrote about in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls? If it’s similar territory do you feel that your refinement of your treatment of subjects and putting together the songs has undergone an evolution that you can identify in how you go about things now?
Oh for sure. I had a bit of a wake-up call on how meaningful and moving a song can be over the last few years. Inserting humor and truth inside a great composition can just elevate it another level. My old songs could be quite angsty and a little one-dimensional. Listening to artists like Destroyer, Father John Misty and Metronomy helped a lot. Subject-wise, I’m still on a similar train. I still like writing about characters. Duality and contradiction play a large roll in everything I write. Or that’s what I find the most inspiring to write about. People can be shitty but I don’t think there are too many are truly evil people out there so there’s a lot of good material to be found in just understanding where someone’s coming from.