Best Shows in Denver 8/22/19 – 8/28/19

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Papa M performs at Summit Music Hall on 8/26/19 with Mogwai

Thursday | August 22

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Xeno & Oaklander, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drab Majesty w/Body of Light, Xeno & Oaklander and DJ boyhollow
When: Thursday, 08.22, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: The darkwave show of the summer. Drab Majesty is a transgender, glam, post-punk, space alien duo that has been instrumental in making the new post-punk/Goth wave popular outside the usual circles and within the old school scene. The 2019 album Modern Mirror reveals the group’s for well crafted songs beyond the entrancing, atmospheric mood that could overshadow Deb Demure’s writing in the past. Body of Light has synthesized the minimal synth influences descended from early Depeche Mode and EBM into a dynamic, darkly ambient synth pop. Xeno & Oaklander’s minimal analog synth compositions suggest a foundation in cinema and it’s own 2019 album Hypnos takes the listener on a journey into a journey into a desolate and eerily lonely future where alien archaeologist/anthropologists study what happened to us foolish humans in the Twenty-First and Twenty-Second centuries with an emphasis on the art and music created around the turn of the Twenty-First century.

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The Yawpers, photo by Megan Holmes

What: The Yawpers w/CITRA
When: Thursday, 08.22, 6 p.m.
Where: Leavitt Pavilion
Why: The Yawpers bring their unhinged blues punk to Leavitt Pavilion for a free show. The trio’s most recent album, 2019’s Human Question, really does delve thoughtfully and urgently into what this whole mess of humanity is about and what we can and should be doing in this life individually and collectively given our flaws and deficits of feeling, of cognition, talent and capability. But The Yawpers suggest we can’t just quit as past civilizations faced similarly destructive situations politically, economically, spiritually, environmentally and culturally.

Friday | August 23

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Big Dopes, photo by Jake Cox

What: Big Dopes album release w/Spirettes and Whiskey Autumn
When: Friday, 08.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Big Dopes releases its new album Crimes Against Gratitude tonight at the Hi-Dive. The trio’s songs combine a rich, moody low end courtesy Justin Catanzaro’s bass and Eddie Schmid’s rich vocals. Intricate melodies and dynamic rhythms with the band, including drummer Ricky Brewer, giving the songs a rare expressiveness and vibrancy. Schmid’s lyrics seem to come from poignantly observational biographical snapshots. In telling these stories the band tells the story of a generation coming to terms with diminished future possibilities but refusing to give into despair yet finding a way to cope with creativity and empathy rather than callousness. It’s guitar-based indie rock of a sort but one that seems as informed by the emotional resonance of R&B as by left field alternative rock.

What: The Bellweather Syndicate w/The Siren Project, Autumn and Julian Black
When: Friday, 08.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: The Bellweather Syndicate is William Faith and Sarah Rose. The former was a bassist in later era Christian Death with Rozz Williams as well as a longtime member of Faith & The Muse and playing in Sex Gang Children and The March Violets. The dark post-punk band has a driving low end and a sense of urgency to its ethereal yet gritty melodies. Autumn’s dream pop sounds like someone in the band, or everyone, listened to a whole lot of the Stone Roses, Chameleons and Kitchens of Distinction and took that as a launching point in crafting what is its own sound. The Siren Project from Denver is a synthesis of European post-punk sensibilities and emotionally expansive trip-hop.

What: Solypsis, Blackcell, Acidbat and Kid Mask
When: Friday, 08.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: A more experimental take on electronic music, noise and the avant-garde all around at this show including Denver Goth-industrial/noise legends Blackcell, Kid Mask’s disregard for specific style in making his deeply emotional and affecting soundscapes, Acidbat’s glitchcore industrial ambient and Solypsis which is almost as much performance art as ambient industrial.

Saturday | August 24

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Petite Garçon circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: The Pamlico Sound vinyl release w/The Soltones and Cosmic Joe
When: Saturday, 08.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Pamlico Sound is releasing its new album The Funk is Not For Sale on vinyl for this show. The Boulder-based group is lead by Will Baumgartner who has played in various funk bands in Denver for years but whose roots are in New York where he, as a young kid, went to Woodstock (the original) and who moved about and played in the No Wave scene of late 70s and early 80s NYC. So The Pamlico Sound, which is very much a funk band in the traditional ways has a little different flavor in its exuberance and weirdness. The Soltones also have some funk in its sound but its smooth songwriting is steeped in jazz and R&B and its lushly composed songs have a soothing mood that doesn’t wax into the soporific, just emotionally refined and transporting.

What: Lily & Horn Horse, Banny Grove, French Kettle Station, Petite Garçon and Egg Walk
When: Saturday, 08.24, 9
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Lily & Horn Horse is a New York duo that would be difficult to define except to say that its horn, vocals and beat combination is jazz, dream pop, downtempo hip-hop and avant-garde. Which is just as well given the eclectic sounds on the rest of the bill including French Kettle Stations neo-No Wave, adult-contemporary pop and performance art and Petite Garçon’s own post-garage indie pop. Supposedly the latter has a new album out tonight as well but we can neither confirm or deny so best to bring some money to buy a copy anyway.

What: Oko Tygra w/Bluebook, Hifi Gentry and Cuckoo
When: Saturday, 08.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Oko Tygra is the perfect blend of R&B and dream pop in the grand 4AD label band mold. Bluebook is an interesting hybrid of downtempo, Americana and the avant-garde. Cuckoo is like if a math-y indie band merged with a garage rock band and then forged a musical identity beyond that but rooted in the best aspects of both.

Sunday | August 25

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Total Trash, DJ Couchman on right in sunglasses, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shibui Denver #5: The Vagrant Sea, Tokyo Rodeo and DJ Couchman
When: Sunday, 08.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This edition of our monthly series at Mutiny features DJ Couchman of the band Total Trash and the DJ night Interesting Times spinning songs before the show and between sets. It will be the debut of The Vagrant Sea which includes former members of Tarmints, The Dirty Lookers and The Symptoms (among others) and rock and roll band Tokyo Rodeo will put in a performance fresh off the road.

What: Bryan Ferry w/Femme Schmidt
When: Sunday, 08.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Bryan Ferry is the charismatic singer of pioneering glam rock/experimental band Roxy Music. The latter was a huge influence on punk and alternative rock and whose music has managed to remain somewhat timeless as its classic songwriting style and willingness to go off the deep end into adventurous sonic territory has endured as captivating and relevant. Ferry’s solo work has a similarly creatively refined sensibility and flair for thoughtfully poetic lyrics.

What: KRS-One w/Righteous Revolution and illosophy
When: Sunday, 08.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: KRS-One was the thought-provoking MC who was the frontman for influential hip-hop crew Boogie Down Productions. His whole career KRS-One has shined a light on society’s ills with an incisive and creative critique.

Monday | August 26

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Mogwai circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Mogwai w/Papa M
When: Monday, 08.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Scottish instrumental rock band Mogwai play majestic, even epic journeys into rock music’s outer edges informed by a healthy sense irreverent humor. Papa M is the long running experimental guitar and atmospheric moods project of David Pajo. You know, the guy who brought so much imagination and genius guitar work to Slint, Stereolab, Will Oldham, Royal Trux, The For Carnation, Zwan, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dead Child and Interpol.

Tuesday | August 27

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The Vibrators, photo by Hannah O’Brien via The Vibrators’ website

What: The Vibrators, Filthy Hearts, Cyclo-Sonic and The Pollution
When: Tuesday, 08.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: The Vibrators were an early English punk rock band who managed to stay around and still write worthwhile punk in the classic vein. If Stiff Little Fingers name themselves after one of your songs and go on to be a seminal influence on bands like Green Day your legacy is secure and yet The Vibrators bring a spirited live show that is worthy of that legacy as well. Its debut album Pure Mania should be in the library of any true punk connoisseur.

Wednesday | August 28

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Black Flag, photo courtesy Artists World Wide

What: Black Flag w/The Line Cutters
When: Wednesday, 08.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: It’s not the classic line up of Black Flag but Greg Ginn still rips out that iconic guitar work like he wrote it last week with the unalloyed joy of a young buck. Seeing Ginn lay waste to the room that way alone is worth the price of admission.

Every Country’s Sons: Mogwai at Ogden Theatre, 11/28/17

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Mogwai at Ogden Theatre on November 28, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy.

The stage set looked a bit like something out of Later…with Jools Holland, the long-running music show on BBC2. Like Mogwai was bringing a bit of the UK with them wherever they were touring but also a heightened visual presentation of the music without depending on the lighting of any particular venue.

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Mogwai at Ogden Theatre on November 28, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Drawing liberally from the band’s excellent new record, Every Country’s Sun, Mogwai opened the show with the rich and roiling low end and scintillating, weather system-esque build of the title track. From there and for the rest of the set, Mogwai demonstrated how it’s not quite like some other instrumental rock bands or post-rock acts. If you give yourself some time with the records it hits you. Live, the effect is even more pronounced. It’s never just variations on a theme or jamming out. Mogwai has a vibe if not a one trick pony sound. The song titles suggest there is emotional content that goes beyond merely attempting to be epic. There is humor, terror, apprehension, anxiety, joy, tranquility, contemplative airs and heady dives into layers of sound both introspective and fiery. Mogwai’s dynamism is kinetic—it is of the body. But it is also working on the levels of the heart and the imagination without having to speak or sing a word. Sure, there have been lyrics and vocals in various Mogwai’s songs over the years but on Every Country’s Sun the more pop moments with words work as elements of the music itself, another sound working in synch with the others.

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Opening act, dark synth phenom Xander Harris at Ogden Theatre, November 28, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Because Mogwai’s music is all but beyond language it’s ability to communicate effectively is not dependent on linguistics. And yet its enigmatic titles employ a clever use of the English language to add a sense of suggestive mystery and multiple meanings. With “I’m Jim Morrison I’m Dead,” the surrealistic title conveys a dry, irreverent sense of humor but one that draws on Morrison’s own personal mythology as being connected with Native American spirituality and communicating poetic and cosmic truths past the barriers of time, space and culture. When band edged into the song there was a sense of being swept into a melancholic realm where despair sublimates off into the haze of spent emotions.

And yet there was something a bit different with this Mogwai show. Apparently drummer Martin Bulloch was suffering from health issues and filling in on the tour was Cat Myers of Honeyblood. And Myers proved more than adequate to the task, providing the power and nuance that Bulloch masterfully brings to Mogwai’s records and live performances.

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Mogwai at Ogden Theatre on November 28, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy.

The show would have ended with “Old Poisons” but we were treated to the full rendition of an early Mogwai track, “Mogwai Fear Satan,” proving the Scottish quintet (including touring multi-instrumentalist Alex Mackay) was crafting evocative soundscapes of delicate intricacy and raw power from the beginning.

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Mogwai at Ogden Theatre on November 28, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Set List
Every Country’s Sun
Friend of the Night
Party in the Dark
Crossing the Road Material
Rano Pano
Killing All the Flies
I’m Jim Morrison I’m Dead
Battered at a Scramble
Don’t Believe the Fife
Hunted by a Freak
Auto Rock
Old Poisons

Encore
Mogwai Fear Satan

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Mogwai at Ogden Theatre on November 28, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy.
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Mogwai at Ogden Theatre on November 28, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Best Shows in Denver 11/23/17 – 11/29/17

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Seraphim Shock circa 2010, performs <i>Red Silk Vow</i> in its entirety at Oriental Theater on Friday 11/24/17. Photo by Tom Murphy

Friday: November 24, 2017

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Naako Deesko, members of The Sehkunts, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Seraphim Shock 20th Anniversary of Red Silk Vow w/Euphorbia and DJ Rockstar Aaron
When: Friday, 11.24, 9 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Seraphim Shock started in the mid-90s during, despite what late-comer-commercially successful genre fiction like Twilight might seem otherwise, the height of the vampire craze in America. Anne Rice’s vampire novels with Lestat as a main character were enjoying a bit of a renaissance and Vampire: The Masquerade had become a popular role playing game (in 2018 the 5th edition of the game is due out) with a spin off television series produced by Aaron Spelling for Fox. But Seraphim Shock formed in Denver at a time when LoDo had become a thing that hadn’t dominated all of downtown and plenty of urban decay was a feature of the central part of the Mile High City. Its particular flavor of Goth-industrial music included the musicians performing as vampires with theatrical make-up and garb. What could have been silly instead came off as creating atmosphere and putting on a show rather than the image eschewing late alternative rock underground.

1997’s Red Silk Vow was Seraphim Shock’s debut album coming at a time when the mainstream music world in any sense was having zero to do with the Goth subculture so it seemed an anomaly as vocalist Charles Edward, who performed shows at that time looking Victorian vampire chic including a top hat and cloak, crooned for long lost loves and alternatively raging against cultural conservatism and against a repressive society in general—liberally using the image of Satan as not just the opponent of the Christian god but as a totem against the perverted use of religion to oppress human nature and impulse to creative endeavors.

After the 90s, Seraphim Shock’s music and image transitioned into an even more cartoonishly Satanic glam rock/Goth-industrial hybrid. Arguably the music was better and more developed it was hitting at the wrong time and long before the resurgence of the popularity of glam rock, Goth, industrial and related music of the last few years. But with this celebration of Seraphim Shock’s first album, maybe Edwards can capitalize on this moment.

Who: Sgt. D’s List, ROAC, Almataha
When: Friday, 11.24, 5 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: Early grindcore show at Chain Reaction Records. Sgt. D’s List is an S.O.D. cover band fronted by Alton Schoonmaker of Doperunner and Aberrant. So it’ll be pretty legit and you can check out one of Denver’s best record stores.

Who: The Sehkunts last show w/Smokestack Relic and The Blackouts
When: Friday, 11.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café)
Why: The Blackouts is an all-female hard rock cover band whose members are veterans of the local punk and metal scene. The Sehkunts never played many shows but the people in the band have contributed to Denver’s local culture and music world for decades. The reason it’s the band’s last show is that singer Lisa Cook is moving out of state. Might have something to do with Denver having become a playground for the moneyed at the expense of everyone else. Sounds like all “cool” American cities these days. Cook is perhaps best known as the charismatic frontwoman and guitarist of the punk bands The Emmas and Turbo Knife Fight. In the latter she played with drummer Karen Walton who some may know from her days in the all female punk band Rabid Ragdolls. Walton and Cook played together in the short-lived punk duo Naako Deesko before playing with noteworthy punk and rock guitarist, Sherry Hern. Hern has played in various Denver bands over the years, and having guested in The Emmas now and then, including the all woman punk band Pin Downs and the hip-hop/noise rock phenoms Rainbow Sugar. Primarily an accomplished visual artist these days, Hern can still rock with the best of them. Because there are no real recordings this may be the last time you get to see or even hear The Sehkunts.

Saturday: November 25, 2017

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Animal / object in 2015 (pictured: Gordon Gano on left, Kurt Bauer in middle, Steven Gordon on right), photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Steve Gordon Benefit featuring Animal / object, Lynn Baker – Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Jazz Duo, David Dinsmore, Gordon Gano, The Noise Gallery and Perry Weissman III
When: Saturday, 11.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: This is the benefit show for artist Steven Gordon of Animal / object, with whom we recently conducted an interview about his life in and out of art and music. Tonight the aforementioned musicians will perform including Steven’s own band. Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes will perform a solo set, free/experimental jazz group Perry Weissman III will treat us to some of their own weirdness and an all-star case will perform as The Noise Gallery. You can donate to Steven at this link during his time dealing with pancreatic cancer pre-early 2018 surgery while he has to take a leave from his job. Because cancer is exhausting in a way that goes beyond the usual ways most of us experience.

Sunday: November 26, 2017

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Synth Drone Collective, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Synth Drone Collective
When: Sunday, 11.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This will be the final Textures Ambient Showcase of 2017 hosted by Wesley Davis but it’s all heavy hitters in the Denver/Boulder synth world with a collaborative set as Synth Drone Collective from bios+a+ic, Mark Mosher, Chris Sessions, Sean Faling, Kuxaan-Sum and Chris Frain.

Monday: November 27, 2017

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Purity Ring circa 2012, photo by Landon Speers

Who: Purity Ring w/Oko Tygra
When: Monday, 11.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Ever since the release of 2012’s Shrines, Purity Ring has exerted an influence on pop music production with its imaginative soundscaping born out of their idiosyncratic songwriting style. While still a member of Born Gold, Corin Roddick immersed himself in the art of beatmaking during the downtime that comes with touring and asked Megan James to perform vocals on some of his initial material. The bright, ethereal music sounded like pop songs influenced by hip-hop production. Subsequently the band has worked with Danny Brown and Angel Haze, it’s done numerous remixes, production work on a Chance the Rapper record, recently co-wrote/co-produced three songs on Katy Perry’s 2017 album Witness (whether by chance or otherwise, Katy Perry performed last night at Pepsi Center). But collaborating with massively commercially successful artists aside, Purity Ring’s core appeal is that its work is the product of cultivating their own imaginations and touring with the unique lighting rig designed by Roddick and making music that seems like as great an attempt to express dream imagery as has come down the pike in recent years. Opening the show is the great Denver dream pop band Oko Tygra whose own vision of transcendent sonic beauty will fit in perfectly with what follows the rest of the night.

Tuesday: November 28, 2017

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Hockey Dad, photo by Joseph Crackett

Who: Mogwai w/Xander Harris
When: Tuesday, 11.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: For 22 years, Mogwai has proven that you can write highly expressive instrumental only rock songs that convey a mood, a sense of place, a non-verbal story better than many bands with lyrics. Early on, Mogwai accomplished this with guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. But following 2011’s towering epic Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Mogwai has changed direction a bit of incorporated more synths and production into its sound for an effect like soundtracking an experience rather than what could be seen as cinematic vignettes on its previous albums. Mogwai were no strangers to movie soundtrack work at that point but it seemed to take that method and apply it to crafting its music independent of someone else’s creative vision. 2017’s Every Country Sun demonstrated that Mogwai’s gift for humorous, enigmatic, poetic song titles is still as strong as their ability to write evocative, imaginative music even as they no longer seem tied to having to rock.

Opening is analog synth style artist Xander Harris. His work is often compared to that of John Carpenter with good reason—his dark, brooding synth work evokes a sense of claustrophobia and menace while at the same time creating an expansive emotional atmosphere. Often his music seems inspired by dystopian, horror science fiction though in 2017 he did an alternative soundtrack to the Hoichi the Earless section of 1965 Japanese horror anthology Kwaidan.

Who: Hockey Dad w/The Frights and Vundabar
When: Tuesday, 11.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: If Hockey Dad is a “surf rock” band then surfing in Australia must fit with the marketing clichés used by Foster’s in the 90s. Except that rather than some weak beer, Hockey Dad is a rock duo inspired by 90s punk and garage rock circa The Sonics and The Wailers—melodic, a little rough around the edges and crackling with youthful energy. On the recordings either Zach Stephenson or Billy Fleming must play bass so maybe live they’ll bring on a third member for the tour. The band released its debut full-length, Boronia, in 2016 and its follow-up, Blend Inn, is due out on February 9, 2018 on Kanine Records.

Who: Kanga w/Adoration Destroyed and n810
When: Tuesday, 11.28, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Kanga makes the kind of industrial music certain artists aimed for in the 90s but ended up making sometimes clumsy industrial rock with a short shelf life. As an artist who did music programming for prominent horror films like The Conjuring II, Insidious III and The Devil’s Carnival, Kanga DuChamp has proven to have a real ear for a hook that works in a variety of contexts. Her 2016 self-titled full-length sounds like something from that 90s era of industrial music if the limiting sonic fetishes were shed such as over processed, crunchy guitar, alienating aggression in any aspect of a song, the distorted screaming that got old immediately after Trent Reznor took it in interesting musical directions while many just settled for being monochromatic vocalists. DuChamp actually sings. Her songs are still dense, edgy and dark while not shying away from pop songcraft. Maybe you could compare her music to that of Curve. Catch her at a small club like 3 Kings before she moves on to bigger venues.

Wednesday: November 29, 2017

Corner Girls
Corner Girls, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ashley Koett, The Corner Girls, Schapero and Terremoto
When: Wednesday, 11.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ashley Koett isn’t yet well known anywhere but her sophisticated, jazz-inflected, soulful pop songs are reminiscent of Amy Winehouse had Winehouse come up listening to a lot of indie rock like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie, bands that are no strangers to fully incorporating electronic sounds in their own music. The Corner Girls are a surf rock band with a feminist punk edge. Schapero’s new single “Freaking Out” sounds like a combination of flamenco guitar and emotionally fragile ambient pop—spidery guitar, echoing, ghostly cloaks of sound around the vocals. Terremoto is a band whose sound harkens to that branch of early 2000s emo and post-rock that employs slow, fragile dynamics that reflect an introspective state of mind better than a lot of abstract, chill, ambient music.