Who:Atmosphere w/Musab + Ink Well (Mink), deM atlaS, The Lioness and DJ Keezy When: Thursday, 12.07, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Though Atmosphere is all but a mainstream hip-hop act these days, Slug and Ant had their roots in underground hip-hop in the 90s. As cofounders of Rhymesayers Entertainment, the influential Minneapolis hip-hop imprint, Slug and Ant participated in that creatively rich and collaborative environment nationally that included the Mush Records and Anticon Records imprints and Slug’s participation in Deep Puddle Dynamics, the alternative hip-hop supergroup that also included Sole, Doeseone, Alias and Jel of Anticon. But Atmosphere slowly started to enjoy greater levels of commercial success after the 90s while still remaining an innovative and interesting project. By the time of 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, Atmosphere worked with Tom Waits on “The Waitress.” Each of Atmosphere’s subsequent albums have charted respectably on the Billboard charts. But none of that would matter a bit if the music wasn’t worthwhile. On 2017’s Fishing Blues, Slug has returned to the deeply introspective delivery style that made his early work so compelling. Except the naivete is gone but the need to express his truth from the perspective of an older person who doesn’t find some of the bravado of his youth so charming and who finds the desperation to be oh-so-clever boring. Atmosphere today doesn’t lack for the energy for which it’s become known but it is more sharply channeled. Atmosphere is performing numerous shows throughout Colorado over the next ten days or so, the front range shows shows, in addition to the Thursday, December 7 date in Denver include shows on Saturday, December 9 at The Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, December 10 again at Ogden Theatre in Denver, December 12 at Black Sheep in Colorado Springs and December 13 at Boulder Theater in Boulder.
Friday: December 8, 2017
Who:Ian Cooke The Flight I Flew album release show and Going Away Party When: Friday, 12.08, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ian Cooke is moving to South Carolina in 2018 to be with his partner of the last handful of years. And when you listen to his 2017 album The Flight I Flew, you can tell he went through an extended period of emotional confusion and turmoil ultimately coming to a place where his heart and and head are in alignment and his creative music given a focus that maybe it hadn’t had in such a short span of time that it took to assemble the new record. You can hear in the album’s songs the epiphanies, the self-realizations, the accepting of forgiveness that takes real work on the part of both people, and the commitment to personal accountability that you don’t hear in a lot of pop music even when it is as thoughtful and ambitious as the type Cooke has written his entire career. Friday’s show will be the full band spanning Cooke’s catalog while Saturday’s show will focus on Cooke’s quieter songs in a solo format. Either way, here’s your chance to see one of Denver’s truly greatest songwriters perform before you only get to see him maybe once a year.
Who:Death in Space, Shawn Mlekush and Herpes Hideaway When: Friday, 12.08, 6 p.m. Where: Hooked on Colfax Why: Aleeya Wilson is a Girls Rock Denver alumna who was probably a bit different from her peers as she used her guitar to make noise and ambient music rather than whatever popular musical style was favored among teens of that time. As a musician and writer, Wilson has tended toward conceptual work with a visceral quality making few if any concessions to mainstream accessibility. Supposedly this is one of her last noise shows in Denver though she’ll probably do some more while in grad school out of state. Shawn Mlekush is one of the synth players in experimental electronic band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory. No, not making that up. So his set will be interesting. And of course there’s the dark ambient of Herpes Hideaway. That entity is the solo project of Patrick Urn whose contributions to industrial band In Ether, the production on some Church Fire material and his various noise, hip-hop and electro efforts over the years may not be widely known but in the underground Denver experimental scene, widely respected. Herpes Hideaway finds Urn adopting the character of a witch-like being from another dimension evoking the fears and pains of humanity and purging them from the collective unconscious. Maybe not but that’s the vibe of the live show.
Sunday: December 10, 2017
Who:Unsane w/Plaque Marks and Pueblo Escobar When: Sunday, 12.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Unsane crawled out of the 80s stained by the crushing, avant-garde noise rock of Swans, the organic-mystical industrial of Einsturzende Neubauten and perhaps the punishingly grinding transcendence of Flipper. So much so that the band has been often mistaken for a metal band, though that influence is probably there too through the more early doom and thrash end of that music. These days Unsane’s closest musical cousins are probably bands like Eye Hate God and the current incarnation of Neurosis. Its songs sounding like a Rob Zombie movie feels to watch in their finest moments—harrowing, unblinking in its depiction of the horrors humankind inflicts on itself, all awash in heightened emotions. Philadelphia’s Plaque Marks includes members of Creepoid, Ecstatic Vision and Fight Champ so it’s noisy post-hardcore-ish sound is beautifully disorienting. Like if Butthole Surfers had somehow emerged after the 31G imprint bands and modern psychedelic doom had their impact and its members decided they needed to push beyond their immediate influences. Pueblo Escobar is a Denver-based, metallic post-hardcore band that actually lives up to a name like that with dark, edgy songs played with an exuberant sense of fun.
Who:Ultrametal Presents: The Last King of Poland (10) w/John Gross (11), Meme Girls (11:30), Killd By (9:30), Birth (10:30), Ghost House (8:30), French Kettle Station (8) and Blank Human (9) When: Sunday, 12.10, 7 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Noise tends not to get much stage time outside of DIY venues and Mutiny so this noise showcase at Syntax, a venue that often has a more open booking policy than most clubs, is a welcome change of setting for a show like this. It’s a broad spectrum of noise and not a whole lot in the way of the harsher side. John Gross of Page 27 is playing a rare solo set. Killd By will make the kind of hyperkinetic dance music that only Colin Ward could make in his manipulation of self-created samples inside his beats. Birth is as much performance art as weirdo breakcore. French Kettle Station will likely be his usual energetic post-punk/synthwave delivered with a visceral energy. Blank Human, a noisy kind of ambient. Touring through from Chicago is Last King of Poland who will bring his beat-driven ambient noise tracks. Set times indicated above in parentheses.
Monday: December 11, 2017
Who:Hunter Dragon birthday/going away party w/Lazarus Horse and Midwife When: Monday, 12.11, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Hunter Adams pushed in many different musical directions when he moved to Denver in the mid-2000s from St. Louis. You could consider some of what he did in the indie pop vein, but he also made experimental synth music that bordered on the ambient. His restless imagination wouldn’t let him settle for anything rote so some of his later music was a completely unique sort of electronic dance pop music but infused with an edgy emotional honesty that you pretty much never hear in that sort of music. Adams is a true original with a rich imagination that he expresses with his music eloquently and vividly. Now Adams is moving away from Denver yet again and celebrating the occasion, along with his birthday, with Lazarus Horse and avant-folk artist Midwife. With Madeline Johnston of the latter, Adams was involved in Tiny Amp Tapes so hopefully he can still have some involvement with imprint from afar.
Tuesday: December 12, 2017
Who:Panther Martin w/Couches, Male Blonding and Godchild When: Tuesday, 12.12, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Panther Martin, the Denver-based indie rock band, has never suffered from a lack of strong songwriting but it’s recent Drats EP finds the band pushing past its obvious influences (The Strokes, maybe some Pavement in there as well as other tuneful purveyors of tastefully fuzzy tone). Couches from San Francisco seems to be coming from a similar place musically but more punk, more from the House of Reatard. Male Blonding may have the greatest rhythm section in Denver indie rock but one that plays to the band’s richly emotive songwriting lead in part by Noah Simons’ commanding yet melancholic vocals.
Who: Hott Mt w/déCollage and Moon Magnet DJ set lost-lake.com/event/1582575-hott-mt-denver When: Tuesday, 12.12, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Hott Mt apparently tracked down Wayne Coyne a handful of years ago and got him to work with them on some music and a video. He later became a fan of the band’s ethereal, synth driven pop music reminiscent of Air’s elegantly crafted nostalgia-inducing tonality and The Helio Sequence’s meshing of guitar rock and gossamery synth pop. Maybe think Black Moth Super Rainbow a bit too. Check out the band’s excellent 2017 album AU. Seems a good pairing with déCollage’s playfully colorful psychedelic music that sounds like it’s being channeled from a world where all classic children’s literature isn’t fiction but a wondrous world worth exploring.
Wednesday: December 13, 2017
Who:Empress w/Grass and Paper Knees When: Tuesday, 12.12, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Empress’ 2017 album, Passion Fade, perfectly synthesizes the band’s instinct for dark, beat-driven industrial music, death rock and the heavier end of post-punk—think The Cult and early Death In June. Gritty, borderline abrasive stuff with corrosive atmospheres. In a bit of inspired pairing, Boulder’s lo-fi noise rock phenoms Grass are also on the bill. Fans of Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones, Eat Skull and the Reatards should check out Grass.
Who:Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series 2017 finale When: Wednesday, 12.13, 6 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This will be the final installment of the 2017 edition of The Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Records with a focus on more experimental electronic acts from Denver. The shows happened in the basement of Hooked on Colfax with Glasss bringing in a P.A. to allow the room to be awash in rich sounds. For this final show of the year in that series, Glasss will bring in various artists to perform. Some of them may even collaborate but, as with the rest of the series, it’ll be quality and interesting stuff.
This is the first in a series of mini-profiles of musicians and artists, mostly from Denver for now, called The Dozens where the interviewer asks, as the name suggests, twelve questions. For the debut we posted some questions to Steven Gordon, a Denver native, and a significant local artist whose sculptures and visual work demonstrate a simple but unmistakable style and whose relatively-late-in-life immersion in improvisational music through his playing in avant-garde band Animal / object has earned fans among Reed Fuchs of Moon Magnet and Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes who now regularly performs with the group. Gordon as a musician and as an artist seems to be someone who quietly lets the work speak for itself with a grace and humility not common enough in the arts.
Over the last few years Gordon has experienced the death of his mother and his own battle with health issues and this Saturday there will be a benefit show to help Gordon in his dealing with his illness (discussed below). The show will include performances by local and non-local musical luminaries such as Animal / object, Gordon Gano, Perry Weissman 3, David Dinsmore and Lynn Baker-Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Jazz Duo. There will be a silent auction with donations from various local artists and businesses. Those unable to attend the event and/or wanting to donate directly to Gordon as he is needing to take a leave of absence from his job for the duration can do so through his Paypal account here.
Queen City Sounds and Art:Most kids do some kind of artwork growing up whether or not they think of it that way. What got you to keep doing art beyond childhood where everyone had art classes and were more or less forced to do something they do naturally?
Steven Gordon: Honestly, mostly album cover art and drafting classes. Studying the different techniques and trying to mimic those, for instance, with markers and hair spray. Library books. Auto shows.
Being from Denver, what and where were your first experience with art and music outside the more formal (Denver Art Museum, shows at McNichols and Red Rocks etc.) context?
I’d say early MTV, then MusicLink and Teletunes. Westminster was not exactly an art Mecca.
When did you have your first art show and where was it showcased? If this has not happened yet somehow let’s make that happen. But I’m assuming it has.
Not a solo show, but it was around 1991at a Westminster gallery called Ec-Lec-Tic Art, a tiny space run by Mark Oeser.
Was there anyone in your life that fostered your love of art? Mentored you in any way? How did that person or those people do so in a way that you felt cultivated your creativity or helped you to cultivate it yourself?
After leaving engineering, before I had shown anywhere, I had a job as head artist at Ocean Pacific Childrenswear, which, with no actual experience, enabled me to develop myriad techniques and styles. What a thing to get paid for! They had some really great art directors, and I am grateful for the experience.
I’m mostly familiar with your sculpture and pottery (which I suppose is a form of sculpture). What about that medium do you feel appeals to you most? What about pottery do you find interesting as it is more a reproducible work as opposed to a a piece made not with the intention of being reproduced?
I didn’t get into ceramics until about 8 years after I opened my studio. Once I was surrounded by ceramicists, I absorbed their influences. I started out doing small to large-scale flat wall installations. Now, I’m fascinated with the possibilities of slip casting, though to do multiples of custom assemblages is a daunting task.
When did you start playing music? Do you have formal training in it and if so where did you get your start in terms of instruments?
I started playing around with music pretty late in life, around age 47, after a lesson in surface mic building at Titwrench. I was hooked on the possibilities of captured noise for life after that. I have absolutely no formal training in music at all. Three things nurtured me: Classical music, becoming the bass drum player in that weirdo marching band here in town, and a 4-track recorder and some Danelectro pedals to feed the surface mics through.
As a member of Animal / object you perform sometimes improvised pieces, sometimes spontaneous compositions. What do you find interesting and satisfying about that way of making music? A lot of musicians can’t really operate in that context because of its off the cuff quality.
As a self-taught musician, there’s really no other way for me to play. I don’t read music, and when I’m using homemade instruments, there are no formal rules, so I have no choice but to learn those instruments and make it up as I go. There’s a strange freedom in that pressure. Playing that way actually informs the ear in many ways the rigidity of a composed piece may never do. It causes you to listen to the space and the mindset of the other players, their timing, their intensity, that would usually be missing in most forms of composed pieces.
I’m under the impression, for whatever reason, that you had a span of years when you weren’t involved in music or making art. Is that true? What was occupying your time? If so, what brought you back to it or into getting into playing music either for the first time or again?
I had reached a point where I just couldn’t do another corporate art commission, so I kind of broke away, but that really gave birth to the whole music thing. I was still doing art, but just letting myself experiment without the pressure of showing or selling. The marching band and Animal / object really drew me back into society, which was ultimately very good for me.
I believe that after a certain age most people know what their life is about or what they want it to be about. What would you say your life is about or what you want it to be about? Do you know what made you realize those things?
Right now life is all about survival. As much as I enjoy helping other people, being forced to focus on my own well being is fairly alien, so ultimately I hope to come out of this with a renewed spirit of inspiration and giving to others.
You recently spent some time for for a serious ailment. What was the nature of the ailment and what was done to deal with it?
It’s pancreatic cancer, and it sneaks up on you. I’m in Stage 2, so we’re attacking it with chemo for now, and they will reapproach the surgery in January.
You’ve dealt with some major, life-changing experiences over the last several years. Beyond being devastating in a way that many people may not yet be able to relate to, have these experiences caused you to reevaluate aspects of your life for the better? Or at least to redirect your energies in a way maybe you didn’t think you would in years past?
After looking over my mother the last few years until her passing in February, I went in to caregiving full time. I figured it was the best way to use what I had been learning over that time. I discovered that the more I can give of myself, the more I can make a difference to others. I don’t think I can give that up anytime soon.
What is one or a few things in life that you have yet to accomplish or do or experience that you’d still like to and why so?
One major thing I want to do is a tribute album to my mother. She sang with Antonia Brico back in high school, so I’d like to hunt down a recording of her and work it together with the field recordings of her hospital machine noises and the oxygen pump sounds from her last weeks at the house.
Who:L.A. Witch w/Honduras and Palo Santo When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: L.A. Witch’s 2017 self-titled album has a kind of post-Loaded-era Velvet Underground stark shimmery pop grit coupled with a languid psych spookiness. In the songs there is a strong, often urgent, rhythm giving the songs some oomph even when they’re introspective. Any roots the band may have in surf rock or psych garage or whatever trendy of the sounds of the past five to ten years, it has definitely moved on. “Drive Your Car” could be an updated Wipers song. Singer/guitarist Sade Sanchez has a smoky cool voice reminiscent of a world weary Hope Sandoval. Whatever comparisons seem valid, L.A. Witch has turned tired conventions on their head into an incredibly compelling sound. Denver’s Palo Santo is cut from a similar cloth in every way with haunting yet fiery guitar work and Mimi Nissan’s trance-state style vocals.
Who:Revolting Cocks (Big Sexy Land Tour) and Front Line Assembly w/CHANT, DJ Slave 1 and Ritual Aesthetic When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: This show signals the end of the train of noteworthy industrial bands, newer and more established, that came through Denver in 2017. Revolting Cocks started with Front 242’s Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker writing music produced by Al Jourgensen, who was often a collaborator. While clearly irreverent at its heart given the band’s name and album titles like Beers, Steers, and Queers and Linger Ficken’ Good the former of which includes a cover of Olivia Newton John’s “(Let’s Get) Physical,” the latter a cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart, Revolting Cocks have interesting and respectable and influential original music across its spate of albums. The current lineup includes Richard 23 and Van Acker, of course, but also former Ministry and Blackouts bassist Paul Barker and longtime Cocks partner in crime, Chris Connelly whose 2008 memoir Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible, and Fried: My Life As A Revolting Cock was a candid, amusing and revelatory account of being in the industrial and alternative music world in general from the 80s forward.
Front Line Assembly’s vision of dystopian global civilization has unfortunately borne out since it sprang to life in 1986. Up to that time frontman Bill Leeb had been a member of Skinny Puppy and his subsequent music in FLA continued that quality that’s difficult to completely nail to a sub-genre of industrial music. The samples put into the music mirrored the influence of hip-hop production on Skinny Puppy, the extensive use of electronic instruments and synths right in line with that like the EBM bands of that day as well as FLA’s imaginative blending of it all to comment on the nature of technology and its impact on human civilization and our everyday lives. Turns out it has continued to be a fruitful subject for not only FLA but science fiction writers mining that rich dystopian nugget of inspiration.
Who: Cindy Wilson (of B-52s) w/Olivia Jean and Battle Pussy
When: Thursday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Cindy Wilson is a member of influential new wave band The B-52s and her unique vocal style alongside that of bandmates Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider made for some arresting melodies amid the incredibly dance-worthy pop songs that were so idiosyncratic in the specific subject matter, no one else could have made it. And yet there was a universal quality to that individual vision that resonated with the oddball and eccentric inside of most people. Currently, Wilson is touring her solo material. Earlier in 2017 Wilson released a fairly experimental, electronic pop EP called Supernatural and on December 1st she is putting out her debut solo album Change, some 41 years into her music career. If the song “Mystic” is any indication, Wilson still has plenty of relevant and inventive music left in her.
Who:Today’s Paramount, Samvega, Alex Culbreth, Buffalo Party, Mynewt When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: Samvega from Napa Valley, California doesn’t fit in a simple box: Its music is heavy, it’s psychedelic, it’s avant-garde and bluesy. Melissa and Mercedes Baker are unconventionally charismatic singers who sound like and come off like they spent a couple of decades touring with Heart and went on to do something weirder. The band’s 2016 album The King is Asleep was one of that year’s most interesting rock albums for its diversity and obvious care for making it a unique from the songwriting to the painting for the cover art. Also on the bill is experimental rock band Today’s Paramount. They look like they might be in a ska band, and maybe on the side some of them are, but their weirdo take on prog, jazz and psych is not like much of anything going on in Denver.
Who:Melkbelly w/Super Bummer, Princess Dewclaw When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Initially, Melkbelly may sound like yet another modern rock band copping the vibe of 90s post-grunge underground music. But Melkbelly is way weirder than that and its jazz underpinnings and willingness to sculpt pure noise into something musical is what makes its 2017 album Nothing Valley so listenable to anyone looking for a band that isn’t trying to go full retro these days. One might liken Melkbelly’s sound to stuff like Magik Markers or Shearing Pinx but Melkbelly is often more melodic than that even if it sounds like it too took some cues from Unwound’s sonic fearlessness. Opening are excellent Denver bands Super Bummer with its melancholic, lo-fi, soaring songs of heartbreak and isolation and Princess Dewclaw, who seem to have found a new way to combine noise rock, punk, synthesizers and elemental vocals into something both confrontational and rivetingly fragile.
Who:Roska with Rabit, Trisicloplox, Ulmo, Rameau Contnrol, Laru and ilind When: Thursday, 11.16, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Rameau Control you can’t really fit into a narrow category of electronic music from melodic bass, dub techno, straight techno to whatever. Calling this bill merely “experimental electronic” does a disservice to the individual artists who all come at electronic music partly from a dance perspective but also as composers of music that absorb ideas and exchange methods and sounds with like-minded artists and co-influencing each other whether from Denver or otherwise. For example, ilind is Isaac Linder who often played Denver DIY venues as a noise and performance artist but one who was into house music.
Friday: November 17, 2017
Who:Tommy Stimson’s Cowboys in the Campfire When: Friday, 11.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bruz Beers Why: Cowboys in the Campfire is Tommy Stimson of The Replacements fame (he has also played in numerous other bands including Guns N’ Roses) and Chip Roberts of Uncle Sippy playing songs together as the name suggests but usually electric. Country punk? For fans of NRBQ? Whatever it is, it’s Stimson and Roberts playing lively, fun songs in a duo format in small venues, record stores, private homes and various other situations across the country this tour. Next time you see Stimson play it’ll probably be in a large theater or bigger so hey, make it to this and you might even get to interact with the musicians, something that would probably never happen at Red Rocks or The Fillmore without paying for some kind of wack VIP access ticket.
Who:Flobots w/Wesley Watkins & Grumpy Uncle (Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan) When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Yes, the famous hip-hop band from Denver, Flobots, playing at Larimer Lounge. The opening act, though, is a collaboration between former Night Sweats trumpet player, and leader of The Other Black, Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp. So expect something wonderfully weird but with solid songcraft and inspired lyrics.
Who:The Blasters night 1 w/Reno Divorce When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Reno Divorce, a rootsy punk band from Denver, opens this night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.
Who:Lost Walks w/Midwife When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Lost Walks is sort of a high concept Americana-esque band. High concept in that there is a prepared theatrical element to the live shows as the band collaborates with a visual arts group. Also, the lyrics, steeped in a pastoral and noir literature aesthetic, lend themselves to dramatic performance and grand, emotive gestures from the band’s various vocalists including former Bad Luck City frontman, Dameon Merkl. The band’s debut album, 2017’s Wolf, Woman, Man, is a fascinating contrast of bright, dark, moody, reflective and observational. Opening the show is avant-folk artist Midwife whose own 2017 debut, Like Author, Like Daughter, is one of the the best albums of the year for its delicate, fragile evocation of emotions so broad and deep that it always catches you by surprise with its subtle but irresistible power.
Who:Slow Magic w/Point Point and Qrion When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Slow Magic exists outside of time. The interdimensional creature occasionally releases albums like 2017’s ultra-chillout pop extravaganza Float. You can witness the superstring hopper yourself tonight at The Gothic Theatre.
Who:Big Lo (Florida), RAREBYRD$, iiwii and Brett Gretsky When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: An experimental hip-hop show at Tennyson’s Tap isn’t unheard of and this time it’s Big Lo from Florida whose beats include a mix of samples and turntablism to create a sense of introspection in the face of impending danger. Before and since moving from Saint Louis to Denver, Rooster Jake has been involved in various hip-hop and experimental projects over the years, his latest being iiwii. Brett Gretzky recently migrated to Denver from Saint Louis as well bringing their mixture of hip-hop and soul. RAREBYRD$ will break your heart with sincerely, deeply felt yet gentle expressions of the lowest points a person can reach in the psyche and still come back with one’s soul intact. They use drum machines, synths and sequencers but it always sounds like it’s coming right out of their imagination and plugged into the P.A..
Who:Ice Troll, Never Kenezzard, Heathen Burial and White Dwarf When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Pit Stop Tavern Why: Doom shows don’t happen in far West Denver much but tonight doom orchestra Ice Troll will play Pit Stop Tavern along with sludge metal thrashers Never Kenezzard, noisy death metal trio Heathen Burial and stoner rock outfit White Dwarf.
Saturday: November 18, 2017
Who:Dead Boys 40th Anniversary tour w/The Roxy Suicide When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: For four years Dead Boys were one of the most outrageous and influential of the early punk bands. With just two albums under its belt, 1977’s Young Loud and Snotty and 1978’s We Have Come for Your Children, Dead Boys set a high bar for inventive guitar work between Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero, a primitivistic yet inspired rhythm section in Johnny Blitz and Jeff Magnum and literate yet gritty lyrics from charismatic frontman Stiv Bators. The original band split in 1979 but in its wake a lot of the more interesting and scary punk bands of the 80s emerged. In 2017 the band officially re-formed and issued a re-recording of Young Loud and Snotty called Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40 with its new lineup including Chrome and Blitz as well as new members Jason Kottwitz on guitar, Ricky Rat on bass and frontman Jake Hout. The original record was meant as a demo and the new record is of a much higher quality if missing the genius alchemy of the original band. But you’re not getting a second rate re-tread this time around. This version of the Dead Boys may be older but it still packs a punch.
Who: Galaxy Express 555 (MN), Hippies Wearing Muzzles, J. Hamilton Isaacs When: Saturday, 11.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Historic Grant Avenue Church Why: Galaxy Express 555 is Christopher Farstad’s project that incorporates elements of ambient music, experiential sound environment composition, sampling and loops to create music that has the effect of being a soundtrack to some non-dystopian future society of wide open spaces and minds. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is a modular synth project from Denver. J. Hamilton Isaacs is basically Dugout Canoe so you know the beats and analog synth combination will be beautifully transporting yet feel grounded at the same time. All of this is taking place in church where the natural acoustics will give otherwise electronic music a warmth it doesn’t often project.
Who:Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series featuring Equine w/Mondo Obscura When: Saturday, 11.18, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked on Colfax Why: This is the latest in Glasss’s Speakeasy Series in the basement of Hooked on Colfax. This time with ambient duo Mondo Obscura and experimental guitar minimalist Equine. Kevin Richards of the latter played drone guitar for years as Temples after having spent several years in weirdo post-hardcore outfit Motheater where he made strange jazz chords fit into a punk context. This show will be a collaborative set between the two projects.
Who:King Eddie – Holographic Universe Album release w/Kyle Emerson, Panther Martin and déCollage DJ set, visuals by DenVR When: Saturday, 11.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: King Eddie is releasing its debut album Holographic Universe and celebrating the occasion with friends Kyle Emerson (whose pastoral psych pop songs are graced with Emerson’s insightful, observational lyrics) and Panther Martin (if indie rock could have come out of late 1970s New York City, it might have sounded like Panther Martin). King Eddie’s songs sound like the band synthesized modern psychedelic rock with math rock rhythms as though assembling a beat over which the band created a colorful and transporting imagery. Reed Fuchs of déCollage will do one of his unique DJ sets and be prepared for some truly unusual and inspired images from DenVR.
Who:It’s Just Bugs, Nearby Liars, Mouthfeel, Falsetto Boy When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This’ll be a weird one for some people because few of the bands are anything alike. It’s Just Bugs is an industrial hip-hop band. Nearby Liars are somewhere between slowcore and late 90s emo with all the glitter and drifty, sweeping, swelling, dramatic emotional experiences you’d want vicariously from that kind of music to purge the Fall blues. Mouthfeel includes members of Wrinkle, Altered State and Laurium. Falsetto Boy is some post-emo, lo-fi singer songwriter type of music.
Who:The Blasters w/O.G. Country When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why:The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Its 1980 debut album American Music really was a demonstration of how much American music the Alvin brothers, Bill Bateman and John Bazz had absorbed, learned, reinterpreted, amalgamated and reinvented. O.G. Country from Denver, opens this second night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.
Who:Liam Gallagher w/Warbly Jets When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Oasis’ 1995 hit “Wonderwall” made way too many people think maybe they too can sing in a pop band. Part of it was Liam Gallagher’s borderline tone deaf vocal delivery. But Gallagher is a gifted, powerful singer with some charming rough edges to his voice. And to his personality, for that matter. His conflict with brother Noel was the stuff of tabloid news. But one thing we can thank Oasis for was in finishing off some real dreck in popular music by offering something better and more genuine because you knew the Gallagher brothers weren’t faking it. Endless naff covers of “Wonderwall” plaguing karaoke nights and dire YouTube videos aside, Liam Gallagher’s real legacy was not just his music but some truly amazing moments of comedy and inspiredly uncharitable bits of rhetoric over the years as well as tender and earnest expressions of appreciation for other artists even when, such as the case with The Verve in recent years, those expressions come off as a bit of a headscratcher. He probably had a good laugh about that. Gallagher’s debut solo album, As You Were, came out in October 2017. It’s a bit reminiscent of 60s blue eyed soul and David Bowie’s more R&B moments but the songwriting is solid.
Opening the show is Warbly Jets from Los Angeles. It’s self-titled debut album is a bit slick and polished for a bunch of young musicians who clearly have it in them to go full on into the kind of gritty yet tuneful rock and roll that inspired them. But that’s what happens in the music industry often enough and you just have to check out the band in their, one would presume, element, on stage. With any luck you’ll see a band that has shed the self-conscious quality of the record and even where it might be derivative, play like the band believes in itself.
Sunday: November 19, 2017
Who:Chad VanGaalen w/NE-HI When: Sunday, 11.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chad VanGaalen may not necessarily be known for this now but at some point in the future he may be more widely acknowledged as one of the most influential guitarists and producers of his generation. His bedroom recordings for Infiniheart was picked up by SubPop in 2005. His gift for articulating the anxiety and alienation of the modern era clearly struck a chord and his subsequent music has explored some dark and some merely troubling corners of the human psyche with an ear for the perfect harmonic atmospherics and texture. In 2008, Van Gaalen began his relationship with the math rock/post-punk band Women, a band now oft-cited by younger guitar bands as an influence for its creative use of tone, angular rhythms and dynamics. Members of Women are now in Preoccupations. VanGaalen’s 2017 album Light Information sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Mission of Burma, Helium, 80s minimal synth music and various Jay Reatard projects but the alchemy of that and his own well-developed aesthetic has rendered the songs into something that sounds like something from a long time ago in a place some of us wish existed. It has the kind of vintage sheen like a Ti West film.
Chicago’s NE-HI put out one of the years most repeatedly listenable albums of the year with OFFERS. It’s labyrinthine melodies and straightforward rhythms are a winning combination because it transforms lo-fi garage rock into something extraordinary. Comparisons could be made to Palm, Pavement and Parquet Courts. But its urgent jangle is coming from a different place and that’s what sets the band apart.
Who:Tori Amos w/Scars on 45 When: Sunday, 11.19, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Tori Amos was one of the earliest artists to attain mainstream commercial success to sing about sexual abuse, her struggle to attain her own creative liberation in a sexist music industry that often could (and often can, truth be told) value women as objectified entities that must fit a fairly narrow mold to present to potential audiences. And otherwise just refreshingly vulnerable and honest depictions of life. Though Amos spent much of the rest of her career exploring and writing thoughtfully on these subjects, in the 2000s, Amos put more focus on more mythical expressions, giving her work new dimensions only hinted at in her earlier work. 2017’s Native Invader is about how we can heal ourselves and the world through facing our challenges and conflicts honestly—which has more or less been Amos’ core message as a songwriter since her solo debut album, 1992’s Little Earthquakes.
Tuesday: November 21, 2017
Who:In the Company of Serpents, Goya, Matriarch and Palehorse/Palerider When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A handful of Denver’s best heavy bands are on this bill. Matriarch is a doom/drone band whose 2015 album Magnumus: The 44th Scribe and Lorde of the Hallucinauts has two tracks. And it’s not an EP. It’s also just two lengthy songs that take you on a journey of crushing epics like the soundtrack to Vikings exploring the lands of Irish legend set in South America. Blend all that imagery together and that’s the Matriarch sound. In the Company of Serpents has cracked the monolith of its own sound this past year and the result is 2017’s Ain-Soph Aur, where the band’s songwriting beyond devastating riffs emerges for some of ITCOS’ best songs to date. Palehorse/Palerider is the kind of band where people who have generally played more punk-oriented music got into the soundcaping possibilities of heavy music whether metal or the deep atmospherics of the best shoegaze and post-rock music. Its own 2017 epic masterpiece is Burial Songs.
Who:Mom Jeans. (Side One Dummy), Prince Daddy & The Hyena (NY), Kississippi (PA), Old Sport and Blue Lane Frontier When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: The lazy thing to do would be to say this is an emo show. Mom Jeans from Berkeley, California is unabashedly so and thus part of that band’s appeal. And more like the late 90s, borderline indie rock variety with the spidery, jangly guitar work. Old Sport from Denver is on the more math-y end of emo with intricate guitar work and song dynamics that sound like someone is thinking in terms of film editing with dramatic drop-outs and sparkling guitar melodies, emotionally charged vocals and a variety of rhythm and texture not common enough in punk generally. Kississippi from Philadelphia is fronted by singer and primary songwriter Zoe Reynolds whose lyrics possess an impressive insight into her own emotional landscape and the ability to translate that into instantly relatable songs.
Wednesday: November 22, 2017
Who:Git Some, Zebroids, Fast Eddie, Jane Doe When: Wednesday, 11.22, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Post-hardcore band Git Some has been around for well over a decade when it started in Chicago in the early 2000s. Through various line-up changes members of the band (Charles French and Neil Keener) have also become members of Wovenhand, bringing another level of grit and intensity to a project not short on that already. It’s essentially noise rock with a sense of humor. Speaking of humor, punk band Zebroids is essentially a ridiculous joke of a punk rock band with absurd lyrics and an equally absurd stage presence. Nevertheless, the band is a lot of fun. Jane Doe is a combination of dark, starkly intense poetry, jagged noise rock and free jazz sensibilities. Fronted by the charismatic Becca Mhalek, Jane Doe is one of Denver’s best kept secrets. For now. Fast Eddie is a hard rock band from Denver which includes Micah Morris who some may know as one of the main people behind Barf magazine. Silly name, perhaps, with some fairly absurdist content, but the magazine has provided some of the better content about Denver music and beyond of recent years
Who:Cannibal Corpse w/Power Trip, Gatecreeper and Of Feather and Bone When: Wednesday, 11.22, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Cannibal Corpse has been getting under the skin of cultural conservatives and squeamish faux-do-gooders for years with music that itself isn’t something we’re going to hear much of any time soon on commercial radio. But the lyrics, quotable by gore horror fans and metalheads for years, almost gleefully crafted to outrage with being so cartoonishly over the top, is what has landed Cannibal Corpse in some hot water with would-be censors. But the live show isn’t littered with corpses and zombies or anything like that so just go expecting one of death metal’s greatest bands. Opening the show are Dallas-based thrash band Power Trip, Arizonan death metallers Gatecreeper (whose music video for “Desperation” from 2016’s Sonoran Depravation is a harrowing depiction of violence and a bit of a commentary on what leads to that sort of thing), and Denver’s deathgrind powerhouse, Of Feather and Bone.