Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 10/17/19 – 10/23/19

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Guerilla Toss performs at Hi-Dive on October 19, 2019, photo by Vanessa Castro

Thursday | October 17

Sun Blood Stories
Sun Blood Stories, photo by Sun Blood Stories

What: Sun Blood Stories, Space Jail, The Teeth of the Hydra and Prayer Hands
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City Studio
Why: Sun Blood Stories from Boise, Idaho, has been creating its experimental psychedelic music since 2011. Though the band emerged around the time when the most recent wave of psychedelic rock was headed toward its peak, Sun Blood Stories seemed to come from a different place. Its shows feel a bit like you’re seeing what a traveling, shamanistic musical ceremony might be like. Its songs, some rock, some weirdo folk, all informed by an attempt to create a mood and an experience as much as, or more so, than melody. The group is now touring in support of its 2019 album Haunt Yourself.

What: 303 Synth City: Patternshift, Malibu Nights, Niq V, Bob Sync
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Walnut Room

What: Brent Penny, Cuckoo, Shanea
When: Thursday, 10.17, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: False Report (EP release) w/In My Room, Pacific Nerve, Cagemates
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Friday | October 18

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Temples, photo by Laura Allard Fleischl

What: Temples w/Honey Harper
When: Friday, 10.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Temples from Kettering, England made big waves with its debut album Sun Structures at the apex of the neo-psychedelic era. But one thing that has set Temples apart from its peers is its mastery of layered dynamics like an orchestration of oil projections. The Krautrock-like rhythms, the sheets of luminous ethereal sounds, the haunted and the soaring vocals, guitars carrying both melody and texture shimmering throughout, Temples didn’t get stuck playing in an indie folk band that discovered weird pedals one day and jammed out to “Anemone” by the Brian Jonestown Massacre endlessly. Temples perfectly weds pop songcraft with mind-altering sound experiments. Its 2019 album, Hot Motion, finds the band exploring new vistas of evocative soundscaping mixing a palette of classic psychedelic era rock sounds and strong songwriting with modern sensibilities.

What: Riceboy Sleeps (Jónsi & Alex Somers) w/Wordless Orchestra
When: Friday, 10.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Most people probably know Jónsi as a member of Sigur Rós and thus no stranger to transcendent, orchestral music. With his partner Alex Somers he makes experimental ambient music and their latest album, their first with this project in a decade, is 2019’s Lost & Found. The show will be an evocative production with Wordless Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames with orchestra arrangements by David Handler. A mixture of classical, ambient and the avant-garde, the footage from this tour so far has shown a moving performance of uncommon grace and hushed intensity.

What: Hilary Leftwich book release of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock
When: Friday, 10.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Book Bar

What: Deep Club presents: Galcher Lustwerk w/WNGDU and Ponyrok
When: Friday, 10.18, 11 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Colfax Speed Queen album release of Dirty Mirror w/The Kinky Fingers, Savage Blush and Ladies Night
When: Friday, 10.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Saturday | October 19

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Aldous Harding circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Aldous Harding w/Hand Habits (solo)
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Aldous Harding’s weirdo folk songs and compellingly eccentric performances is definitely for fans of Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom. Her 2019 album Designer is a showcase for her storytelling genius.

What: Guerilla Toss w/cindygod and Corner Girls
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A brilliant collision of dub, post-punk and psych-synth imbued disco, Guerilla Toss brings an upbeat yet surreal sensibility to its shows. It’s new record, What Would The Odd Do? released October 18 and this is more or less the band’s tour kickoff show.

What: Get Your Ears Swoll 11: The Vagrant Sea, Landgrabbers
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: The Vagrant Sea is a punk-inflected noise rock band or a noisy punk band. Either way its members are veterans of Denver’s underground rock scene including former members of The Symptoms, Dirty Lookers, Tarmints and many others. Landgrabbers is a honky tonk punk band with emphasis on the latter. At a time when most punks are aiming for a niche subgenre, Landgrabbers refreshingly focus on writing solid songs and leave the fashion show, sonically and otherwise, to those more inclined.

What: The Distillers w/Death Valley Girls
When: Saturday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Distillers’ brash punk rock burned bright and flamed out between starting in 1998 and breaking up in 2006 leaving behind a few records of songs about raging against feeling like being kicked to the bottom rung but making that kind of scrappy underdog status seem glorious. Singer Brody Dalle cut a commanding figure and after the band split she spent some time writing music in Spinnerette and under her own name. But as of 2018, The Distillers are back together at a time when maybe its ferocious performances with snotty yet tuneful songs will find a wider audience hungry for something that vital. Also on the bill is Death Valley Girls whose inspirationally bizarre blend of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelia is truly born of an individual collective imagination channeled into spirited performances.

What: Clay Rendering, Weathered Statues, French Kettle Station, Prison Glue
When: Saturday, 10.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Clay Rendering is often called a mix of dream pop and black metal and that’s fair enough but it might also be considered a rebirth of synth infused death rock. Its 2019 album California Black Vows sounds like what Iceage might have sounded like if it went more darkwave and less in the direction of The Bad Seeds.

What: Jonathan Richman w/Tommy Larkins
When: Saturday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill
Why: Because Jonathan Richman is the godfather of twee pop and radical sincerity in vulnerability in rock music. And he hasn’t exactly toned down that approach as a performer in nearly fifty years. He’s a national treasure.

Sunday | October 21

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Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

What: All Your Sisters, Weaken, Voight and Fatal Fantasy (DJ)
When: Sunday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Zodiac (Colorado Springs)
Why: All Your Sisters from Los Angeles and Denver’s Echo Beds (playing the Monday show in Denver at Rhinoceropolis) are headed out on a tour to the East Coast. The former released the album Trust Ruins in April 2019 and re-established itself as practitioners of harrowing, industrial death disco. Voight are a jagged machine of sound and sometimes convulsive, sometimes broodily intense sounds that erupt with a barrage of cathartic energy to purge the dulling effects of late capitalism.

What: The Japanese House w/Overcoats
When: Sunday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

What: Haunter, Noctambulist, Casket Huffer, Zygrot
When: Sunday, 10.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Municipal Waste, Napalm Death, Sick Of It All and Take Offense
When: Sunday, 10.20, 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Black Lips w/Blue Rose Rounders and Backseat Vinyl
When: Sunday, 10.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Monday | October 21

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All Your Sisters circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: All Your Sisters w/Echo Beds, Midwife and B|_ank
When: Monday, 10.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: For All Your Sisters see above on October 20. Echo Beds is an alchemical combination of stark hardcore aesthetics and organic industrial post-punk.

What: Whitney w/Lala Lala
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Whitney’s debut album Light Upon the Lake (2016) benefited from both hitting a trend early of the sort of Laurel Canyon, countrified psychedelic pop embraced in the American underground and from its exquisite arrangements and ear for dynamics in a way that has been missing from far too much modern pop music. The follow-up album, 2019’s Forever Turned Around is a tender and sensitive meditation on the fear and confusion hanging in the collective psyche of late complicated by issues of addictions of various kinds, a heavier than expected set of subjects from music that sounds so spacious and heavenly.

What: J.S. Ondara w/Elise Davis
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Black Lips w/Blue Rose Rounders and The Corner Girls
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Tuesday | October 22

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Chelsea Wolfe, photo by Ben Chisholm

What: Chelsea Wolfe w/Ioanna Gika
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Stanley Hotel
Why: What could be more perfect than the haunting intensity of Chelsea Wolfe’s songs, performed acoustically as is the style of at least one of her albums, at the haunted Stanley Hotel in advance of Halloween? Wolfe recently released her new album Birth of Violence which features some of her more acoustic songwriting than the heavy drones and atmospheric black metal of her last few offerings. It showcases a more intimate side of Wolfe’s deeply personal storytelling rather than the nightmarish visions with which you might be more familiar with the artist and a testament to her enduring talent.

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The KVB, photo by George Katsanakis

What: The KVB w/Numb.er and Eventually It Will Kill You
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The KVB’s synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of Fad Gadget’s dark avant-pop with its distorted, urgent soundscapes and brooding, introspective vocals. Currently touring in support of its 2019 album Submersion.

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John Paul White, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

What: Shovels & Rope w/John Paul White (of The Civil Wars)
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: John Paul White one half of bluesy Americana duo The Civil Wars with Joy Williams. In 2019 he released his third solo album The Hurting Kind. Its flavor is a little more introspective than some of his previous work with The Civil Wars. But the level of detail and warmth of tone is there. Apparently he was inspired by the almost orchestral production and songwriting of early 60s Nashville acts and he brings that sensibility to this new batch of songs by taking his gift for turning simple and spare elements into a lush sound that touches on fine emotional notes. Exquisitely crafted songs by one of America’s premier songwriters. Shovels & Rope is the alternative country band from Charleston, South Carolina comprised of Cary Ann Hearst and former Denverite, and former Tinker’s Punishment frontman, Michael Trent.

What: Mating Ritual, Hembree, Compass & Cavern
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Wednesday | October 23

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mxmtoon, photo by Nicole Busch

What: mxmtoon w/Alexander 23
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: mxmtoon went from bedroom pop musician to international renown from 2017 to 2019 initially releasing more humorous songs and moving on to more sincere expressions of feeling. Her 2018 debut EP plum blossom garnered her critical acclaim for her finely composed pop songs that feel spontaneous and insouciant. Through social media and other internet outlets like TikTok, Vine, Snapchat, Soundcloud, mxmtoon, or Maia, has made comedic videos and shared her work connecting with hundreds of thousands of fans. In 2019 she released her debut full-length, self-released, the masquerade. There’s something lighthearted but genuine about her songs and her intuitive knack for an earworm melody and wordplay is consistently impressive.

What: Free Music, Koto Robo, Cop Circles album release, French Kettle Station, J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Cop Circles is the weirdo afrobeat/avant-garde jazz influenced project of one Luke Leavitt. He is releasing his latest album Penultimate Conclusions at this show. Also on the bill is eccentrically brilliant experimental pop project Free Music from Minneapolis, the relentless and inspired adult contemporary/glitch/synth pop hybrid of French Kettle Station, J. Hamilton Isaacs’ transporting modular synth compositions and Koto Robo’s synthesis of 80s video game sounds (though not 8-bit) and synth pop.

What: Agnostic Front w/The New Narrative, Clusterfux and Out For Blood
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater

What: Girlpool, American Grandma and Bellhoss
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Best Shows in Denver 11/15/18 – 11/20/18

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Gouge Away performs at the Hi-Dive on Friday, November 16, 2018. Photo by Ron Yamasaki

Thursday | November 15, 2018

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Daughters, photo by Reid Haithcock

Who: Daughters w/Echo Beds
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When noise/experimental rock band Daughters reunited in 2013 there was no guarantee the group would do more than play a limited number of shows before going on hiatus again. Its first attempt at a record was scrapped because it didn’t feel, according to vocalist Lex Marshall, authentic to what the band was about. Its music was confrontational and visceral, executed with a savage precision and it didn’t fit too well into the boxes in which the group was often thrown: grindcore, math rock, art-metal, post-hardcore. Daughters bridged the gap between the disorientingly surreal and amped emotional immediacy. Its 2018 record You Won’t Get What You Want pushes the band’s sound into greater vistas of experimentation with its core sound, coming upon what sounds like some forgotten chapter of an industrial, post-punk and noise hybrid from the 80s. The words and the sounds of the record, however are very much of the now with a world teetering on the brink of chaos, a darkly liminal period that might make for the perfect backdrop to a J.G. Ballard novel. That Echo Beds, which recently released its own similarly-minded record, Buried Language, will open the show and set the stage for the sonic mayhem to follow.

Who: Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin created some of the most iconic horror movie soundtracks of all time having done those for Dario Argento’s Deep Red as well as the European release of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. But perhaps the group’s crowning musical achievement was the score for Argento’s 1977 supernatural horror classic Suspiria. The haunting music and unsettling vocalizations (often done by Simonetti himself) was the perfect companion to a movie not short on rich color and deeply affecting atmosphere. This version of Goblin lead by Simonetti will perform the soundtrack live during a screening of Suspiria with what Simonetti jokes about as Goblin’s other “greatest” hits following the film.

Who: Galleries, Grass and Wild Call
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: There was a time not so long ago that Denver had, to put it charitably, way too many “psych rock” bands in the trendy mold. But lurking around in that world and a step or more apart from it were bands developing decidedly in their own directions while still rooted somewhat in the realm of psychedelic rock. Wild Call’s gritty, atmospheric, emotionally-charged songs seem like something from another era when subgenre’s didn’t matter so much as ethos and approach, finding your own voice rather than operating in a style even if you pulled from various styles in your songwriting but having something meaningful to say and an interesting way to say it. Grass borrowed a bit of that warped warble from My Bloody Valentine but sounds more like it learned a lot about edgy and nearly unraveled sounds from some of the more blustery bands on Siltbreeze in the 2000s like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit. Maybe a few nods in the direction of the Reatards. A maximalist lo-fi. Galleries is more like a band re-imagining classic rock through the lens of the influence of grunge and 2000s garage rock so it sure does sound a little different from any of that.

Friday | November 16, 2018

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Escort, photo by Tom Edwards

Who: The Flux Crew in concert
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Pine Street Church Boulder 1237 Pine Street
Why: Dino J.A. Dean will be the conductor of this fifteen piece ensemble that will engage in, according to the Facebook event page “real time collaborative composition.” What this means is essentially improv in the overlapping contexts of jazz, contemporary classical and the avant-garde. The musicians performing come from a broad spectrum of local artists from noise, jazz, classical, funk, folk, rock etc. all sonically synergizing toward a mutual musical goal. Dean’s illustrious career in theater, jazz, punk, dance and experimental music of a broad stripe from when he was in funk bands in the Los Angeles area, working as a sideman for Ike and Tina Turner and in the 80s playing trombone controlled synthesizer in the 80s with Jon Hassell. Dean has also worked with the late jazz great Butch Morris, acclaimed playright/actor/director Sam Shepard and modern dance choreographer Colleen Mulvihill. To name a few. Dean will bring that experience in collaborating with other artists in guiding the proceedings in this unique performance with his musical group The Flux Crew.

Who: Gouge Away, Drug Church, Heart Attack Man and Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Drug Church is an hardcore band from Albany, NY, but one that isn’t on the nostalgia trip that some hardcore has been on in recent years. Drug Church has more in common with IDLES from the UK whose own expansively sonic songs tackle personal and social issues with an unbeatable combination of wry wit and sheer emotional intensity. Gouge Away from Fort Lauderdale has been making some of the most powerfully compelling punk of the last few years. But, and especially on its 2018 album Burnt Sugar, Gouge Away brings a particularly imaginative approach to its headlong rush of energy by not just writing most songs with the same dynamic, injecting atmosphere into its sustained bursts of fiery noise. In that way it has more in common with 90s noisy punk bands like Unwound and Karp. Unabashedly political, minus any boring didactic perspectives, Gouge Away is one of the bands keeping punk relevant a quarter a decade after it seemed to have been co-opted by the mainstream.

Who: The Motet w/Escort
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: The Motet is celebrating its twentieth year as a band in 2018. Founded by drummer/arranger Dave Watts, the group’s blend of Afrobeat, jazz and funk may be something one would expect from a band from Boulder but it’s also surprisingly fresh and the musicianship legitimately respectable. Also joining the veteran Colorado band is Escort from Brooklyn. Like-minded in some ways, Escort performs music that one can trace roots to back to when 70s funk and disco met in fruitful rather than laughable ways. Think more in the vein of Commodores and Chic but updated after American musicians absorbed European influences and the resurgence of jazz reclaimed from academia and the ossified old commercial jazz market. The Motet performs same time same venue on Saturday, November 17 The Motet but with with Cory Wong who will include special guest Antwaun Stanley of Vulfpeck in the line up.

Saturday | November 17, 2018

J Mascis
J Mascis, photo courtesy Sub Pop

Who: Wax Trax Fortieth Anniversary w/Slugger
When: Saturday, 11.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: Wax Trax might be the longest running record/music store in the Denver metropolitan area. While music stores might be considered a bit of an anachronism today they still serve an important function as a place to discover stuff you may not know about without the awkwardness of algorithms making suggestions based on what you view on a website. They are also places where you can meet other humans who might have a shared interest and where one might encounter something as quaint as a flyer for a show for bands you know nothing about and might find interesting. Also, not all local bands worth your time have a robust, easily found online presence. Besides, what music fan doesn’t enjoy organically finding something by browsing and not having something specific in mind? Wax Trax has been more than that. It has employed local musicians, one of its owners, Duane Davis, wrote incisive music reviews and other articles for several years and he and others at Wax Trax were involved in the local imprint Local Anaesthetic which put out records by some of the best punk and post-punk bands of the 80s. With the documentary about the store and the label that emerged out of that when the store’s founders moved to Chicago having screened in Denver last weekend it only seemed reasonable to have the actual celebration of the store’s first forty years at the Mercury Café. In the 80s both businesses were neighbors on 13th Avenue and Mercury Café was a hub for live, underground music—the relationship was somewhat synergistic. While there may not be a lot of live music for this event, aside from the psychedelic rock band Slugger fronted by current Wax Trax employee Gabriel Abelo, some of the memorabilia and stories shared will be worth attending to witness.

Who: J Mascis w/James Elkington
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: J Mascis is rightfully known as the influential guitar shredder extraordinaire of influential rock band Dinosaur Jr. His buried vocals amidst blistering yet melodic songs turned out to be perfectly capable of laid back utterances that articulated the feelings and thoughts of someone that was checked out of the sanitized insipidity of much of 80s popular culture, offering an alternative, more personal, and ultimately more truthful perspective of living as a kind of weirdo in Reagan’s/Bush’s America. Mascis wrote most of those songs and for years he’s established a solo career that parallels the subject matter he has explored with Dinosaur except he’s able to be more nuanced in his vocal delivery and in later years, his broad songwriting palette has become more obvious. The 2018 record Elastic Days is lush and eclectic with contributions from Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession, Miracle Legion’s Mark Mulcahy and Zoë Randell of Luluc. But on the road, and for this show, it’ll be J and what he describes as “a little fort around” himself of amps, various stands and other refinements. At Ophelia’s the intimacy of the room will surely make this a memorable show.

Who: Hive w/Weathered Statues, Rotstrotter, Aseethe and Vexing
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Hive from Minneapolis is a melodic crust band not to be confused with the band HIVE from Chicago who are also from the Midwest and no strangers to blackened metal. So the excellent Denver-based crust/grind band Rotstrotter is a good fit on the bill as is the like-minded Vexing. Iowa’s Aseethe is a doom band and not too far removed from the same milieu of heavy music. Weathered Statues, though, are a dark, post-punk band whose musical DNA seems to include Xmal Deutschland, The Cure and DA! But there’s an undercurrent of dance rhythms that thankfully are nothing like what all these post-punk revival era “dance punk” bands were peddling. Just a clear sense of rhythm and pacing that draws you into the song as surely as its dusky atmosphere’s and Jennie Mather’s commanding vocals. Weathered Statues plays first and may confuse some people expecting all conventionally heavy music for the night.

Who: Municipal Waste w/Toxic Holocaust and Haunt
When: Saturday, 11.17, 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: At a time when metalcore was reaching its apex, Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste was making the kind of crossover music that would come back into vogue again nearly a decade after its 2001 inception. For the uninitiated, that crossover meaning the kind of music that emerged around the mid-80s when bands like DRI, which may have started out as hardcore punk, fed into its metallic instincts and synthesized hardcore and thrash metal, which itself was informed by punk. Because it was an early re-adopter, Municipal Waste became a bit of a cult band. Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind was also someone who was tapping back into that crossover sound in the late 90s but injected into his songwriting some of the evil sound and brutality of black metal.

Sunday | November 18, 2018

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Wrong, photo courtesy Relapse Records

Who: Wrong, Portrayal of Guilt, Abrams, False Cathedrals
When: Sunday, 11.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Wrong is the kind of noise rock band that probably wouldn’t have quite happened in the 90s or earlier. While the Unsane and Helmet influence is there giving the music a precise yet savage edge, one can hear the stretch of sounds into distended otherworldliness as though steeped in the industrial psychedelia of post-Twitch Ministry and the haunted sludge of pre-Superunknown Soundgarden. It also has a bit of the near hysteria catharsis one hears in Daughters. The band’s 2018 album Feel Good has positive intentions but the songs themselves are all about feeling bad and purging that low end of one’s life.

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Portrayal of Guilt, photo by Adrian Glickman

Portrayal of Guilt’s 2018 album Let Pain Be Your Guide is a nightmarish set of pronouncements about the acceptance of life’s seemingly unacceptable but all too real aspects. It’s not all relentless, grind-y hardcore because there’s a nuance of sounds and dynamics that give harsh and brutal music a fascinating dimensionality that makes what might be forbidding music to many an accessibility built on how relatable the lyrics really are in the current social and political climate worldwide. Many songwriters express well the pains of some aspects of existence, Portrayal of Guilt’s songs sound like a direct line to that experience in case anyone is confused.

Tuesday | November 20, 2018

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Japanese Wallpaper, photo by Giulia Giannini McGauran

Who: Shallou w/Japanese Wallpaper
When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Japanese Wallpaper is Gab Strum who seems to be a bit of an electronic music prodigy. In 2014, when he was a mere 17 years old, his song “Breathe In (ft. Wafia)” was featured in Zach Braff’s film Wish I Was Here. Strum’s brightly ethereal compositions sound like the next two steps in the evolution of chillwave and informed by the same production methods born out of hip-hop that informed that musical movement. Soothing without being soporific, Strum’s songs would be perfect for when you want to take some time to contemplate something important with clarity of mood and mind. Some of his newer material like “Fooling Around” is celebratory yet introspective and reveals Sturm’s clear evolution as an artist into realms of music beyond the tranquil minimalism of his earlier offerings.

Who: Odonis Odonis w/Church Fire and Voight
When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Toronto’s Odonis Odonis sounds like DAF reborn in the techno/rave scene of Detroit 90s. At least on its latest album, 2017’s ominously luminous No Pop. The duo is joined this night by two Denver bands whose own music embody a similar wedding of darkwave industrial beats and a masterful command of incorporating noise with the more electro-dance-oriented Church Fire whose cathartic live show never disappoints and the post-punk/dark techno band Voight who are arcing out of a long period of legit A Place to Bury Strangers worship into more fascinatingly beat-driven territory.

Wednesday | November 21, 2018

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Kyle Emerson, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Kyle Emerson, Stelth Ulvang and Down Time
When: Wednesday, 11.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If Kyle Emerson isn’t already making waves on the indie touring circuit, he should be soon. The veteran Denver songwriter has been paying serious dues for a few years now touring small clubs and venues across America. His psychedelic folk pop are imbued with emotional warmth and insight as heard most recently in recorded form on his 2017 full-length album Dorothy Alice. The album closer “Post Egomania” is a perfect way to sum up the emotional and spiritual journey of the rest of the album. For this homecoming show from his most recent tour Emerson will share the stage with Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers and one of Denver’s best indie rock bands, the not-so-obviously-but-unmistakably experimental Down Time.

Who: Reverb & The Verse
When: Wednesday, 11.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Bonacquisti Wine
Why: Reverb & The Verse is one of the longer running hip-hop crews in Denver and one of the most diverse and boundary pushing in a way that’s difficult to say where the root of its music might lay beyond that of the breadth of palette that exists in hip-hop. Shane Etter, one of the band’s main producers from its early days is well-versed in a wide range of electronic music and recently did mastering on the 2018 album from literate documentarians of dystopian America, hip-hop duo Curta. Here is an infrequent opportunity to catch one of Denver’s finest live.

Best Shows in Denver 03/01/18 – 03/07/18

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Melkbelly performs with Bully on Monday, March 5, 2018. ,Photo by Lenny Gilmore

Thursday | March 1, 2018

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Oryx, photo by Alvino Salcedo

Who: EyeHateGod w/Oryx, Tricoma and Blighter
When: Thursday, 03.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Oryx was a nearly ubiquitous name you’d see on the heaviest bills around Denver for a while. But the band seems to have hunkered down to write, refine and record its new album, 2018’s Stolen Absolution. Maybe “refine” is the wrong word as the record is a raw blast of rage and disgust with the bleak state of the world from the impending collapse of the natural environment as we used to know it and the utter shabbiness in the ways too many of us humans treat one another. It doesn’t sound despairing, it sounds more like a cry for humanity to get its collective shit together before we make one mistake too many. The crust/grind/black metal duo is releasing the album at this show in which its sharing the bill with like-minded, New Orleans sludge legends EyeHateGod, Denver purveyors of death doom Tricoma and Blighter, Colorado Springs’ titans of bridging the gap between crust punk and the heaviest of metal.

Friday | March 2, 2018

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Briffaut, photo by Kitty Colvin

Who: Briffaut album release w/Down Time and In/Planes
When: Friday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Briffaut’s new album, Helsinki, has a hazy lushness and freeform yet structured songwriting style that suggests jazz underpinnings. But mostly its soft tones and beats, its Mellotron-tinged and drifty atmospheres and idiosyncratic storytelling evoke imagery both surreal and all-too-real in the offhand everyday detail style employed by director Mike Mills. Musically it’s reminiscent of early The Helio Sequence and Animal Collective or even mid-2000s of Montreal—gorgeous melodies intertwined with noise and sound experiments to create a kind of pop music that pushes boundaries and has more long term durability as something you can listen to twenty or more years from now and still get something out of it that isn’t tied purely to nostalgia for one’s youth. In/Planes is apparently rooted in classic American pop meaning the duo has researched songwriters and music that has long fallen out of style but which never lost a certain emotional resonance and sophistication of craft that transcends time. The band’s refreshingly uncluttered songs are warm and soulful while not seeming to have done more than borrowed touches of doo wop and Brill Building-era pop. All of this can be heard on the band’s excellent 2017 EP Everything. Down Time reinvented indie pop in its brilliantly idiosyncratic style as heard on its debut 2017 full-length Good Luck!. Live the group has a striking freshness and inventive soundscaping that’s undeniably compelling.

Who: Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Friday, 03.023, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: As we mentioned last week this is a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 coming-of-age novel. So it’ll be storytelling and songs provided by the Grapefruit Lab collective and Teacup Gorilla who are bringing in noted local frontman and raconteur extraordinaire, Dameon Merkl who some may know as one of the vocalists in Lost Walks as well as his turns in 90s punk band Random Victim and noir rock phenoms Bad Luck City. Because it’s Teacup Gorilla, a band that has long developed a relationship with theater and writing experimental rock music that can only loosely be defined as post-punk or glam rock because its imaginative songwriting and musicianship is much broader than a single genre. The run of this production concludes this weekend with shows on Friday evening March 2 ( and will include a performance from Ersatz Robots), Saturday evening March 3 with a surprise musical guest, and Sunday for a matinee performance at 2 p.m.

Catch this one before it ends because as far as adaptations of classic novels go it’s irreverence and faithfulness to the spirit of the book is rivaled by, if not in budget, sheer spectacle huge cast and production values, Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films and Game of Thrones. But none of the sword and sorcery though with plenty of high drama and the supernatural. The live soundtracking and Merkl as the sound of troubled and tortured spirits helps to enhance the brilliant three cast-member presentation.

Who: Velvet Acid Christ at Purgatory 3-2 w/Offerings to Odin, DJ Mudwulf, DJ Bloodline, DJ Julian Black
When: Friday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Although in recent years Velvet Acid Christ has more than doubled the number of shows that he played in Denver in the first twenty years of the band’s existence, it’s not like he plays every week, every few months or even really every year. VAC began in the early 90s and became an influential and popular EBM act in its own right with a knack for surrealistic imagery and darkly humorous storytelling. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen any original releases from VAC so maybe in 2018 perhaps Bryan Erickson, the band’s sole full-time member, will put deliver a new set of dystopian future dance songs.

Who: R A R E B Y R D $, EVP, Bianca Mikahn, Giraft
When: Friday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: This is a Glasss Presents show three of the imprint’s best acts are on the bill. R A R E B Y R D $ is making the kind of hip-hop that is beyond conscious, beyond merely experimental but always human and thoughtful in its exploration of the impact of society and our own minds in how we navigate life. EVP is difficult to describe in simple genre terms. Part punk, part industrial, part pop, part noise. Bianca Mikahn…does she make hip-hop or super experimental, poetry driven R&B? Whatever it is, Mikahn’s insightful words weaves together her personal vision of a more loving and inclusive future. Giraft is Julianna Beckert and Chris White who make a kind of post-IDM downtempo. White some may remember for his masterful bass work in Alan Alda and Voices Underwater.

Who: Modern Leisure (album preview party) w/Kissing Party and Bark Wilson
When: Friday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Modern Leisure is previewing its forthcoming debut full-length album (set for a summer release). Good thing the band is joined by another that brings some dignity to the term pop when applied to a modern indie rock band. That being Bark Wilson. Layered atmospheres and rhythms that you don’t often hear in a pop band are Bark Wilson’s noteworthy hallmark. Kissing Party has a whole catalog of heartbreaking/heartwarming songs about love and disappointment. Don’t let the band’s sometimes irreverent and sardonic stage persona fool you, they mean those songs and that’s what saves them from being quaintly romantic because despite any flaws, the group performs the songs with a sincerity to match the sentiments.

Who: Adult Swim Presents: Mr. Pickles’ Trash-tacular featuring Exodus, Municipal Waste and Call of the Void
When: Friday, 03.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The nerd and metalhead world has a lot of overlap. Did Mr. Pickles exert his demonic powers to influence the choice of line-up? If so, he certainly has good taste. Exodus is the influential Bay Area thrash band that helped to establish the genre. After all, Kirk Hammett left Exodus to join Metallica so the thrash pedigree is undeniable. But it’s Gary Holt’s crunchy and driving, expressive, guitar style and his tasteful solo as lead is oft imitated by rarely equaled. Virginia’s Municipal Waste, though coming along in the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, has exerted influence of its own inspired by 80s crossover groups. Its guitars sound like the perfect blend of thrash and late-era first wave hardcore. But its rhythm, particularly the drums, sound borderline grindcore. But Municipal Waste is perhaps best known for its irreverent sense of humor. A band that calls one of its videos “Thrashin’s My Business…and Business is Good has to get some points for iconoclasm. Call of the Void you wouldn’t call a crossover band even though its grind and hardcore amalgam might give that impression. Its sound is more savage than the typical crossover band but its articulation of pushing the sound of despair and desperation to the extreme as a form of catharsis is often just what you need.

Saturday | March 3, 2018

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Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Centered Vol. 2: {arsonist}, C. Reider, Paperbark, Luxury Hearse
When: Saturday, 03.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Ubisububi Room
Why: This is going to be a kind of ambient/modular synth show in the basement of The Thin Man. With Paperbark, John Mulville uses his modular synth to make abstract sounds that capture textures and the feeling of being in the natural world even as it is completely unnatural, as it were, in generating his soundscapes. C. Reider’s vast catalog of fascinating sound experiments and compositions can be found most readily on his Bandcamp page. With releases going back to the late 80s, Reider is something like Colorado’s Aphex Twin except less on the glitch end and more on the avant-garde and ambient end of electronic music. Pittsburgh’s {arsonist} employs layered atmospheres, textures and strings to create otherworldly compositions reminiscent of The Future Sound of London side project Amorphous Androgynous. Luxury Hearse has a pretty diverse set of sounds but some of its best work sounds like a super chill, secret dance club for minimal synth heads.

Who: KGNU and Lion’s Lair Quarterly Showcase: Simulators, Mirror Fears, Joseph Lamar, Rich Jones and CRL CRRLL (DJ set after Rich Jones)
When: Saturday, 03.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: KGNU is one of the few legit radio stations taking real chances with its programming these days (having a community sponsored format probably helps). So every quarter the station has been working with Lion’s Lair to book a showcase of some of the more forward thinking and experimental music in various spectrums of the local music world. This particular event is also a Fasor Records mini-showcase. The label started by CRL CRRLL will probably include like-minded artists who push the boundaries of where electronic dance music and hip-hop production intersect. As indicated above, CRRLL will do a DJ set. Also on hand for this show are raw and spare post-punk duo Simulators, maximalist, deeply emotional and socially critical electronic artist Mirror Fears and Joseph Lamar who has found a sweet spot with his solid songwriting based in indie rock, jazz, experimental electronic music and a theatrical performance style.

 

Who: Pretty Mouth, The Patient Zeros and Kitty Crimes
When: Saturday, 03.03, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: This is going to be a different kind of show. Pretty Mouth is Marie Litton’s more Americana side of her songwriting. That said, there is a spiritual quality to Litton’s songs and performance even though she seems to be writing from a life that hasn’t been short on struggle, heartache and a deep love for people and of living like you mean it. The Patient Zeros are in a similar realm of songcraft but more in a rock and roll vein. Too many bands have tried to be “rock and roll” but The Patient Zeros’ songs don’t sound like they learned about Jack White a few years ago but have none of the poetry or genuine swagger. The Patient Zeros never come off like the second-rate Kings of Leon. Kitty Crimes…Maria Kohler has always been up to some noteworthy music including Science Partner and Mercuria and the Gem Stars. Kitty Crimes has been sort of a dirty rap project but in Kohler’s hands there’s an elegance and transformative quality that renders that sort of thing into something fun and worth your time above and beyond the appeal of anything transgressive but not inherently harmful.

Monday | March 5, 2018

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Bully, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Who: Bully w/Melkbelly
When: Monday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Bully’s first album, 2015’s Feels Like, polarized critics. Oh, sure, the band sounds like it was beyond influenced by early 90s alternative rock. When you grow up with some kind of music it’s bound to creep in there sometime. But the founder of the band, Alicia Bognanno got a degree in recording and did an internship at Electrical Audio—Steve Albini’s Chicago-based studios—before going on to working as a recording and live sound engineer and then establishing her own studio to record her own music. That’s a lot more dedication to craft than many musicians bother with learning or enduring. It doesn’t necessarily make for better music but deserves better consideration than outright dismissal. The follow-up record, 2017’s Losing, refines the jagged, angst-driven melodies that made the debut album worthwhile. In the past decade or so there has been a lot of safely celebratory music or the kind of music that hides raw feelings and outrage in palatable constructions. Any darkness and frustration you hear in Bognanno’s songs doesn’t feel manufactured or couched in some identity stereotype. Even if you feel like her music is a retread of 90s rock you have to give her credit for sincerity.

On the bill tonight as well is Chicago’s Melkbelly is roughly an exact contemporary of Bully and based in Chicago, where Bully recorded both of its full-length albums. Melkbelly’s music has often been referred to as noise rock, which fits well enough. But Miranda Winders’ voice is a consistently melodic focus amid the urgency of the beat and the pulsing, splintered sounds and sense that the song could fragment into burning chaos. Melkbelly has the spirit and energy of a punk band but its sounds are more experimental and more wide-ranging. More Live Skull and Melt Banana than Shellac or Daughters. The group’s 2017 album Nothing Valley is an auspicious debut full-length that signals throughout that Melkbelly isn’t going for just one or two sounds and dynamics. Also, a band that calls a song “Twin Lookin’ Motherfucker” has to be a bunch of glorious weirdos and cherished in a time when the music industry too often rewards easy marketability over outright quality and uniqueness.

Who: Alex Cameron and Molly Burch
When: Monday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Alex Cameron’s 2017 album Forced Witness sounds like it could have come out in the mid-80s and hit big alongside the likes of post-Squeeze Paul Carrack or Paul Young—new wave-y, well-crafted pop songs mixed with blue eyed soul. When a lot of other artists now are still tapping the classic rock sound or Laurel Canyon pop, Alex Cameron’s update on Icehouse sounds pretty fresh.

Molly Burch may be an artist whose sonic antecedents rest in Brill Building pop and soul singers but her smoky, hushed yet warm and resonant vocals and vulnerability have a mysterious quality that draw you in like Julee Cruise or Angel Olsen. Burch’s music has a familiar quality that waxes timeless rather than derivative. Her 2017 debut full length Please Be Mine sounds, track for track, like Godard’s 1960s films look—vivid yet dreamlike, emotionally tumultuous yet refined, a lyrical economy of style that uses space and silence to convey much more and much more effectively than clumsily spelling it all out.

Wednesday | March 7, 2018

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Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Brother Saturn, Hello Darkness and Full Bleed
When: Wednesday, 03.07, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings
Why: The current edition of Weird Wednesday features a pretty broad mix of sounds. Hello Darkness is sort of a folk punk band without the de riguer labor struggle era folk covers. Rather, its use of various acoustic instruments in the mix makes Hello Darkness the folk pop equivalent of a chamber pop band. Except with more political content than most bands that can be described as “chamber” anything. Considering two thirds of the band used to be in Reality Show it should come as no surprise there’s some lively emotionalism on stage. Brother Saturn’s melodic soundscapes are reminiscent of the 90s period of guitar and beat driven instrumental ambient/abstract rock acts like Bowery Electric, Seefeel, Magnog and Stars of the Lid. Maybe even Flying Saucer Attack. There is an innocence and elegance to the composition that suggests Drew Miller has carved out a space in his heart and imagination for a pure and universal expression of the kind of transcendently tranquil energy he articulates in his music in general. Brother Saturn is just the more shoegaze-ish end of that.

Who: James Blood Ulmer
When: Wednesday, 03.07 (store.dazzledenver.com/EventTicket/EventDetail/3229/id0/james-blood-ulmer) and Thursday, 3.08 (store.dazzledenver.com/EventTicket/EventDetail/3230/id0/james-blood-ulmer), 7 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: James Blood Ulmer was one of the guitarists who was steeped in jazz but also helped to define fusion with his imaginative, textured guitar work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as the first electric guitarist to record and perform live with free jazz genius Ornette Coleman and his long time collaborations with Pharoah Sanders. Ulmer’s solo material tends to be a blend of styles with a rich mix of jazz, blues and brooding funk. Whatever Umer’s specific music alchemy of the moment, he brings more than dazzling technique and soul, he brings something otherworldly and riveting. The guitarist performs two shows in Denver. As indicated above, the evenings of March 7 and 8 at Dazzle.