Best Shows in Denver 12/13/18 – 12/17/18

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Advance Base performs Monday, December 17, at Hi-Dive. Photo by Jeff Marini

Thursday | December 13, 2018

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Jimi Davies (GA), TripLip and e-Scapes
When: Thursday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This month’s edition of Musical Mayhem features performances from Denver-based math thrash jazz group TripLip, Valdosta, Georgia-based psych folk artist Jimi Davies and e-Scapes. If you find out what that project is about, let us know.

Who: Muscle Beach w/Giardia, Vexing and Matriarch
When: Thursday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Muscle Beach comes out of hardcore and metalcore and noise rock with all the raging energy and inhuman vocals that go along with all of that music. But there’s an exuberance to its delivery that transcends the desperation and anger that tends to fuel those musical proclivities. Giardia is also impossible to pigeonhole as a psychedelic rock band with metallic sounds and prog as its palette for tones, atmospheres and textures.

Friday | December 14, 2018

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Harry Hudson, photo by Brooke Ashley Barone

Who: Harry Hudson w/JP Saxe
When: Friday, 12.14, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Harry Hudson got dealt a bad card in life when he found out he had stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 20. But his experience with chemo and the isolation and facing an uncertain future and the subsequent bouts of depression deepened the content of what might have been merely well-written pop songs. His 2018 full-length album Yesterday’s Tomorrow Night further documents that journey and personal development with an expansive spareness and intimacy. Chances are after this tour of small clubs Hudson will find a much larger audience. It’s not pop music that’s pushing musical boundaries but it’s also genuinely meaningful and coming from a place of a deep appreciation for life and its challenges—which you don’t hear much of in enough pop music.

Who: We Are Not a Glum Lot, Safekeeper, Turvy Organ and Broken Record
When: Friday, 12.14, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: We Are Not a Glum Lot started out as an early adopter of the return of math-y emo in its more spare and meditative form with elegant and introspective, sparkly guitar side by side with a quiet loud dynamic with the ethereal songwriting unfolding into a flood of emotions and sonic intensity. Not necessarily the band you might expect out of Colorado Springs except that the city has produced some of the most emotionally vibrant and musically inventive bands out of the Centennial State like Against Tomorrow’s Sky, Eyes Caught Fire, Cocordion, Be Thou My Vision, Spirettes, El Toro De La Muerte and Abracastabya. A lot of names but the Springs scene never did get a lot of attention outside of town despite the quality of artists coming out of there. Rumor has it WANAG has an album in the works for release with a different sound than what it executed so well in the past and if you go to this show you may get to hear some of that in person.

Saturday | December 15, 2018

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Khruangbin, photo by Mary Kang

Who: Khruangbin w/The Marias
When: Saturday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Khruangbin’s eclectic sound has been described in terms of whatever the listener might home in on like surf rock, psychedelia or electronic pop. Overtly the instrumentation embodies all of that with drummer DJ Johnson throwing acoustic break-beats into the mix. The band presents itself as almost a band out of a Moebius comic book taking place in the near future. Perhaps out of his collaboration with Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Incal. All of which speaks to how the band’s music has a richly multi-cultural aesthetic while not diluting a cohesive artistic vision by trying to be all things to as many people as possible. Its 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo has found its way into several year-end-best lists and it’s easy to see why because even when it draws on familiar sounds it takes the synthesis of influences in interesting directions.

Who: Magic Sword w/Crystal Ghost
When: Saturday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Magic Sword performs bombastic 80s B science fiction movie soundtrack-esque synth rock with all the absurd drama one would expect. And in space knight style costumes with cloaks and glowing since stripe eyes on their helmets with the climax of the set coming with one or more members lighting up glowing swords (thus the name of the band) to commemorate the dramatic high point of the song. Glowing swords that are sold at the merch table. It could all just be one big gimmick but the music itself is enjoyable in spite of and because of the absurdity of it all with the songs enjoyable without a sense of irony.

Who: KGNU Quarterly Showcase: Tiq Tok, The Sea Grapes, Bryon Parker, Housekeys, DJ Cal Huss
When: Saturday, 12.15, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This edition of the community radio station KGNU’s quarterly showcase includes some noteworthy solo artists from Denver’s underground music scene. Bryon Parker recently releases a split record with foundational indie pop artist Jad Fair who was a member of Half Japanese, co-wrote an album with Daniel Johnston and now has an acclaimed solo career. But Parker has also been in some of the more interesting indie rock and post-punk bands in Denver including his other band Simulators. His solo effort is more in the weirdo indie pop vein and worthy of your attention precisely for that reason. Housekeys is a soundscapey, ambient, shoegaze solo act comprised of Tiffiny Costello. Definitely for fans of artists like Grouper and Juliana Barwick.

Sunday | December 16, 2018

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Emma Ruth Rundle, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Emma Ruth Rundle w/Jaye Jayle and Abrams
When: Sunday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Emma Ruth Rundle’s music is a warmly hazy and emotionally nuanced sweep of commentary and observations buoyed along by guitar work that ranges from the spare and folky to fiery rumbles that perfectly compliment vocals that seem to call out into the universe for succor and knowledge. Her 2018 album On Dark Horses may be the best shoegaze record of the year without even aiming for that sound. She’s currently touring with friend and collaborator Evan Patterson and his band Jaye Jayle. Patterson was and is in heavy, post-hardcore bands like Breather Resist and Young Widows but Jaye Jayle is a more playful, even whimsical at times, side of his songwriting. His vocals for this project seem roughened and weighed down by a world weariness but that matches the dark, pastoral minimalism of the instrumentation reminiscent of the introspective, haunted parts of Sixteen Horsepower’s 2002 album Folklore. Since both artists contribute to each other’s records you may get to see some of that at this show. Currently Jaye Jayle is touring in support of his 2018 album No Trail And Other Unholy Paths.

Monday | December 17, 2018

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Casiotone For the Painfully Alone circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Advance Base (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) w/Lisa/Liza and Karima Walker
When: Monday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Owen Ashworth was one of the stars of the early bedroom producer and indie pop/rock crossover with his band Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Who can say why that music isn’t more acclaimed outside a sizable cult following because Ashworth’s songs were insightful and honest without trying to sugarcoat his enthusiasm, his love and his struggles. Even if you didn’t share Ashworth’s obsessions and outlook on life, his storytelling and compositions and utter uniqueness made his work compelling because it was easy to take on its own terms rather than inspiring comparisons to other artists. In 2010 Ashworth retired CFTPA not really intending to play music again for a long while if not indefinitely. But when you have a talent it won’t let you go as readily as one might wish and Ashworth returned a couple of years later with Advance Base. The songwriting is vintage Ashworth but given that he’s had a studio in which to work on music he’s more able to sculpt the songs to sound the way he’s imagined it. But don’t worry, the songs on the new album Animal Companionship are still as wisely melancholy and, at times, as appealingly uncomfortable as ever.

Best Shows In Denver 8.16.18 to 8.22.18

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Sandra Collins performs in Denver on Saturday night, August 18, at a venue to be announced

Thursday | August 16, 2018

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The cover of Returning to a Scorched Earth by A Light Among Many

Who: A Light Among Many album release, Sonic Vomit, Green Druid and Vexing
When: Thursday, 08.16, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A Light Among Many is the doom drone solo project of Franklin Binder. Using voice, guitar and loops, Binder articulates the spirit of the desolate stretches of Colorado’s high plains stitched with lonely highways and an unseen networks of ley lines. His music has a haunted and tortured yet transcendent menace like a violent storm hovering on the horizon, circling loci of civilization, touching down periodically as a reminder of the primacy of nature over humankind’s hubristic plans. ALAM’s new album Returning to a Scorched Earth drops tonight at the Hi-Dive. It is a beautifully despairing composition of rage at mankind’s abusive stewardship of the earth.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Equine, Space Jail, Full Bleed
When: Thursday, 08.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Musical Mayhem is now happening at the Lion’s Lair. The monthly event curated by Claudia Woodman is a good way to see some of the more unusual or experimental bands not necessarily seeing a lot of time at most clubs. Equine is the soundscaping/future jazz/avant-garde guitar solo project of former Motheater and Epileptinomicon guitarist Kevin Richards whose been having quite a prolific year recently in terms of releases and collaborations with each of his shows being fairly different from one another. Space Jail is what might be described as a psychedelic downtempo space rock band. Full Bleed fortunately doesn’t fit an easy formula either with elements of more tripped out stoner rock and soundsculpting use of distortion. What does that mean? They use distortion to give a drawn out sound texture and evolving qualities of sound that seem to impact your body and ears with modulating levels of volume and physicality. When one learns to control these qualities more it can be an interesting musical and experiential effect on its own despite not necessarily being a feature of most music that fits into a mainstream songwriting context.

Friday | August 17, 2018

 

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Old Crow Medicine Show, photo by Danny Clinch

Who: Esmé Patterson and The Still Tide
When: Friday, 08.17, 6 p.m.
Where: Levitt Pavilion
Why: Esmé Patterson will bring her thought-provoking and evocative art folk/pop to Levitt Pavilion tonight to share the stage with The Still Tide. The latter is sometimes referred to as dream pop or indie rock and as vague genre designations they both fit. But singer and guitarist Anna Morsett’s emotionally dynamic voice and stage presence elevates the already excellent songwriting.

Who: Old Crow Medicine Show with I’m With Her (featuring Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan)
When: Friday, 08.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Old Crow Medicine Show’s existence predates the most recent wave of old timey/string band/folk Americana music and it could be argued it’s 2004 hit “Wagon Wheel” (co-written by Bob Dylan and OCMS’s Ketch Secor) helped to popularize that music with the mainstream and influenced a generation of like-minded musicians in its wake. Mumford and Sons covered the song several years later. Nevertheless, Old Crow Medicine Show sounds like it could have come up during the folk revival of the 60s and 70s. Its 2018 album Volunteer is a lively blend of bluegrass and classic country. I’m With Her is a trio of some of the best Americana artists in the land right now all of whom have highly respectable careers outside of the band.

Who: All Out Helter 10 year anniversary, day 1 w/Muscle Beach and Record Thieves
When: Friday, 08.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: All Out Helter is a band that has too much of a hard rock edge to be purely punk and with its progressive politics firmly in place and eloquently expressed, the band’s firebrand energy is very welcome in an era when too many bands shy away from having anything to say without blunting the impact a little for the infirm of heart and mind. To celebrate its first decade as a band, All Out Helter is playing two nights at the Hi-Dive. On this first night a similarly unpigeonholable heavier hardcore band Muscle Beach will share the stage with the veteran group as well as melodic hardcore outfit Record Thieves.

Who: Luke Vibert with Sortof Vague, Seied and Kanyon Walker
When: Friday, 08.17, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Acid jazz/techno artist Luke Vibert, sometimes collaborator with Aphex Twin, will perform tonight at The Black Box. Vibert’s prolific and diverse career has included some time playing in punk band, a hip-hop crew and the electronic composition for which he’s most well known. His most recent record Smell The Urgency might be described as acid hip-hop as it has more in common with the likes of J. Dilla, Flying Lotus and Jonwayne with its favoring chill yet otherworldly beats.

Who: King Buffalo w/Green Druid, Emerald Siam
When: Friday, 08.17, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: King Buffalo from Rochester, New York makes the kind of vibey psychedelic music that has some connection to the hybrid of atmospheric doom and trippy pop. What sets the band apart from many of its peers, though, is partly the expansive, drifty melodies that have more in common with the early period of The Verve than some later era lazy shoegaze wannabe act. But its basslines are exceptional and set the pace and the mood with a fluid strength that channels the songwriting into interesting sonic spaces. That quality can also be found in Denver atmospheric rock band Emerald Siam. While the latter has some roots in psychedelic garage rock and the retrofuturist soundscaping of The Jesus and Mary Chain its more recent music has struck deep into musical darkness with an uncommon originality born of not wanting to sit comfortably in someone else’s shoegaze or psych subgenre.

Saturday | August 18, 2018

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Lamb of God/Burn the Priest, photo by Travis Shinn

Who: Slayer, Avenged Sevenfold, Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament
When: Saturday, 08.18, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: This is supposed to be Slayer’s final tour. We’ll see. Nevertheless, the legendary thrash band will share Fiddler’s Green with some of the greats of thrash in New York’s Anthrax and the Bay Area’s Testament. As well as newer bands that managed to come out of the 90s as metal but not nü metal. Poland’s Behemoth on the surface seems to be the most out of place with its occult-y black metal but its root is the same kind of death metal and thrash that Slayer helped to influence. Both Avenged Sevenfold’s and Lamb of God’s sound can also be traced to the first wave of thrash. LoG has recently hinted that it will perform as Burn the Priest with a release harkening back to the time when it performed under that name as a band that was experimenting with a hybrid of death metal and hardcore. In May 2018, as Burn the Priest, Lamb of God released Legion: XX, an album of covers of hardcore, thrash, sludge rock, industrial bands as well as a cover of Big Black’s “Kerosene,” whatever genre that might really be if any. Chances are you’ll get to see a bit of that with this tour.

Who: All Out Helter 10 year anniversary, day 1 w/The Windermeres and Black Dots
When: Saturday, 08.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This second night of All Out Helter’s 10 year anniversary weekend at the Hi-Dive includes performances from two of Denver’s better punk bands The Windermeres and Black Dots.

Who: Sandra Collins
When: Saturday, 08.18, 10 p.m.
Where: Venue to be announced
Why: Sandra Collins made a name for herself as a talented trance artist in the world of 90s rave and electronica long before electronic dance music became synonymous with the acronym EDM. Really her roots in that music pre-date the widespread use of the aforementioned terminology. Whatever designations have been applied to Collins’ music her skills as a producer, remixer and DJ have long been widely respected and she was inarguably the first female DJ in electronic dance music to gain wide popularity. Her ear for solid, evolving rhythms intersected with rhythmic melodies and textures has made for a large body of work as a live DJ and on recordings like one of trance’s creative landmarks, 2000’s Tranceport.3. In 2013 Collins’ career was documented in Kandeyce Jorden’s 2013 film Girl (in 2018 the film started steaming on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon). Still traveling the world and doing sets, Collins remains one of the few superstar artists in an especially male-dominated realm of music but one that has become increasingly less so in part due to her encouragement and example.

Who: Bluebook w/Erica Ryann
When: Saturday, 08.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Aurora Fox
Why: There are pretty much never any shows in Aurora of this kind going on. Experimental folk/downtempo duo Bluebook at downtown Aurora’s classic theater on Colfax? Hopefully the harbinger of more interesting stuff to come to A-town.

Who: Amen Dunes w/Okay Kaya
When: Saturday, 08.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Amen Dunes is often presented as merely some of of psychedelic indie rock artist. But if his latest album, 2018’s Freedom, is any indication he’s been ahead of that curve for some time. If clumsy comparisons must be made his songwriting is as unique, as interesting and as unusual as that of Devendra Banhart or going back some decades, Roxy Music. There is an organic yet otherworldly and sultry quality to the songwriting. It’s also earnest in its emotional outpouring recalling a more mellow Soft Boys or solo Robyn Hitchcock.

Who: Fed Rez (album release) w/Los Mocochetes, R A R E B Y R D $, The Original Ills, DJ Bloodpreshah
When: Saturday, 08.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Fed Rez’s version of hip-hop is one that doesn’t get hung up over genre conventions. Its sample-based compositions don’t shy away from acerbic observations but always informed by a sense of humor that is clever rather than cruel. The quartet releases its latest album this night, On the Regs. To usher in the new record Fed Rez has brought together some of Denver’s finest, like-minded musical entities including Latin funk band Los Mocochetes and dream beat, future jazz, post-apocalypse world beat phenoms, R A R E B Y R D $.

Sunday | August 19, 2018

 

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Rope Trick Effect (pictured; Molly Zackary), photo by Kit Chalberg

Who: Rope Trick Effect and Halo Halo
When: Sunday, 08.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Rope Trick Effect and Halo Halo could loosely be called jazz-fusion. If that fusion included R&B, torch song lounge, punk and the expected prog when one speaks of fusion. But don’t expect Mahavishnu Orchestra style musical gyrations so much as something you might expect to share a bill with Leonard Cohen in the early 80s. Rope Trick Effect vocalist Molly Zackary is billing the show as #jazznotjazz #sorrynotsorry because of the short shrift that the original jazz scene in Denver gets from most of the local media and, well, music fans too who may not know such a thing exists in the Mile High City. As with everything else Zackary has done in music in Denver, as a music instructor and musician, there is a great deal of musical prowess and emotional power involved in Rope Trick Effect. Its 2017 EP is so solid and refined it could have come out on Blue Note. But see for yourself at this free and children friendly/but not wack show at Denver’s underground/above ground culture hub, Mutiny Information Café.

Tuesday | August 21, 2018

 

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Winter & Triptides, photo by Gabe Fernandez

Who: Winter with Vinyl Williams and Corsicana
When: Tuesday, 08.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Samira Winter grew up in Curitiba, Brazil, the daughter of an American father and a Brazilian mother, but went to college in Los Angeles. The mix of cultures has given her pop songs a decidedly different flavor beyond the bilingual lyrics. With her band, named Winter, Samira has crafted lushy atmospheric pop gems and the band’s 2018 album Ethereality is most suitably titled. It’s reminiscent of late 2000s dream pop and chillwave with a lo-fi aesthetic giving the songs hazy edges of nostalgic whimsy. Winter is also set for a late September release of a collaborative album as Winter & Triptides called Estrela Mágica that sounds like a long lost Latin psych/folk record of the 1970s.

Who: The WHEAL and Voight
When: Tuesday, 08.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Blue Ice
Why: The WHEAL came all the way from Paris, France to perform at Blue Ice. The project supposedly has roots and a lineage in 80s electronic music and post-punk.Whatever its origins, The WHEAL is a modern darkwave band that uses ambient tracks, drum machines and synth compositions to create a dense and deep soundscape. Paired with The WHEAL on the bill is Denver’s Voight, a band whose own fusion of electronic/minimal synth and searing post-punk guitar sounds is unique in the Mile High City.

Wednesday | August 22, 2018

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Bad Bad Hats, photo by Zoe Prinds-Flash

What: Centered Volume 3: Ian Sherlock, Mobdividual, Lepidoptera and J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Wednesday, 08.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Bar Max
Why: This third edition of Jacob Isaacs’ Centered series, which features underground, experimental electronic artists from around the country as well as Colorado, will include local artists Mobdividual, Lepidoptera and Isaacs himself along with Syracuse, New York-based ambient/environmental sound artist Ian Sherlock. Taking place in the basement of Bar Max, the event will make it easy to escape the bustle of Colfax and take in some great, minimalist soundscapes.

Who: Bad Bad Hats w/Cumulus
When: Wednesday, 08.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Minneapolis-based indie rock band Bad Bad Hats recently released its new album, Lightning Round. Singer Kerry Alexander has long written music playing with and often subverting pop clichés. Lightning Round is no different with, according to an August 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Alexander examining the love as drug metaphor as someone who hasn’t indulged in the song “Nothing Gets Me High.” Alexander imagines possibilities in cultural artifacts and their impacts on our lives and popular culture as with “1-800.” Across her career Alexander has commented insightfully on the emotionally/psychologically fraught moments in any relationship as it starts and develops but especially so on Lightning Round with “Absolute Worst” and “Girl.”

Best Shows in Denver 03/29/18 – 04/04/18

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Colin Ward as Alphabets circa 2010. Raptor Jazz, a celebration of Ward and his legacy at The Black Box on Saturday, March 31. Photo by Tom Murphy

 

Thursday | March 29, 2018

 

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The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Milk Blossoms (album release) w/Joseph Lamar, Princess Dewclaw and Midwife
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Milk Blossoms release Dry Heave the Heavenly this night at Lost Lake. The trio basically found a way to take fairly idiosyncratic musical tastes and skill sets and a blend of natural talents to make imaginative, cathartic pop music that couldn’t really be made by anyone else. The bands songs are accessible yet demanding your taking it on its own terms. Calling the group “experimental pop” doesn’t quite do justice to the power of the live band and its recordings. Two talented singers whose styles are quite different but complementary, soul and hip-hop undertones without the hackneyed quality one often finds in artists that are trying too hard to appeal to too many people. The members of The Milk Blossoms are definitely not trying to appeal to people in that way, but, rather, expressing poignant life moments in an achingly resonant way making their music poetic and heartbreaking yet comforting. Naturally for the occasion of the album release, The Milk Blossoms brought together a few of the best Denver bands to round out the bill. Joseph Lamar isn’t trying to put his music in hip-hop, soul, indie rock, electronic pop boxes but there’s bits of all of that and more in his songwriting. Princess Dewclaw combines synth pop and a seething socially critical punk sensibility that seems elemental in the live setting. With her almost abstract and ethereal vocals and spidery guitar work, Midwife channels the ghost of the soul level pain that lingers in the hearts of most people that have lived life enough to know the regret and melancholy that bring loss into stark focus.

Who: DRUNE, Equine, Tyler Jared Cantrell
When: Thursday, 03.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is the second edition of Musical Mayhem at The Skylark for March. DRUNE describes itself as “Denver Desert Doom Metal.” Probably means these guys listened to a lot of Kyuss and/or Queens of the Stone Age, maybe Dopesmoker-era Sleep above the rest of that band’s catalog and Ennio Morricone’s movie soundtrack discography. If their practice space recordings are any indication anyway. Equine is the latest project from Kevin Richards who some may know from his time bringing weird jazz chords into the mix with post-hardcore band Motheater and ambient noise project Epileptinomicon or even his own post-rock-esque solo effort Temples (before some okay psych band made the name famous-ish). At any rate, Equine picks up where Temples left off in experimenting with the structure and format of even experimental guitar based music and adding in electronic elements to create a truly hypnotic and immersive soundscape.

Who: Matt and Kim w/CRUISR and Twinkids
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and became a couple who were encouraged to take up music by the guys in Japanther. Neither had any real training but plenty of creativity and, it turns out, a knack for writing hook-laden pop songs that were upbeat and positivistic without seeming hokey. As the duo’s songwriting developed, its audience quickly outpaced the capacity of the DIY spaces it played early in its career. Matt and Kim have played many of the big festivals and had experiences most bands would love to have and yet their presentation of the music never seems jaded—it seems as exuberant as it was a decade ago.2018’s Almost Everyday, written while Schifino was recovering from an injury strikes an unusually melancholy note now and then suggesting an acknowledgement of mortality to go along with the shift from the exuberant punk attitude of earlier releases to a focus on the electronic side of the band’s sound. Honestly, a welcome change of pace but even if you’re not a fan of the band’s newer sound it’s not like they’re going to only play from the new record and you can go expecting the hijinks that have made Matt and Kim shows more fun than those of most other bands.

Friday | March 30, 2018

 

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It’s Just Bugs, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Monocle Band & The Dress Downs
When: Friday, 03.30, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show
Where: Absolute Vinyl, Boulder
Why: Absolute Vinyl ends its more than 9-year run as an institution that offered friendly service, fair prices on vinyl and a place to see a wide variety of live music from the avant-garde improvisational stylings of Animal / object to folk/Americana acts like Monocle Band and The Dress Downs, the two bands that will likely be the last live acts to be hosted by the store. Advocates for the local tape label showcase and other events focused on local culture, Absolute Vinyl was more than just a record store. Absolute Vinyl closes its doors for good tomorrow, Saturday, March 31 so if you’re so inclined pay it one last visit.

Who: Fathers vinyl release w/SPELLS, It’s Just Bugs, Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: At this show you can pick up the vinyl version of the self-titled Fathers album, which came out digitally in October 2017. The group is a bit of an all-star lineup of local heavy music including Oscar Ross and Ryan DeWitt from Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas from Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe from Cult of the Lost Cause. Fathers is more akin to metallic post-hardcore acts like Converge, Coalesce and Cave-In (whose singer/bassist Caleb Scofield died in a car accident earlier this week). Including the amplified intensity, the clear influence (directly or otherwise) of grindcore and gritty-screamy vocals. Fortunately the group thought to bring in likeminded but sonically quite different bands to round out the bill. SPELLS’ motto is 80% is good enough. But you can’t really tell anyone’s holding back on the energy and performance in the show. Sorta like pop-punk but more refined yet still simple and straight forward. Maybe frontman Ben Roy will do something transgressive but not abusive at the show and it’ll all be worth that beyond Chuck Coffey’s elegant and thoughtful songwriting disguised as dumb-but-fun punk. It’s Just Bugs is the perfect, even inevitable, blend of noise, electro-industrial music and hip-hop. Cheap Perfume writes catchy, fun songs but doesn’t dumb down or dulls its sharp takedown of patriarchal culture to comfort people who think art and politics should be separate.

Who: Strange Goo – KGNU presents An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm: Mux Mool and RUMTUM collaborative set, Ea$$side Lupita, CURTA and Norty
When: Friday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene Bar
Why: For fifth Fridays for the rest of the year, KGNU is presenting An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm, seems to be a showcase for forward thinking hip-hop and electronic music. This edition includes: Mux Mool and RUMTUM doing a set together likely combining their gifts for electronic dance music production and RUMTUM’s use of guitar loops and soundscapes – Ea$$side Lupita, the solo project of the incomparable KoKo La of R A R E B Y R D $ fame and if her production and lushly evocative and emotionally articulate vocals in the latter is any indication, this will be worth paying attention to as well – and CURTA, Denver’s premiere noise rap/experimental hip-hop group who recently released the excellent End of Future Park, a unique and almost surreal take on how the current state of late capitalist economic systems and the pervasiveness of technology in culture is impacting our daily lives in ways we tend not to examine closely enough.

Saturday | March 31, 2018

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Chrome circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chrome w/EchoBeds and Phallic Meditation
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Check out our write-up on Chrome and interview with Helios Creed for some reasons to go to this show.

 

What: Raptor Jazz a Ceremony of Life for Colin Ward/Fundraiser feat. Docile Rottweiler, French Kettle Station, UR Presents Acid Rain (live), Sugarsplat 2.0, Shaman Fight Club, AcidBat, Kid Mask, Toucan, visuals by Orchidz3ro and Jak Turbo
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Colin Ward left an indelible imprint on Denver’s DIY art and music world during his short life before he died at the end of January 2018. This event is a celebration of his life and influence performed by many of those closest to him and a fundraiser for his memorial fund to preserve his art and music going into the future.

Monday | April 2, 2018

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Herse, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Suppression w/Herse, Berated and Flesh Buzzard
When: Monday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Suppression are an early noisegrind band from Virginia. When the band began in Roanoke in 1992 it probably seemed pretty extreme and brutal to most people that weren’t already into grindcore. The beyond-screamed vocals, savage sonic gyrations and doomy soundscaping of its 1993, self-titled debut likely didn’t endear itself to purist grind fans either. But 26 years hence and Suppression, now a two-piece, are considered legends of extreme music even though that means they’re probably playing the same kind of underground, DIY and otherwise unglamourous types of venues they did back near the beginning. That said, it would be so odd and not appropriate to witness this music at a theater or even a big club. Fortunately, Mutiny is a perfect place to catch Suppression as well as like-minded locals like the two-piece Herse whose own brand of grind waxes into the realm of experimental music with its own subverting grindcore tropes of song dynamics and tone.

Tuesday | April 3, 2018

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Pale Waves, photo by Danny North

Who: Pale Waves w/Inheaven
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pale Waves released All The Things I Never Said, its debut EP, in February 2018. While the band began in 2014, it’s obvious from the songwriting that the Manchester, UK-based group took some time incubating as a band before releasing a song much less a small body of work like a four-song EP. The band’s sound and image is an interesting mix of ideas and creative impulses. Overtly the music is modern synth pop but the band looks like they might be giving us a vintage post-punk/Goth sound as lead singer/guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran look like they wouldn’t have been out of place in Siouxsie & The Banshees or Switchblade Symphony. Which makes the contrast interesting because the band sets you up to be surprised and not expect a particular style. Sure, an early single, “There’s Honey,” comes off like late-era Cocteau Twins meets Chvrches but later singles like “Heavenly” mix bright vintage dream pop guitar work with melodic hooks reminiscent of Alvvays. Whatever ingredients went into Pale Waves’ music, what it is now is one of the better pop groups to have come across the Atlantic in a few years.

Who: A Deer A Horse w/Quits and Product Lust
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse sounds like a cathartic blend of Carla Bozulich circa Evangelista and early Live Skull. That spooky and intense energy of Bozulich and a willingness to let cutting, noisy guitar find its place in jagged rhythms without being limited by them nor vice versa. All while somehow writing accessible songs with hooks. Also on the bill are Product Lust, the post-punk band that blasts through conventional notions of what that has to sound like. There is the spirit of hardcore in the songwriting and presentation partly because Kat Salvaggio is a confrontational frontwoman but the souunds and rhythms sonically color outside hardcore’s tendency for stark contrasts. Quits could loosely be called noise rock because the members of the band have all been in some of the most interesting groups of that ilk for a couple of decades. Doug Mioducki and Luke Fairchild were both in the sometimes shockingly forceful and unhinged noisy post-hardcore band Sparkles. Mioducki went on to play in art-noise-punk-jazz band Witch Doctor and, more recently, CP-208. Fairchild has been in several noteworthy sludgy, noisy punk/metal bands over the years but maybe you’re familiar with Git Some and Kingdom of Magic. Drummer Darren Kulback and bassist Tiana Bernard were also both in CP-208 but before that they were in noise rock trio Hot White who made some waves in the underground before splitting in 2011. And thus Quits brings together a bit of Denver noise rock history in one band. But is it any good? If its 2017 EP is any indication, that’s affirmative, Captain.

Wednesday | April 4, 2018

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Boy Harsher, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Soft Moon w/Boy Harsher and Voight
When: Wednesday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When The Soft Moon released its 2010 debut album its harsh yet hypnotic industrial post-punk sound didn’t seem connected to much else going on at the time. Unless you were listening to dark noise rockers like Pop. 1280 and Yoga. As stark and as urgent as Suicide, as bass driven with cutting guitar tone reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon likely also had some roots in Chrome’s blend of mind-altering guitar sound and experiments in electronic soundscaping. On the project’s 2018 record, Criminal, Luis Vasquez has made the dance element stronger while pushing his songwriter in stranger directions and thus escaped a potential trajectory of merely reinventing the sound of his earlier records. Whereas 2012’s Zeros sounded like a transitional record, Criminal sounds like a new chapter in Vasquez’s evolution as an artist. Sharing the bill is Denver’-based industrial post-punk duo Voight who are in the process of transforming their sound in a more electronic direction so you may get to see more than a hint of that for this show. Also, Boy Harsher, originally from Savannah, Georgia, will bring an immersive darkwave dance sound that doesn’t draw easy comparison to much unless you’ve been able to catch New Order or Adult in the last decade. Brilliantly sculpted, driving low end and ghostly vocals that suggest large spaces even when the blanket of fog obscures one’s sense of place at the show. Disorienting yet comforting. Boy Harsher releases Pain II on May 11 but you may be able to pick up a copy at this show.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 02/08/18 – 02/14/18

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Emerald Siam at Lost Lake on Friday, February 9, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | February 8, 2018

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lib.eriana, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Who: Musical Mayhem: lib.eriana, Klaus Dafoe and Brian Parton
When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This edition of Musical Mayhem looks like a doozy. Alan Muñiz is probably not someone you think of when you think of Denver’s music scene much less the avant-garde end of it. But he has been part of multiple projects that have been exploring sounds and musical ideas out on the edge of accessibility while rooted in a very organic approach to composition. His current project, lib.eriana is a mix of elegant acoustic-electronic music and abstract dub IDM. The moody, gorgeous pieces he’s shared on his Soundcloud account are just a taste of what you’re in for tonight. Also on the bill is post-punk/Canadian avant guitar aficionado solo artist Klaus Dafoe and Americana pop artist Brian Parton. Eclectic line up as should happen more often.

Who: Telefon Tel Aviv w/Dean Grenier, Bones and Peter Vaughan
When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper started Telefon Tel Aviv in the late 90s composing IDM ambient music with sounds suggesting specific natural environments. The duo’s debut album, 2001’s Fahrenheit Fair Enough, established a sound that later became popular among the post-EDM/deep house set—a new kind of dance music for chillout zones. The project went on to explore various extensions of its root aesthetic across five albums before the untimely death of Cooper shortly after the release of Immolate Yourself, Telefon Tel Aviv’s up to now final album. Since then, Telefon Tel Aviv became a bit of a legendary band in the realm of IDM. Eustis became a touring member of Nine Inch Nails in 2013 as well as Puscifer. But since that year, Eustis has presumably worked on the recent reissues of classic Telefon Tel Aviv material and has apparently been working on new material that you can hopefully catch if you make it out to this show.

Who: Ice Troll, New Standards Men, Transmutation
When: Thursday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Calling this a post-rock show might be a bit misleading because Ice Troll is clearly more in the realm of what one might call a doom orchestra. New Standards Men have more in common with noise sculptor punks and post-punks like Unwound and A Minor Forest than something as calming as Explosions in the Sky. But it’ll be instrumental and not adhering to basic genre formats of any kind.

Friday | February 9, 2018

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Jessica Lea Mayfield, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Who: Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sun Seeker and Porlolo
When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jessica Lea Mayfield’s 2017 album Sorry Is Gone sounds noisier and more conflicted than perhaps her earlier efforts. But having gone through a breakup with an abusive spouse with songwriting as one therapeutic outlet, Mayfield nevertheless expertly writes in a way that comes across emotionally honest and poetic. With her life so disrupted Mayfield would have been excused for sounding angry but the record is more melancholy and expressive of hurt buoyed a bit by a spirit of defiance. Musically, Mayfield combines a soulful Americana with the desert-y atmospheric rock of Rain Parade or bits of Meat Puppets II. Though there is a bit of throwback to Mayfield’s melodies the tone of emotion in her voice is poignantly immediate.

Who: The Velveteers EP release w/Plastic Daggers, Bud Bronson + The Good Timers
When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Velveteers are releasing a new EP with songs informed partially by singer/guitarist Demi Demitro’s love of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with at least some of the material written in a graveyard. The duo has always sounded larger than seems possible with just drums, guitar and vocals. But with the new EP, Demi and her brother John push the envelope of their format further and guitar harmonics in the main riffs give the sound broader dimensions than has ever had. The Velveteers have always been a surprisingly compelling and powerful band with fire and bite in their songwriting and performances. The new EP confirms the promise that The Velveteers have plenty more to offer ahead with imaginative hard rock. To help celebrate the release of the debut EP are fuzz rock punks Plastic Daggers and Bud Bronson + The Good Timers, one of the few straight ahead rock bands that isn’t boring us with leaning on the crutch of a sound established completely by bands from decades past.

Who: Wrinkle album release w/American Grandma, Club Soda, Terremoto
When: Friday, 02.09, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: With its new album, A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies, Wrinkle from Denver has some self-effacing laughs amid its signature melancholic stories of the decaying American culture and its erosion of anything resembling the American dream while trying to survive and make sense of anything that could be worth doing, holding on to the bits of life that bring any joy or relief from the grim reality that faces all of us but specifically anyone under 30 that didn’t learn some technocratic trade, had a leg up in the financial industry or otherwise had advantages in life most of us don’t possess. Wrinkle has articulated the anomy of our times so well in its full catalog of songs but A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies finds the band using a broader palette of sounds and dynamics beyond any band inspired by late 90s emo and melodic hardcore. Wrinkle is more interesting than any throwback could be because its expanding what the music could be rather than merely putting on an individual stamp.

Who: Male Blonding, Plume Varia and Emerald Siam
When: Friday, 02.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This is the show of the year so far when post-punk and dream pop will be well-represented on stage between Male Blonding’s gift for making dynamics really create an architecture for atmosphere without having to make it obvious, Plume Varia’s deeply evocative yet gentle melodies and Emerald Siam’s layered, burning of the midnight lamp tones and dipping into wells of disappointment and gloominess and transforming it into something darkly beautiful. The latter released its most recent single, “Clean Split” on January 31, 2018. emeraldsiam.bandcamp.com/track/clean-split

Sunday | February 11, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sliver, Television Generation, Mr. Atomic and Bad Nostalgia
When: Sunday, 02.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Chris Mercer may have had a bit of a troubled life of struggle like Kurt Cobain. But all of it has fueled his lyrics and the music he makes with Dylan Jammes and Hollis Pierman. Obvious comparisons could be made to Nirvana pre-Nevermind and Tad. But there’s plenty of the DC hardcore Mercer encountered and witnessed firsthand before he moved to Colorado from the East Coast. There’s an edginess to the emotional catharsis the band lays out on stage but also an ear for melody that bands so noisy and unapologetically intense sometimes don’t bother to cultivate. Television Generation is cut from similar cloth except that its fuzzy pop songs, especially on 2017’s excellent Peel, are reminiscent of some amalgam of Love Battery, Love & Rockets and Love. Scratch the latter even if it fits and think more like Green Day or Weezer. And because there’s a clear pop-punk and early 90s alternative rock influence informing the music. But also a touch of early psychedelia and a melancholic, sometimes otherworldly, undertone to the songs. Mr. Atomic sounds like it grew up on the last gasp of the legitimate group of alternative rock bands but in forming decided being essentially a tribute band for an era wasn’t going to work out and its songs reflect a modern sensibility. Boneth Ahaneku’s tuneful vocals coupled with the band’s overall songwriting are reminiscent of Letters to Cleo or Veruca Salt in their ability to sound joyful and even playful while not cheapening essentially thoughtful lyrics. And, really, Amy Heckerling should tap this band for her next soundtrack.

Wednesday | February 14, 2018

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Chella And The Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Bonnie and the Clydes, Chella & The Charm, Ryann & Lee, Jennifer Jane Niceley, Five Mile Woods
When: Wednesday, 02.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sure, Valentine’s Day Special at the Hi-Dive called “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.” And if it were a show in which vapid, soulless “country” musicians told stories that weren’t an amped up attempt to imbue limited life experience with faux gravity it might be worth it. But no, if you choose to attend you will get to see talented people like Bonnie Sims, the singer and main songwriter in Bonnie and the Clydes whose songs about life and love have a flavor that reveal her Texan roots but in doing so also a sensibility that more than suggests she’s been around the block a few times with laying her heart on the line. Also, Chella & The Charm’s songs about love and heartache come from a place of striking self-examination and contemplation of the essence of what it all means without bogging it all down with intellectualizing the experience yet not also having a perverse need to dumb it down for accessibility. A great country and Americana show for people who think they don’t like any of that music.

Who: Mandy Yoches & The Hell Knows
When: Wednesday, 02.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Soul and R&B singer extraordinaire Mandy Yoches and her band The Hell Knows will perform a set of songs for Valentine’s Day. Probably not a cynical take on the subject of love because that’s not Yoches’ style but surely the set list will be interesting with some surprises from Yoches’ diverse repertoire.

Best Shows in Denver 11/09/17 – 11/15/17

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James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, who play at 1stBank Center on Saturday, November 11, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Thursday: November 9, 2017

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Guantanamo Baywatch, photo by Todd Walberg

Who: Guantanamo Baywatch w/Cheap Perfume and Vic ‘n’ The Narwhals
When: Thursday, 11.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: By now surf rock is a style of music that’s been beaten into the ground over the last 7-8 years, all the possibilities of the music beaten out of it, leeched of vitality and iterations of it meditating ad nauseum upon well-worn paths. But it happens. Some band is doing it in a way that brings genuine creativity to a form of music that seems to hold no more surprises. Thus is Guantanamo Beach’s 2017 album Desert Center which has plenty of the usual tricks but even amid those are beautiful leads and melodic turns of phrase that elevate the band’s music beyond tropes and styles into the realm of originality even while employing the sounds and rhythms of an established musical genre. That Guantanamo Baywatch is a compelling live band seals that impression. Opening the show are Cheap Perfume, as thrillingly sassy punk band, and Vic n’ The Narhwals, a psychedelic garage rock band that sounds like it crawled out of Venice Beach in the late 60s, got on a plane that traveled through the Bermuda Triangle and dropped them off in Denver circa 2015. Who knows, really, but they don’t sound like they’re trying to jump on any trendy bandwagons.

Who: PterrorFractyl w/Mirror Fears, Sid Madrid and Terminals
When: Thursday, 11.09, 6 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Mirror Fears’ 2017 album Eaten should be on the Year End Best lists of every music journalist but probably won’t because Kate Warner is from Denver and few journalists outside the Mile High City are aware of her beautifully sculpted, experimental music infused, electro pop songs informed by heightened feelings about so many of the things plaguing our world today. Plus the songs have a depth of atmosphere and a catchiness that’s undeniable. PterrorFractyl is what you might get if an electronic dance outfit got into ambient and the abstract end of dubtechno. Reminiscent of Gonjasufi and maybe showing the influence of Flying Lotus in the mixture of organic sounds and pure electronics in the beats.

Who: Musical Mayhem w/Claudzilla, The Far Stairs as Destination Moon covering TMBG, A Box of Stars and Jacob McKelvie
When: Thursday, 11.09, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: “Mayhem” is the appropriate word for this edition of the event. Okay, not pure mayhem (or pure fucking Armageddon for that matter), but it will be a contrast between Claudzilla’s keytar-driven weirdo pop songs and those of The Far Stairs covering They Might Be Giants and touring Americana bands A Box of Stars from Vermont and Jacob McKelvie from Massachusetts. But at least the touring bands aren’t the usual sort of beards and mandolins variety we get coming to Colorado looking to get their big break following in the path of The Lumineers.

Friday: November 10, 2017

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Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Vase Vide and Had I Known dual album release w/Katey Sleeveless
When: Friday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Zodiac Venue/Bar
Why: The Colorado Springs music scene is probably a bit of a dismissed enigma to anyone outside of that city unless they know a band or two. But the Springs has been home to some of the most interesting musical projects Colorado has yet produced. And if not interesting per se to many, at least respectable. Against Tomorrow’s Sky, Eyes Caught Fire, Dear Rabbit, El Toro De La Muerte, Abracastabya, Blighter, 908, Black Pegasus, Be Thou My Vision, Cocordion, The Mansfields and Nicotine Fits at a minimum. Tonight experimental pop band Vase Vide releases its latest album, Hello Moon, Good Night. Fans of Yo La Tengo and Mercury Rev will appreciate the deep, hazy atmospheres and unfurling whorls of compound time in the rhythms. That latter gives it an open-ended and expansive feeling. A more contemporary comparison could be made with the rock/psychedelia and electronica of The Helio Sequence.

Had I Known is releasing the Pedestrians EP. Singer/guitarist Brian Eastin has been around in bands for years, relatively recently in War Parts. Had I Known is a more spiky, glittery indie rock band than War Parts but with Eastin’s usual sincerity and intensity. Think more like a lo-fi and noisy The Life and Times and you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for.

Katey Sleeveless also has a new EP but it won’t be released at this show. Like Had I Known, Katey Sleeveless is a trio but rather than three men, it’s three women: Kate Perdoni many may know as a singer and guitarist in Eros & The Eschaton; Emily Gould as the drummer in country band Plain As Day; Kellie Palmblad as vocalist/guitarist in Eyes Caught Fire, Waterbear and Constellation of Cars. Among others. Their band together some may want to characterize as dream pop because there is a gritty yet ethereal quality to the guitar sounds but as with the members’ other bands, there is an expressive emotionality to the music that doesn’t release all at once. It doesn’t unfold in one or multiple bursts. It has the rare quality of being cathartic, soothing, nuanced and introspective.

Who: Gone Full Heathen album release w/Married a Dead Man, Teacup Gorilla, Vexing and guests
When: Friday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Gone Full Heathen is release its self-titled album tonight with a show with deathrock band Married to a Dead Man, glam/psych band Teacup Gorilla and Vexing. Gone Full Heathen sounds like a combination of hardcore, transcendental metal and screamo. Meaning it’s heavy, it has moments where singer Ryanne Brooks wails in an unhinged way reminiscent of Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland.

Who: Fathers w/Wild Call, Poolside At The Flamingo and Voight
When: Friday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Heavy music supergroup Fathers (which includes Oscar Ross of Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas of Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe of Cult of the Lost Cause) is releasing its self-titled debut at this show. Calling it metal is a bit of a misnomer because it’s more like the kind of metal and hardcore that came out on Hydra Head—more experimental, usually more extreme. One of these kids is not like the others and industrial post-punkers Voight are opening this show with its second to last show before it goes on an extended period of not playing live. You never know, singer Nick Salmon might break something in a burst of exuberance but that’s long been one of his charms.

Who: Death From Above w/The Beaches
When: Friday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In 2017 Death From Above seems to have been able to go back to using that name without the comma and the “1979” afterward. Combining post-punk’s rhythm driven songwriting, hard rock’s exuberant bombast and electronic dance music, Death From Above quickly became one of the most popular of the “dance punk” bands in the first decade of the 21st century before taking a five year hiatus in 2006. Its latest album, Outrage! Is Now is not the acidic barn burner that is 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine or the sophisticated take on the same as 2014’s The Physical World but it’s a worthwhile listen even if it doesn’t much push the band’s existing envelope and its seemingly meta social commentary can be a tad oblique. The live show, though still seems as exuberant as ever. Opening band The Beaches, also from Toronto, is a pretty straight forward rock and roll band with a harder edge than many of the bands mining the overworked classic rock mold. But there’s more of a power pop melodicism to The Beaches that lifts it from the tired blues based hard rock that’s been pedaled ad infinitum over the past half decade and more.

Saturday: November 11, 2017

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James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Who: LCD Soundsystem w/Traxx
When: Saturday, 11.11, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: Too much pop music is concerned with an adolescent view of love and relationships and the world in general. Which is the appeal for many people who either are there in their lives or who are, somewhere in their heads, trapped in yearning for that time in their lives where they put adolescence and youth on a pedestal as the best time in life. But anyone who gets past 27, and especially into or past your 30s knows the best years of your life are rarely your teens and early 20s. Besides, you can’t go back and a lot of popular art and music isn’t aimed toward you and your life experience and perspectives. Fortunately, when LCD Soundsystem came back, the band gave us a record like American Dream which has all the liveliness and innovation of the band’s earlier records as well as words that speak honestly to concerns, feelings and thoughts that come to you if you’re an especially sensitive, perceptive and introspective younger person and definitely when you’re well into adulthood. No dumbing down or pandering required or given and all sarcasm and sardonic humor hitting exactly where it needs to be.

Who: Franksgiving w/Little Fyodor & Babushka, Ralph Gean and Esmerelda Strange
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This is an annual event thrown by Franklin Bell to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. As usual, the fantastic punk rock band Little Fyodor & Babushka will perform and outweird and frankly outpunk most other bands at the same time with surprisingly catchy songs about anxiety and our strange world. Ralph Gean, Denver’s O.G. still living rock star will perform as well as Esmerelda Strange whose performance moniker is no mere clever stage name.

Who: HorrorHouse Pinball Tournament of Death
When: Saturday, 11.11, 6 p.m.
Where: Vision Comics & Oddities (3958 S. Federal)
Why: This will be a combination haunted house and pinball tournament. It’s $15 to enter with pinball machines provided and maintained by Bloodshed Deathbath’s Ryan Policky who also designed the haunt. His band A Shoreline Dream has been releasing some of the most beautiful shoegaze singles over the past year in preparation for an eventual full length release sometime next year. On this night, however, music will be provided in part by DJ Fernando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

Who: Screwtape tour kickoff w/Remain & Sustain, King Kaleb, Victim Culture, Discount Price, Lovely Gang
When: Saturday, 11.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: If you were to name, oh, the top three best punk bands out of Denver right now, Screwtape would have to be on that list because the hardcore outfit because its shows are an explosion of energy and it has something to say rather than resort to being mere entertainment.

Who: cEvin Key, Djoto, Mudwulf and VJ Dizypixl
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s
Why: cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy and Download fame will do a DJ set this night with some local noise/industrial luminaries including Cozmos Mudwulf. VJ Dizypixl does visuals for all kinds of artists across the country but is based in Denver metro and will provide her usual array of arresting visuals.

Who: Jean-Baptiste Le Cessna
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna (of the Auto Club, of course) doesn’t often perform a solo show so who can say exactly what he’ll perform. But it’ll be with his usual warm yet haunting voice and expressive guitar work.

Tuesday: November 14, 2017

Gift Of Gab
Gift of Gab, photo from officialgiftofgab.com

Who: Porlolo w/Jeff Beam, Turvy Organ and Cocordion
When: Tuesday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Porlolo has various part time members but it’s all the songwriting of Erin Roberts who has kept the project going for more than a decade. In the beginning it might have been described as a side project of her band with Joe Sampson, A Dog Paloma, but the latter has long since gone the way of all things. Is it folk? Maybe grounded there in some senses. Singer-songwriter? What does that even mean when such can be said of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and Greg Laswell? Indie rock? It’s all clumsy labeling for Roberts whose songs combine keen insight into human behavior, poignant observations about everyday experiences and a existential sense of humor that can wax to the absurd and silly. Cocordion is the experimental indie rock band from Colorado Springs that just released its debut full length record, Expectations, also not short on insightful words about the world we live in and our individual navigations of uncertainty, despair and how, yes, expectations (our own, that of others) shape our perceptions. Turvy Organ is the secret great band more people should know about because its orchestral pop songs are dark, moody, expansive and thought-provoking.

Who: Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), Landon Wordswell, Tope, Reason the Citizen, Kruza Kid
When: Tuesday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Gift of Gab (born Timothy Parker) is one of the most talented MCs in all of hip-hop and his fast, literate, profane, profound, pointed delivery is one of the things that made Blackalicious one of the most popular and influential acts in underground hip-hop since the 90s. In 2017, Gab released his latest EP, Rejoice! Rappers are Rapping Again!! And it’s no mere boast because the EP is the rapper in high form.

Wednesday: November 15, 2017

Who: Cut Copy w/Palmbomen II
When: Wednesday, 11.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Cut Copy was one of the few bands that got a good deal of buzz in the 2000s that was better than the buzz would suggest. They early on melded together 80s synth pop sensibilities with shoegaze guitars. And live those guitars were fiery and atmospheric at once. Following 2008’s In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy increasingly experimented with electronic sounds and production techniques for both its records and its live shows. In 2011, Zonoscope probably confused some fans of the band’s early music with its complete adoption of an electronic dance aesthetic which, honestly, was where the band seemed to be going from the beginning. 2013’s Free Your Mind brought the band into a more electrosoul direction that it continued with on 2017’s Haiku from Zero. However, in September 2016, Cut Copy released a limited edition cassette called January Tape. It’s a mostly ambient and minimal synth affair and fans of Popol Vuh, Panabrite and Sinoia Caves will find a lot to like there but it’s a safe bet you won’t see it live. However, Cut Copy won’t skimp on the energy and bright, enveloping atmospheres and dance-worthy rock songs that have made it a noteworthy band from early on.

Who: Samvega w/Medusa’s Disco and Today’s Paramount
When: Wednesday, 11.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Flux Capacitor
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.