Best Shows in Denver 1/16/20 – 1/22/20

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Heilung performs January 17 at Ogden Theatre, photo by Ruben Terlouw

Thursday | January 16

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Muscle Beach, Church Fire, Vexing and Grief Ritual
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: With the exception of Church Fire whose own politically-charged, emotionally cathartic, noisy synth pop, this is basically a showcase for some of the best Denver bands who bridge the gap between experimental metal, hardcore and noise punk. Muscle Beach released its riveting new album Charms in 2019 and Vexing just let loose with its album Cradle.

What: Cursive w/Cloud Nothings and Criteria
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Cereza w/Indica Cinema and Dog Basketball
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Chromadrift w/Felix Fast4ward, MYTHirst and Furbie Cakes
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Eli N-H & L Heron
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Necromantic (Goth, post-punk, darkwave, industrial DJ night)
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge

Friday | January 17

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The Still Tide, photo by Jay Wescott

What: Heilung
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Many bands in the past two or three decades claim to hearken back in their music to early northern European culture. Heilung took the concept a step or two further by basing their music on texts and runes from the Germanic people of the Viking era and longer ago infused with pan-ancient world cultures. The band members look like members of a Scandinavian mystery cult with elaborate outfits, some wearing horned head gear, performing with recreations of traditional instruments from various ancient cultures, guttural vocals reminiscent of Tuvan throat singing. It is a spectacle that is a ritualistic performance of music and poetry designed to transport you to the mindset of earlier humanity getting in touch with its subconscious mind communally.

What: The Still Tide Between Skies album release, Down Time and Heavy Diamond Ring
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Still Tide has been making waves in Denver and beyond for several years at this point with its poignantly expressive dream pop soundscapes. Its sounds are expansive yet are imbued with an intimate sensibility as though Anna Morsett is singing from the past toward the future. It takes you out of a mundane mindset and transports you to a realm where you can feel all the pressures, angst and demands of everyday life but it seems in context of a bigger picture hidden from your thinking most of the time. At least that’s the vibe of the band’s new record Between Skies. The lush and well-balanced soundscapes crafted by Morsett, Jake Miller, Joe Richmond and Nate Meese render incredibly accessible an album of meaningful songs about personal struggle and striving to make sense of the seemingly endless run of reverses and confusing experiences with your heart intact.

What: Caustic Soda EP release w/Sinister Pig and Princess Dewclaw
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Caustic Soda is a noise punk band from Boulder whose new EP Stud Count will be available at this show. As the title suggests it’s a pointed critique of the all the destructive and regressive ideas that have seemed to issue forth prominently in the wake of Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president: the misogyny, the bizarre anti-science right, open racism—all the stuff nascent fascism spews into the world.

What: The Amphibious Man, Apollo Shortwave and Pelvis Presley (EP release)
When: Friday, 1.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Kiltro w/Oxeye Daisy and Julian Brier
When: Friday, 1.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: On the One: DJ Johnra (John Eggert) and DJ Mike Moses
When: Friday, 1.17, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Saturday | January 18

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Lazarus Horse, photo by Andy Denson

What: Lazarus Horse Oh, The Guilt album release w/Disinherited and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Eddie Durkin was once a member of the promising and powerful experimental guitar pop band Sparkler Bombs but for various reasons had to take a break from playing in bands and playing shows. But his time away allowed him to incubate and hone his talent further and his latest project Lazarus Horse has been performing now and then with a set of songs that are rough enough around the edges to be fresh and interesting but refined in the execution of dynamics to not be confused for an off-the-cuff band still not in possession of a sense of intentionality. The group’s new album Oh, The Guilt will be an earworm for fans of Codeine, Red House Painters, Versus and Slint. The songs have a simple construction but because of that they are capable of a great emotional range as the layers of sound interact with a fluidity that the sometimes splintery tones might suggest otherwise. The vulnerability on display is disarming, honest and inviting. Given the arc of the songs it’s part eulogy for a time in Denver Durkin experienced while playing DIY spaces in the late 2000s and early 2010s and a map for navigating the new reality in the Mile High City and America in general, one that seems to have put so much up in the air with no sense of confidence in social stability. It’s a record showing bravery and self-awareness in the face of massive uncertainty and possible civilizational collapse.

What: Punk Against Trump: Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, Over Time, Filthy Hearts, Altar Girls (debut)
When: Saturday, 1.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Maybe in the years ahead Trump and everything he willfully and unintentionally encouraged among the forces of cultural and political reaction will be in the rearview and great punk bands won’t have to have fundraiser for groups that are keeping essential services and a compassionate mission alive but for now Punk Against Trump remains a proud tradition in Denver.

What: Bleakheart w/Many Blessings, Its Just Bugs and Human Tide
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax

What: LUCY, H Lite, French Kettle Station and Horse Girl
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Your Smith w/Chelsea Jade
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Ladies Night (band) and Lifers
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Sunday | January 19

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Drune, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drune (album release), New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Sunday, 1.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Drune’s debut album SEER is three extended tracks with Roman numerals as the title. Doing so almost invites you to have no preconceptions about what you might be in for with the listening even if you’ve heard the band is a doom band or “heavy.” And it is but there is an elegance to Drune’s composition that has as much in common with bands like Black Mountain who push the aesthetic into unconventional sonic territory as it does with any doom band. James Cook’s soaring vocals and the modulated rhythms syncing with guitar riffs that are as textural and moody as brutal. It’s a sonically expansive record that rewards your attention. Drune doesn’t drone on the same idea ad infinitum, its evolution through a song suggests a narrative structure that pulls you in for the long haul.

Tuesday | January 21

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GZA, photo courtesy GZA management

What: GZA 25th Anniversary of Liquid Swords w/Righteous Revolution (feat. 1-natVson-1), D-Stylz & High Key (Affliction Music), DJ Notch, Killah Priest
When: Tuesday, 1.21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is of course a classic of 90s hip-hop fusing a more traditional genre aesthetic with genre-bending innovations in the use of atmospheric elements in the production to give the whole record an otherworldly quality worthy of its transcendental lyrics. While it might be difficult to prove this record sounds like one of the primary influences on late-90s alternative hip-hop like artists on the Anticon, Mush and Rhymesayers imprints and on experimental electronic music and bands as unusual and adventurous as Black Moth Super Rainbow and CocoRosie. Whatever its exact impact and legacy, Liquid Swords gets into your head and still manages to surprise with the sheer creativity in its use of sound and GZA’s masterful wordplay like a thinking person’s futuristic crime drama manga.

Best Shows in Denver 8/9/19 – 8/14/19

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Rolling Stones perform at Mile High Stadium on August 10. Photo by Dave Hogan.

Friday | August 9

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Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo by Ian Collins

What: The Alarm, Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel
When: Friday, 08.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: In the 1980s all three of these bands embodied the kind of highly melodic post-punk that articulated both the bleakness of an era and the hope that they and the rest of humanity would endure writing songs celebrating life and love and honoring the uncertainty, tentativeness and sometimes, yes, even gloominess that cast a pall over society with the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. Over thirty years hence we’re all in another period of doom hanging over the planet from, once again, the threat of nuclear war but also the collapse of our ecosystem and the rise of another wave of aggressive fascism throughout the world. Since these three bands have reconvened each has also been writing some of the best music of their careers and commenting on the times with songs that aren’t trying to capture past glory so much as writing music worthy of their legacy of not getting stuck in a rut. Modern English’s 2016 album Take Me to the Trees, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel’s 2017 record Dance Underwater and The Alarm’s 2019 offering Sigma reflect not just the strength of the respective band’s original creative vision but also their growth as artists valid in the modern era.

What: The Yellow Rake 15 year anniversary night 1 w/Simulators, Moon Pussy, Charly Fasano, Brian Polk and Karl Christian Krumpholz
When: Friday, 08.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Yellow Rake is a Denver-based literary and culture magazine that is celebrating a remarkable fifteen years in existence with performances from local bands Simulators and Moon Pussy and writers and artists Charly Fasano, Karl Christian Krumpholz and Yellow Rake founder Brian Polk. The celebration will run two nights beginning tonight at Mutiny Information Café.

What: Martin Atkins DJ sets and spoken word
When: Friday, 08.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Tracks
Why: Martin Atkins who has been a major figure in post-punk and industrial music going back four decades (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Ministry, Public Image Limited) will do a DJ set tonight and perform some spoken word, possibly reading from his own body of work.

Saturday | August 10

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This Will Destroy You, photo by Veronika Reinert

What: This Will Destroy You w/Brin
When: Saturday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: This Will Destroy You is one of the better ambient post-rock bands. Mainly because its dynamics aren’t limited to the predictable builds and then inevitable catharsis like Sigur Ros without all the alien light and energy that imbues that band’s music. This Will Destroy You’s 2018 albums New Others Part One and Part Two finds the band further developing its textural elements giving its new set of soundscapes a depth of low end it didn’t lack but one that highlights the more ethereal melodies with a a evocative contrast in tone.

What: Rolling Stones: 2019 No Filter Tour
When: Friday, 08.10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Mile High Stadium
Why: Anyone not know who the Rolling Stones are? Use your search engine and learn about the iconic rock and roll band that fused a gritty, heavily blues influenced rock music and evolved it in various and fascinating ways for years with lyrics that often indulged in unusual, offbeat subjects and really a broad spectrum of human experience making their songs long term engaging and influential. Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is one of a handful of essential books written by a musician.

What: GYES: Arc Sol, Mainland Break, Slugger
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: This edition of Get Your Ears Swoll brings to Northwest Aurora, Colorado experimental rock bands with a psychedelic loose edges.

What: The Yellow Rake 15th Anniversary Night 2: SPELLS, Black Dots, Muscle Beach and Joy Subtraction
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The second night of The Yellow Rake’s celebration of fifteen years of existence takes place at the Hi-Dive with some of Denver’s best punk and post-hardcore bands.

What: Glasss Fest Day 1
When: Friday, 08.10, 12 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This two day event spanning roughly twelve hours each day brings together some of the most interesting of underground bands that often do not get much play at the clubs or more commercial venues. Which makes it an event worth attending to catch a slice of what you’re missing out on if you only go to venues that don’t book experimental music. Most of this stuff isn’t particularly challenging unless your idea of genius is mainstream pop music that is bland but has the veneer of quality or if you’re mainly only into one genre of music not represented. It’s an eclectic booking in a way that needs to happen in Denver and elsewhere more often. Schedule below. All times p.m. as if you needed to be told.

12:30 – DJ Zombie
3 – Grrrl
3:30 Kah Li
4 – Nothing is Everything
4:30 – MYTHirst
5 – Adam Selene
5:30 – Bios+a+ic
6 – Elle Green
6:30 – Sliver
7 – Bianca Mikahn
7:30 – Denizens of the Deep
8 – House N Complex
8:30 – Pearls & Perils
9 – Princess Dewclaw
9:30 – Abeasity Jones
10 – R A R E B Y R D $
10:30 – Catdog
11 – Techno Allah
11:30 – Savage Bass Goat

Sunday | August 11

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Umbras Animas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Glasss Fest Day 2
When: Sunday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: See above for Glasss Fest.

1 – Sobremarcha/Hepster Pat DJ Sets
3 – Umbras Animus
4 – Galleries
4:30 Wngdu
5 – Disposal Notice
5:30 – Sumguy
6 – Bowshock
6:30 John Gross
7 – Venus305 / DCC
7:30 – Lady of Sorrows
8 – Pythian Whispers
8:30 – Dead Characters
9 – Soulless Maneater
9:30 Sadbug
10 – Joohsup
10:30 – $addy
11 – Hepster Pat DJ set

Tuesday | August 13

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Plume Varia, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Quits, Multicult (MD), Sliver and Equine
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 12 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Basically a noise rock show except for Equine who is probably doing a noisy guitarscaping sort of set. And Sliver who are basically a grunge color-by-numbers act. At least when it comes to their Layne Staley wannabe singer/guitarist. But they’re pretty alright in spite of all of that. Multicult is a Baltimore-based noise rock band in the vein of Shellac and The Unsane. Quits is a Denver band with a similar aesthetic and one that doesn’t skimp on the raw emotional outbursts.

What: Pure Bathing Culture w/Plume Varia
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pure Bathing Culture started with Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman who are also members of experimental folk band Vetiver. PBC is more in the realm of dream pop but with a more organic base with vibrant and sparkling guitar work amid lush synths as well as Versprille’s warm vocals. The group’s 2019 album Night Pass is its first since being dropped from Partisan Records. And rather than a darker than usual album to reflect the process of the experience, Night Pass sounds like a band that kept going its previous creative trajectory of introspective, upbeat yet downtempo pop songs. Opening the show is Plume Varia who share a similar sensibility but whose sound palette is a little more dusky and with singer Cheri Cobbs’ vocals soulful and deeply evocative.

What: Matt Weston (Albany), Ryan Mcryhew and Ryan Seward
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This will be something of an experimental improvisational show including locals Ryan Mcryhew better known for his work as modular synth and beats composer Entrance and avant-garde percussionist Ryan Seward. Both will join Matt Weston whose own left field percussion and electronics has brought him into collaborative spheres with the likes of Roger Miller (of Mission of Burma), Jim O’Rourke, drone legend Kevin Drumm, free jazz saxophone player Charles Gayle and Jack Wright, another master sax improviser.

Wednesday | August 14

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Kamasi Washington, photo by Durimel

What: Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington
When: Wednesday, 08.14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Herbie Hancock probably needs no introduction as one of the most important artists in modern jazz as a composer, pianist and band leader. He played in Miles Davis Quarter, he was a pioneer of jazz fusion and funk, he has composed soundtracks, he had a 1983 pop hit with “Rockit” which fused jazz and hip-hop. His accomplishments are, frankly, to massive to list. Also on this bill is Kamasi Washington whose own role as a master saxophonist (he’s played on records by Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, St. Vincent and others, no big deal), composer, band leader and producer parallels Hancock’s own. As a live performer Washington orchestrates the show with a subtle mastery that feels relaxed and informal due to the songwriting and the years of work already put in but which feels like watching a grandmaster at work. So go early to catch Washington and stay for one of the few living legends of jazz demonstrate his own musical magic.

Best Shows in Denver 06/20/19 – 06/26/19

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Mitski performs at Red Rocks with Death Cab for Cutie on Tuesday, June 25, photo by Bao Ngo

Thursday | June 20

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Future Punx, photo courtesy the artist

What: Glasss Presents the Final Speakeasy Series Season 3: Adam Selene, Abeasity Jones and MYTHirst
When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This is the final edition of the Speak Easy Series not just Season 3 but overall. Each date has been a well-curated showcase of Denver’s underground experimental music underground with a reach covering a lot of that territory in a way few if any other events have in recent years. Tonight’s show includes some of the local scene’s hip-hop and production stars as named above.

What: SCAC with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds
When: Thursday, 06.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is the long-running, legendary Americana post-punk band with a theatrical flair and costumes to enhance a strong visual presence on stage. Joining them tonight is Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Also favoring matching outfits in the vein of influential Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters, the group is fronted and lead by one of rock’s great songwriters and guitarists. Kid Congo Powers brought great finesse, inventiveness and a keen ear for melody and dynamics to groups like Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

What: Mystery Lights w/Future Punx and Slynger
When: Thursday, 06.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mystery Lights is an odd and fascinating mix of retro synth bands and proto-punk. Give its new record Too Much Tension! a listen. Like early Zen Guerilla but weirder. Future Punx is also on tour from Brooklyn with its synth funk punk akin to Les Savy Fav and The Epoxies but with more synth than the former and less pop punk than the latter. Its own 2019 album The World Is A Mess (which includes an almost brooding cover of “The World’s A Mess (It’s In My Kiss)” by X) sure does sound like some people from the future looking back on the Twentieth Century New Wave and punk era the way some indie rockers have looked back on Laurel Canyon, classic rock and 80s glam rock for inspiration and cherry picked sounds to assemble in idiosyncratic fashion.

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Hembree, photo by Stephen Shireman

What: Bloxx, Hembree and Warbly Jets
When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Bloxx is a four piece from London whose sound makes one think its members evolved out of the music that defined its early youth and rediscovered 90s alternative rock and mulched it all in favor of a charmingly melodic, fuzzy emo-esque songwriting style reminiscent of newer bands like Culture Abuse. Kansas City’s Hembree rides that line between post-punk and synth pop well and its 2019 album House On Fire is filled with darkly luminous yet urgent dance songs.

Friday | June 21

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Nick Murphy, photo by Willy Lukatis

What: Gasoline Lollipops., Dust Heart and Grayson County Burn Ban
When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Andy Thomas has been a fixture of Denver music for close to two decades as a member of bands like Ghost Buffalo, The Knew, Tin Horn Prayer, Only Thunder and, more recently, Lost Walks. Around a decade ago he started releasing music under his own name and as Andy Thomas Dust Heart and exploring different facets of his own songwriting. He is now releasing music as simply Dust Heart and tonight he releases his single “Plastic Walls” and “The Last Gap.” Thomas’ command of the musical vocabulary of Americana and punk has long been established. With the new material the songwriter delves further into something more akin to gritty power pop with charged guitar riffs and his always emotionally resonant vocal delivery. He’ll be performing the Punk Is Dad benefit tonight at the Oriental Theater with other like-minded local acts. Look for our interview with Thomas coming soon.

What: Nick Murphy fka Chet Faker w/Beacon
When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Nick Murphy announced in 2016 that he would drop his long-running stage name of Chet Faker with the release of his next album, that being 2019’s Run Fast Sleep Naked. The Australian singer and songwriter’s mixture of R&B and downtempo electronic pop struck a chord in the first half decade of his career so far and his new album is the result of some wanderlust and making the music and putting together ideas as he went along. The album is a mixed bag but sometimes such material translates better live than as a loose concept album and you can see for yourself tonight as Murphy transforms the Ogden into a more intimate environment in which his songs can shine in the interpretation of the recorded music.

Saturday | June 22

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Oh, Rose at Treefort Music Fest, photo courtesy the artist

What: Yeasayer w/Oh, Rose
When: Saturday, 06.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Oh, Rose from Olympia, Washington has been making C86-esque pop songs for around half a decade and garnering some buzz for its emotionally warm and ebullient yet introspective songwriting. Fans of Shop Assistants and perhaps Black Tambourine will find much to like about Oh, Rose in general but especially it’s forthcoming album While My Father Sleeps due out on August 23, 2019 on Park The Van Records. The group is opening for Yeasayer whose genre bending sound makes psychedelic rock, non-Western rhythms and prog work well together by not bothering to recognize a boundary between all of that. The result is what might be considered “indie funk” but with a more imaginative live presentation of the music than those terms together might suggest.

What: Alphabeat Soup #41: Rico Eva (Riq Squavs), MYTHirst, Yung Lurch, Furbie Cakes and Love Cosmic Love
When: Saturday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: With the demise of Deer Pile, Alphabeat Soup, the periodic showcase of some of Denver’s most forward-thinking electronic music producers, is finding a new home at Thought//Forms.

What: TRVE DadFest
When: Saturday, 06.22, 1 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: TRVE Brewing and Dad Fest combined forces for this event to bring a day and night of stars of extreme, doom and experimental (and combinations thereof) metal from Denver and beyond. But as per usual for DadFest, there will music well outside that like ethereal soundscaper Midwife, Denver noise legends Page 27 and beat-driven noise auteur Data Rainbow. Our pick for the later heavy stuff if one must choose? BIG|BRAVE’s 2019 album A Gaze Among Them is a towering locomotive of driving beats that transcends narrow concepts of doom, noise and industrial. But, really, everything on the bill is worth your time—not something one can say about every festival, tastes differing. The event happens at two venues, schedule listed below.

Hi-Dive Schedule (upstairs and downstairs as indicated)
Up: Dreadnought 7:50-8:10
Down: Noctambulist 8:15-8:35
Up: In the Company of Serpents 8:40-9:00
Down: Vale 9:05-9:25
Up: Midwife 9:30-9:50
Down: Of Feather and Bone 9:55-10:15
Up: BIG|BRAVE 10:20-10:50
Up: Wake 11:05-11:25
Up: Vanum 11:40 – finis

Mutiny Schedule
Lost Relics 2:00-2:20
New Standards Men 2:35-2:55
Chair of Torture 3:10-3:30
A Light Among Many 3:45-4:05
Livid 4:20-4:40
Whilt 4:55-5:05
909 5:20-5:40
Flesh Buzzard 5:55-6:05
Heathen Burial 6:20-6:40
Data Rainbow 6:55-7:05
Page 27 7:20-7:40

Sunday | June 23

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Howard Jones circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A Vulture Wake w/Joy Subtraction and State Drugs
When: Sunday, 06.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A Vulture Wake is a sort of melodic punk super group including Chad Price of ALL and Drag the River) and members of Lagwagon and Real McKenzies. But you won’t be getting some odd pop punk or melodic hardcore redo, it’s songwriting goes a bit beyond all of that with technical proficiency used with imaginative and evocative guitar riffs. Joy Subtraction doesn’t play much these days but its punk is borderline post-punk and its sharp take on social and political issues lacks is way more clever and insightful than that of at least two or three other bands. But not just any two or three other bands.

What: Howard Jones w/Men Without Hats and All Hail the Silence
When: Sunday, 06.23, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: Howard Jones is a pioneer of synth pop and one who learned to use difficult and temperamental equipment to compose some of the biggest hits of the 1980s like “Things Can Only Get Better,” “No One Is To Blame,” “What Is Love” and “Like to Get to Know You Well.” While for some these may be light pop songs Jones’ voice expressive and highly emotional deliver stood out even back then in the heyday of that music. As a live performer now Jones is surprisingly forceful and charismatic with an expertly crafted light show whose music seems prescient considering the direction synthwave and chillwave has developed.

Monday | June 24

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Ginger Root, photo by Seannie Bryan

What: Ginger Root w/Oko Tygra and Hi-Fi Gentry
When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: As Ginger Root, Cameron Lew has been making lush downtempo synth pop that sets itself very much apart with an attention to the low end. It gives his songs a sonic depth and flow that credibly gives a nod to 70s dance music and soul. Frankly, some filmmakers who are trying to nail that 70s and 80s vibe should hit up Lew to score and/or music supervise their projects because more than most people making music now who probably wasn’t alive at that time, he gets it and it’s not just having access to the vintage gear. But listen for yourself to his new singles “Weather” and “Slump” here.

What: Stevie Wonder
When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Stevie Wonder needs no introduction as a legend of soul, funk, R&B and jazz. He’s performing at this Red Rocks show as a fundraiser for SeriesFest.

Tuesday | June 25

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Mitski, photo by Bao Ngo

What: Death Cab for Cutie w/Mitski
When: Tuesday, 06.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Mitski Miyawaki recently announced that after her fall live bookings she was taking a hiatus from the grinding, album-release-cycle-and-touring of the music industry that allows little time for cultivating one’s life and creativity separate from its considering for delivering up to an audience in a form they are expecting. Miyawaki has had a respectable career and body of work up to now including her 2018 album Be the Cowboy. The latter pushed her songwriting to new heights of creativity in telling stories, self-examination and soundscaping. And a deep level of emotional honesty. With an album as great Be the Cowboy where does a songwriter go without repeating oneself while under the gun to produce something more quickly than one’s brain is prepared to deliver? With any luck she’ll find the time away from the cultural realm that Hunter S. Thompson famously critiqued before it got as bad as it is now by writing: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good [people] die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Wherever Miyawaki lands we wish her good fortune and happiness while hoping she comes back with a new set of music that continues her legacy of great songs.

Death Cab for Cutie is a band that helped to define and shape what “indie rock” has meant, sounded like and looked like since at least the late 90s. Now that the group has been fairly commercially successful for several years at this point its songwriting may lack some of the urgency and poignancy of its earlier output at least the band has a few decent songs with every album since the turn of the decade.

Wednesday | June 26

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J. Hamilton Isaacs, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Harry Tuft
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6 p.m.
Where: Four Mile Historic Park – Shady Grove
Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of bluegrass and folk in Denver having run the Denver Folklore Center in the 60s through the 70s and as a founder of Swallow Hill. He seldomly performs but when he does his interpretations of other people’s songs and standards is always interesting and his originals worthy as well. As a champion of music for decades, Tuft ironically didn’t have many chances to play his own music until his 80s and he does so with emotional power and grace.

What: Die ANGEL, Xambuca, Equine, Ian Douglas Moore and J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Die ANGEL is Ilpo Väisänen of noise/drone legends Pan Sonic and Dirk Dresselhaus of avant-guitar group Schneider TM. With Die ANGELthe duo explore the kind of noise, ambient, sound environment composition that is an experience in itself in flowing sounds, tones and rumbling low end. It is a physical as well as a psychological experience that will engulf the room at Thought//Forms. Xambuca is a San Francisco-based modular synth and production artist who will bring his own depth of sonic field to the proceedings. Denver’s Equine is Kevin Richards whose avant-garde guitar work has been part of the Mile High City’s underground for nearly two decades as a member of weirdo, jazz/noise post-hardcore band Motheater and blackened noise duo Epileptinomicon. J. Hamilton Isaacs is one of the local music world’s champions of modular synth music as well as a noteworthy artist in his own right producing entrancing (no pun intended for those in the know) synth/dance music that blurs the line between ambient and more academic synth experiments.

What: No Vacation w/Okey Dokey and Hello, Mountain
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: No Vacation’s take on surf rock-inflected dream pop is truly elegant and transporting like they’re able to relax and let whatever is in them speak through their collective efforts. Of course a lot of practice and playing together was involved but the band makes it look effortless and easy.

Best Shows in Denver 3/28/19 – 4/3/19

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Dilly Dally performs Friday 3/29 at Larimer Lounge. Photo by Michelle Homonylo

Thursday | March 28

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Eugene Chadbourne, photo courtesy the artistEugene Chadbourne

Who: Creative Music Works Fundraiser: Special guest Eugene Chadbourne
When: Thursday, 03.28, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Mighty Fine Productions
Why: Creative Music Works is, according to the event page, a “nonprofit organizartion providing educational and performance opportunities for musical innovators.” Meaning the organization furthers the endeavors of artists whose work often falls outside the traditional commercial and popular music environment—the people pushing the boundaries with form, method and conceptualization. CMW members Janet Feder, Mark Harris, Scott Kinnamon, Elena Carmerin Young and Isaac Linder will contribute to a performance as well as avant-garde music legend Eugene Chadbourne.

Who: Starjammer w/Bianca Mikahn
When: Thursday, 03.28, 4-7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Starjammer’s “avant-garde dub reggae”/performance art/home made instrument rig glory is paired tonight with one of Denver’s poetry greats and forward thinking hip-hop experimentalists, Bianca Mikahn.

Who: Rob Sonic w/The Maybe So’s, Brett Gretzky and Hakeem Furious
When: Thursday, 03.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Rob Sonic has had a fairly distinguished career for his innovative hip-hop projects Sonic Sum and Hail Mary Mallon (which included Aesop Rock and DJ Big Wiz). What has made his various efforts interesting is his use of a fairly different palette of sounds from many of his peers. His 2018 album Defriender lays out moods and textures that wouldn’t be out of place on a post-punk or deep house track or an industrial noise song. Denver’s The Maybe So’s is a duo that also weaves in unconventional electronic music and samples of organic percussion into its flow of beats and poetry.

Friday | March 29

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American Culture, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dilly Dally w/Chastity and American Culture
When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: On Dilly Dally’s 2015 album Sore the group sounded like a bit like a weird mixture of Bully and Courtney Barnett. But to be fair, it was probably something in the universe/confluence of influences across a broad swath of the collective musical consciousness. But with the 2018 album Heaven, Dilly Dally has expanded its range as a band and there is more brooding, atmospheric darkness flowing through its fuzz-laden riffs. It’s song “Doom” is more doom in tone and emotional resonance than a lot of what passes for such in the doom genre. But its inherently introspective yet expansive melodies keep the music from wallowing in stagnation. Along for this date is fellow Canadian band Chastity who are definitely more well within the realm of doomy noise rock. American Culture lately has straddled the line between indie pop, post-punk and psych country jam rock minus the wacktitude.

Who: Furbie Cakes, Space Monkey Mafia (MN), MTHirst, Fancy Pantz, Shocker Mom, Luxury Hearse and Wooflet
When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Your Mom’s House
Why: A show chock full of weirdo electronic bands, ambient and noise. And then Shocker Mom who is making the most heartwarming and healing sad beats currently being made.

Saturday | March 30

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Hand Habits, photo by Jacob Boll

Who: Hand Habits w/Tomberlin and Porlolo
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Meg Duffy may be more well-known for being a touring member of Kevin Morby’s band. But with the release of her album placeholder under the moniker Hand Habits should garner her plenty of attention for her own creative efforts. Superficially its mid-tempo moody indie folk but her words go deep into thoughts and feelings we don’t want to entertain but must face honestly. Not necessarily obvious and brutal trauma but the subtler pains that can deeply haunt you every day and from which are more elusive in evading. Disappointment in self, reflecting on one’s suddenly seemingly damning mistakes and the cognitive dissonance of the complexity of conflicting feelings about people, situations, existential ponderings and life in general that are all valid. Her tonal choices are all interesting and the perfect companion to explicating and maybe untangling and processing the aforementioned.

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Robyn Hitchcock, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Robyn Hitchcock
When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall
Why: One thing that isn’t so obvious about seeing Robyn Hitchcock playing solo or with collaborators is how his simple but richly detailed guitar work is creatively varied and incorporates percussive elements with an expressive delicacy that focuses the emotional impact of his songwriting. He seems to be an endless well of interesting and poetic stories that make even what some may consider his lesser records worth a listen. Pick a point in Hitchcock’s career and you’ll find some of the best songwriting of that period whether while he was a member of The Soft Boys, his work with The Egyptians or The Venus 3. Like a magical-realist (emphasis on realist) novelist, Hitchcock’s songs offer observational insight into the human psyche through an intensely personal window.

Who: Jeff Carey, Sigtrygur Sigmarsson, Diffuser, Flesh Buzzard, Joshua Westerman. Sunk Cost and Page 27
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Noise shows are pretty infrequent in Denver these days but this one is a showcase for some of the best noise acts going and not in the vein of the cliché harsh noise/shakebox feedback sculpting mode. Much more craft, imagination and originality here with Denver noise legends Page 27, former Austin-based noise prankster Sunk Cost, Adam Rojo of Voight’s Diffuser noise-scaping pieces and raw noise punk Flesh Buzzard. Among others.

Who: Black Dots, SPELLS, Lawsuit Models, Girl Scout Heroine and Good Family
When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A fairly traditional punk show with less of the fashion victim thing than usual. SPELLS wears costumes and get a solid B for the music but hey, that’s better than you get a lot of the time. Girl Scout Heroine includes former members of The Geds and The Blast-Off Heads.

Who: King Buffalo w/Pale Sun and The Lycan
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: What King Buffalo is doing, to some extent, we’ve seen a lot of over the past decade—drone-y, blues-y, doom-y psychedelia. But to give the band its due, if 2018’s Longing To Be The Mountain is any indication, it didn’t just adopt some motorik beats, it takes that sonic vehicle to places of heightened emotional impact beyond just hypnotic drive with occasional flourishes. Also it’s songwriting is much more creative and not grinding away at the same vibe and pace for an entire record. King Buffalo often reaches moments of true sonic sublimity in a way that transcends any genre associations. Pale Sun will bring a different kind of atmospheric heavy as the trio’s finely honed space rock has similar roots as King Buffalo but whose music touches subconscious places in the mind with both tone, rhythm and emotional vibrancy. Vocalist/guitarist Jeff Suthers channels the visceral quality of the music well with his singing but he’s also tapping into something in the collective consciousness in the performance as well.

Monday | April 1

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Olivia O’Brien, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Olivia O’Brien w/Kevin George
When: Monday, 04.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Olivia O’Brien was about fifteen years old when she got a boost up as a singer and songwriter after garnering the attention of Australian pop artist gnash who discovered her through her posting of a cover of one of his songs on Soundcloud. Over the past four years, O’Brien has recorded with gnash and released a string of singles. “Trust Issues” from 2016 revealed a thoughtful sensibility and self-awareness that can be uncommon in general but definitely in a teenager. O’Brien’s R&B and soul inflected pop and commanding, emotionally nuanced, stage presence will probably find a wider audience after this current tour and the April 26 release of her debut full-length Was It Even Real? For now, you can see her at a small club like Larimer Lounge.

Tuesday | April 2

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Ten Fé, photo by Eleanor Hardwick

Who: Ten Fé w/Ten Miles South and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Been Moorhouse and Leo Duncan got their start busking in London before recording their 2017 debut album Hit the Light. Before taking the music on the road, the duo brought on board a band to fill out the sonic details. The group’s 2019 album Future Perfect, Present Tense sounds remarkably sophisticated for a relatively new band. Its particular incorporation of synth into songwriting might remind some listeners of The Call or later-era The Sound, but without the punk edge. That’s no knock on the music because its softness doesn’t quite wax into the 70s Laurel Canyon worship that’s been en vogue of late. Rather its the sound of a band exploring and refining where it will go next while perfecting an exquisitely lush minimalism without sacrificing the textural details that have made its songwriting noteworthy up to now.

Who: Vanilla Milkshakes digital album release show
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Its been four years since Vanilla Milkshakes released Tall People Have No Feelings. Line up changes and a release of a cover of “Breed” by Nirvana in 2018 later, the grunge-y pop-punk band (singer/guitarist David McGhee makes no bones about being influenced by The Offspring) has released its best record with Punching Cows. Recorded with Jack Endino and guitars tracked through one of Kurt Cobain’s old amps, on the record McGhee’s vocals are clearer and stronger, the songwriting more focused. But the idiosyncratic quality of the lyrics and McGhee’s vocals, which is one reason none of this comes off like a band that would be playing that final Warped Tour. The sense of melody and tight rhythms give even the most melancholy of the songs (“Mommy Said to Get a Job” and “Green And Sober” for instance) a buoyant quality that doesn’t seem to downplay the real feelings and experiences that likely inspired the song. There are enough rough edges to keep the record interesting throughout. The band performs infrequently these days so this is a good opportunity to see the Vanilla Milkshakes in a small venue with the jokes from stage inserted between songs. Besides, drummer Frank Registrato is a wizard at helping keep things on track with no heavy hand and the sheer finesse and power of his playing.

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Hop Along, photo by Matt Allen, OctFest

Who: Hop Along w/Summer Cannibals
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Frances Quinlan performed in early versions of Hop Along as a solo acoustic act for the first four or five years until putting together a fledgling band around 2009. Even before signing to Saddle Creek Records in 2014, Quinlan’s songwriting was not short on imaginative storytelling like she was imagining the lives and situations she encountered in either her everyday life in Philadelphia or on the road and extrapolating it into colorful imagery and a keen sensitivity and insight into the subjects of her songs even when the inspiration is drawn directly from her own life. Any band that names its album Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018) has a healthy sense of humor and the absurd without drifting into self-parody.

Wednesday | April 3

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Gort Vs. Goom circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Gort Vs. Goom, The Far Stairs, The Pollution
When: Wednesday, 04.03, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: None more weird for Weird Wednesday. Gort Vs. Goom are like the post-Devo, prog punk version of The Fugs. The Far Stairs is a deconstructionist pop project that sounds like more well-crafted pop than most bands trying to fool us into thinking they’re not utter frauds. Plus sometimes there’s a Robyn Hitchcock cover involved which bespeaks of an unspoken artistic ambition far beyond the usual. The Pollution got back to punk through burning through on hardcore, psychedelic rock, krautrock and Kiwi rock and taking bits and pieces of each to put together a Frankenstein’s Monster of music where you can’t find the sutures.

Best Shows in Denver 2/7/19 – 2/13/19

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Gang of Four performs at Globe Hall w/Plume Varia on February 11. Photo by DJ Markham

Thursday | February 7, 2019

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Hockey Dad, photo by Joseph Crackett

Who: Hockey Dad w/Hunny
When: Thursday, 02.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Australia is not the first place one thinks of when it comes to hockey but New South Wales has ski resorts so maybe the name of the band Hockey Dad, from Windang, isn’t as cheeky as seems but it’s a surf rock band so kudos. But Hockey Dad grew up surfing and skating so it’s sound reflects the spirit of that lifestyle more so than simply falling into trendy sound. With Hockey Dad think more like The Saints gone power pop.

Who: A Light Among Many, Kenaima, URN. and Giardia
When: Thursday, 02.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A Light Among Many is heavy drone drenched in the primal spirits of the local landscape. URN includes former members of Skully Mammoth and thus doom with a sense of humor yet somehow still gritty and epic. Kenaima sounds a collision of Converge-esque post-hardcore and thrash. Giardia is pushing the envelope of heavy music by finding the sweet spot where drone-y bass, saturated synth work, jazz-inflected drums and weirdo prog intersect.

Friday | February 8, 2019

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Marcus Church, photo by Claudia Woodman

Who: Marcus Church EP release w/Kali Krone, Artless Bravado and Sweetness Itself
When: Friday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Dustin Habel has been grinding away writing songs since at least the mid-2000s. Under the moniker Marcus Church he’s done solo work, playing all the instruments and recording the songs, as well as in collaboration with a small circle of bandmates. The prolific songwriter has perhaps not garnered the recognition he deserves for his lo-fi, Dinosaur Jr/Yo La Tengo-esque compositions, but the project’s latest effort, the Marcus F. Church EP, has a touch of jangle like something Mitch Easter might take an interest in producing—introspective and warm but upbeat. The band has been a trio for a bit now and tonight you can catch the new set of songs, as well as choice cuts from Habel’s catalog, live.

Who: Gun Street Ghost with The Regular, The Threadbarons and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl
When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mike Perfetti has been involved in many of Denver’s most interesting bands for going on two decades in his capacity as a bassist, drummer and guitarist. But with Gun Street Ghost Perfetti gets to share his gift for storytelling. Perfetti orchestrates the details of the story and the essence of the people in them with a masterful hand with the help of his talented bandmates. It’s been some time since Gun Street Ghost has put out a record but in the live setting you’ll likely get a taste of the new material and with any luck 2019 will see the release of the group’s full-length.

Who: Sonorous: Gregg Ziemba, Alex Trujillo, Joshua Trinidad
When: Friday, 02.08, 6 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This is a dinnertime show from some of Denver’s most talented practitioners of jazz and experimental music including Gregg Ziemba and Alex Trujillo of Rubedo and Joshua Trinidad whose free jazz band Cougar Legs and psychedelic fusion project GoStar have showcased his prodigious talent. Trinidad and Ziemba also perform in Wheelchair Sports Camp. Heavy hitters.

Who: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Muscle Beach, SPELLS
When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers are one of the few reliably great and spirited straight forward rock and roll bands anywhere. A touch of punk but BBTGT aren’t trying to be limited by subgenre. Muscle Beach is impossible to simply call post-hardcore or post-metal or even noise rock but are an inspired distillation of all three. SPELLS is a C+ party punk band but they really work for that C+ and are more fun than many B+ punk acts. They’re no Refused but who is?

Saturday | February 9, 2019

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Don Chicharrón, photo by Spencer Higbee

Who: Don Chicharrón album release w/Los Mocochetes, High Plains Honky and DJ A-Train
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Don Chicharrón is a band whose blend of chicha (Peruvian cumbia with roots in popular music of the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated psychedelic rock and Andean folk music), metal, spaghetti Western and other musical forms is lively and fluid for a group of nine people who come from disparate musical backgrounds. Anyone that has been able to catch the group live knows it’s musicianship is expertly integrated so it never feels like anyone is doing too much at once. The group’s debut, self-titled full-length will be available at this show and its expansive compositions sound like the soundtrack to the Love and Rockets comic series in its multi-cultural aesthetic and ineffable sense of the futuristic.

Who: An Evening With Nels Cline 4
When: Saturday, 02.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s
Why: Nels Cline has been involved in more noteworthy music than any modern human has any right to claim including turns with Geraldine Fibbers, Wilco and John Zorn. This is one of his experimental jazz groups so expect plenty of left field improv.

Who: Esmé Patterson and band play the Songs of Prince from Sign O’ The Times w/Acuna Black and CRL CRRL
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Esmé Patterson brings together a group of ace players and collaborators to perform songs from Prince’s 1987 masterpiece Sign O’ The Times, which is entire apropos for the times we’re in now.

Who: Alphabet Soup #40: Felix Fast4ward, Furbie Cakes, MYTHirst, Yung Lurch and Dashwoo
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: This is the latest edition of Alphabet Soup, a showcase for some of the most forward thinking and innovative producers and soundscapers in Denver. The event used to take place mostly at Deerpile but with the demise of that performance space the event has been moved to other venues including tonight at Thought//Forms gallery.

Sunday | February 10, 2019

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Pedro the Lion, photo by Ryan Russell

Who: Pedro the Lion w/Tomberlin
When: Sunday, 02.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Phoenix is more than just a clever title for the first Pedro the Lion record in fifteen years. David Bazan spent years touring as a more or less solo act and releasing a series of acclaimed records. But like most artists he hit a wall at some point and in 2016 he got to the place of a low point crossroads. Two years later he was writing and recording songs that made sense for Pedro the Lion with words of reinvention, rediscovery, reclamation and embrace of the spirit of one’s past self and past creations that helped to define the person you are now. While personal to Bazan and his bandmates, one thing Bazan has been able to do as a songwriter is to write material that transcends the personal, transcends any faith or philosophical orientation that informs it and to articulate with sensitivity and kindness the struggles and pain everyone seems to experience.

Monday | February 11, 2019

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Plume Varia performs Friday, 7/27 at Gary Lee’s. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gang of Four w/Plume Varia
When: Monday, 02.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Gang of Four is the influential post-punk band that perfectly combined punk with disco and a sharp cultural critique that took aim at more universal issues in Western and global culture of the 1970s onward. After all, the band named itself after a Chinese political cabal involved in the Cultural Revolution. The first three Gang of Four albums (1979’s Entertainment!, Solid Gold from 1981 and Songs of the Free released in 1982) were a blueprint for 90s and 2000s dance punk as well as a direct influence on Red Hot Chili Peppers from the beginning (GOF guitarist, and sole original member, Andy Gill produced the 1984 self-titled debut from RHCP). But few of the band’s descendants could match Gang of Four in its intensity, sonic inventiveness much less socio-critical acumen. The band’s latest album, with its current line up, is HAPPY NOW released in 2019 via PledgeMusic. A little more topical than usual, naming, presumably, Ivanka Trump in a song, Gang of Four hasn’t exactly taken the gloves off. Opening the show is Denver-based downtempo dream pop duo Plume Varia performing one of its now rare shows.

Wednesday | February 13, 2019

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Glissline, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: SMRT, Big J. Beats, Glissline, Escapism
When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Glissline is Tommy Metz who has been releasing gorgeously lush, brightly melodic, beat-driven IDM for more than a decade. As Glissline, Metz has been melding visual elements with his musical compositions for a multi-sensory experience including a well-crafted low end. It’s dance music for dreaming. Big J. Beats is a producer whose work is most often, and justifiably so, associated with hip-hop but his imaginative soundscaping transcends genre completely which is why he is one of the Mile High City’s greatest beat makers.

Who: Richard Thompson Electric Trio w/Ryley Walker
When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Richard Thompson was one of the leading lights of influential folk project Fairport Convention. He also played guitar on the first two Nick Drake albums. From the 1970s onward, Thompson has created a body of work that should be more well-known outside folk circles with brilliant rock and pop songs. There is also his prodigious work as a collaborator and contributor to other people’s recordings. His final album as the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson, 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights is a masterpiece of folk rock. Following the tour for that record the Thompsons split and Richard went on to a critically acclaimed and prolific solo career as well. As the name of the group suggests, this will be a showcase of Thompson’s electric music rather than the acoustic songs, though you never know, maybe Thompson will bring in some of his classic material written originally for acoustic but reconfigured for the electric trio. In 2018 Thompson released the dark and moody 13 Rivers.

Best Shows in Denver 7/26/18 – 8/1/18

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Tarmints (circa 2007) perform at The UMS on Sunday, July 29, 2018 at The Hi-Dive

Thursday | July 26, 2018

 

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Mr. Pacman circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: I Heart Monkey Mania: Mr. Pacman, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Cyclo-Sonic and Moon Pussy, visuals by Chris Bagley 
When: Thursday, 07.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Mr. Pacman is not a band that should be dismissed as mere gimmick. Yes, the band dresses up like characters from a cosplay of some weird, ancient Japanese video game. But it’s live drums, keytar, electronic drums and other instrumentation with, indeed, fairly silly songs but performed with a disorienting intensity and earnestness. At times it’s fun but moderately scary. Which is what any good band should be at least once in a while. Mr. Pacman is that pretty much every time. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is a more out downtempo band and Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of Denver punk legends The Rok Tots, Choosey Mothers and The Frantix. Chris Bagley, one of the filmmakers of the 2008 documentary Wesley Willis’ Joyrides, will provide visuals and make it even more of a trip.

Who: Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series Season 2 Finale w/Brother Saturn, Equine, VAHCO, MYTHirst, Bowshock
When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This is the final show of the second season of Glasss Records’ The Speakeasy Series. It’ll be more of an ambient show with Brother Saturn’s soothing and abstract guitar and synth collages, Equine’s avant-guitar drone and beats, VAHCO’s beat-driven soul,. MYTHirst’s bright soundscapes and ukulele and whatever it is one might call Bowshock’s mixture of influences from space rock, reggae and improvisational composition.

Who: Har Mar Superstar sings Sam Cooke
When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Har Mar Superstar cleaned up but good for this series of shows in which he dresses up in a suit and tie (which may or may not come off before the set is over in the weather Denver has been experiencing as of late). Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar) and his band will perform several of Sam Cooke’s classic R&B hits and maybe even some deep cuts. Seeing as Har Mar’s usual schtick is singing R&B and soul and making a spectacle of himself but pulling off the singing like he was born to it, this is not a huge leap for the performer. And at this time, the socially conscious end of Cooke’s music seems more relevant than ever.

Friday | July 27, 2018

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Red Baraat, photo by Mark Jaworski

Who: Red Baraat
When: Friday, 07.27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Clyfford Still Museum
Why: Red Baraat’s syncretic pop spans South Asian musical styles, Western funk, Afrobeat and Caribbean pop to create something that’s celebratory, immediately accessible and deep. The sprawling band is playing this free concert at Clyfford Still Museum in central Denver in the wake of the release of its latest record, 2018’s Sound The People. With its cultural scope and implicit message of human unity, Red Baraat’s music is an international call of all people to come together to resist the rising wave of aggressive authoritarianism plaguing the world today. Beyond the heady messaging, Red Baraat is a reminder that sprawling, seemingly improvisational compositions needn’t be the pure realm of jam bands and that it is a component of popular musical styles across the world.

Who: SUPER PARTY Day 1: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Friday, 07.27,7 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: This parallel event to the UMS amidst the dense and varied offerings there is out on by the boutique Remixed Gifts and the Denver culture-centered comic ‘zine Hot Sauce the Dog written and drawn by the gifted singer-songwriter Rachael Pollard whose new band DEN |V|OTHER will kick off the event at 7 p.m. followed by Joe Sampson at 8 and R A R E B Y R D $ at 9. Simply some of the best people from Denver you can see at any time. The event runs two days picking up again on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. with Bonnie Weimer.

Who: Larians, Real Gongs, Jumanjuhad
When: Friday, 07.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Larians is Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons’ IDM/experimental electronic project and Real Gongs is that of Male Blonding guitarist Bryce Navin. If the UMS is too much or not of interest for whatever reason or if you have some time Friday night, highly recommended.
Who: Denver Broncos UK, Echo Beds, Simulators and Shadows Tranquil
When: Friday, 07.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver Broncos UK is sort of a post-punk side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club so a good fit with math-y post punk duo Simulators (think like Shellac but stripped down to even more of the bare essentials) and Echo Beds whose forthcoming album Buried Language (due out August 18 on The Flenser) pushes their harsh organic-industrial soundscape further than previous boundaries.

Saturday | July 28, 2018

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Car Seat Headrest, photo by Mikael Beland

Who: SUPER PARTY Day 2: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Saturday, 07.28, 2 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: Day 2 of SUPER PARTY, a free event amidst the UMS. The following is today’s schedule: 2 – Bonnie Weimer, 3 – Jen Korte, 3:45 Ted Thacker of The Red Tack, 4:30 Andy Thomas solo, 5:30 Kissing Party, 6:30 Teacup Gorilla

Who: Car Seat Headrest w/Naked Giants
When: Saturday, 07.28, 8 p.m.
Where:The Gothic Theatre
Why: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest is one of the most prolific and interesting songwriters of his generation. Having put out nine albums independently before signing to Matador in 2015, Toledo clearly didn’t need a label but the distribution and marketing arm of one helped to get his music to a wider audience. The new Car Seat Headrest album, 2018’s Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), is brimming with what has made the band impossible to dismiss with lazy genre designations. Vocals that sometimes soar with an upsweep of deeply felt emotion, sometimes speak quietly about the concerns of the moment that flood your mind and won’t let go. Lo-fi guitar composition in the vein of maybe a Pavement or Sebadoh but informed more by underground rock of the 2000s like Jay Reatard’s more sublimely ethereal moments and more modern lo-fi stars like No Age, Times New Viking and artists from the Siltbreeze imprint. Beyond just the sonics, though, the new record is an exploration of the concerns, anxieties and self-image of a young person in an era when destructive, and self-destructive messages, have been repackaged and made to seem like a viable option. Car Seat Headrest’s new album is a compassionte and vibrant rejection of much of that as well as a suggestion of a path of discovery/rediscovery of what’s truly important in one’s life.

Tuesday | July 31, 2018

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Weezer, photo by Brendan Walter

Who: Weezer and the Pixies w/Sleigh Bells
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 5 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Weezer got to be in on the tail end of the legitimate wave of alternative rock in the early 90s. Its 1994 self-titled album, “The Blue Album,” yielded a couple of hits with “Buddy Holly” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The crunchy melodies and quiet-loud dynamics pioneered by groups like Mission of Burma and Pixies, who had then recently split, continued the tradition of nerdy punk rockers making music that took that spirit of punk to different places. Weezer could have been another fuzzy, alternative rock/pop punk band with that kind of sunny Southern California flavor. But Weezer’s songs, even when it’s indulging in some fun-loving goofiness, had at its core an impulse to resist being pigeonholed or musically fitting into a specific trend.

After its first record, singer Rivers Cuomo wanted to change gears dramatically and nearly made a science fiction-themed concept album but what came out instead is what could be argued is the band’s most artistically interesting record to date, 1996’s Pinkerton and its darkly conflicted lyrics. Cuomo has since all but disavowed the album as a reminder of a painful time. And to Weezer’s credit, the group has not spent its time as a band trying to recapture past glory. Its most recent full-length album, 2017’s Pacific Daydream, reflects not only Cuomo’s personal alienation but the anomy of our time when many people feel a disconnect with the lives they might want, however modest the aspiration, and the reality we face with diminished expectations. A melancholy set of songs? Maybe not obviously so but despite the title, a song like “Beach Boys” sounds like something that, psychologically speaking, was written in a vast room lit only by small windows on a cloudy day reminiscing about what once brought one joy. Like a less dire but no less impactful musical version of William Friedkin’s depiction of life in the City of Angels.

That Weezer is co-headlining with Pixies seems fitting. Both bands find themselves perhaps having to reinvent themselves for the current era even as their back catalog speaks for itself. Pixies are obviously the influential alternative rock band from Boston, darlings of college radio in the late 80s and early 90s and breaking up with its legacy intact. The band’s humor, unhinged energy, idiosyncratic songwriting filled with seething emotion, delicacy of feeling, have kept its music fresh decades onward. Like any band worth its salt, Pixies also produced new music post 2003 reunion once its internal dynamics leveled out. The group’s first album with former touring, now permanent, bassist Paz Lenchantin, 2016’s Head Carrier, isn’t generally as immediately cathartic and as vital as the group’s 80s and 90s output, it proved Pixies can still write material worth a listen and highlights the band’s ability to clue in to unusual sounds and rhythm and texture ideas that other established artists often don’t.

Who: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks w/Soccer Mommy
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Stephen Malkmus is obviously the singer and one of the guitarists in lo-fi slacker psyche legends Pavement. But his songs under his own name and with The Jicks are as worthy as anything he did with Pavement. Free to explore unusual melodies, self-indulge a wide range of guitar styles and fusing noise, jangle rock, improvisational instincts, 70s rock, psychedelia and prog, Stephen Malkmus with the Jicks is capable of coming up with refreshingly unusual songs even if they all have the stamp of eccentricity and imagination that Malkmus has brought to all his projects. The group’s 2018 record Sparkle Hard reflects Malkmus examination of the modern world and his place in it as a white man, and father, in his fifties who is still engaged in doing the thing he’s best at—writing unusual rock music—when the world seems to be falling apart and changing at a rapid pace. In typical fashion, Malkmus has a worthwhile and interesting take on all of it.

Opener for this tour, Soccer Mommy, is an interesting pairing because Sophie Allison’s songs have a layered and emotionally rich, compositional style with a sound collage quality that isn’t at first obvious. Her 2018 debut studio album Clean is a solid 10-song collection of sophisticated pop. Unlike many young songwriters, Allison, now 21, doesn’t sound like she’s tapping into a particular era of the 90s or the 2000s except for maybe Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. But, really, those are exceptionally respectable touchstones. What is also noteworthy is Allison’s range of dynamics, command of what, in a film score, might be called sound design, materfully orchestrating textural and atmospheric elements to augment her storytelling. With a debut so strong, one can only hope we’ve not yet seen Allison at her peak.

Who: ModPods w/R A R E B Y R D $
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: ModPods from Los Angeles with its mixture of electronic post-punk and dance music sounds more like some kind of band from Baltimore in the 2000s or the kind of band that would have played The Smell in its heyday with an eclectic spirit not trapped in adherence to a stylistic subgenre. Either way its beat-driven songs have an edge and an 8-bit melodic fringe on its minimal synth melodies. Fronted by Myriad Slits, the trio, including Mindee Jorgensen and Daniel Guzman who switch up instruments regularly so that the musical duties never really become rote, is like an intentionally lo-fi synth pop/dance band.

Also on this bill is R A R E B Y R D $, the hip-hop trio that keeps pushing boundaries, including its own, in terms of beatmaking and Key Lady’s and KoKo La’s alchemical vocal interplay. The way some guitarists create interesting shapes for chords, the members of this group creates interesting synergy of sounds between vocals, beats and Michael Blomquist’s organic percussion. It’s a deeply emotional experience that you share with the band. It’s like alternative hip-hop if made by people who take great joy in seeing exactly what you can do with a synthesizer and a sampler to make something entrancing and meaningful. Hypnagogic post-disco, endorphin releasing, gangsta dub.

Wednesday | August 1, 2018

 

Who: Shocker Mom, Spargob and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 8-11 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: It’s a free show and you get to see some of Denver’s best producers of electronic music in the underground. For R A R E B Y R D $, see above. Shocker Mom is Robin Walker who to the big wide world outside of Colorado is not known at all. But for those that have been able to witness her talents as a solo artist, member of lo-fi pop phenoms Cougarpants or one half of the hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus, Walker is a singular talent. As Shocker Mom, Walker taps into her broad musical experience to produce tracks that blur the line between hip-hop, trap, IDM, ambient, dubtechno and indie pop. Aleeya Wilson is perhaps most well-known for her avant-garde guitar/noise project Death In Space. But now the Girls Rock Denver alumn is writing music as Spargob, her production project so expect something refreshingly weird and imaginative.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Universal Devils, Limber Wolf, The Far Stairs facebook.com/events/509245982828786
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday, Claudia Woodman’s monthly at 3 Kings Tavern, will include Rick Layton’s solo experimental metal project Universal Devils. Layton is a talented multi-instrumentalist who spent several years as the drummer for weirdo punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band. The Far Stairs is fronted by former Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Imagine a manic New Wave/New Romantics/power pop band influenced by They Might Be Giants. But not just good, but great.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 05/03/18 – 05/09/18

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Alice Glass performs with Zola Jesus and Pictureplane at Fox Theatre on Saturday, 5/5/18. Photo courtesy Sacks & Co.

Thursday | May 3, 2018

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Ariel Pink, photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

Who: Desert Daze Caravan 2018: Ariel Pink w/DIIV
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: Desert Daze Caravan is the traveling mini-version of the Desert Daze festival in California that features some of the best of the more psychedelic-leaning bands existing today. While the festival happens in October, for this touring edition, Desert Daze brings along a couple of the most interesting artists playing music in its wheelhouse. Los Angeles based lo-fit mutant pop renegade Ariel Rosenberg, aka Ariel Pink, has had a varied and storied musical career that should be the subject of a book someday because it’s not short on drama, controversy and artistic achievement. In 2017 Rosenberg released Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, a collection of songs that bridge dream pop, psychedelic rock, what one might called garage soul and lo-fi funk. As with all of his records, Rosenberg plays with the form of genre with an offbeat use of sound and weaving together aesthetics that most other artists wouldn’t. At times one is reminded of some early 80s German synth pop, others of Get Lost-period Magnetic Fields and of the music of his friend and contemporary, John Maus. Unlike many of his contemporary synth artists Rosenberg isn’t trying to show how big a sound he can get with a synthesizer, he makes it serve the song as much as any other musical element and not as the basis for the composition.

DIIV became a bit of a cult band for Zachary Cole Smith when Oshin came out on Captured Tracks in 2012. Though the record felt a bit indistinct it made krautrock’s repetitive beat structure softer like downtempo with a little more emotional urgency. The follow-up, 2016’s Is the Is Are found Smith embracing the raw and vivid emotionalism of Elliott Smith’s lo-fi pop and the messy, atonal trash rock of Royal Trux. It’s challenging to hear that on the beautifully melodic songs of Is the Is Are but that the songwriting is growing beyond the band’s earliest phase is obvious and at times Is the Is Are sounds like Smith is training himself to deconstruct his own musical instincts to make something more creatively rewarding.

Who: In/Planes Radio Wave tape release w/Down Time and Kyle Emerson
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: In/Planes’ music has a very soft touch and is the “Mixtapes” single from its new tape, Radio Waves, is any indication, the duo has a gift for taking fairly common experiences and making them resonate with an immediacy of the deeply personal. Joining the band for the tape release show are like-minded tender pop band Down Time and Kyler Emerson with his jazz-inflected, incisively poetic, desert-y folk pop gems.

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series season 2: Lepidoptera, MYTHirst, Bow Shock
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: MYTHirst’s sound is part bright, modular-synth sounding beats with organic string sounds and textured percussion. The Denver version of Lepidoptera, not the Palm Beach, Florida band, has a dream-like guitar and minimal atmospheric sound reminiscent of mid-90s Flying Saucer Attack but not quite as noisy. Bow Shock is somewhere between improvisational electro jazz funk and whatever it is one might call Prefuse 73 with its own mixture of samples of records and live instruments in a way that expands the parameters of what constitutes electronic dance music.

Friday | May 4, 2018

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Television Generation, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Jane Doe, Television Generation and Meet the Giant
When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Three of Denver’s best off the beaten path rock bands are playing the Skylark on this bill. Jane Doe is in the realm of post-punk but there are elements of noise rock and avant-garde jazz and performance poetry as delivered by Becca Mhalek. The latter spent some time playing with Nels Cline as well as Denver experimental bands Nightshark, MVP and Aenka. Television Generation takes the harrowing intensity of early grunge and mixes it with melodic and energetic post-punk. Meet the Giant has taken what could be fairly gloomy music and given it a driving rhythm and grit that somehow perfectly captures urban melancholy and desperation as experienced by anyone living in American west: uncertainty, disconnection, disaffection, undercurrents of fatalism and a sense of pondering whether or not its foolish to hope for things to change for the better where or not you give it a good try. All while sounding scrappy and not ready to give up on the rewards of creative expression for one’s own fulfillment. Meet the Giant’s self-titled full-length releases digitally on May 15 with a vinyl release later in Spring or Summer.

Who: Porlolo (album release) w/Land Lines and Spirettes
When: Friday, 05.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Porlolo released Awards on April 27 but this is the official release show. Erin Roberts, the lead singer and guitarist in Porlolo, has kept the band going for years while not exactly breaking through to a mainstream audience, Roberts’ songwriting has been noteworthy for its humor, wisdom and sensitivity. Maybe some of the roots are in folk and Americana but at this point Porlolo transcends both and has as much in common with Luna, Cat Power, Mojave 3 and Mazzy Star as it does with anything fully in the country spectrum of songwriting. Getting to see Land Lines’ experimental, string driven pop and Spirettes’ incandescent dream pop in person just makes this show three times worth seeing.

Who: SPELLS, Quits, Wild Lives
When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: SPELLS is a poppy punk band that is as much a party as a band. Wild Lives is more in the realm of punk bands from the 80s and 90s who were melodic but not pop punk. Like The Didjits, New Bomb Turks and Blatz. Quits, a little different from the rest of the lineup in being more a noise rock band than punk. Which makes sense in that every member of the band has contributed to some of the most noteworthy post-hardcore and noise rock out of Denver of the last two decades including former Hot White members Tiana Bernard and Darren Kulback as well as Luke Fairchild and Doug Mioducki who were last in a band together in the early 2000s with Sparkles who always seemed to play like they were ready to explode.

Saturday | May 5, 2018

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Al Scorch band, photo by Alexis Ellers

Who: Alice Glass – Snowblood tour w/Zola Jesus and Pictureplane
When: Saturday, 05.05, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: When Alice Glass released her self-titled EP in August 2017 it sounded like a a purging of several years of having told hold back in revealing her own truth and a declaration of her identity as an artist viable beyond any past associations with Crystal Castles. In the latter, Glass was a riveting performer and a singer that channeled perfectly the synthesis of 8-bit music, synth pop, modern dance music and hip-hop that was the essence of Crystal Castles and its being ahead of a curve in modern electronic music that embraced lo-fi and collage production as much as more conventional compositional techniques. For this tour Glass paired with one of the other powerful songwriters in electronic underground music with Zola Jesus whose own 2017 album Okovi represented her own breaking with the methodology and career path of an “indie” artist that might have been open to her. Instead, she trusted her personal and creative instincts and put together an album that was awash in ambient sounds and an hypnotic melodies and sonic structures reminiscent of classical music and black metal. Pictureplane is an old friend of Glass’s from his days as a Denver artist living at Rhinoceropolis. As an artist whose work traverses noise, electronic pop, hip-hop and dance, Pictureplane has a broad palette of sounds and sensibilities employed in his songwriting and performance style.

Who: Al Scorch (full band), Gun Street Ghost, Matt Rouch & The Noise Upstairs
When: Saturday, 05.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Al Scorch earned a name for himself as an energetic and engaging performer with his blend of punk and Americana. Sure, a ton of punks have turned country and the great Camper Van Beethoven and Green On Red, among others, set a high bar for that sort of thing. A number of punk and country artists have even threaded in some eastern European and non-Western musical ideas into their mix. But Scorch does so with an irresistible energy and charisma. His most recent record, 2016’s Circle Round the Signs, contained more than a small amount of poignant social commentary about class and the consequences of war and conflict.

Sunday | May 6, 2018

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HIDE in August 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: HIDE, Curse, Echo Beds and Jump Scare – DJ Brian Castillo
When: Sunday, 05.06, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Chicago-based post-industrial duo HIDE makes a return visit to Denver in the wake of the release of their 2018 album Castration Anxiety. Using samples, pounding beats and corrosive drones, HIDE’s shows are like confrontational rapidfire snapshots into our culture’s nightmares and insecurities set to a heady soundtrack and as embodied in vocalist Heather Gabel’s ritualistic performance style. Fortunately, the band’s tour intersected with that of Baltimore industrial/darkwave punk band Curse whose own synth-driven heavy music predates some of the current darkwave renaissance and yet sounds like a future form of the music. Curse recently released a split 7” with noteworthy Austin-based industrial act Street Sects. Also on the bill are local industrial noise phenoms Echo Beds and Jump Scare, which includes Anton Kruger, formerly of experimental electronic dance project Bollywood Life. Brian Castillo will DJ the night with some rare cuts from his extensive vinyl library of underground and not-so-underground darkwave music.

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Yardsss at Treefort Music Fest 2018, Boise, ID. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Flesh Buzzard, Sporehive, Morlox, Nighttimeschoolbus, Mirror Fears, Yardsss, Ghost House, visuals by Clark Nova, DJ sets by JusJo
When: Sunday, 05.06, 6 p.m., show 6:30
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A night of mostly local noise and electronic acts at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Patrick Urn of Morlox has long bridged the worlds of noise and electronic music production and has released a fairly diverse body of work including hip-hop and ambient music beyond the noise and industrial music for which he’s best known. Whether as a member of defunct industrial legends In Ether, as Herpes Hideaway, as Syphilis Sauna or Morlox, Urn’s imaginative compositions are highly worthy of exploring in recorded form and witnessing live if you can. Nighttimeschoolbus is an underground hip-hop duo comprised of Toby Hendricks of Otem Rellik and vocalist extraordinaire Robin Walker. The name tells you a bit about the aesthetic and sense of play involved in the songwriting but it also articulates perfectly the necessary emotional state in which you’re indulging your whimsy as a refuge from the rest of the time in life when you’re dealing with the heavier side of human existence. Mirror Fears will not be short on bringing the feels with her melancholy yet cathartic, beat driven electronic pop songs. Yardsss from Portland, Oregon in this configuration is the three-piece band so the show is more like a post-punk, industrial ritual performance than the inspired, hermetic electronic performance art piece it was when Krist Kruger performed as Yardsss solo in Denver in 2017.

Monday | May 7, 2018

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MGMT, photo by Brad Elterman

Who: MGMT
When: Monday, 05.07, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: MGMT came up a time when many of the big time electronic pop acts of the 2000s were getting going. That LCD Soundsystem, Paramore, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Matt and Kim and MGMT and the like started experiencing the first stirrings of popularity in roughly the same timeframe before chillwave became a thing should be noteworthy to future popular music historians. MGMT, though, started when Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were students at Wesleyan and like many dorm/bedroom projects in the 2000s the early musical ideas were noisier and more experimental than their more developed work. But when MGMT got more accessible it also became more interesting and its weirdo psychedelic pop struck a chord with an increasingly wide audience. The 2007, Dave Fridmann-produced Oracular Spectacular took MGMT out of the underground for good and when the band returned to Denver after the release of that album it wasn’t playing the Hi-Dive, it was much larger venues. The band’s subsequent albums, Congratulations and MGMT, didn’t seem to advance the band’s musical ideas much but 2018’s Little Dark Age finds the group not returning to form so much as a re-embrace of the band’s core idiosyncratic vision of electronic pop and dance music that made it interesting in the beginning.

Who: Curse w/Echo Beds and Ghost House
When: Monday, 05.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Triple Nickel Tavern (Colorado Springs)
Why: This is your second chance to see Curse (see above) in Colorado also with Echo Beds. It’s not too common that these kinds modern darkwave and industrial bands perform in the Springs so don’t sleep on the opportunity if you’re into that kind of music.

Who: Smoking Popes (acoustic) w/The Bigger Empty (feat. Mike Felumlee)
When: Monday, 05.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Smoking Popes were one of the best of the 90s Chicago punk bands. It came out of the same scene that produced Screeching Weasels and Pegboy. But Smoking Popes was a bit more melancholy than than many of their peers even when the pace was high energy and one might even say the Popes were basically an emo band. Combining a punk edge with an emotional vulnerability wasn’t terribly common in the early 90s but the Popes did it in a way that seems more a feature of punk than an anomaly these days. The band flirted with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s but by the end of the decade Josh Caterer found his newfound strong religious convictions didn’t jibe with what the band was about the end group broke up in January 1999. Six years alter, the band played a reunion show in Chicago before which Caterer explained that songs he didn’t think he could perform again weren’t songs the band tended to play live anway. But the reunion would happen without original drummer Mike Felumlee. Over a decade later, Felumlee is back in the fold and playing this current “acoustic” tour as well as playing with opening act The Bigger Empty.

Tuesday | May 8, 2018

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Curse, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Curse, Church Fire, Kill Your Darlings
When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery (Upstairs)
Why: Baltimore darkwave band Curse makes it to Fort Collins for a show with Denver-based electro-industrial-dance band Church Fire and Fort Collins’ industrial band Kill Your Darlings which includes Brett Scheiber of Stella Luce and formerly of dance pop band Pep*Squad and noise project Four Pins Pulled. Sure, darkwave but all of these bands have an emotional intensity on stage that may have an element of the melancholy yet never a downer.

Who: Pseudogod, Hellfire Deathcult, Abysmal Lord, Casket Huffer
When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Perm, Russia-based black metal band Pseudogod converges with like-minded bands Hellfire Deathcult from Chicago, New Orleans’ Abysmal Lord and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne for a show that, if fantastical conceits could be true, open a gate into the dimension where the Great Old Ones are partying to music like this. Pseudogod’s cover for The Pharynxes Of Hell, part humorous, part spooky, visually arresting seems to encompass the spirit of what this show will be like to see.

Wednesday | May 9, 2018

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Tricky, photo by Sebastian Pielles

Who: Tricky w/Young Magic
When: Wednesday, 05.09, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Tricky is one of the artists directly responsible for what came to be called trip-hop in the 90s. As an early collaborator with Massive Attack, and having contributed vocals to that band’s 1991 debut Blue Lines, Tricky demonstrated a versatile talent and when he embarked on a solo career in 1993, he brought with him a gift for borrowing musical ideas and production methods from a variety of musical styles resulting in his debut album, 1995’s Maxinquaye. A hybrid of downtempo, post-punk, dub, hip-hop, Tricky’s music was an antidote to the increasingly conformist and bland alternative rock of that mid-decade. Over twenty years later, Tricky continues to make evocative, deeply atmospheric music. Although, his 2017 album Ununiform, co-engineered by Jay-Z, finds Tricky focusing on spare, uncluttered melodies and strong, minimal beats. It has the feel of Tricky’s least abstract and ethereal record while not sacrificing his ability to set a vibrant mood.

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Brazilian Girls, photo courtesy Six Degrees Records

Who: Brazilian Girls w/Tiger Party (Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits and Josh Fairman of Sunsquabi and Analog Son)
When: Wednesday, 05.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: New York City has been a melting pot of popular musical styles for decades. But in the 2000s a particular brand of mixing Latin, African and non-Western musical ideas in general with dance music, post-punk, pop and noise emerged in various forms including the tropical pop of early High Places and the no-wave funk of bands like These Are Powers. Or, if you prefer, more above-ground acts like Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend who re-popularized polyrhythms and less conventional vocal styles. Brazilian Girls came in on the dance music end of that wave with its always eclectic and lively live show and songs that wove together ghostly, downtempo melodies, pulsing low end, dub-esque percussion, sex positive messaging and singer Sabina Sciubba’s otherworldly jazz vocals and enigmatic, theatrical stage presence – something akin to Björk fronting a lounge band. In April 2018 the band released Let’s Make Love, it’s first in a decade. Not as cool and sonically smooth as its previous efforts, Let’s Make Love, nevertheless, finds Brazilian Girls more thoughtful but musically more urgent, highlighting the band’s talent for reconciling contrasts.

Best Shows in Denver 4/19/18 – 4/25/18

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Khruangbin performs Monday, April 23, 2018, at The Bluebird Theater , photo by Mary Kang

 

Thursday | April 19, 2018

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Atari, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents Speakeasy Series Season 2: Atari and Pythian Whispers
When: Thursday, 04.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This latest edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 will be an early and short show from Denver ambient artists Atari and Pythian Whispers. Being in the latter, no comment. Atari, though, is David Bridges, a DJ who manufactures records to create truly unique beats in an analog format. He uses some electronic components in his beatmaking but its that he has been known to cut records apart and put them together in different arrangements for a show or recording. The result sounds like tape collage, ambient industrial but the craft involved is a step beyond what most musicians making similar music would be willing to undertake.

Who: Glasss Presents: Gold Trash, Church Fire, EVP and Mirror Fears
When: Thursday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sort of an all-star experimental electronic pop lineup. Mirror Fears set a high bar for emotional intensity and a complete synthesis of dream pop, industrial and noise with her 2018 album Eaten. Church Fire similarly doesn’t skimp on the emotional singing in its live show and on its albums but its style is more embodied in the band name because Shannon Webber has a fiery performance style that is impossible to ignore. EVP channels a lifetime of anger into its music even though some of it sounds like it could be a companion piece to what Grimes has been up to lately. Gold Trash sounds a bit more raw and chaotic than the other acts on the bill, it’s sound seeming to have been informed by the sonic brutality and, yes, trash culture embrace vibe of both Atari Teenage Riot and Royal Trux.

Friday | April 20, 2018

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Front 242, photo courtesy Front 242

Who: Front 242 w/Blackcell, EVP and DJ Slave 1
When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Front 242 was the first band from Belgium most people outside of Belgium had ever heard about. Which is interesting because Front 242 remains a bit of a cult band. But the group pioneered the style of electronic industrial music called Electronic Body Music, or EBM. Developing alongside peers like Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, D.A.F. and Front Line Assembly, who were making likeminded music from the early to mid-80s going forward, Front 242 enjoyed a brief period of commercial success by the early 90s. Its single “Rhythm of Time” appeared in the 1992 thriller Single White Female boosting the band’s profile at a time when alternative rock had opened the doors into the mainstream for all sorts of leftfield music that could fit under that umbrella including Front 242.

After 1991’s Tyranny For You, Front 242’s musical style evolved rapidly and dramatically as embodied on a twin 1993 release of both 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09: 12 Off. The big beats that were the driving engine of the band’s earlier music seemed gone but not the robotic, distorted vocals. The tracks seemed less stark and revealed the influence of more sample based composition. Through the rest of the decade and into the 2000s, when Front 242 released music it was obvious the group was learning from the new electronic groups or the era including the IDM, “Big Beat” and house/techno/rave artists that dominated the electronic music world of the 90s and 2000s. Front 242 hasn’t released a new full album worth of material since 2003’s excellent Pulse, its then first album in a decade. But that means that if you’re going to the show you’ll probably get a nice slice of its classic material.

Who: Afroman w/David Frederick, SwizZy B and guests
When: Friday, 04.20, 4:15 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Since April twentieth in Denver is basically a punchline for a fake holiday there are too many events “celebrating” legal recreational cannabis. Afroman, more than many artists of the past two decades, made more of his 2001, what might be considered a novelty, hit “Because I Got High” than anyone had in years. Since then Afroman has been kind of a mascot for legalization of cannabis so even if this show is basically about that it should be entertaining anyway.

Who: Alphabet Soup #32: MYTHirst feat. Nancy A. Finney, Suffers Beats, DaShwoo, R A R E B Y R D S $, Brother Saturn, Babah Fly, Bentstickremedy
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Deer Pile
Why: The Alphabet Soup series has been a sure fire way to see some of the most forward thinking hip-hop / beat driven electronic music makers in Denver. This edition is no different but included are ambient/dream pop artist Brother Saturn. Otherwise any show with R A R E B Y R D S $ and Babah Fly indicate that someone somewhere in putting together the lineup knows Denver underground hip-hop history while being aware of the most interesting new crews operating.

Who: Zigtebra, Gort Vs. Goom and f-ether
When: Friday, 04.20, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Chicago’s Zigtebra has blended the aesthetics of 8-bit video game music composition, EBM and indie pop. It’s the sophisticated lo-fi musical equivalent of inspired collage art. Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums prog punk band. Probably sounds counterintuitive but this duo makes it work and comes off more like Minutemen than Primus. F-ether’s musical output is fairly diverse. But one might describe the overarching sound as one of minimal synth environments reminiscent of a less abstract Pole or of early IDM artists. Except there’s more modern glitchcore to some of his denser songs. But all within the realm of modern underground dance music.

Who: Coastlands w/Altas and The Leshen
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Coastlands is a Portland, Oregon-based post-rock band. It’s sound is more melancholy and downtempo than its more rock-oriented kin. More Hammock than Explosions in the Sky. Also playing this show is Denver’s Altas. The instrumental rock band is like its own traveling sonic cinema rooted in guitar and synthesizer music. The group’s 2014 album Epoca De Bestias was full of songs that suggested short, epic science fiction films in miniature themselves. As in not inspired by film but inspiring them. We’ve heard lots of post-metal/heavy post-rock and The Leshen fits under that umbrella fine. But intentionally or otherwise the duo has brought in elements of industrial and sludgy blues rock without compromising an interesting sound.

Who: Cigarettes After Sex
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Despite a completely underwhelming showing opening for Garbage in the summer of 2016 and a fairly sparse eight years of output prior merely hinting at what was ahead, Cigarettes After Sex released a respectable self-titled full-length in 2017. It can sound of a piece and yet the dusky tone and Greg Gonzalez’s androgynous vocals are engaging and interesting enough to warrant repeated listens. Even if the live show hasn’t improved, but chances are it has, being enveloped in the ghostly embrace of this music should reward the effort to show up.

Who: 4/20 Funk Fest: Rowdy Shadehouse w/Log and DJ Lucky Luck
When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: At least if you come to this show, overtly state them aside, it’ll be enough of a celebration of the bombastic and absurd to be fun. Jon Thursday’s melodramatic, hypersexualized stage persona may split the crowd but at least it won’t be boring or forgettable. His band Rowdy Shadehouse has been through some lineup changes but Thursday is able to bring together some real talents to execute his version of funk.

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Slow Caves and Silver & Gold
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery | Fort Collins
Why: Esmé Patterson will bring her literary and penetratingly insightful pop songs to the Downtown Artery for a show with hometown heroes, the surf-y garage rock band Slow Caves and Greeley’s Silver & Gold, a band that sounds like it worked through its emo, alt-country and neo-classic rock roots to make a the kind of alt/indie rock band with an earnest energy and big hooks.

Saturday | April 21, 2018

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MC Chris, photo by Mara Robinson

Who: MC Chris w/Bitforce and An Hobbs
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: MC Chris and his music has been a part of a certain segment of modern American counterculture through his association with Adult Swim through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2011 and The Brak Show. Among other projects. Though MC Chris is with some people synonymous with nerdcore, his music goes beyond nerd culture and the nerdly events at which he has performed. Yes, there are 8-bit sounds all over his music and references to video games and RPGs but his production and songwriting is much broader and sophisticated than a narrow subgenre straightjacket could fully encompass. In that way his songs have more in common with other hip-hop than nerdcore. MC Chris’s music may be steeped in and a product of nerd culture but not limited by it. His most recent album, 2017’s Marshmellow Campground, is an irreverent collection of songs about the perils and challenges of childhood and its rituals and experiences that many of us share.

Who: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds album release w/Muscle Beach and Cult of the Lost Cause
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds is celebrating the release of its new record, ‘Til Death Do Us Part on Sailor Records. The hard rock duo would probably be considered metal by most people that see them but for the past few years, and probably from the beginning, the band has created some songs that transcend limiting genre labels by taking the harder edged sounds into more atmospheric vistas. When Sugar Skulls & Marigolds opened for Xasthur in 2017, it was supposed to be an “acoustic” show but it just sounded like a great shoegaze or dream pop band with more grit than usual and revealed these guys had more to offer than being just a talented extreme metal band. The new record is finds both creative impulses informing each other for one of the most interesting heavy albums of the last few years. Also, two of the best heavier bands in Denver or anywhere share the bill with the more punk oriented Muscle Beach and the more instrumental metal/posthardcore Cult of the Lost Cause.

Who: The Book of Love w/Eloquent and The Siren Project
When: Saturday, 04.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: The Book of Love is a band from the 80s and early 90s synth pop world that like groups from that era like Let’s Active and Game Theory who were maybe big on college radio with flirtations with mainstream success, including two tours with Depeche Mode in the mid-80s, but never quite broke through to the audience one might think would be obvious. It wasn’t for lack of quality material and its music was not even as dark as that of Depeche Mode. So The Book of Love became a bit of a cult band in the Goth world of the 90s even after its initial 1994 breakup. Since 2013, The Book of Love has been touring on the strength of its back catalog. Joining The Book of Love for this show is Denver-based Euro-dream-pop-post-punk band The Siren Project, a band that has also yet to garner the attention it richly deserves for its body of work that conjures imagery of hanging out in a fog-enshrouded café in some romantic city on the Continent contemplating the meaning of life and dreams of the future.

Who: Diners, Dingbat Superminx, Petite Garçon, Wrinkle and The Tickles
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Dateline Gallery
Why: The term indie pop may have lost some of its meaning or significance since the early 2000s when some of the most inspired and idiosyncratic pop music made was coming out in the underground. Well, these bands all embody that spirit of not looking to the mainstream to define what makes pop music and Wrinkle, even though clearly a punk band, is not short on hooks. Denver’s Petite Garçon is mostly difficult to categorize except that its songcraft is a not so self-conscious to be a deconstruction of pop but a use of that structure employing sounds in a way most bands in the classic mold would not. It’s also a chance to see a show at the excellent Dateline Gallery so it is for sure all ages.

Who: Oddfellas, Drink Drank PUNK, Sliver, The Pollution and Church Van
When: Saturday, 04.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: Is this a punk show? Pretty much except that Sliver draws a great deal from DC posthardcore and late 80s and early 90s grunge and northwest punk in general: Nirvana (from whose song the band got its name, natch), Tad and Wipers. And The Pollution includes DC punk band United Mutation’s bass player Jay Fox and thus an unusual and interesting mix of punk, psych and krautrock.

Sunday | April 22, 2018

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Ho99o9, photo by Hadas Di

Who: 3Teeth w/Ho99o9 and Street Sects
When: Sunday, 04.22, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: 3Teeth wears some of its influences on its sleeve pretty heavily: Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Stabbing Westward and Marilyn Manson. But it lacks the utter camp of Manson and KMFDM. Just abrasive, crunchy industrial rock guitar and a bit of a throwback to the 90s in that regard yet still not really coming off like a band tapping into nostalgia. Street Sects is almost a performance art band in how confrontational it sounds and the nature of its fog-enshrouded live shows. Like a breakcore band with more identifiable and visceral low end. Ho99o9 is what might be called an industrial hip-hop act. Obvious comparisons have likely been made with Death Grips and Dälek, none of the three groups sound at all like each other except in their use of sounds in a hip-hop context most other hip-hop artists wouldn’t use like industrial beats and darker undertones in the synth lines. Maybe Sole, The GZA, Eyedea & Abilities, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, Vince Staples and the like. Wherever Ho99o9 fits in, its menacing and socially critical music has been the perfect soundtrack to the last few years. It’s latest release is 2017’s United States Of Horror, a title that just about sums up the national and international mood of late.

Who: Joe Jack Talcum w/Coolzey, Mister Zach and Daywish
When: Sunday, 04.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Joe Genaro aka Joe Jack Talcum is perhaps most widely known as the guitarist and one of the vocalists in punk rock band Dead Milkmen. But since 1984 he’s written songs and albums and performed live as a solo artist. Not folk, not conventionally singer-songwriter, but more akin to Robyn Hitchcock or Billy Bragg in that he can be political but also write about love and life in a way that goes beyond tropes. And hey, he may do a Dead Milkmen song or two.

Monday | April 23, 2018

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Carpenter Brut, photo courtesy Carpenter Brut

Who: Carpenter Brut w/Jean Jean
When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Franck Hueso, aka Carpenter Brut, is a French synth artist who has been on the forefront of making the kind of music that one might have heard in 80s horror and science fiction movies, and thus perhaps an explanation of part of the project’s name by invoking director John Carpenter whose own synth-based soundtracks for his own films are a clear inspiration to Carpenter Brut and his musical peers in Perturbator, Magic Sword and Kavinsky. On the 2015 release Trilogy, the titles suggestive of horror storylines and the strong, bright compositions nail the combination of camp and compelling songwriting. Hueso has done some soundtrack work but the vast body of his songs are separate from that context and those songs suggest narratives and aesthetic that recent films like Drive, The Guest and others have manifested. 2018’s Leather Teeth pushes the absurdity factor further in terms of subject matter (“Inferno Galore” and “Hairspray Hurricane” being clear indicators) but Hueso’s mastery of the musical form has progressed even further and the live show looks like an immersive experience.

Who: Khruangbin w/The Mattson 2 bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/348081
When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Khruangbin’s website airkhruang.com offers visitor a playlist for a trip from any place in the world to another which one can also save to Spotify. Asked for various aspects of the trip, the curated selections are uncannily apt. It also more than hints at the band’s cross-cultural appeal. The trio got started when bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer were on tour with Yppah in 2010 during that artist’s run with Bonobo and recognized similar musical interests. After recruiting drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson the group started writing its earliest songs and garnered some attention for its early singles. With what looks and sounds to English-speaking eyes and ears as an exotic name the expectation for the project might have been some resurrection of non-Western versions of Western pop. Instead, Khruangbin’s sound is that of downtempo jazz, surf-rock-esque-yet-smooth-and-moody guitar and smoky funk. Currently touring in the wake of the release of its 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo, Khruangbin has brought along like minded, San Diego-based duo, Mattson 2, a band comprised of identical twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson. The brothers released a collaborative album with Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi fame in 2017 and in March 2018, an album of covers of Japanese jazz originals called Vaults of Eternity: Japan.

Who: Impiety, Gravehill and Divine Eye
When: Monday, 04.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Impiety started in 1990 as a kind of black metal band. But in Singapore being in such a band was probably a dicey proposition and remains so in a country that banned “Puff the Magic Dragon” in 1963 and the 2001 Janet Jackson album All for You due to its racy album cover and lyrics. Nevertheless, Impiety and other extreme metal bands have operated out of Singapore for years. Since its earliest releases, Impiety has evolved a bit from its early black metal roots to its current deathgrind style. But its musical vision of audio-violence and lyrics that combine an irreverent attitude toward organized religion with cartoonishly occult imagery will ensure Impiety will alienate casual metal fans. Gravehill from Anaheim, California and its 2018 album The Unchaste, The Profane & The Wicked is a bit of a throwback to a time when thrash and death metal weren’t so far apart in sound and the brutal imagery of the lyrics.

Tuesday | April 24, 2018

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Das Mortal, photo by Christine McAvoy

Who: Das Mörtal w/Church Fire
When: Tuesday, 04.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Das Mörtal often gets lumped in with the modern synthwave movement and not without reason. His sensibilities as a songwriter are, according to a July 2017 interview with Get Some Magazine, inspired in part by 80s movie soundtracks as well as 8-bit and 16-bit video game music. But this project sounds less like other synthwave stars like Carpenter Brut, Com Truise, Kavinsky and Perturbator and more like a pop-oriented rock band like Cut Copy whose New Order and OMD influences showed pretty strongly on its 2004 album Bright Like Neon Love. And like Cut Copy, Das Mörtal has evolved into his own sound as evidenced by his 2017 album Always Loved. With nods to mid-90s IDM and mid-80s EBM, Always Loved is packed with songs that pick up where nostalgia isn’t enough of an appeal with an updated take on electronic dance music grounded in songwriting rather than merely well-crafted beats.

Wednesday | April 25, 2018

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King Krule

Who: King Krule w/Standing On the Corner
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: In a time when genre bending and multi-genre artists are becoming more common, King Krule is a standout. Like Deerhunter more than a decade ago, King Krule’s music invites you into a universe of its own as it is not simply rock or a subgenre of electronic pop music or hip-hop. It has elements of all of that and more but is not limited by a need to fit in with something other than Archy Marshall’s expansive imagination. 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon probably got interpreted as being part of the psych-and-punk-garage revival of the time. But Marshall sounded like he was channeling Old Dirty Bastard singing for a weirdo jazz band making its own version of indie rock. Four years later, The Ooz finds the band weaving in more musical DNA to mutate its sound further. Bossa nova and dub underpin the “Dum Surfer” single and the beatmaking compositional element is stronger across the whole album, giving it a soft and hypnotic quality even in its moments of peak emotional intensity.

 

Who: Whores, Bummer, Bland Canyon
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Whores is a sludgy noise rock trio from Atlanta. Reminiscent of Big Business, KARP (naturally) and a less sonically surreal Jesus Lizard, Whores perform with the edgy energy of a posthardcore band rather than with the quickened tar pace of many bands projecting a similar aesthetic. Not as overtly so, Whores shares KARP’s proclivity for humor and irony. After all, on its latest album, 2016’s Gold. there are song titles like “I See You Are Also Wearing A Black T-Shirt” and “Mental Illness As Mating Ritual.” Bummer is a sludge rock band from Kansas City that sounds like what would have happened had Ministry followed a trajectory suggested by the Filth Pig album. Bland Canyon from Denver comes right out of the local post-hardcore scene with former Mustangs and Madras members Nick Krier and Tom Chagolla as well as Matty Clark from Trees. Danny Aranow from Sugar Skulls & Marigolds and Justin Hackl who has played in several local bands including in Native Daughters with Chagolla. It’ll be heavy but also oddly catchy.

Who: Dreamdecay, Product Lust, Weaken, Old Sport
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: Dreamdecay is a noise post-punk band from Seattle. Its urgent, thorny songs don’t fit in with the hardcore scene one might expect the band to come from though it probably plays a number of those kinds of shows. Its grittily atmospheres and meditation on the quandaries of existence in a pre-apocalyptic society should appeal to fans of Silver Daggers, Live Skull and Arab on Radar. Its 2017 album isn’t all the same tempo, tone or texture throughout making it rewarding repeat listening experience. All the bands on this bill have their roots in punk but did us the favor of exploring sounds, rhythms and styles beyond the outworn fashion of punk circa any “classic” year of the past.

Who: Big K.R.I.T. W/Cyhi the Prynce, Childish Major
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Justin Scott a.k.a. Big K.R.I.T. has always used interesting beats to go along with his words and he has aimed at making poignant observations about life that transcend the specific context and situations he references. And he’s mostly made good on that ambition. For his 2017 album, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, Scott delivered twenty songs divided into two sides of the record, the Big K.R.I.T. side and the Justin Scott side, with each embodying a side of Scott’s songwriting identity. The title is a clear nod to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Though that song is a celebratory party song it is also a fascinatingly thoughtful and insightful exploration of what one must do to propel yourself out of life’s lowest moments. It is that spirit that flows through Scott’s record as well with an eclectic array of music to set the mood for both the party and contemplation of the meaning of it all.

Best Shows in Denver 2/23/18 – 02/28/18

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The Kinky Fingers release Garbage Plate on Friday, 2/23/18 at Tooey’s on Colfax, photo by Alexandra Brexa Hooson

Friday | February 23, 2018

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Image from Jane Eyre, photo courtesy Grapefruit Lab

What: Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: 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 spans six performances starting Friday and Saturday evening of February 23 and 24 with a 2 p.m. matinee show on Sundays. On February 23, the opening band is Denver’s dream pop duo Plume Varia. February 24 has indie pop group The Green Typewriters on board. March 2 will include a performance from Ersatz Robots and the final evening show will have a surprise guest on March 3.

Who: The Kinky Fingers album release w/Don Chicharron and Godchild
When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: The Kinky Fingers have always been a band that made a virtue of simple, clean melodies. At a time when it seemed there was entire too much surf rock and neo-psychedelic rock, The Kinky Fingers shined with the strength of its songwriting. With its new album, Garbage Plate, the band has expanded its sound and boosted its emotional range. The album has been a long time coming. Recorded in the summer of 2016 in Rochester, New York, Garbage Plate is a surprisingly thoughtful set of songs that sound like party anthems. Regarding the meaning of the album title, the band says “[a] Garbage Plate is a plate of fried potatoes, baked beans, hot dogs, onions, mustard, and a chili-like meat sauce. Intense. As the name suggests, the music rings through so many genres, textures and tastes it feels a perfect fit for the deteriorating American dream, which once tasted so sweet and now feels more like a bellyache.” Expect the usual sharply observant songs about the vicissitudes of life with some poignant, and creatively rendered, social commentary mixed in. The Kinky Fingers will also play at the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho on Friday, March 23 at Ha Penny at 11:20 p.m.

Who: Slow Caves 7” release w/Gleemer and Panther Martin
When: Friday, 02.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: On its new 7”, Fort Collins’ Slow Caves seems to have evolved well beyond the more languid pace and sound of its earlier pop songs. “Poser” has some of the structure and dynamics of the band’s surf rock leanings but there is more grit and drive to its winningly polished melodies. Joining Slow Caves for the occasion of releasing its new record are noisy math rockers Gleemer and Panther Martin, a band that may have started out in the realm of garage and psych rock but its intricate yet uncluttered musicianship reveals a knack for writing songs of often surprising emotional complexity.

Who: Ben UFO w/Gerd Janson, Mozhgan
When: Friday, 02.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Club Vinyl
Why: Ben Thomson (Ben UFO), made a name for himself purely as a DJ rather than as a producer and his mixes of some of the most cutting edge, modern electronic dance music have made him an in-demand curator of that music. The discography of Hessle Audio, the imprint he co-owns with David Kennedy of Pearson Sound and Pangaea’s Kevin McAuley would be a solid introduction to some of the best underground electronic music going today.

Saturday | February 24, 2018

 

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Necropanther, photo by David Novin

Who: Necropanther CD release w/The Munsens, and Abrams
When: Saturday, 02.24, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver death thrashers Necropanther are releasing a new album tonight with Eyes Of Blue Light. Imagine what it would sound like if a melodic death metal band Gothenburg style wrote a Dune-themed record inspired in part by Municipal Waste and Thrash Zone-period D.R.I.. Well, Necropanther recorded the album in Denver but got it mastered in Gothenburg, Sweden with Fredrik Nordström who has put his sonic fingerprints on the broad spectrum of that city’s melodic death metal scene. Also on stage this night are sludgy doom-sters The Munsens and the equally menacing Abrams whose own version of sludge/doom is energetically dynamic and otherworldly in the vein of bands like Neurosis and Isis.

Who: Jane Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Saturday, 02.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: See above for February 23. A brilliant adaptation.

Sunday | February 25, 2018

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Teacup Gorilla and Dameon Merkl (on left) on opening night of JANE/EYRE, matinee show tonight, February 25, at 2 p.m. at The Bakery

Who: Jane Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Sunday, 02.24, 2 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: Also, see above for February 23. This is the matinee showing of the first week.

What: Textures featuring Cpt. Howdy, Brother Saturn, MYTHirst
When: Sunday, 02.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This is the latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase. This time the return of heavy synth duo (trio), Cpt. Howdy, the super chill, abstract ambient of Drew Miller (of Chromadrift) as Brother Saturn (he calls it a shoegaze band and yeah, if you’re thinking more like Seefeel rather than the more rock-oriented stuff) and MYTHist’s electro-acoustic take on IDM.

Monday | February 26, 2018

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Myrkur, photo by Daria Endresen

What: Decibel Magazine Tour: Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room, Myrkur and Khemmis
When: Monday, 02.26, 6 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Decibel Magazine, one of the major magazines that focuses on metal and heavy music in general, has been on this tour for several years now and this time out the even is headlined by Norway’s Enslaved. The band has always had melodic elements to its brutally majestic sound. But with it’s 2017 album E, the group seems to have written the music with a cinematic presentation in mind like they were composing a soundtrack for the next Thor movie. In a similar vein of invoking indigenous spirits and associated imagery in the music are the opening bands on this leg of the tour. Denver’s Khemmis is often described as a doom band but its songs far more melodic than such designations suggest. The hanging chords and sludgy flourishes are there but so is an apparent dedication to fairly traditional songcraft giving the band an appeal beyond what one might assume to be its audience. Myrkur, from Denmark, is the black metal project of Amalie Bruun. Her expansive, lush songs bring together the gritty and the sublime and transcendent matched by her seemingly effortless transition between. Mareidt, the project’s 2017 release, included a guest vocal from the like-minded Chelsea Wolfe on the track “Funeral.” Wolves in the Throne Room from Olympia, Washington all but retired from any active touring several years back so this is a rare chance to catch the band’s Cascadian black metal in Denver. The group performed in Colorado Springs in October 2017 in the wake of the release of its most recent album, 2017’s Thrice Woven. A WITTR show is fairly tribal in presentation with visuals invoking meeting at a communal fire to share stories and to participate in a collective ritual and the music is a manifestation of that spirit.

Who: Palm w/Spirit of the Beehive and Plague Survivor
When: Monday, 02.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Palm was originally from Philadelphia but calls New York City it’s home base these days. It’s flavor of neo-math rock is less focused on actual technique and more on what you can do with technique and dynamics if you inject some imagination into the playing and writing. If you’re a fan of groups like US Weekly, Laddio Bolocko, Don Caballero and A Minor Forest you’ll probably appreciate what Palm is doing. Its new album, 2018’s Rock Island, expands on the band’s previous, beautifully claustrophobic structures without losing its masterful ability to create tension and release at the perfect moments.

Who: Haunted Summer w/Tyto Alba, Ghostpulse and Magic Cyclops
When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Haunted Summer could be broadbrushed as a post-chillwave dream pop project reminiscent of Devotion-period Beach House because its entrancing melodies are possessed of a similarly gorgeous emotional afterglow. But its Robin-Guthrie-circa-Mysterious-Skin-soundtrack guitar textures and drifty dynamics akin to those of Former Selves or Candy Claws. Whatever went into inspiring the band’s sound, it’s excellent 2017 album, Spirit Guides has a warmth and intimacy that propels the songs into having an immediacy that isn’t always the purvey of bands attempting a similar style of music. Tyto Alba, like Haunted Summer, is a band that is great at working in the realm of the edges of your memory to invoke something that isn’t nostalgia but has an emotional resonance that stimulates the feelings that normally coalesce into comforting reverie.

Who: Eraserhead Fuckers, Juniordeer, Ultraviolet, Morlox and Brkn Jwbne Tape Manipulator
When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Just reading the list of band names should give you some idea of the strangeness you’re in for if you make it to this show. Morlox should be a well-known artist in Denver because his influence on the local industrial and noise scene is undeniable but he has also had an impact on experimental pop band Church Fire and their facility in weaving together industrial music and hip-hop production ideas into their own songwriting. He rarely performs live so if that’s your thing, be there. Also, Eraserhead Fuckers is technically hip-hop but so confrontational, abrasive and surreal that most hip-hop fans aren’t going to be into it unless maybe they didn’t have a difficult time getting into something like Death Grips, .clipping, Earl Sweatshirt or Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

Tuesday | February 27, 2018

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Talib Kweli ciurca 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Talib Kweli w/Niko Is, DJ Spintelect and Time
When: Tuesday, 02.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Talib Kweli Greene would have secured his place in hip-hop history with Black Star, his collaborative project with Mos Def. But Kweli’s talent, intellect and curiosity has brought him to various efforts as a rapper, producer and activist. Rather than make more than a brief list of the people he’s worked with like Dave Chappelle, Kanye West and Dead Prez, it would be more worthwhile to note how Kweli’s albums have long been filled with thoughtful and creative social critiques alongside solid beats and music so that his albums never come off feeling didactic or preachy even as he minces no words—because his stories and words are also not short on humanity. Kweli can be pointed but he clearly takes in the bigger picture beyond any topical content. Along on the tour is Niko Is, a likeminded artist whose own imaginative wordplay sketches vivid images of aspirational daydreams and everyday life rendered into poetry. Opening the show is Denver’s Time, a rapper whose literary lyrics display a gift for surreal stories and political analysis grounded in his own experiences growing up in “the nutty.” Meaning North Denver, of course. Sometime in 2018 it’s anticipated that we’ll see a new album from Calm., Time’s hip-hop duo with longtime collaborator, the producer Awareness.

Wednesday | February 28, 2018

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Why? photo by Josiah Wolf

Who: Why? w/The Florist
When: Wednesday, 02.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Yoni Wolf aka Why? was once in influential, experimental hip hop group Clouddead but when that outfit split in 2004 he formed an indie rock band called Why? with his brother Josiah and friends. And yet calling Why? indie rock is a bit imprecise because the band is far more experimental with its use of sound, the poetry of its lyrics and the the visual presentation of the music as well. At times Why? can be a multimedia experience with interaction between performers and video as well as making a theater sized show seem like something more suited to a stadium. Whatever the experience of the show might be it’s something the group has evolved for years and rooted in a music that is pushing and challenging the kind of complacency of being so in love with one’s established sound by making music that can never rest easy in a staid formula. The latest Why? record, 2017’s Moh Lhean, is typically impossible to adequately characterize and yet has all the unique wordplay and imagery that has made Why? a consistently interesting project from the beginning.

Who: Rachael Yamagata w/Hemming 
When: Tuesday, 02.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Rachael Yamagata has been at her solo career since 2001. Likely often broadbrushed as a singer-songwriter, Yamagata’s music transcends stereotypes that have crept up about singer-songwriter artists even though, obviously, artists like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and plenty of others are good examples of singer-writers. Like Ray LaMontagne (with whom Yamagata has worked) and Greg Laswell, Yamagata writes songs about life that provides a unique insight and illumination into subjects well-worn by artists since time immemorial. Yamagata’s voice is calming yet not short on evoking peak emotional moments with a gift for articulating complexity of feeling. Her music, richly detailed and textured, provide the perfect backdrop to her honest storytelling. Her 2016 album Tightrope Walker in particular minced few words about life challenges but did so in a lushly poetic fashion.

Best Shows in Denver 12/14/17 – 12/20/17

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo Joseph Nienstedt

Thursday: December 14, 2017

f-ether
f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether
When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.

 

Who: Prayers
When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.

Friday: December 15, 2017

The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro
When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.

Who: Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway
When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Deerpile
Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.

Saturday: December 16, 2017

Night Grinder
Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder
When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.

Who: Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.

2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.

Who: Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres
When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.

Sunday: December 17, 2017

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time
When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.

Monday: December 18, 2017

Gary Numan
Gary Numan, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1
When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.

Tuesday: December 19, 2017

Agnostic Front
Agnostic Front, photo by Todd Huber

Who: Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.

Who: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.

Wednesday: December 20, 2017

Mandy Yoches
Mandy Yoches circa December 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.

Who: Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.