Best Shows in Denver 1/30/20 – 2/5/20

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Whipporwill performs at Hi-Dive on January 30. Photo by Glenn Ross

Thursday | January 30

Who: Telefon Tel Aviv w/Steve Hauschildt
When: Thursday, 1.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: On Dreams Are Not Enough, Telefon Tel Aviv delves into states of mind and existence as represented by the titles of the song: “I dream of it often,” “Standing at the bottom of the ocean,” “Mouth agape,” “Eyes Glaring” etc. The compositions combine texture and tone in a way processed to convey a sense of space and a journey into the imagination in a way to perhaps suggest that indeed merely having dreams is inadequate to having a life worth living even if we are often guided by them. Like a nod to Langston Hughes’ famous lines about a dream deferred. A dream does not, after all, occupy the same space in the psyche as conscious experiences. Songwriter Joshua Eustis invites on a journey to make these sonic spaces that might have sat in the backburner of his mind manifest. Steven Hauschildt has been crafting exquisite sonic experiences with software and analog synth for years including during his time with experimental electronic pop group Emeralds. As a solo artist his mastery of emotional colorings is impressive and his latest offering is 2019’s Nonlin.

What: Natural Violence Tape Release Show w/Many Blessings, DJ Pop CTRL and Dem Deya Sound System
When: Thursday, 1.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Meadowlark Bar

Friday | January 31

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Natalie Tate circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Whipporwill w/Natalie Tate
When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Whipporwill’s 2019 album The Nature of Storms charts a perilous personal journey that could have ended the band as it endured a fraught tour that took it through extreme, inclement weather followed by a period of personal travails that would test anyone’s resolve to continue with something as dubiously rewarding a music often is. But the result is a dynamic set of songs that transcends expectations knowing the group has roots in folk and indie rock as its compositions are imaginative and evocative with an ear not just for melody but deep atmosphere and emotional tenor. Whipporwill doesn’t hit us with an album full of the same, tried and true dynamics, rather, a series of well developed concepts as set pieces and short stories connected by a larger narrative about life and the interconnected significance of our experiences. Natalie Tate is one of Denver’s most interesting and talented songwriters who hasn’t played around town much but her combination of musical chops and a spirit of experimentation and innovation in songcraft has branched in fascinating directions since she emerged in the local music scene several years back.

What: Goon (album release) w/Sunk Cost, Gack and Sweet Kiss
When: Friday, 1.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Goon’s Natural Evil takes modern hardcore in a much more experimental direction with the use of noise and atmospheric sounds in a way that is both pointed, intense while warping those edges and taking the angular quality of the music and splaying the dynamic in unpredictable and ultimately wilder directions. The record frankly showcases how a merely excellent hardcore band can become one that can influence more than connoisseurs of that style of music as the appeal transcends subgenre.

What: Jacket of Spiders, Swami and Flat Earth
When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Jacket of Spiders includes former members of Tarmints, Twice Wilted and Cynic’s Bane. The result is surging, swirling guitar rock that is both colossal and ethereal and frankly out of step with a lot of what’s happening in Denver at the moment. Fans of the members’ previous bands as well as Space Team Electra and Bowery Electric should check out what the band is doing.

What: Guangdong Modern Dance Company
When: Friday, 1.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Newman Center

What: Lucy Daydream w/XOXFord
When: Friday, 1.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Saturday | February 1

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Damn Selene, photo courtesy the artist

What: Damn Selene album release w/R A R E B Y R D $, 3Two and Stoney Bertz
When: Saturday, 2.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Damn Selene has been one of the most respected hip-hop artists of the Denver underground for a handful of years in the more experimental end of that scene. The artist’s beats are rooted in noise, darkwave and industrial soundscaping paired with emotionally charged vocals taking at aim at society with honesty and a gift for combining storytelling with mythmaking and self-examination. Those qualities manifest brilliantly on the new album Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore. Selene’s vibrant synth work and transporting melodies vibe well with those of R A R E B Y R D $ whose blend of radical vulnerability and swagger weaves well with its own entrancing beats informed by a rich palette of sounds drawing from dub, analog synth music, classic hip-hop, noise, ambient music and whatever has caught the trio’s ear at the moment.

What: The Heroine, Tokyo Rodeo and Stone Deaf
When: Saturday, 2.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Just when the whole “Southern Rock” thing seems played out, rote and utterly performative, The Heroine from San Antonio is there to play up every trope with a sincerity and conviction that is impossible to mime and has to come from an honest place. The Heroine sounds a bit like a way better and non-wack version of Motley Crue circa Dr. Feelgood and performs its shows like they have something to prove to someone even if only to themselves. Tokyo Rodeo from Denver performs with a similar spirit with its own songs reflecting a fire to live an authentic and vibrant life creating the kind of music that sounds like the people making it really lived and felt deeply and aimed for the catharsis of creative expression that only comes from some form of rock and roll.

What: The Yellnats, The Slack and Short Shorts – Winter Coat Donation Drive
When: Saturday, 2.01, 7:45 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

Monday | February 3

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Mick Jenkins, photo by Sam Schmieg

What: EarthGang w/Mick Jenkins, Wynne and Jurdan Bryant
When: Monday, 2.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: EarthGang’s 2019 album Mirrorland was inspired by the 1978 film The Wiz and the band ran with the surreal quality of the film and infused it into a journey into the modern American cultural and political landscape with the attendant perils, struggles and triumphs. The Atlanta-based duo excels at using the formats of jazz, sampling, rap and soul to craft music that might be called psychedelic in another musical context except it isn’t disorienting, it’s focused on lived experience and creating the world you want to see rather than escapism.

Wednesday | February 5

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Claudzilla, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Ruche Mere, Claudzilla, Space Jail
When: Wednesday, 2.05, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes performances from series host Claudzilla and her strange synth pop songs and unique covers, Ruche Mère a duo that uses electronic and organic instruments including bells and improvised percussive textural sounds to create what might be described post-industrial/post-civilization found object folk and Space Jail’s IDM-esque, ambient psychedelic folk soundscapes.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 10/31/19 to 11/6/19

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Bethlehem Steel performs 11.1.19 at Lion’s Lair, photo by Jeanette D. Moses

Thursday | October 31

What: The Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service, The Drood, DJ Mudwulf and VJ Dizy Pixl
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Legendary Pink Dots and its mystical, spectral, ambient psychedelia will turn 40 next August and is currently undertaking a tour celebrating the landmark date along with its new album, 2019’s Angel in the Detail. The new record contains elements of what has always made LPD great including entrancing atmospheres, singer Edward Ka-Spel’s poetic lyrics that articulate deep truths about the human condition and how it manifests in our lives and civilizations. It also comments on the perilous state of things in the world today and especially in “The Junkyard” and how the elites are trying to finish completing a world system that renders those of us not in that upper one percent of one percent as pieces of junk in world civilization. The surreal and beautifully disturbing music video is well worth a view. Also sharing the bill tonight is the likeminded Denver-based ambient psychedelic rock band Orbit Service which has been gracing local stages and well beyond since the mid-90s. The Drood, also from Denver, is like a dark psychedelic prog band with punk-intensity and a sense of theater and the ability to create exorcistic emotional experiences in song. DJ Mudwulf will set the mood with what is sure to be a great set for the holiday and VJ Dizy Pixl will set the visual mood as per her usual level of excellence.

What: Wu Tang Clan w/Jedi Mind Tricks, Immortal Technique and Dillon Cooper
When: Thursday, 10.31, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

What: T.S.O.L. w/Noogy and The Pitch Invasion
When: Thursday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Dragondeer w/Dog City Disco and What Young Men Do
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Friday | November 1

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Yung Bae, photo by Peter Dons

What: Bethlehem Steel w/Gila Teen and guest
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bethlehem Steel has been together since 2012 but started garnering national attention for its outstanding performances at the South By Southwest festival in 2016. At that time the group had out a couple of EPs but released its debut full length Party Naked Forever in 2017. Its thrilling collision of fuzzy pop and dynamic atmospheric rock has drawn comparisons to 90s noise pop acts like Weezer and contemporary artists like Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. But often enough the group’s expansive, imaginative songwriting and creative ambition has resulted in some music that pushes boundaries of the loud and quiet format that many bands have adopted of late so that its songs will remind some of the emotionally stirring music of older bands like Failure, Slint and Rainer Maria. It has that kind of fire and caustic sound as well as lyrics that delve deep into the darker regions of the psyche with a defiant spirit lighting the way. In September, Bethlehem Steel released its fantastic self-titled full-length for which it is touring in support. Also on the bill is Gila Teen, the experimental post-punk band that brilliantly mixes moody atmospheres with a splintery pop punk.

What: Yung Bae w/Birocratic and Jaguar Nights
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dallas Cotton started making music as Yung Bae while living in Portland, Oregon but his production-based future funk started garnering him wider audiences while still a student at Oregon State University. His sound straddles that sort of 70s soul and R&B-inspired sounds and the aesthetic of modern electronic pop music. So while he references classic music it comes off with a more modern sensibility and energy. It hearkens to a previous era and the unsullied excitement of that music but in a way that couldn’t really have been accomplished at the time in terms of how he sculpts sound and edits it together. In 2019 Yung Bae released his fifth album in as many years with Bae 5.

What: Red Wing Black Bird album release w/Plague Garden and Married a Dead Man
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver darkwave band Red Wing Black Bird is releasing its latest album produced by DJ Charon of Necromantic/Fenando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

What: Future of Bass: smith, Mize, Wriza and Killa Nova
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box

What: Lucy Dacus w/Liza Anne and Sun June
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Saturday | November 2

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Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Dia De Muertos celebration: Altas, Plume Varia and Los Mocochetes
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver instrumental rock band Altas is doing its now annual Dia De Muertos show in which the members will dress in the appropriate regalia for the occasion making the show a true event rather than just another gig. The group’s sweeping, cinematic grandeur and fiery musical pyrotechnics and mastery of mood and atmosphere is worth witnessing alone but also on the bill is psychedelic rock band Los Mocochetes and downtempo dream pop band Plume Varia and its emotionally rich and haunted compositions.

What: The Locust w/Disposal Notice and Its Just Bugs
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Locust recently reconvened to bring its mutant, death metal inflected, noisy hardcore on a national tour. The group’s surreal imagery and costumes along with its equally bizarre lyrics has made it difficult to lump in with any convenient musical movement. Its Just Bugs (the apostrophe is left off) is an industrial punk hip-hop group from Colorado and just as impossible to pigeonhole.

What: Twin Peaks w/Post Animal and Ohmme
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Twin Peaks from Chicago weathered the mid-2010s blowout of garage rock and neo-psychedelic rock that was making the underground rock scene of a certain stripe become fairly stale and performatively exciting. What helped was that Twin Peaks was writing good songs and hasn’t stayed stuck in the same sound for its entire career thus far. Its 2019 album Lookout Low sounds like an odd and interesting hybrid of power pop and the weirdo punk of The Fall at its most Lou Reed-inspired, mix in some unusual flourishes of 70s rock with nods to Peter Frampton and Thin Lizzy. All while delivering spirited and sometimes gloriously ragged performances which are much needed at a time when a sanitary quality has permeated too much modern music.

What: Fathers, Limbwrecker, The Munsens and Muscle Beach
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Dendera Bloodbath, Endometrium Cuntplow, Cau5er, Brother Saturn, Church Fire and Equine
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Rocket Dust, Tokyo Rodeo and The Slack
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Sunday | November 3

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Vivian Girls circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Vivan Girls w/Down Time, Short Shorts and Backseat Vinyl — CANCELLED
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Vivian Girls caused a stir in the indie underground of the 2000s and 2010s with their lo-fi, noisy pop songs. The group’s ability to mix buoyant dynamics with dark, brooding moods and sounds was a fascinating contrast. The band split in 2014 with members going on to perform in La Sera, The Babies and Upset (all still going concerns). But in summer 2019 the group announced it was reforming with a new record, Memory, on the way and released in September.

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SRSQ, photo by Tom Murphy

What: TR/ST w/SRSQ and DJ Slave 1
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: TR/ST came to prominence as the new darkwave movement was coming together with a sound that seemed to come out of the then renewed interest in vintage synths, that cold, bright, moody sound of Goth-y 80s synth pop and its cousin chillwave. But Robert Alfons’ vibrant, soulful voice and imaginative soundsccaping are the key ingredients that elevated this project above many of its contemporaries. In 2019 TR/ST released The Destroyer (Part 1 and 2), a more experimental and ambient, ethereal set of songs than his previous offerings and a clear product of reassessing directions and ideas to produce something different. SRSQ (pronounced Seer Ess Que as in the lettes for the latter two) is Kennedy Ashlyn the charismatic singer formerly of brilliant dream pop band Them Are Us Too. Her 2018 album Unreality is a moody and emotionally harrowing and cathartic downtempo album that seems to have absorbed the darkness and pain of the underground world in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and given it a voice that exorcises some of that energy.

What: Keytar Fest IV: The Jinjas, R A R E B Y R D $ and Claudzilla
When: Sunday, 11.3, 4 p.m.
Where: Glitter City
Why: Just like the title of the event suggests, this is a mini festival featuring all projects that incorporate keytars as an essential part of the songwriting and this includes weirdo synth punk Claudzilla and experimental hip-hop/IDM-inflected trio R A R E B Y R D $.

What: Danny Brown w/Ashnikko and Zeeloperz
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Ever since the larger world outside of Detroit started cluing into Danny Brown’s genius following the release of 2010’s The Hybrid, the rapper has garnered a large cult following for his eccentric yet sharply cogent and thoughtful yet raw lyrics and production that incorporates a wide range of sounds that one hadn’t often heard in hip-hop outside of the underground and alternative circles of the 90s and early 2000s. Brown picked up where that left off and pushed things further particularly on his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition which borrowed its title from a science fiction novel by J.G. Ballard and whose beats sounded almost like a new hybrid of industrial and rap that reflected the atmospherics as much as the textures and rhythms. With his new album, 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿ Brown follows a similar sonic path but brings together more organic, almost found sounds with processed layers of atmosphere. Intact is his gift for surreal imagery and wordplay that gets under your skin.

Monday | November 4

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GRÜN WASSER, photo courtesy the artists

What: GRÜN WASSER w/Natural Violence, French Kettle Station and Night Shift DJs
When: Monday, 11.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: GRÜN WASSER is a Chicago-based electro-pop/industrial whose pulsing rhythms and dreamlike moods sound like endless nights wandering a menacing urban landscape and commenting on the culture of the nightlife. That is if the group’s new album Not OK with Things (Holodeck Records) is any indication. There is an almost claustrophobic quality to its densely atmospheric beats contrasted with Keely Dowd’s lightly echoing, ethereal vocals. French Kettle Station has been through more permutations of his sound than many artists bother to explore but of late he’s been developing a sound that’s still rooted slightly in 1980s No Wave disco and modern glitch dance pop but also influenced by 1980s adult contemporary music and its unexpectedly newly influential use and voicing of drums and vintage synths in a way that in any other contexts would be utterly wack but takes on an almost spiritual cast in certain underground electronic artists including that side of what FKS has been up to in the past year or two. His latest album, Over X Millenia takes those ideas and injects them with non-western rhythmic ideas and a New Age music aesthetic for something new yet strangely familiar. Its closest cousin that comes readily to mind is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Tuesday | November 5

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HTRK, photo by Kate Meakin

What: HTRK w/Midwife, Echo Beds, Human Tide
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since 2003 HTRK, originally from Australia, has been making music inspired by the brooding, otherworldly atmosphere of the films of David Lynch. Though the name of the band is pronounced “Hate Rock” it’s not so much rock except in the experimental sense as much as downtempo and ambient soundscaping. In 2010 founding musician Sean Stewart passed away leaving Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to carry on and as a duo HTRK has released a handful of some of the most fascinating music mixing electric music with an electronic aesthetic being made today. The group’s latest album is Venus in Leo with its exquisitely subtle dynamics and cinematic approach to its composition and sound design with lingering, impressionistic guitar riffs drifting around Standish’s hushed and soulful vocals.

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Minami Deutsch, photo courtesy the artists

What: Kikagaku Moyo w/Minamu Deutsch
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Kikagaku Moyo from Japan is a true synthesis of 70s Krautrock, classic Japanese psychedelic rock and more traditional Japanese folk. Currently the group is touring with the like-minded Tokyo band Minami Deutsch. The group’s urgent rhythms, mesmerizing drones and hypnotic dynamics sound like what it is to travel through Tokyo and its subtle but odd mixture of old world and high tech metropolis side by side in all of the city’s giant districts. On the group’s new EP, Can’t Get There that dynamic often takes you to a place of anxiety and then release as it draws you into its irresistible groove.

What: Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage w/Adam Baumeister
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A rare chance to see eccentric, genius freak folk and comic artist legend Jeffrey Lewis and his band along with local star of experimental folk and psychedelia, Adam Baumeister, head of Meep Records and former member of Navy Girls and Bad Weather California.

What: Cannibal Corpse w/Thy Art is Murder, Perdition Temple
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater

What: Arc Sol, Slugger and Gothsta
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café

What: 1349 w/Uada and Cloak
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Wednesday | November 6

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Dinosaur Jr, photo by Levi Walton

What: Negative Approach w/Blood Loss and Tuck Knee
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Negative Approach from Detroit was one of the bands out of that early wave of American hardcore than seemed particularly seething and intense and fronted by John Brannon who went on to noisy psychedelic blues band Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action. Easily one of the greatest frontmen of rock music because he seems to actually be losing his mind swept up in the moment.

What: Weird Wednesday: FangFuck, Zealot and Bolonium
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl & Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday includes left field indie rock local supergroup Zealot and Bolonium a band inspired by Devo and which comes off like an odd combination of band, cheesy game show and Troma film.

What: Kurt Vile and the Violators w/Dinosaur Jr
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the missing link between gritty classic rock like Neil Young, hardcore and 90s alternative rock and more influential on modern music than is often obvious. The mixture of sheer volume with tunefulness reconciled eras of music in a way that is often taken for granted and which bands like Nirvana and other massively commercial successful bands took to topple the music industry marketing machine and culture. Apparently modern folk/psychedelic artist Kurt Vile has felt this influence and thus has Dinosaur on this tour and for its part, the members of Dinosaur Jr have continued to release music, some of the best of its career in the past decade.

What: (Sandy) Alex G w/Indigo De Souza and Tomberlin
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Best Shows in Denver 9/19/19 – 9/25/19

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Jay Som performs at Larimer Lounge on September 24, 2019

Thursday | September 19

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Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, photo by Josh Ludlow

What: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets w/Meatbodies and Serpentfoot
When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The unlikely named Psychedelic Porn Crumpets from Perth, Australia at least picked an apt moniker because it captures what you’re in for. Oh, sure, stoner rocked psychedelia thrown together with prog and fuzzy melodies and tripped out choruses. Its new album And Now For the Whatchamacallit has surreal song titles like “My Friend’s a Liquid,” “Digital Hunger,” “Hymn For A Droid” and “Keen For Kick Ons.” If Lewis Carroll had been born in the 90s and grew up at a time when the older kids in Tame Impala and Pond were kicking around in the local scene he might have ended up in a band like this.

What: Why? w/Barrie
When: Thursday, 09.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Swim (Baltimore), Horse Girl, Eamonn Wilcox and Cop Circles
When: Thursday, 09.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

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Cuco, photo courtesy the artist

What: Cuco w/Ambar Lucid and KAINA
When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: At twenty-one Omar Banos aka Cuco is a bonafide pop star who came up on Chicano rap stars like Baby Bash and MC Magic. Like the latter he also sings and raps in English and Spanish. Banos has also folded into his soundscapes a laid back kind of psychedelic pop sound. While his songwriting and the production thereon is strong and evocative, his music videos and storytelling shows a side of life that is honest, surprisingly candid and often uncomfortable but real and therein lies the power of the presentation of his music. “Bossa No Sé” from his debut album Para Mi (2019) navigates the troubled waters of a breakup with sensitivity, complexity and comfort with uncertainty and confusion. Cuco’s balance of the romantic and the realistic has been fascinating so far.

What: GEL SET (L.A.), Natural Violence, DJ Noah Anthony, DJ Rewd and guest
When: Thursday, 09.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Meadowlark Bar

Friday | September 20

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Melvins, photo by Chris Mortenson

What: The Melvins w/Redd Kross and Toshi Kasai
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have done pretty much whatever they’ve wanted to that was fun for them music-wise since beginning in 1983. Before grunge was a thing, Melvins had already perfected that sound and aesthetic as well as a certain strain of doom. Most left field heavy music today can probably trace a bit of influence to the band originally from Montesano, Washington. The group’s prolific catalog covers a good deal of sonic territory and the band has collaborated with the likes of industrial music pioneer Lustmord, Jello Biafra and, recently, with Swedish noise-punk stars Shitkid (who are performing select dates on the current tour) on the Bangers EP. The group has experimented with the format of its lineup such as when the members of Big Business joined for two drummers and a bassist. And now with two bassists and a single drummer. Or as Melvins Lite with Mr. Bungle (among other projects) member Trevor Dunn on bass. Melvins might also be the only American band to have played all fifty states in fifty days. You never quite know what you’re in store for with a Melvins show except that it’ll be worth your time unless heavy, imaginative music and powerful performances thereof aren’t your thing. Melvins bassist Steven McDonald is doing double duty this tour with his original band, the influential punk/power pop group Redd Kross.

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Boris, photo courtesy the artists

What: Boris w/Uniform
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Japanese heavy, experimental psych and drone extravaganza, Boris, is currently touring in support of its 2019 album LφVE & EvφL due out October 4. If you’re going expecting their mind-altering psychedelic freakouts, rumor has it you may be let down. But if you are into the slow roiling drone the band has engaged in in the past but updated and more like a psych SunnO))) this would be the tour to catch. Opening the show is industrial noise band Uniform which is comprised of former members of The Men and Drunkdriver.

What: Brian Wilson (Al Jardine & Blondie Chaplin featuring selections from Friends, Surf’s Up and the hits) w/The Zombies
When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre

What: Eventually It Will Kill You showcase 2nd anniversary: TWINS (ATL), Golden Donna (PDX), Lone Dancer Peer Review b2b E.I.W.K.Y., you already know
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: The anniversary party for Denver electronic music and darkwave imprint Eventually It Will Kill You.

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Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

What: 30 Years of Work: VAHCO 1989-2019 Physical release w/Dead Characters, Chromadrift, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS, Bowshock and Demoncassettecult
When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Vahco Before Horses aka Vahco Strickland has spent the last thirty years involved in producing, promoting and writing music in various formats and styles. This show celebrates his career retrospective and the release of the flash drive containing one hundred of his songs. The performances will include collaborations with various members of bands affiliated with his Glasss Records imprint as well as a showcase for his more electronic pop songs and his industrial ambient collage songwriting as Demoncassettecult.

Saturday | September 21

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Zealot, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Zealot album release w/Simulators and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Zealot is releasing its debut album The Book of Ramifications. But what this debut album doesn’t make obvious are the musical roots of the group in Denver underground rock. Does that matter? It does if you know who The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, Supply Boy, Façade and Ideal Fathers were. Or The Outfit, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer or Fingers of the Sun were. Much less Catatonic Lydia or Le Divorce. All of that goes into informing the upbeat, well-crafted pop songs that comprise the band’s new album and the sizzling, wiry energy of its performances. There is a tick toward the positive running through the record. Rather than a “city of the dead” there’s “City of the Living.” Instead of irrevocable mistakes there’s “Fix it in Post.” Rather than a dark horse there’s a “Show Pony.” Instead of a broken heart there’s “Overloud Heart.” You get “Somnambulist” instead of insomnia. “Black Paint” rather than institutional yellow. A “Snake Goddess” rather than the insecure dictator Yaweh. “Casio Argento” in place of Dario or Asia. And more. It’s an upbeat record with some tight melodies and a charming economy of songwriting. The Simulators will bring the angular menace of its music and Vanilla Milkshakes will deliver earnest, blustery pop punk as companion to Zealot’s fastidious songcraft. Oh yes, there’s also a companion covers album called Revised Edition featuring renditions of all the songs on the new record as done by the band’s local scene peers as well as a solo cover done by the band’s bassist Suzi Allegra. All of which is a gesture not many bands would bother to attempt to release concurrent with a new album.

What: Das Ich w/Velvet Acid Christ, Oberer Todpunkt, DJ Katastrophy
When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway

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Anna Morsett of The Still Tide, photo by Anthony Isaac

What: Charlie Cunningham w/The Still Tide
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Still Tide’s Anna Morsett has played in Colorado musical projects as varied as Ark Life, Porlolo and These United States as well as with Natalie Tate and Brent Cowles. But perhaps where she shines brightest is in her own band The Still Tide. Her guitar work is both ethereal and fiery, her ear for dynamics and tone keen and imaginative. Morsett’s songwriting is both intimate yet expansive, introspective and yearning, reconciling contrasts with a broad emotional palette. And she’s opening for noteworthy UK singer-songwriter Charlie Cunningham whose 2017 album lines included the deeply evocative single “Minimum” and its entrancing atmospheres.

What: Wovenhand w/Jaye Jayle
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Evan Patterson is rightfully known for his heavier music with Young Widows and Breather Resist. But his Jaye Jayle project is taking him in a different direction with a pastoral songwriting style that serves well the contemplative storytelling of the music he initially wrote as a solo project rather than something that needed to fit into the format of a full, loud band. These days he has partners in realizing the musical vision and the results is a kind of haunted Americana. Which makes it an ideal pairing with Americana infused post-punk/noise rock band Wovenhand from Denver. Wovenhand started out as very much in the post-Sixteen Horsepower vein continuing what singer and main songwriter David Eugene Edwards had been developing since the late 80s. But in the past decade the music has become more sonically intense (it was always emotionally so) and incorporating a broader range of dynamics and sounds so that early fans may even find it, except for Edwards’ undeniable spiritual presence, unrecognizable.

What: Bison Bone, Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Greg Laswell w/Sarah Slaton
When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Greg’s warmth and humanity expressed in clever and insightful turns of phrase has made him a national treasure of a songwriter.

What: Future Days: Can Tribute
When: Saturday, 09.21, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Mdou Moctar w/Pale Sun
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mdou Moctar might be the most internationally renowned guitarist and songwriter out of Niger in the modern era and his electric adaptations of Tuareg guitar music has made him a favorite among discerning music fans who are open to such fusions of musical ideas, rhythms and sounds. To the uninitiated he may sound like an exotic prog artist but his music is deep and sophisticated. He is again touring in support of his 2019 album Ilana (The Creator).

What: Seventh Circle 7 year anniversary night 1: 1476, Only Echos, Postnihilist, Causer, Kid Mask, Videodrome, GACK, DOX, Didaktikos, Tuck Knee and secret guests 
When: Saturday, 09.21, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Rarely do anniversaries happen on a numerically specific date related to a venue or an endeavor of any kind of this all day all evening marathon of music across two dates celebrates the continued success of Denver’s DIY venue Seventh Circle Music Collective.

What: Speedealer w/Barstool Messiah and Valiomierda
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver

Sunday | September 22

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Surf Curse, photo by Julien Sage

What: Surf Curse w/Dirt Buyer
When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Surf Curse is a duo from Los Angeles whose name may convey the impression it’s one of those surf rock/garage psych bands that have plagued the musical landscape for around a decade. And to some extent that’s exactly what these guys are. Except there’s something raw about their songwriting and performances and their music videos, whoever is directly involved in their scripting and design, speak to an uncommon creative imagination and as though the people in the band had in mind films that their songs might suit. Pick any of the videos and you’ll find something that’s a cut above most videos most bands are making these days. The band’s new album, Heaven Surrounds You, was released on September 13 on Danger Collective. For a duo Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck manage to have a full sound yet spare songwriting so they’re doing something right.

What: Seventh Circle 7 year anniversary night 2,: JSR (Alex from this band named Seventh Circle), Sliver, Arctobog, Curtis T and the Duffel Bag Boys, Caustic Soda, The Slacks, Unit-Y, Pinetree Janitorial Service, American Psychonaut, Astral Planes, Hellspoon and Activate Boner and secret guest
When: Sunday, 09.22, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Second day of Seventh Circle Music Collective’s seven year anniversary going from early afternoon until midnight.

What: Pop Will Eat Itself w/Chemlab and Scifidelic w/DJ Dave Vendetta
When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Pop Will Eat Itself is a genre bending band that dispensed with the usual stylistic boundaries between grebo, sleaze rock and industrial dance music akin to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Chemlab was one of the bands that helped define the sound and aesthetic of industrial rock in the 90s fusing old school industrial with hard rock.

Monday | September 23

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Acid King, photo courtesy the artists

What: Acid King w/Wizard Rifle and Warish
When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m.
Where: MarquisTheater
Why: Acid King is on tour in support of the twentieth anniversary of its classic psych doom album Busse Woods. The group began in the early 90s when its sound was very much not in vogue but two decades later its heavy, experimental psych metal, not fully duplicated by other artists, has made it a cult band among connoisseurs of that realm of music.

What: God is an Astronaut w/Spiral Cell and Brother Saturn
When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Tuesday | September 24

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Boy Scouts, photo by Ulysses Ortega

What: Jay Som w/Boy Scouts and Affectionately
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jay Som’s hazy pop songs have a personal emotional insight and sophistication of songcraft that can be easy to miss when you’re lost in the moment with her. Her new album Anak Ko blurs the lines between noisy shoegaze, indie pop and the 70s Laurel Canyon sound. Taylor Vick of Boy Scouts has written one of the most affecting, vivid and cathartic set of songs about loss and healing from sorrow and setbacks of the past few years for the new Boy Scouts album Free Company. Her unconventional melodies and song dynamics give her compositions a depth and complexity that reward repeatedly exploring her catalog.

What: Like A Villain, Harms, Earth Control Pill and Debaser
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Like A Villain is sort of an industrial ambient act whose dark and heavily textured atmospheres explore the personal and collective psyche in operatic vocals and processed loops. The new album What Makes Vulnerability Good, released on September 20, 2019, makes exquisite use of space in tone and rhythm that it engulfs you gently before you realize it.

Wednesday | September 25

Photo: Dara Munnis. @daramunnis
Tash Sultana, photo by Dara Munnis (@daramunnis)

What: Tash Sultana w/The Tesky Brothers
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Tash Sultana is a guitar prodigy whose psychedelic rock, blues and folk songs created with her expert ability to play multiple part at once and along with loops is impressive on its own but the energy and enthusiasm with which she plays is infectious. As a multi-instrumentalist, Sultana crafts her songs real time in an almost orchestral manner as an orchestra of one. Difficult to pigeonhole a genre for Sultana as her songwriting style is unique but might be compared to an artist like Tune Yards.

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Russian Circles, photo courtesy the artists

What: Russian Circles w/Facs
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Russian Circles is an instrumental metal band from Chicago but it’s songs are more akin to post-rock in their use of mood and nuanced dynamic builds from spare tonal echoes to roilingly triumphant riffs that burst and rain down like ash following a volcanic eruption or like a dam bursting releasing a torrent of sonic water and debris. Its 2019 album Blood Year finds the band evoking ancient civilizations (“Kohokia”) and primal mythological imagery (“Hunter Moon” and “Ghost on High”). Opening the show is Chicago’s Facs. The latter is making the kind of post-rock that is more like some of the most experimental post-punk going now. Guitarist and vocalist Brian Case was once a member of weirdo math rock band 90 Day Men and experimental rock band Disappears. With Facs he and the rest of the band are pushing the creative envelope with song structure, texture and dynamics. That group’s 2019 EP Lifelike has a secure place on our year end best list for its chilling, cinematic soundscapes and gritty, stark, moody songwriting.

Best Shows in Denver 9/5/19 – 9/11/19

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Kristin Hersh band performs Tuesday, September 10 at the Hi-Dive, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | September 5

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Hot Snakes circa 2018 at the Oriental Theater, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Hot Snakes w/SPELLS
When: Thursday, 09.05, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: It would be too facile to cite biographical information about Hot Snakes at this point. Influential noise rock band from San Diego comprised of former/current members of Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From the Crypt, Pitchfork and Obits. Its shows are incendiary, its songs imbued with a dark yet dry sense of humor and its angular guitar rock also not short on dynamic grooves that seem too confrontational to work as unconventional dance music but don’t tell that to John Reis. The group is currently re-touring in support of its monumental 2018 album Jericho Sirens. If you go early to catch SPELLS, just think of them as an 80% version of Hot Snakes because that’s good enough. And other inside jokes that don’t work on the internet.

What: The 5.6.7.8s w/The Ghoulies and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: The 5.6.7.8s are a lively surf rock and rockabilly band from Japan who came to a larger public consciousness in the West after appearing in Kill Bill Vol. 1. The Ghoulies are a similarly-minded sorta rockabilly garage punk band and The Vanilla Milkshakes will make all the awkward jokes that desperately need to be made and break up the evening some with its well-crafted, outsider pop punk.

What: The Funs, Sweetness Itself, American Culture, Natural Violence
When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: The Funs is a band from Illinois that combines a twee indie pop sensibility with a dream pop sound palette. Think Black Tambourine post-shoegaze. American Culture took the Dinosaur Jr and Meat Puppets thing and put it through an indie pop lens and listened to a bunch of Cure records and came up with something different but bearing the fingerprints of all of that in its sound and ethos. Natural Violence is Michael Stein’s (Homebody, School Knights) latest project. A kind of spindly, super refined post-punk pop band.

What: Mystic Wool, Arc Sol and Total Trash
When: Thursday, 09.05, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Arc Sol is former Silverface guitarist Michael Thompsons’s new band that somehow welds Neil Young-esque rock wih psychedelia without really sounding like he’s trying to be in the same lineage as any of that in the past decade and that’s impressive on its own. Total Trash is a Denver indie rock supergroup including former and current members of Fingers of the Sun, Fissure Mystic, Lil’ Slugger, Quantum Creep and Eyebeams. Mystic Wool’s synth compositions sound as though someone had to go on some prolonged retreat with no access to the internet and just a music player that had the Deerhunter discography, early Air albums, Candy Claws and Harmonia albums.

Saturday | September 7

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Mannequin Pussy, photo courtesy Epitaph

What: TEARS to LI6HT, Hate Minor and Claudzilla
When: Saturday, 09.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This show is a fundraiser for ProgressNow Colorado’s Keep Abortion Safe initiative and it will include sets from experimental electronic artist TEARS to LI6HT, experimental noise rock duo Hate Minor and Claudzilla’s melodica Goth strangeness.

What: Mannequin Pussy w/Destroy Boys and Ellis
When: Saturday, 09.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Mannequin Pussy’s melodic punk is anthemic, emotionally raw and affecting. Like some sort of power pop band from the 80s with the expansive songwriting style and inventive dynamics but whose lyrics are soul searching and pointed but never cruel. The group’s 2016 album Romantic was full of joyful chaos exorcising trauma and sadness with bursts of sound and energy. The new record, 2019’s Patience, is more introspective but no less imbued with the radical vulnerability and personal insight that has made its music worth a deep listen from the beginning.

What: Audio Dream Sister, Whiskey Orphans, Austin Sterling
When: Saturday, 09.07, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Audio Dream Sister hasn’t played in a million years. Meaning maybe in half a decade or more or so it seams. The sludge rock band from Denver was a staple of the heavy rock and punk scene for years and its adept songwriting and psychedelic sensibilities set it apart from the “stoner rock” set of the day.

What: De La Soul w/DJ Mick
When: Saturday, 09.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: De La Soul brought something a little strange to hip-hop when it came onto the scene in the 80s blending psychedelic rock aesthetics with weirdo funk and rap. It also used that perspective to examine social issues from a different angle and in its own way had as incisive a social critique as contemporaries like Public Enemy and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

Sunday | September 8

 

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Old Sport circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: King Crimson
When: Sunday, 09.08, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: King Crimson was one of the earliest of the progressive/art rock bands to have emerged in the late 60s, incorporating classical music concepts and a sense of dramatic orchestration into ambitous rock songs. Its 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King set a creative high water mark for the progressive rock genre with imaginative lyrics and songwriting that employed musical chops with real creativity to write emotionally arresting songs like the title track and “21st Century Schizoid Man.” While guitarist Robert Fripp is the sole remaining original member he has been the musician in the band that has steered the ship consistently from the beginning through its various phases from the early sort of amalgam of folk, rock, jazz, classical and psychedelia through the experimental hard rock phase of the 2000s through to today.

What: King of Heck (NV), Endless, Nameless, Old Sport and Zephyr
When: Sunday, 09.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: King of Heck from Nevada is a “desert rock” band that sounds like it came up on a lot of Gravity Records bands, Fugazi, melodic post-hardcore and modern underground emo. Old Sport from Denver is a great blending of post-hardcore and noisy proto-alternative rock like Dinosaur Jr.

Monday | September 10

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Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Voight, Dancing Plague (OR), French Kettle Station and Luxury Hearse
When: Monday, 09.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A darkwave show at Seventh Circle with Denver’s shoegaze/post-punk/industrial synthesists Voight, EBM/dance Goth group Dancing Plague from Oregon, French Kettle Station and his animated 80s adult contemporary/avant-garde/New Wave music and Luxury Hearse’s beat driven ambient pop.

What: Hazel English w/Modern Leisure
When: Monday, 09.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Hazel English is oft compared to another Oakland, California artist Day Wave. But one might just as well compare her hazy, bright dream pop to the work of Alvvays because it has a similarly wistful and expansive quality that gives one a sense of introspective yearning. Joining her on the bill is Denver indie pop group Modern Leisure. Singer Casey Banker has been crafting some of the more thoughtful and impassioned pop songs out of Denver for more than a decade and Modern Leisure is the continuation of his legacy.

Tuesday | September 10

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Silence in the Snow circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Kristin Hersh (electric trio) w/Fred Abong
When: Tuesday, 09.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kristin Hersh formed post-punk band Throwing Muses with Tanya Donelly in 1981 when both were fourteen years old. But that band went on to be one of the early alternative rock bands that helped to define the aesthetic of the UK record label 4AD with its emotionally powerful music and inventive songwriting. In that band and as a solo artist Hersh has used mythology and culture and her own struggles with mental illness to produce a body of work that is both startlingly intimate and imaginatively far reaching in scope. Her latest record, 2018’s Possible Dust Clouds draws on specific mythologies and personal history to deliver a set of songs that strikes deep emotional chords expressed with Hersh’s signature, textural voice and warmth as well as unconventional rhythms and guitar voicing. Somehow Hersh’s songs seem like manifestations of archetype and the forces of nature cooperating to speak eternal yet personal truth through her.

What: Silence in the Snow, Echo Beds, Blood Loss and Causer
When: Tuesday, 09.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Oakland’s Silence in the Snow sometimes comes off like a neo-darkwave band because it is but its root is an urgent post-punk akin to the likes of Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry and Xmal Deutschland. Its new record Levitation Chamber finds the band mixing ethereal guitar with high emotive vocals and deep, irresistible rhythms.

Best Shows in Denver 9/20/18 – 9/26/18

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Frigs perform 9/25/18 with Natural Violence, American Culture and Law of the Night at Hi-Dive

Thursday | September 20, 2018

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The Voidz, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Propagandhi w/Iron Chic and Cheap Perfume
When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Propagandhi made leftist politics and veganism into some great pop punk songs even as its sound evolved in heavier directions later in its career. From 1993’s humorous yet pointedly political How To Clean Everything to 2001’s opus of politically pointed yet irreverent and fun Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes, Propagandhi were one of the few relatively high profile modern punk bands that didn’t get stuck in pure entertainment and only songs about heartache and everyday life mode. Thankfully the band still hasn’t cynically cashed in with essentially content-free records. Long Island’s Iron Chic seems cut from a similar cloth writing genuinely clever songs pairing meaningful and insightful lyrics with infectiously catchy melodic punk. Colorado Springs’ own Cheap Perfume opens the show with plenty of searing social commentary for an entire evening of music packed into its set.

Who: The Voidz w/Promiseland and The Velveteers
When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: The Voidz released its sophomore record Virtue in March and for those uninitiated its video for “QYURRYUS” suggested some sort of futuristic weirdo psychedelic band but one that took older trash technology and made something new and interesting with it. That Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas was involved in that song and video, a seeming mutant send-up of 80s VHS mashup and modern post-punk and trap, shouldn’t have come as a surprise and yet it did. The rest of the album isn’t all quite as engagingly strange but nevertheless a sprawl of concentrated musical imagination, welcome in a time when such things aren’t in as abundant as one would hope. The previous album, 2014’s Tyranny, had some promising moments but Virtue is where Casablancas and company really want to be in creating music not just a departure from other projects but in making something that is of the moment even when it mines the past for compositional elements recontextualized.

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Murder By Death, photo by Tall James Photography

Who: Murder By Death and William Elliott Whitmore
When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Murder By Death’s latest album The Other Shore sounds like a band that has taken a decisive step to musically reinventing itself while preserving the core of what has made it one of the most interesting bands of the past two decades. Before chamber pop and indie Americana was really much of a thing, Murder By Death had been making that music with a high level of artistry with lyrics that skirted a fine line between the conceptual, the personal, narrative elements and the poetic without coming off as pretentious. The Other Shore, as the album title suggests, showcases a band that has been on a journey since it’s inception to explore its musical interests as an Americana band in a place and a time when post-hardcore and emo was the prevailing form of music around them, and one that wrote music about an imaginary American West with a greater accuracy and resonance than many bands actually from that part of the country. For this tour Murder By Death is joined by its friend and early compatriot in making music out of step with then trends in music. His warm, textured songwriting and singing has the ability to draw you in with the clarity and vivid imagery of his own storytelling. His new record Kilonova on Bloodshot Records is a collection of songs that truly find the great stories in everyday life better than almost anything out this year as yet.

Friday | September 21, 2018

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Meat Beat Manifesto, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Meat Beat Manifesto w/C-Tec, Mondo Obscura and DJ Dave Vendetta
When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Nine Inch Nails and huge swath of 90s and 2000s electronic music acts cite Meat Beat Manifesto as a primary influence. Jack Dangers’ production fingerprints have been all over the musical landscape from the 90s onward. Part of the reason for this is Dangers’ wide-ranging curiosity about various musical styles and technology and techniques involved in making those sounds. He didn’t just dabble in all sorts of techno, EDM, IDM, dub and more, he produced innovative work in all of those sonic realms. MBM’s 1990 album 99% was a landmark in electronic music production and composition perhaps only surpassed immediately afterward by 1992’s Satyricon. But in recent years MBM has released some of its most interesting music to date including the two 2018 albums in an especially fruitfully prolific era of the project with Impossible Star out this past January and a new full-length due out in November. Both records reveal a band that has consistently moved into new realms of sound while maintaining its unique voice in music.

Also on the bill is C-Tec, a dark EBM-esque project of some of that music scene’s luminaries including Jean-Luc DeMeyer of Front 242, Marc Heal of Cubanate, Ged Dention of Crisis NTI and Julian Beeston of Nitzer Ebb. Denver ambient/industrial duo Mondo Obscura opens the show with probably a harder edged of their more hypnotic chill out vibe. If their 2018 album Focus On Black is any indication that shouldn’t be a problem.

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Who: Tribulation and Pallbearer
When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Arvika, Sweden’s Tribulation probably could have become stuck mining the melodic/Gothenburg death metal territory or hybriding that with neo-thrash or Goth-ed out black metal. But its sound is much more interesting and not trying to be all things to all fans of heavy music. Rather, it’s eclectic sound is one that has roots but uses those sonic elements to write layered music with imaginative dynamics that allow for writing songs about occult themes in 2018 without seeming corny. The group’s 2018 album Down Below is sort of to death metal what T.S.O.L.’s 1982 to album Beneath the Shadows was to hardcore.

Who: 7C 6-Year Night #1: Only Echos (album release), Only Souls Die Young and more
When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This Denver DIY space is one of the few places you can go and see something new and good you’ve never heard of on a bill of very different other music every single time. It’s also the main place where younger musicians are going to play for their peers as they develop as artists. What that means is that you can see bands grow from the ground up, which is the most exciting time to see them. Congratulations no Seventh Circle Music Collective in keeping things going for 6 years thus far.

Who: El Ten Eleven w/Tennis System and Picture the Waves
When: Friday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: El Ten Eleven is the Los Angeles based post-rock band whose music you’ve heard in television and film. Its texture and rhythm driven compositions give El Ten Eleven a bit more presence than some of its peers in the realm of instrumental rock. Also on the bill this night is another L.A.-based ethereal rock project with Tennis System. That trio takes the kind of bright, breezy melodies that Depreciation Guild had discovered in melding pure 8-bit electronic composition with dream pop. Tennis System, though, weds the sound with a sort of melancholic, disillusioned yet hopeful tone suggestive of being in a place where all aspirations can supposedly be met but the reality is much less glamorous.

Saturday | September 22, 2018

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Kat Ellinger circa 2005 in Sleepers, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Kat Ellinger tribute/benefit featuring: I’m A Boy, Toddy Walters, The Red Tack, Stereoshifter, New Ben Franklins, Doug and Liz from Sympathy F and Shindei Shashin
When: Saturday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Kat Ellinger was a respected songwriter and singer/musician in Denver from the early 90s until her untimely passing in June 2018. Her bands Worm Trouble and Sleepers should have propelled her into at least the tier of touring bands that plays mid-sized clubs as her knack for writing meaningful, well-crafted rock and pop songs with a strong individual vision was on par with anyone anyone could name from that same time period. Her songs were eclectic, emotionally powerful, honest and accessible. Ellinger herself was an engaging and strong live performer and this show, a benefit for her family, features Denver underground luminaries such as Ted Thacker formerly of Baldo Rex (a band often cited by DeVotchKa as an influence) as The Red Tack, New Ben Franklins playing a rock rather than country set and Doug Seaman and Liz Rose of Sympathy F performing a stripped down set.

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Stonefield, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Frankie And the Witch Fingers w/Stonefield, King Eddie and DJ Ross Taylor
When: Saturday, 09.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kind of a psychedelic party rock show with Frankie And the Witch Fingers from Los Angeles and their Colorado kin with King Eddie. Stonefield, though, is an all female heavy psych band from Australia. The group released its most recent full length Far From Earth in 2018 with a sound somewhere betwixt early solo Dio and Acid Witch and 70s hard rock bands like Uriah Heep.

Who: 7 C 6-Year Night #2: David Liebe Hart, Chip the Black Boy, Whatever Your Heart Desires, Unit-Y, Shwarma, Actobog and more
When: Saturday, 09.22, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Night two of Seventh Circle Music Collective’s 6-year anniversary show with an appearance by eccentric outsider pop artist David Liebe Hart who is responsible for some of the most surreal segments of the already quite strange Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Some have speculated that it’s all an act but what you see is what you get and there is an unmistakable appeal to Hart’s utter sincerity and conviction and faith in his music and art to reach people.

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Iron and Wine, photo by Kim Black

Who: Iron & Wine w/Erin Rae
When: Saturday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Sam Beam’s songs, no matter the format and line-up performing them, always come off like campfire sessions in which everyone shares stories and ideas and autobiographical musings that taking into flights of personal philosophy. That warmth and intimacy sets Bream’s work apart from many of his peers and there is a timelessness to his music akin to that of Cat Stevens or Harry Chapin. His new offering, 2018’s Weed Garden EP, follows on the heels of 2017’s Beast Epic and what many consider to be a return to the stripped down, simple style that made 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days a classic.

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DeVotchKa, photo by Jen Rosenstein

What: On Tap With KBCO featuring DeVotchKa, Cake and Calexico
When: Saturday, 09.22, 12:30
Where: Breckenridge Brewery
Why: This is a show benefitting Take Note Colorado, an organization dedicated to getting musical instruments and lessons to Colorado students K-12. Cake is the alternative rock band that had wry 90s hits like “The Distance” and “Rock and Roll Lifestyle.” Calexico is the excellent Americana/dream pop band with a bit of Southwest flavor. DeVotchKa, the hometown heroes, released its latest album This Night Falls Forever in August. That it’s the group’s first release of an entire album of new material since 2011’s 100 Lovers suggests a period of deep self-doubt, assessing oneself as an artist and as a person and a reinvention without discarding everything. The new record has all the hallmarks of DeVotchKa’s best material—depth of sound space, intricate sonic details that never seem cluttered and excessive and a haunted quality that hints at accepting one’s regrets if not gladly, of loss and calm and grace in the face of an uncertain future. Frankly, it’s music for the current era and comfort in a time of trouble and chaos as DeVotchKa has a gift for tapping into one’s sense of nostalgia and triggering a gentle catharsis.

Monday | September 24, 2018

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Who: The Charlatans UK w/Reyna
When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Charlatans UK were one of the bands whose mix of soul, acid house and psychedelic rock was early associated with the Madchester aesthetic of the late 80s and early 90s. And, thus, what became known as Britpop. The Charlatans were a step removed from Madchester coming from the relatively nearby Western Midlands but were clearly musically kindred spirits. The group’s 1990 debut full-length Some Friendly was recorded when the band had been together for around a year and can be a bit uneven but it yielded an iconic hit with “The Only One I Know.” Throughout the 90s The Charlatans evolved in interesting ways as its members stayed engaged with new sounds and ideas and in growing as artists themselves rather than rest on past laurels. The result has been a string of albums with a familiar element to the songwriting because of Tim Burgess’ strong yet emotionally chameleonic voice, Martin Blunt’s subtle yet fluid bass style perfectly accenting the song dynamics, the late Rob Collins’ (and now Tony Rogers’) ebullient but tasteful keyboard work and Mark Collins’ gift for playing to the song and taking on a broad variety of roles as a guitarist—lead, rhythm, texture, accents.

The Charlatans released a 2017 album called Different Days which is both a reminder that maybe the more recent world of rock and pop has caught up to what The Charlatans have done all along quite well in threading psychedelic rock, classic songwriting about perennial themes and listening to the new music for ideas to not get stuck in one’s own rut and inspiration for the future. In 2018 the Totally Eclipsing EP, comprised of material recorded during the time of Different Days, was released on limited edition 12” green vinyl as well as for download and as a second CD with a deluxe edition of the full-length.

Who: Dr. Montgomery Maxwell, Joohs Uhp, $addy and Shamwow
When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: A good slice of some of Denver’s weirdo/experimental/industrial hip-hop. Dr. Montgomery Maxwell is more on the industrial side of that spectrum though maybe for this show he might not break as much stuff on stage as usual. But you never know. Joohs Uhp sounds like a guy who is way into nü metal and hip-hop and unabashedly all about what some might think is the trashier more ephemeral end of that but has found a way to turn that affection for other people’s supposed trash and turned it into something interesting. Shamwow sounds like, for lack of a better term “slacker trap.” Meaning, to some, it’ll sound like lazily made weird, lo-fit who-knows-what but really it’s well produced, intentional stuff that some fans of “real” hip-hop won’t recognize its quality. But, supposedly, Trev Rich is a fan so there’s that. $addy’s sound is as the name suggest—sort of a melancholic vibe but using beats that sound like they’re right out of a surreal game about being a gamer hacker destroying the horrific international economic system and unlocking achievements by dropping sick 8-bit beats rife with noise and undoubted sonic reference samples from realms of the gaming world most of us have never heard about. Or something like that.

Who: Beck w/Jenny Lewis
When: Monday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Beck made being an utterly eccentric songwriter a commercially viable thing in the 1990s. Maybe he was tapping into the zeitgeist in a way that the alternative rock explosion of the early 90s made possible by speaking to the inner weirdo of a broad audience. There is no reason a song like “Loser,” “Where It’s At,” “Devil’s Haircut” and “The New Pollution” should have been hits to anyone but hipster oddballs except that Beck also employed elements of soul, hip-hop, R&B and interesting but odd cultural references that was a far cooler predecessor to the awkward comedy kick that got more popular in the 2000s. But Beck evolved and his genre splicing became more refined and fascinating with every album from Midnight Vultures onward reflecting perhaps a  particularly focused set of ideas and sounds. Beck simply wouldn’t allow himself to be limited by the expectations of others and trusted his imagination and instincts to be his guide.

Jenny Lewis was an actress in various television shows and films before people knew of her as an actress. But her band with Blake Sennett, another child actor, Rilo Kiley introduced the world to one of the most genuinely clever, incisive and insightful commenters on personal psychology and American culture in Lewis as a lyricist. It didn’t hurt that her emotionally rich and powerful voice put conviction behind those words. Whether in Rilo Kiley, her solo albums, Jenny & Johnny or her recent work in Nice As Fuck, Lewis has consistently been an artist with something to say, singing with a poignant honesty but one informed by a sense reality and kindness.

Who: Boulder Guitar Society: Janet Feder
When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: First United Methodist Church of Boulder
Why: Janet Feder is an educator and master guitarist whose experimental compositions both extend the range and possibilities of the instrument but whose songs have an accessibility and emotional resonance that one doesn’t often associate with a musician that is both an academic and long-standing figure in the musical avant-garde. But just like the human that is Janet Feder, the music is immediately engaging and inviting into an unpretentious creativity that anyone can access.

Tuesday | September 25, 2018

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Jenny Lewis, photo from Jenny Lewis Tumblr

Who: Beck w/Jenny Lewis
When: Tuesday, 09.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For Beck and Jenny Lewis see above for Monday, 09.24.

Who: FRIGS w/Natural Violence, American Culture and Law of the Night
When: Tuesday, 09.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: FRIGS at first listen might remind you of 90s angular post-punk bands like Fugazi, 2000s’ Canadian art guitar groups like Women or the English, experimental rock band Electrelane. That use of layered simple yet intricate and entrancing guitar and rhythm. All intertwined with Bria Salmena’s soulful and expressive vocals. The band’s 2018 debut full-length Basic Behavior is a raw, menacing, atmospheric wail of wiry energy unleashing and transforming the angst and anxiety of this era. The band’s live shows bring some mystery and emotionally-charged physicality to the stage in a way not many bands these days do.

Who: Gringo Star w/Turvy Organ and Shuttles
When: Tuesday, 09.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Before it became too fashionable, Atlanta’s Gringo Star was perfecting its signature psych/soul garage rock sound. What seems lost in some of the assessments of the band, that is hinted at through its numerous music videos, is how the group’s music tells stories from the perspective of urban, Southern youth and its use of musical forms from other parts of the country (surf rock, California psych, Memphis soul/garage rock etc.) as the palette of its imaginative expression. The band’s 2018 album Back to the City finds it in a more wistful mood with a sense of nostalgia that is far more interesting, genuine, personal and poignant than has often been the case in a lot of music of late.

Wednesday | September 26, 2018

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Ms. Lauryn Hill, photo from Ms. Lauryn Hill Facebook

Who: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th anniversary w/Talib Kweli and Shabazz Palaces
When: Wednesday, 09.26, 5:55 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: In 1998 Lauryn Hill announced herself as a solo artist of note with the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill after having parted ways with her former band, the popular and influential R&B hip-hop group The Fugees. On the strength of promotional singles and name recognition alone, the record was probably destined to top the Billboard charts. But the record struck a chord with a strong yet nuanced evocation of the experience of women’s experiences as well as Hill’s sheer stylistic range. And Hill didn’t write the album with the commercial audience in mind. Yes, it’s well-produced and written, of course, but it’s also a raw and honest record that is accessible to a broad audience because of those qualities. The record has rightfully come to be seen as a classic of neo soul but it’s also one of the greatest albums of the 90s for the vitality of its creative vision. As a bonus you get to see Talib Kweli and Shabazz Palaces. Kweli is one of America’s most important social critics and one of its greatest hip-hop artists. Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces could have merely been a legendary of alternative hip-hop as a member of Digable Planets. But in Shabazz Palaces with Tendai Maraire he is exploring experimental realms of sound, noise and rhythm that is pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop can sound like, look like and be.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 02/15/18 – 02/21/18

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Church Fire performs Friday 2/16/18 at BarFly. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Thursday | February 15, 2018

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Night Beats circa 2011 at Rhinoceropolis. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Who: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club w/Night Beats
When: Thursday, 02.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: B.R.M.C. has tried out different sounds and ideas across its career. From its 2001 post-punk/shoegaze debut album, to the bluesy 2005 record Howl and now the refined, gritty depth of sound field of 2018’s Wrong Creatures. What is most noteworthy with the album is that the band has managed to make a rock and roll record without obviously ripping off some worn out classic rock tropes. The trio also incorporated industrial soundscaping and noise without ever sounding like one of those forgettable 90s industrial rock bands. An achievement in itself. Opening is Seattle’s mutant psychedelic rock quartet Night Beats. On its latest album, 2016’s Who Sold My Generation, it sounded like the band had shed the garage rock elements of its earlier sound in favor of noisier, stranger music like guys had gone on a spiritual journey into the wilds of the Cascades accompanied by the music of Chrome, Spacemen 3 and Silver Apples and come back into the welcoming arms of 13th Floor Elevators before writing their new material. When a lot of modern rock bands are playing it safe at least it seems as though B.R.M.C. And Night Beats don’t want to bore themselves or us.

Who: Eventually It Will Kill You Vol. III: Many Blessings cassette release w/Natural Violence, Prison Glue and Law of the Night
When: Thursday, 02.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Meadowlark Bar
Why: If you’re just dropping into the Meadowlark after your rigorous parkour and yoga workout tonight, just go elsewhere. This is a noise show and a celebration of the release of the latest Many Blessings tape, Ripe Earth. The album, released on Brian Castillo’s new Kill You Club imprint, is nearly seventy minutes of deep cavern soundscapes that sometimes come off like the decayed transmissions of a broken broadcasting A.I. of the future that generates otherworldly true crime style fiction, the likes of which regular humans would never come up with on our own. Prison Glue is Kevin Wesley, formerly of local noise rock legends Hot White, and every set is different but always some interesting noise experiment and never quite in the same format. Also on the bill is Natural Violence, a project of Homebody’s Michael Stein. Not really noise per se and more like a synth-driven soundtrack to a crime drama written by Paul Reubens. The 2017 EP Synthetic Peace was one of the more interesting releases of last year.

Who: Voight, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, Anime Love Hotel and Dream Hike
When: Thursday, 02.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: A different kind of noise show tonight at Syntax. Voight isn’t a noise band though both Nick Salmon and Adam Rojo both more than merely dabble in their solo npose projects, Stye and Diffuser respectively. Its own noisy post-punk songs are somehow both moody and confrontational, haunting yet visceral. Breakdancing Ronald Reagan put out the Harsh Noise cassette on Self Sabotage Records at the end of January, a collection of pieces that live up to the name of the album but also proof that even harsh noise can have nuance, composition and musicality even if it’s put together to push buttons, assault the ears and otherwise transform expectations of experience for something coming out of a P.A. anywhere. Dream, Hike is more in the world of experimental, electronic dance music but Dean Inman is no stranger to his chosen format of expression with sound to challenge what purpose the music serves as something to experience by making beats that aren’t purely for people to chill out and passively dance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just that Dream Hike is more than the times when he makes music designed for that sort of thing as well.

Friday | February 16, 2018

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Atomga, photo by Atomga

Who: Atomga Aga EP release w/The Dendrites and Jericho Son of None
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Atomga is one of a few Afrobeat artists in Denver with the sprawling lineup to manifest the mixture of jazz, funk, Ghanaian highlight the polyrhythmic music of West Africa that was pioneered by composer/musician and political figure Fela Kuti in the 60s and 70s. The band’s new EP Aga is four songs and it sounds like the band has delved into more Middle Eastern musical ideas. In the live setting, Atomga has a forceful and celebratory presence. Also on the bill, one of the few great Denver ska bands, The Dendrites. Great because they don’t sound third wave or overly two-tone revival or trying to be some other band. There’s a lot of imitation in ska but The Dendrites are originals.

Who: Hands of Midnight, Roger Green and Church Fire
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: Hands of Midnight is an electronic project that seems to be operating at the intersection of dub, psychedelia and deep house. Half of the group is Bill Murphy, former guitarist with the late, great Denver post-punk band The Swayback. Roger Green has been all over the place musically having perhaps first come to prominence in Denver with space rock/pop band Idle Mind. Though likely more well-known for having been a member of dream pop band The Czars, Roger Green’s avant-garde and experimental music like his typewriter orchestra is some of the most interesting sonic art the guy has been up to. He has also written some fine singer-songwriter music and a long-time lecturer on the psychedelic experience and the associated music. For this bill, who knows? Maybe Green has a secret electronic dance music set up his sleeve. Whatever it is, it’ll be worth witnessing. To call Church Fire an intense electronic dance/dream pop band would be like saying Alejandro Jodorowsky made the original midnight movie.

Who: Murs w/Stay Tuned, ItsEvi and ROOKE5
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Murs more or less got his big break, if such can be said without overstating the point, as a member of influential underground hip-hop collective Living Legends. But since then he has more than made a name for himself as a solo artist for his literate, perceptive and vibrantly emotional lyrics. These days, as back in his early days, Murs’ voice is refreshingly out of step with hip-hop trends. He raps and speaks his words while rendering his vocals musical without singing. It’s a bit of an older approach but one that Murs has successfully creatively evolved across his long career. His new album, A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable on March 16, 2018. One of the opening acts for this bill is Stay Tuned which includes one of Denver’s best producers, DJ Awhat, and two of its most charismatic MCs, Ichiban and Mane Rok. Their shows are an audio-visual experience that puts a clever and incisive spin on personal experiences as well as some of the most on point social commentary out of Denver.

Who: Zavala, Mux Mool, Big J. Beats
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: Zavala is a Chicago-based artist whose beats and modular synths puts him in league with the better IDM and dub techno artists. His latest album is Fantasmas. Mux Mool is originally from Minneapolis but he’s been working with Michael Menert of Pretty Lights on Club Scout and has relocated to Denver. His brand of IDM is a kind of brighter and more playful hip-hop beat making. Big J. Beats may be known locally as a hip-hop artist but his beats are in the realm of 90s and 2000s alternative hip-hop with his creative use of noise, sounds and atmosphere, like he’s crafting soundtracks to chill, fantastical realms you’d really want to visit.

Who: Judge w/faim, Screwtape and Fortune’s Fool
When: Friday, 02.16, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Judge formed in 1987 as hardcore was well on its way to splintering as a subculture. But in presenting a more militant than ever straight edge image and adopting a harder sound, Judge had the kind of desperation, immediacy and pointedly political messaging of the newly grindcore Napalm Death whose own 1987 album created a blueprint for a different style of extreme music. So it only seems fitting that local heavy hitters in the hardcore realm, faim and Screwtape, are two of the opening bands because both bands are pushing hardcore into interesting directions at a time when that music could really use some innovation that doesn’t water down its essential appeal.

Saturday | February 17, 2008

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The Hits’ cover for the new album, Breakthrough. Image courtesy The Hits.

Who: The Hits album release show w/Love Stallion, Hot Apostles, Sharone & The Wind
When: Saturday, 02.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Denver’s The Hits is releasing its second full-length album BreakThrough tonight. The album is fourteen tracks of gritty, melodic rock songs that balance energetic drive with an unpretentious poetic sensibility. Yes, the songs are about love, life’s frustrations and conflicted emotions. But the latter is what gives the band’s songs a subtle complexity that far too many rock bands either try to avoid or are incapable of in the first place. Hot Apostles is a like-minded band but with more of a bluesy, hard rock flavor. And, again, Hot Apostles bring to the songwriting not just the passion but a mature person’s perspective on relationships and life in general. Likely opening the show is Sharone & The Wind. Since the band’s inception in the Spring and Summer of 2016 it has quickly evolved from a piano-centered hard rock band to a darker, more metallic without being metal, project with a surprising level of emotional intensity coursing through the music. The band has gone through a significant lineup change since the release of 2017’s excellent Storm and apparently we’ll see another record from the band this year.

Who: Murs w/Tristan Moore and Stay Tuned, Redcoat Kid, Kanon Lebron
When: Saturday, 02.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre
Why: For Murs and Stay Tuned see entry for the Murs show on Friday, February 16.

Sunday | February 18, 2018

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Real Estate, photo by Shawn Brackbill

Who: Real Estate w/Bedouine
When: Sunday, 02.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The first three Real Estate albums garnered a sizeable fan base and critical acclaim for its tasty jangle rock riffs and spare but evocative lyrics. But something about it felt a bit one dimensional and, well, tame yet promising. Seven years after forming, in 2016, long time friend of the band Julian Lynch steps in to replace Matthew Mondanile. Rather than merely stepping in as a lead guitarist to play like Mondanile, Lynch was encouraged to bring his innovative, much more experimental, guitar style to the next record, 2017’s In Mind. The well composed songwriting is still in place but there’s an added dimension to the songs that give space for experiments in atmosphere and texture. It’s rarely overt and obvious, which makes it all the more interesting an intentional choice than if the band had scrapped it’s older sound completely. At times the songs are reminiscent of Paracosm-period Washed Out or The War on Drugs, but the intersection of gently rippling rhythm and Courtney’s sparkly, melodic guitar and Lynch’s expansive sensibilities instantly made Real Estate an interesting band rather than one merely noteworthy because it touched many people’s nostalgia centers.

Monday | February 19, 2018

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The Weather Station (Tamara Lindeman), photo by Perry Shimon

Who: Bahamas and The Weather Station
When: Monday, 02.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Afie Jurvanen is the main force behind Toronto’s Bahamas. Though designated as folk, if you listen to Jurvanen’s records his compositions may have that kind of simple, immediately accessible structure and his presentation of the music has the feel of being included in an intimate performance, but his layering of sounds combines a full sound like a chamber pop band with a stripped down quality. It’s not for everyone but it does set him apart from many other indie folksters. The Weather Station got started around the same time as Bahamas, also in and around Toronto, with similar roots in folk music. But Tamara Lindeman’s vibrant voice is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde. A similar cadence and tonality. Lindeman’s guitar style is composed almost as sketches of the scenes and experiences she describes in her vivid lyrics. The nuanced thinking and penetrating observational quality of Lindeman’s words matched with her moody and warm compositions, smoothly yet evocatively dynamic, make for some compelling listening. The latest release from The Weather Station is the band’s self-titled 2017 album.

Tuesday | February 20, 2018

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Company of Thieves, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Walk the Moon w/Company of Thieves
When: Tuesday, 02.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: If you look at Company of Thieves’ discography it’s not sprawling with artifacts of their development as a band. If you got to see the band come up in its hometown of Chicago maybe you got a hold of some tracks, homemade CDs and cassettes. As many bands have done since Company of Thieves got going in 2007. With, according to singer Genevieve Schatz, eight line-up changes (all including band co-founder Marc Walloch) that one might expect in a band that has been around that long without breakthrough commercial success. And Company of Thieves itself went on hiatus for a for a few years during which Schatz released a solo EP and Walloch played bass in AWOLNATION. But in 2017 the band announced it was back together with a short batch of songs ready to release in the new year with lead single, “Treasure.” Though obviously a pop band, with “Treasure,” COT includes political samples as one might expect to hear in an industrial or hip-hop song and uses the sample as a jumping off point to say something when it would be easier to just have written an incredibly catchy song.

Who: Mac Sabbath w/Galactic Empire
When: Tuesday, 02.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Yes, it is indeed that terrifying, McDonald’s-themed heavy metal band. The show is surreal and yet disturbing as only truly committed performance artists can be while putting on a show that can still be appropriate for an all-ages audience.

Wednesday | February 21, 2018

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Snarky Puppy, photo by Christian Thomas

Who: Snarky Puppy w/Sirintip
When: Wednesday, 02.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Snarky Puppy managed to bring together jazz fusion, funk, jam band free flowing, spontaneous songwriting and non-Western music without it coming off like they’re trying too hard. There is a clarity to its maximalist compositions and Bernie Worrell-esque keyboard work that suggest more than one person in the band studied pop music without being chained to its sometimes limiting conventions. Jazz may be the root but Snarky Puppy has thankfully abandoned the ossified instincts of much modern jazz as well. The band is sprawling in membership, totally coincidentally perhaps with it being from Denton from which hail The Polyphonic Spree, but the music has a coherence and focus that you’d expect from a chamber orchestra. The project’s latest record is 2016’s Grammy winning Culcha Vulcha but it looks like there’s a new record in the works with a tentative 2018 release.

Best Shows in Denver 11/02/17 – 11/08/17

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A$APMOB performs at 1stBank Center on Friday, November 3. Photo by Alexander Bortz

 

Thursday: November 2, 2017

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Bison Bone, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Surfacing: Seal Eggs, Bluebook and Pearls and Perils
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Europa Coffeehouse
Why: This is the latest edition of Surfacing, the music showcase put on by the Titwrench Collective which, of course, throws the Titwrench Festival in late summer in Denver. The festival focuses on women and LGBTQIA makers of music, generally in an experimental vein. This night is certainly well within that realm with Seal Eggs from Colorado Springs who performs a kind of ambient/experimental electronic music with operatic vocals. Bluebook is Julie Davis and her commanding use of cello, loops and her powerful voice. Pearls and Perils is sort of an experimental hip-hop/downtempo project from Olivia Perez whose dark, cool vibe is a departure from her old band Gloam, which was more in the vein of an noisy alterna-prog band. Perez has been a member of Key Lady & The Frontstrangers, which mostly evolved into RAREBYRD$ and some of that mysterious production quality is present in the soundscapes of Pearls and Perils.

Who: Bison Bone w/The Reals and Larry Nix
When: Thursday, 11.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Bison Bone masterfully blends alt-country with experimental guitar rock with thoughtful, evocative storytelling. One is struck by how Courtney Whitehead and the rest of the band make their take on country and rock very much their own thing. You hear nods to Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and others who connected the rootsy warmth of country with an otherworldly energy except that Bison Bone is connected to another realm of the cosmos and the songs transform intense, potentially soul crushing pain into inspiration and catharsis.

Who: Ultra Metal Pre-Show
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Johnathan Cash aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan moved to Denver in 2017 after having performed at Denver noise events and Denver Noise Fest several times over the years. Now he has put together the sort of event he used to put on while living in Austin with Ultra Metal. It’ll include legendary noise/industrial acts like The Haters, Page 27 and Anime Love Hotel as well as noteworthy local staples of the noise world like Morlox, Solypsis, Blarney Mumble and Acidbat. Tonight’s opening ceremonies of the festival also includes Scammers from Kansas City. Phil Diamond of Scammers usually performs solo with his signature crooning voice sounding like he could have been a studio singer for Motown. But he also generally aims for whatever creative music strikes him and has toured on a Harry Potter-inspired electro pop album. Best believe that said album is as interesting and sonically adventurous as anything else Diamond has done. 2017’s Love is a Rough Cut Stone is Diamond’s take on modern R&B-inflected synth pop. Think in the vein of Purity Ring if they collaborated with Drake. Anyone interested in attending any of the three nights of Ultra Metal, or has other questions about the events, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Friday: November 3, 2017

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Cocordion, photo by Cocordion

 

Who: A$AP Mob w/Key! and Cozy Boys
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: A$AP Mob is the New York City-based hip-hop collective that, along with Odd Future from Los Angeles, have taken a more commercial hip-hop sound and aesthetic and injected it with innovative musical ideas, adopting sounds and styles of music that were before only really embraced by “alternative” hip-hop groups. The result has been, whether among individual artists like A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Twelvy, or as a collective, a more sonically interesting listening to go along with the usual, clever wordplay commenting on the vagaries of various kinds of relationships, life in urban America and popular culture and where all of those intersect and inform one another. The collective’s latest release, 2017’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, is not as strong as albums released by individual members of A$AP (including Twelvy’s debut solo effort, 12) and it’s still steeped in trap production but still worth a listen and certainly the live show will be visually dynamic and include material from across the collective’s career.

 

Who: Cocordion album release w/Copyleft and Ancient Elk 
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Expectations is the first full-length album from Cocordion, a self-proclaimed lo-fi indie rock band based in Colorado Springs. Though the second release from the band, it is the product of a great deal of creative exploration and honing and refining musical instincts and chops playing in other bands—most notably, perhaps, is Mitchell Macura’s playing keyboards in Eros and the Eschaton. Expectations is an fitting title for an album whose themes include the various demands, welcome and very much otherwise, placed on us by society, the people in our lives and by our own psyches. It also references the concept of creative collaboration and what everyone brings to a project and expects of each other and themselves in that potentially precarious relationship and how such experiments can yield something greater than can an individual effort that depends on the dreams, energy and drive of an individual.

According to a recent interview we conducted with Mitchell (his brother Mason is also in the band) he believes that great creative work can come out of an individual vision that is strong and guides the work. Certainly the history of music bears this out and as a musician he has certainly contributed to realizing someone else’s creative vision. But for this new album, Macura decided to further push the project out of being a solo project, where it started, and allow the music to cohere between the three musicians (the Macura brothers and Thom Spano). For a lo-fi band the record is beautifully detailed with tones, flowing/intersecting atmospheres and textural percussion. Also on the bill is folk-inflected, experimental psychedelic rock band Ancient Elk.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 1
When: Friday, 11.03, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: This is the official first night of Ultra Metal, the noise festival being thrown by Johnathan Cash of Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. Cash recently relocated to Denver from Austin but he’s no stranger to Denver or the Mile High City’s noise scene as he’s performed locally regularly for years including sets at various editions of Denver Noise Fest. Tonight you can see the infamous noise project The Haters who have roots in Denver but affiliation with noiseniks and performance art legends Survival Research Laboratories. Also, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan will do a collaboration set with Chicago’s The Rita, hip-hop beatmaker/breakbeat phenom Morlox will play in the late hours and ambient maestro Solypsis will perform earlier in the evening. Plus much more. Those interested in attending or anyone with any questions of the festival should contact the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: The Hollow “Sleep Talkin” video release w/Silver & Gold and Post Paradise
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: The Hollow is a rarity in Denver. The group is almost as straightforward rock as you can get without being boring. They’e absorbed what works for a lot of modern rock bands that aren’t tapping into a classic rock vibe. Its hard-edged yet melodic songs are atmospheric enough to escape being mundane and they don’t run from writing hooks. The group is celebrating the release of its video for “Sleep Talkin’”. The band’s music isn’t for everyone and its message of positive mental attitude may strike some as odd but at least it’s not phony and neither are the sentiments in its songwriting.

Who: The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Cold Cave
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Jesus and Mary Chain is basically the foundational band for the shoegaze genre. Okay, JAMC, Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3. But JAMC is the band that pushed the use of fuzz in a popular music context to newer extremes than before but wedding those massive sounds to classic pop songwriting. When the JAMC were coming together, they rejected the musical tropes of the day, choosing instead to embrace 60s pop music as produced by Wall of Noise pioneer Phil Spector, much as did the Ramones. But JAMC needed to do something that would be purely easily absorbed and co-opted by music even from the underground. Because of that, the band’s music has aged well and doesn’t sound dated. By carving out their own classic sound, steeped in an older classic sound, the Mary Chain has retained its mystique and its cool well past what might be predicted to be its sell-by date. Opening is Cold Cave, the project of Wesley Eisold who has explored a variety of musical ideas in his career including his former musical life playing in hardcore bands. Cold Cave is more in the darkwave vein of synth-driven post-punk reminiscent of pre-Technique New Order but with a modern flavor revealing Eisold’s deep familiarity with 21st century electronic music production.

Saturday: November 4, 2017

Novasak
Novasak circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rowboat, The Raritans and Jukebox Spiders
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Denver’s Rowboat doesn’t play many shows these days. Its primary songwriter, Sam McNitt, played in space rock/indie rock band Blue Million Miles for several years in the late 2000s through the early 2010s. Rowboat was initially McNitt’s outlet for continuing to write his more directly folk-influenced music. Not the usual folk sort of thing because McNitt’s highly emotional, introspective songs have a haunted intensity that gives his music a force a lot of folk simply doesn’t have.

Who: The Corner Girls, Surf Mom, Gamma Death Wave and Phallic Meditation 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: The Corner Girls play a social critically informed surf rock with punk attitude. And, unlike way too many bands in the last two decades, it’s not a “clever” name as it’s an all female band. Maybe it’s been done before but one noteworthy thing about The Corner Girls is that the band isn’t trying to come off tough and aggo but doesn’t mince words either. It’s like a reinvention of punk for many of us that get bored with the hypermasculine model of a style of music that had in its heart in the beginning the detournement of outmoded social conventions. Plus the songs are good, catchy, well-crafted pop music that doesn’t bother with dumbing down. Similar things could be said about Surf Mom except Surf Mom sounds nothing like The Corner Girls. Molly McGrath’s guitar work is more abrasive at times and her expressions of anger have a thoughtfulness and sensitivity to them without blunting the sometimes pointed rhetoric.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 2
When: Saturday, 11.04, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Second and final night of noise festival Ultra Metal. Tonight you can catch 8-bit grindcore band Rainbowdragoneyes, the mighty Novasak and what one might hope is his amp setup aimed at realigning the molecules of your body back to the proper place through sheer low end sculpting, Sheet Metal Skingraft’s industrialized, ambient harsh noise and an early set from the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27. For more information on and questions about the event, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: Brother Sister Hex (EP release), Jane Doe and Granny Tweed 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Brother Sister Hex is releasing its third, and latest, EP End Times tonight at Lion’s Lair. The band combines elements of bluesy sludge rock with a touch of moody, perhaps brooding, atmospheres. Difficult to compare the band with anyone else without getting a little clumsy like Dead Weather, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age. Heavy but without sounding beholden to the classic rock era like a lot of modern rock and roll bands seem to be. Also on the bill is Jane Doe, the noisy, experimental rock band fronted by Becca Mhalek who has played saxophone with avant-jazz dub noiseniks Nightshark, a bit with Nels Cline and in Denver’s free jazz weirdo combo Aenka. In Jane Doe she doesn’t play any instruments, instead demonstrating singing and poetry chops as a cathartic frontwoman.

Sunday: November 5, 2017

Vic Mensa
Vic Mensa, photo by Frank Ockenfels III

Who: Jay Z and Vic Mensa
When: Sunday, 11.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Why: Before becoming one of the most commercially successful hip-hop artists in the history of the artform, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter paid a lot of dues playing support to Big Daddy Kane, working with DMX and Ja Rule in their respective careers and before that getting by however he could growing up in a single parent household in pre-gentrification in Brooklyn. But out of all of that came his 1996 debut full-length album Reasonable Doubt, which included contributions from Biggie, Mary J. Blige, DJ Premier and other hip-hop luminaries. Since that time Carter has worked with most of the big names in the world of hip-hop and has had plenty of beef with various artists, but up to and including his 2017 album 4:44, Jay Z, like most great songwriters, uses the medium of music to use autobiography as a vehicle for commenting on culture and social issues from a deeply personal perspective. In his case, despite his wealth, it is a perspective that distills common experiences from a broad spectrum of the urban American experience into something in the grand tradition of creative social commentators like Mark Twain.

Vic Mensa dropped his debut full-length album The Autobiography this past summer. The title could be seen as a bit premature for an artist who turned 24 in June. But Mensa has been on a steep and ambitious trajectory in his career. Which would mean nothing if his energy and talent weren’t there as well as taste and imagination. All of that is evident on The Autobiography. Mensa’s songs combine beats seamlessly with what sound like either instrumental sections or samples that don’t try to transform the source material into having a different sonic quality. In that way there is an organic, human quality to the record that plays to the opposite instincts of the boastful end of hip-hop. The album has a large sound and Mensa’s confidence contagious but it sounds like you’re hearing the stories of people you know with all the grounding details that renders the mundane mythical.

 

Tuesday: November 7, 2017

Beach Slang
Beach Slang, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Beach Slang – Drunk of Lust tour w/Dave Hause and The Mermaid and Hannah Racecar 
When: Tuesday, 11.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis
Why: James Alex sure doesn’t play the shows in Beach Slang like he’s two going on three decades in music. As a member of post-hardcore band Weston from 1990 to 2011, Alex had to sustain a level of enthusiasm that would burn out most people two or three years in. But he seems to have brought that energy into Beach Slang when that band got going in 2013. Alex’s schtick probably strikes some as forced or phony but the thoughtful and emotionally stirring words whether in lyrics or its various shared words seem poignantly sincere. Part lo-fi indie rock, part unabashed power pop-flavored punk, Beach Slang has always had a vibe like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Clash without sounding like either. The group’s latest release is the Here I Made This For You: Volume 2 EP.

Wednesday: November 8, 2017

Tyler The Creator
Tyler the Creator, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Night Shapes, Body Meat and Natural Violence 
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Night Shapes is a gritty post-punk band from Oakland. Its latest cassette, Wake Up, is being released on Denver’s Heavy Dose Records imprint. It’s sound is more like the noisy, warped, serpentine rhythm type that you hear in bands like Pop. 1280 and Protomartyr rather than the bands that are clearly tapping into Joy Division and the Cocteau Twins (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That the band is sharing the bill with the math-rock-esque Body Meat and the dark synthwave Natural Violence from Denver is only fitting, especially considering Heavy Dose also released the latter’s excellent 2017 release, Synthetic Peace.

Who: Tyler the Creator w/Taco
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: As one of the co-founders of the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator has been involved in making some of the most innovative hip-hop of the past decade. His wordplay is genuinely clever if perhaps the language isn’t for everyone (throwing f-bombs and not as in “fuck” and the n-bombs are understandably tricky to defend). But the beats and his willingness to draw on some truly unexpected corners of music and sampling from musicians other hip-hop artists generally don’t are what make Tyler’s albums so consistently interesting. For example, 2017’s deeply and colorfully atmospheric, jazz-inflected Flower Boy includes elements of “Spoon” by psychedelic prog band Can.

Who: Shigeto w/Ela Minus and Lemon Future
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Zachary Shigeto Saginaw writes the beat-driven, melodic kind of abstract hip-hop that synthesizes the aesthetics of that form of music, techno, house, jazz and ambient. More so on the house end with his most recent record, 2017’s The New Monday. But Shigeto uses live percussion to craft samples in the live setting and on recordings that give his beats an organic feel that would be difficult to fully execute with pure electronics. Thus his music is more suited for an intimate, small venue environment rather than stadium EDM like some artists who are mining similar, if not as fascinating, sonic landscapes.