Best Shows in Denver 1/9/20 – 1/15/20

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Oryx performs at Hi-Dive on January 9, 2020, photo by Alvino Salcedo

Thursday | January 9

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The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Oryx, Cthonic Deity and Zygrot
When: Thursday, 1.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: In the realm of Denver extreme metal it would be hard to find a more solid line-up this month than this. Oryx is perhaps rightfully considered a doom band but its wall of noise is a shifting, mind-altering experience that creatively uses drones and riffs to comment on the world in a way the reflects and exorcises the sense of despair at the way our economic and political system normalizes the ways in which our lives are eroded through the environment, the fake prosperity figures that hide the poverty and desperation that permeates much of society in America and elsewhere and a cultural climate that favors a cultural identity anchored to the fortunes of the world’s oligarchs. And yet it’s not a bummer, there are hopes and dreams in its grinding and harrowing aesthetic. Cthonic Deity released one of the most promising fusions of death metal and hardcore with 2019’s Reassembled in Pain. Zygrot is a crusty grindcore quartet that releases its self-titled debut in September 2019.

What: Billy the Poet, The Maykit and Chella and The Charm
When: Thursday, 1.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: The Milk Blossoms w/Turvy Organ and Midwife
When: Thursday, 1.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Friday | January 10

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Don Chicharrón, photo by Spencer Higbee

What: Don Chicharrón, Roka Hueka, TúLips, DJ Charlie Continental, Dos Luces Brewery, benefit show for Casa de Paz & Metro Denver Sanctuary
When: Friday, 1.10, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: As indicated above this is a benefit show for Casa de Paz & Metro Denver Sanctuary, organizations aiding the local immigrant populations. It features some of the the city’s best Latin music-inflected acts. Also for this show Don Chicharrón is releasing its new 7” “Valle b/w En La Gruta Del Rey De La Montaña” through Snappy Little Numbers the proceeds from the sales of which will benefit the same organizations.

What: Space in Time, The Honey Blazer Band and Star Garbage
When: Friday, 1.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Empty Caskets, Piss Poor, Moon Phase, Cagemates
When: Friday, 1.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Daikaiju w/Lost Relics, Stone Deaf and Messiahvore
When: Friday, 1.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Daikaiju is a flame wielding, Kabuki/La Lucha Libre-looking, acrobatic, surf rock/punk spectacle of the highest order.

Saturday | January 11

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I’m A Boy, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Origami Angel, Short Fictions, Flora De Luna and Obtuse
When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Origami Angel is a band from the Washington, D.C. area that is mining a similar sonic territory as bands in the past half decade or more going beyond the neo-pop punk into a hybrid of math-y emo and indie pop. So a bit retro but at least not yet another band thinking it is discovering Laurel Canyon all over again and with earnest, heartfelt performances. Obtuse is a like-minded band from Denver whose 2019 album Who’s Askin’ is a gloriously raw and incisive examination of one’s insecurities as a normal reaction to a society and economic system seemingly designed to make everyone feel like an inadequate failure. Their songs are an acknowledgment of those anxieties and an attempt to not be completely sunk by them.

What: New Ben Franklins and I’m a Boy 7” split release
When: Saturday, 1.11, 10 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Long running alt-country/American band New Ben Franklins and power pop sensations I’m A Boy are releasing their split 7” tonight at The Skylark.

What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and Today’s Paramount
When: Saturday, 1.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

What: Dressy Bessy w/Pout House, Television Generation
When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: To Be Astronauts w/Too Many Humans, Decatur and Star Garbage
When: Saturday, 1.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Sunday | January 12

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The Vanilla Milkshakes with Frank Registrato on drums circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Total 80s Live with Bow Wow Wow w/When in Rome and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Sunday, 1.12, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Bow Wow Wow is an English New Wave band assembled by then Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1980 when he convinced members of Adam Ant’s band to form a new group that was fronted by 13-year-old Annabella Lwin who McLaren had heard singing along to the radio at her laundromat job. The other singer of the band in the beginning was George O’Dowd who left the group early and became famous as Boy George of Culture Club and as a solo artist. Bow Wow Wow somehow managed to break into the mainstream with hit songs like “C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!” and a lively cover of The Strangeloves’ 1965 recording of “I Want Candy.” This current version of the band will not include Lwin who hasn’t been in this iteration of Bow Wow Wow since 2013, now performing as Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” So while it won’t be the original line-up except for bassist Leigh Gorman, you can hear those hits as well as When in Rome whose 1987/1988 single “The Promise” has been a staple of 80s synth pop playlists for decades. The Vanilla Milkshakes are a pop punk band with attitude and an offbeat sense of humor that will probably make the nostalgia seekers wonder how they got on the bill but end up liking a lot of the songs in spite of themselves.

Wednesday | January 15

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e-scapes, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Yao Guai, Lady of Sorrows and e-scapes
When: Wednesday, 1.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes ambient prog project Yao Guai, emotionally expressive darkwave solo act Lady of Sorrows and experimental synth pop composer e-scapes.

What: Miró Quarter
When: Wednesday, 1.15, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Newman Center (Denver University)

What: Ceasefire, Disowned, Barking Mad, Pontius Pilate and ASALT
When: Wednesday, 1.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Best Shows in Denver 06/13/19 – 06/19/19

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Tacocat, performs at Larimer Lounge on Saturday, June 15. Photo by Helen Moga

Thursday | June 13

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Turvy Organ, photo by Jake Cox

What: Turvy Organ album release w/Panther Martin, Sour Boy Bitter Girl
When: Thursday, 06.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Ghost at the Feast is Denver indie rock band Turvy Organ’s new record. What has always set the group apart from the oft-necessary but lazy “indie rock” overarching term is that it most certainly is not operating to jump on some trendy sound or bandwagon. Yes, you’ll hear the echoes of Modest Mouse in some of Ilya Litoshik’s vocals but from there the dynamics of the music and the songwriting is too idiosyncratic to fit into the mold of anyone else. The new album has what sounds like a story arch trying to make sense of a deep yearning for place and identity and coming to accept things as they are. Very Zen. But that journey is one worth taking with the band. There isn’t a single sonic flavor Turvy Organ employs across the album except for maybe some tasty, energetic melodic bass lines. That may even be how the record ties together outside of Litoshik’s highly charged and wide-ranging vocals. Splicing together post-punk moodiness and wiry energy with the frayed musical and emotional edges of 90s lo-fi rock, Turvy Organ has not just come to terms with what it’s about as a band The Ghost at the Feast but with what it’s like to be an underground rock band at this juncture in our culture where if you’re not doing it for the right reasons you’ll undermine your goals by not seeming honest.

What: TOKiMONSTA w/Holly and Blackbird Blackbird
When: Thursday, 06.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Club Vinyl
Why: TOKiMONSTA garnered a name for herself for crafting imaginative and lush downtempo beats that wouldn’t be out of place in the body of work of some of the more melancholy artists on the Warp and Stones Throw roster. She has a real gift for expansive, complimentary synth lines and multiple layers of percussion to accent the tempo of her songs. As a DJ TOKiMONSTA mixes in plenty of material from across a broad spectrum of modern electronic music.

Friday | June 14

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Thou, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Electric Funeral Fest Night 1
When: Friday, 06.14, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive/3 Kings
Why: This is the fourth edition of Electric Funeral Fest which features some of the most interesting acts in underground “extreme” and experimental metal. Tonight’s programme is as follows:

3 Kings Tavern Stage:
5:15 – 5:55 Fathers
6:15 – 6:55 Dead Now
7:15 – 7:55 Destroyer of Light
8:15 – 8:55 Velnias
9:15 – 9:55 Sourvein
10:15 – 11:00 Acid Witch
11:30 – 12:35 Thou

Hi-Dive Stage:
5:40 – 6:20 Love Gang
6:40 – 7:20 Banquet
7:40 – 8:20 Oryx
8:40 – 9:20 Tia Carrera
9:40 – 10:20 Against the Grain
10:40 – 11:25 Royal Thunder
Afterparty
12:45 – 1:25 Bewitcher

Mutiny Information Cafe Stage:
3:00 – 3:40 Fossil Blood
4:00 – 4:40 Deathchant
5:00 – 5:40 Voideater
6:00 – 6:40 Hexxus
7:00 – 7:40 Greenbeard

What: Anderson .Paak w/Earl Sweatshirt and Thundercat
When: Friday, 06.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Three of the most creatively brilliant artists of modern hip-hop on one bill anywhere would be noteworthy, at Red Rocks it would be deserving of the word epic.

What: Sympathy F
When: Friday, 06.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Formed in 1991, Sympathy F is one of the few, if not only, still active bands from Denver’s alternative rock era whose melancholic, jazz-inflected, dream pop reflects an era in Denver where the city felt dark, neglected and wide open. When creative weirdos could rent a warehouse on the relatively cheap and hang out with each other and converse and mutually inspire and otherwise have their own subculture that was vibrant and not well known by the world outside the Mile High City. When downtown had viaducts (Fifteenth and Twentieth Streets) that went from downtown proper to a now long gone warehouse district, where the old Montgomery Wards build stood west of downtown like the abandoned monolithic structure from a bygone era. That the band’s songs are emotionally powerful and moving and intense yet luminous doesn’t hurt because it has been written from a place of nostalgia, but at its heart is a shard of that unique time and place in Denver’s history and it shines forth from the band’s entrancing performances.

What: Daikaiju
When: Friday, 06.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Writing about Daikaiju seems folly at this moment so here’s a video that gets at some of the chaotic glory of the weirdo surf band from Alabama.

What: Lazarus Horse, Mt. Illimani, Enji and Sam Morris
When: Friday, 06.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Maybe Eddie Durkin shoulda zigged when he shoulda zagged here and there in life. But haven’t we all? His old band Sparkler Bombs was pushing punk and noise rock and modern proto-psychedelia in interesting directions. But nearly a decade hence, Durkin has been writing songs under various project names including Lazarus Horse. Imagine if someone somehow bought Rainwater Cassette Exchange, The Glow Pt. 2 and a few Julianna Barwick and Grouper records pluse The Velvet Underground & Nico and got sent off with their parents to scientific station duty at Edinburgh of the Seven Seas with spotty internet but a good instruments and pedals and some recording equipment. That’s basically what Lazarus Horse sounds like—drawing on the weirdo rock familiar while sounding ineffably different from even that.

Saturday | June 15

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Paranoyds, photo by Tony Accosta

What: Tacocat and The Paranoyds w/Princess Dewclaw
When: Saturday, 06.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Seattle’s Tacocat and L.A.’s The Paranoyds are making thought-provoking and emotionally nuanced fuzzy post-surf-punk pop with a refreshing level of depth and spirited energy. Although Tacocat has been associated with the sort of surf punk thing the past decade it’s always been different from all of that because its songwriting has been brimming with irreverent humor, playfulness and a surreal and colorful aesthetic. The cover of its new album This Mess is a Place is striking when you see it at the record store and draws you in with its inviting, retrofuturistic collage style promising something within that will offer interesting stories and perspectives that aren’t trend hopping or trite blandishments about love or needing to always center all content on what’s topical. In that way Tacocat offer a view of a more interesting and vital future for all of us. Paranoyds can be reminiscent of The Raincoats if that band came from southern California instead of London with the wonderful, unconventional choruses and noisy guitar. Watch out for the group’s new 7-inch “Hungry Sam”/”Trade Our Sins” out on Suicide Squeeze July 12.

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Chrome Waves, photo by Melissa Atwood

What: Electric Funeral Fest IV
When: Saturday, 06.15, 3 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: See above for Electric Funeral Fest IV. Here is this night’s programme of performances:

3 Kings Tavern Stage:
4:15 – 4:55 Abrams
5:15 – 5:55 Thra
6:15 – 6:55 Yatra
7:15 – 7:55 Chrome Waves
8:15 – 8:55 Teeth
9:15 – 9:55 Gozu
10:15 – 11:00 Tombs
11:30 – 12:35 Torche

Hi-Dive Stage:
4:40 – 5:20 Casket Huffer
5:40 – 6:20 Sun Voyager
6:40 – 7:20 Trapped Within Burning Machinery
7:40 – 8:20 The Munsens
8:40 – 9:20 Fotocrime
9:40 – 10:20 Call of The Void
10:40 – 11:25 Dead Meadow
Afterparty
12:45 – 1:25 Bummer

Mutiny Information Cafe Stage:
3:00 – 3:40 Red Mesa
4:00 – 4:40 Upon a Fields Whisper
5:00 – 5:40 Horseneck
6:00 – 6:40 Dizz Brew
7:00 – 7:40 Dysphotic

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Jamila Woods, photo by Bradley Murray

What: Jamila Woods w/Duendita
When: Saturday, 06.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jamila Woods recently released Legacy! Legacy! with song titles drawn from names of some of the greatest artists, writers and thinkers of color from America and beyond. Rarely do musicians name check the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, James Baldwin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters and others of similar cachet at all much less with such style and soulfulness. Woods’ voice is commanding and wise and one gets the sense you’re learning something about the human beings named as they impacted Woods as a person and an artist in her own right. She doesn’t pretend to speak for them but reflect their deep influence through her own lens and how their work has inspired her to do what she hopes is interesting and worthy in her own right. It’s a deep record worth repeated listens. Fans of Nina Simone and Erykah Badu should give Woods a listen.

Sunday | June 16

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Bert Olsen, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Natural Velvet, Church Fire, Rabbit Fighter and Bert Olsen
When: Sunday, 06.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Natural Velvet bassist/singer Corynne Ostermann told the Baltimore Sun in 2016 “’Basically, we aim to be a “Sailor Moon” villainess.’” And who wouldn’t want to see that band? Apparently a post-punk band it sure has some nefarious punk energy but the fun kind like what you might imagine a raccoon is thinking. A good fit with Denver’s industrial dance pop powerhouse trio Church Fire whose subversive and politically charged music is not just cathartic but deeply emotional on multiple levels. This is the last show post-punk/dream pop duo Bert Olsen is playing under that name. The group recently lost its drummer and is changing to maybe using a drum machine and changing focus a bit and taking on the name Gila Teen. But it’ll still be Hunter Woods and Aidan Bettis on vocals/guitar and bass respectively so the same luminously evocative songwriting will remain.

Tuesday | June 18

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Operators, photo by Britt Kubat

What: Pile w/State Champion and Warring Parties
When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pile has long been making the kind of post-punk/noise punk/lo-fi music that never really sounds like anyone else. Its new record Green and Gray is filled with the band’s signature, and always interesting, counter-point guitar riffing and richly varied song dynamics. The group switches up the pace in a song, conveying the way a mood will pass through your mind as you’re working through memories and contemplating what your life should be about and diving deep into how it really is. All their records are worth a listen and the latest one may be their best.

What: Charly Bliss w/Emily Reo
When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: On 2017’s Guppy, Charly Bliss sounded a bit like other bands mining the 90s, fuzzy alternative pop bands for inspiration but with great energy and Eva Hendricks’ ebullient vocals. With Young Enough the group’s emotional palette seems to have grown exponentially and its sound evolved into a kind of atmospheric power pop but somehow without losing the verve that powered its full-length debut.

What: Lavender Fest Denver: Where in the Hell is Lavender House? The Longmont Potion Castle Story (screening)
When: Tuesday, 06.18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Longmont Potion Castle is the phone prank wizard extraordinaire of all time. His early use of odd sound processing methods for prank calling in the 80s and early 90s went above and beyond other, perhaps more well-known prank call “comedians.” Still mysterious after all these years someone finally made a documentary about his exploits and it’s screening tonight at the Oriental.

What: Operators w/Doomsquad
When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Dan Boeckner is best known for being in some of the most interesting rock bands of the past two decades including Wolf Parade and Divine Fits. But in the past five years and more he’s been in a band that now includes Devojka, Sam Brown and Dustin Hawthorne that has been exploring the use of analog synths to write the kind of bright, brooding pop songs that wouldn’t sound out of place at some weird “New Wave” in the early 80s that hosted the likes of Gary Numan, Sparks and Fad Gadget. Rather than simply ethereal melodies, Operators has a robust low end in its mix giving the music some real power and momentum rather than merely sounding pretty. The quartet is currently touring in support of its 2019 full-length Radiant Dawn.

Wednesday | June 19

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Mastodon, photo by Jimmy Hubbard

What: Wand w/Dreamdecay
When: Wednesday, 06.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Wand bridged the gap between weirdo, psychedelic lo-fi rock à la Pavement with the heaviest metal but without ever come off live like a metal band. More like indie rock nerds who never had to turn their nose up at the kinds of dynamics and sounds one heard in 70s hard rock, prog, the more inspired jam bands and stuff like Sleep. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2019 album Laughing Matter. On the latter it sounds like the group has been listening to some more post-punk and post-rock like Slint.

What: Mastodon and Coheed and Cambria and Every Time I Die
When: Wednesday, 06.19, 5 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: On Mastodon’s 2009 album Crack the Sky the Atlanta-based metal quartet aimed to write their version of a classic rock album with strong melodies and great mood and solid songwriting. True enough the overall tenor of the record with its dynamics out of step with most metal at the time, but anticipating where so many rock bands, not just metal, would go over the next decade. This is sort of a Tenth Anniversary type tour but the band recently recorded an homage to its late manager Nick John called “Stairway to Nick John” that is a cover of the Led Zeppelin song that some people may have heard at some point in their lives. The single was released on Record Store Day and the proceeds are going to benefit the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer.

Best Shows in Denver 01/18/19 – 01/23/19

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Cursive performs January 18 at The Bluebird Theater and January 19 at The Fox Theatre. Photo by JP Davis

Friday | January 18, 2019

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The Crystal Method, photo by Chapman Baehler

Who: The Crystal Method w/Yoko b2b iAM_Jacko and Skeena
When: Friday, 01.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: In the 90s The Crystal Method blurred any boundaries that may have existed between various subgenres of electronic music of the time. Rather than specialists, The Crystal Method freely experimented with forms, styles and genres yet crafted a sound of their own with an emphasis on strong beats and a grittily otherworldly, moody atmospherics. The duo’s 2018 record The Trip Home is proof that it hasn’t spent the past two decades insisting its initial vision should dictate the rest of its music while also borrowing heavily from methods and sounds from the past and during the intervening years. If a big beat industrial synth pop album was a thing, The Crystal Method made one.

Who: Hot Rize & Friends w/Michael Cleveland, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers
When: Friday, 01.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Hot Rize, the Colorado-based bluegrass band, is celebrating four decades together with a pair of shows at The Boulder Theater. Its members were hanging out and working at the Denver Folklore Center in the 1970s and learning the craft and methods of that music before essentially popularizing bluegrass to an ever widening audience from the 1980s onward. Depending on your perspective, for better or worse, Hot Rize’s aesthetic of what Nick Forster called “human sized music” impacted the aesthetic of the music on A Prairie Home Companion—old timey music for an era where bigger, louder, better, less elegant seemed to be the order of the day beyond even music. Even if bluegrass isn’t your thing, Hot Rize is an especially compelling live band whose good humor and sheer charisma always makes for an enjoyable performance.

Who: Cursive w/Summer Cannibals and Campdogzz
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Cursive is one of the bands that put Omaha, Nebraska on the musical map as a place from which noteworthy music was being made. By the time the group garnered more than underground and regional prominence it had evolved its sound out of its early post-hardcore roots and incorporated a diverse set of musical ideas and sounds that proved influential on 2000s indie rock with raw emotions placed in the context of vibrant, atmospheric sounds and textures to give the band’s songs an immersive, even cinematic feel. The quartet’s latest, Vitriola, is vintage Cursive in all its haunted, orchestral, emotionally heightened glory. Summer Cannibals from Portland, Oregon is one of the few newer bands making rock music that’s difficult to pigeonhole to a specific subgenre bandwagoned in the past five to seven years as its not garage rock, not surf rock, not neo-grunge and not psychedelia. And all the better for it. Fuzzy, lively pop songs.

Who: Corsicana album release w/The Milk Blossoms, These Bashful Claws, John Lensing
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Dream pop band Corsicana drops its debut album at this show—the sparkling, gentle yet uplifting Perennial.

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Future Generations, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Magic City Hippies w/Future Generations
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Magic City Hippies at least have a name that gives a clue what you’re in for. Its posi-hip-hop-inflected funk and downtempo pop is what you would hope New Age-esque hippies might glom onto after getting tired of de-fanged EDM and jamtronica. Opening act, Future Generations, came to their lush and layered songwriting through the production angle early on when singer/programmer Eddie Gore was making beats for friends and his own early experiments in music. As the band came together and brought in ideas and instruments the fledgling band was able to build and learn together without the overt influence of previous bands. Thus its pop songcraft while accessible is clearly coming from a direction where the band is consistently absorbing new sounds and methods so that the band’s creative evolution is part of its act of writing songs. The Future Generations 2018 album Landscape may sound like a solid, buoyant pop album, because it is, but there are plenty of sonic Easter eggs in there for discerning listeners.

Saturday | January 19, 2019

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Chella and the Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chella & The Charm w/Jennifer Jane Niceley, The Threadbarons (duo) and Many Mountains
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Chella & the Charm’s forthcoming EP Good Gal is the heartbreaking work of Americana genius you need to have in your life in 2019. Chella has identified several strands of our collective pain as a culture and manifested them in a handful of songs with energy and compassion.

Who: Cursive w/Summer Cannibals and Campdogzz
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: See January 18 entry on Cursive and Summer Cannibals.

Who: Womxn’s March Mosh III: Bonnie Weimer, The Pollution, Lady of Sorrows, Death in Space, Cheap Perfume, burlesque performance by Slut Game Strong
When: Saturday, 01.19, 3-8 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: After the official Womxn’s March in Denver, this show will happen with proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood. It’s a chance to see experimental banjo songwriter Bonnie Weimer at 3 p.m. when the event starts followed by a diverse evening of music including psychedelic punk band The Pollution, operatic darkwave act Lady of Sorrows, guitar/production project Death in Space, political punk band Cheap Perfume and its delightfully irreverent sense of humor as well as a feminist burlesque performance from Slut Game Strong.

Who: City Hunter release of Deep Blood w/Death Scenes and DJ Dead Body and Yung Sherm
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Horror-themed, costumed hardcore band City Hunter will play one of its rare shows in support of the release of its 2018 LP Deep Blood on Youth Attack Records. Expect some serious hijinks on the performance side with what will also be a short set because the band’s longest songs are under three minutes with many under a minute. Fitting for a band whose lead singer looks like the masked killer from an early 80s slasher film. Opening is Death Scenes which is Scream Screen’s Theresa Mercado who will show morgue slides accompanied by music from Kevin Wesley of noise project Prison Glue.

Who: Hot Rize & Friends w/Michael Cleveland, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers
When: Saturday, 01.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: See January 18 entry for Hot Rize and its 40 year anniversary shows.

What: Punk Against Trump 2019 – Allout Helter, Cheap Perfume, Over Time, Sorry Sweetheart, No Takers
When: Saturday, 01.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit
Why: Some of Colorado’s best, overtly political bands gather once again put on a show in protest against the POTUS Trump. But it won’t be a dour, didactic affair because all of these bands are about having fun and airing out legit social and political grievances.

Tuesday | January 22, 2019

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Oryx circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rockin’ For Roe: Oryx, Rotten Reputation and Church Fire
When: Tuesday, 01.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: “Roe” as in Roe v. Wade. This benefit show for Keep Abortion Safe and Women’s Freedom Fund features experimental doom band Oryx, irreverent and heartfelt punk band Rotten Reputation and industrial synth pop powerhouse Church Fire.

Wednesday | January 23, 2019

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Quits circa Spring 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ball of Light, Toboggan, Quits and Landgrabbers
When: Wednesday, 01.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Cincinnati’s Ball of Light just released its new album Flux on January 10, 2019. It’s ten tracks of urgent, feral, noisy post-hardcore sounds like what a hybrid of Neurosis and Season To Risk might sound like. Toboggan, not the Spanish band, is a bit like late 90s emo with hooks and coherent lyrics but not short on raw emotion. Quits is the noise rock band from Denver starring Doug “Fucking” Mioducki who used to be in early indie pop band Felt Pilotes before going on to way less melodic but no less emotionally charged bands like Koala, Sparkles, Witch Doctor and CP-208. His bandmates are also noteworthy musicians from other great Denver bands but you can do some homework if you feel like it.

Short Takes #2: August 2018

This is the latest installment of our periodical records review column with the featured album being Them Are Us Too’s posthumous swan song Amends out on Dais Records.

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Them Are Us Too, Amends, Dais Records

Them Are Us Too – Amends – Dais Records

Them Are Us Too’s gift to its listeners is a nearly unmatched ability to distill all the pain, disappointment and sadness of a lifetime of unrequited love and rejection by others, by society and ourselves into soaring melodies that sublimate those feelings into ethereal shadows that can no longer overwhelm us even if they can still haunt us. Amends may be the final record from the band due to the tragic death of guitarist Cash Askew in the 2016 Ghost Ship fire. But the music’s power to take gentle yet strong rhythms and couple them with intertwining melodies, luminescent and melancholy, as a vehicle for honoring genuine emotional expression is a testament to the duo’s enduring alchemical ability to soothe the spirit.

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AZALiA_SNAiL, NEON_RESiSTANCE, Silber (US)/Thokei Tapes (Germany)

AZALiA SNAiL – NEON RESiSTANCE – Silber (US)/Thokei Tapes (Germany)

Pretty much impossible to say when this album was written and recorded post-1980. Its sensibility and aesthetic points to 80s and 90s synth pop. The guitar on “Celeste (Can You Feel It)” sounds like something out of a more ambitious New Wave band but set inside a song that could have come out in the past 10 years among artists tapping into 80s pop sounds to capture a sense of nostalgia. But NEON RESiSTANCE isn’t mining nostalgia. It is doing something more interesting and meta by using an older set of musical parameters and sounds with modern production to evoke a personal style of songwriting that looks forward as many bands of the 80s seemed to be doing but avoiding getting that all wrong by really giving the songs an unusual emotional dimensionality and nuance with nostalgia-tinged melodies as relatable self-reflection and not self-obsession. Sonically it’s difficult to compare this multi-faceted pop record to much of anything else but perhaps Nina Hagen’s 1982 experimental rock/New Wave masterpiece NunSexMonkRock. There was little like that then, there’s little like this now and every track is worth your time.

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bios+a+ic – Vaccine – Symbolic Insight

bios+a+ic – Vaccine – Symbolic Insight

Wesley Davis seems to generate his albums around themes that express the essence of ideas that have taken up residence in his imagination. 2015’s cloudLanD has an airy, drifty feel suggesting a sense of space and peace. Vaccine’s claustrophobic drones and repeating circular phrases spawn others that intersect in ominous, dissonant patterns suggestive of one set of sounds mutually infecting another to produce a third sound that’s darker with descending tones. Not an anti-vax abstraction, but more a comment on not trusting corporations and moneyed interests to provide a cure. In that way, it’s a bit of a cyberpunk ambient album but one that doesn’t make the dystopia seem kinda cool.

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CURTA, End of Future Park, self-released

CURTA – End of Future Park – self-released

Jake Danna minces no words in his critique of American culture in general and his local community in particular. From the self-appointed expertise on all things and the lives of other people due to the internet and social media (“Ghost Milk”) to the limitations of bravado to dignify one’s life and art (“Prop Comic”) and the poisonous, self-eroding qualities of unreigned-in/unexamined cynicism (“I’m Still Cool, Right? (feat. WC Tank), Danna’s observations are a cogent assessment of the root ills of modern America’s writhing cultural anomy beyond platitudes of left and right. 4Digit’s production as further brought into detail by ManMadeMadMan’s mastering is what shines just as brightly. The beats, the streaming details of sound to accent the mood, tone and texture, the vibrant atmospheres and the masterful flow of melodies to suit the moment are not subtle so much as fully integrated and you get a to take in 4Digit’s imaginative composition with the 26+ minute closing track, “The Life of 4Digit Vol. 1.”

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Daisy Mortem, La vie c’est mort, self-released

Daisy Mortem – La vie c’est mort – We Are Vicious

An always engaging listen akin to an unlikely and thus refreshing synthesis of B-52s, Lords of Acid and breakcore, La vie c’est mort from Bordeaux, France’s Daisy Mortem is a sort of decadent industrial dance pop. A lot of American industrial dance groups fall back too much on mediocre 90s EBM. On this EP, Daisy Mortem taps more into mid-80s New Wave’s melodramatic emotionalism but using the sound palette of modern electronic dance music to craft songs with a giant sonic imprint. Imagine the curiously compelling upbeat and alien quality of Classix Nouveaux minus the schlock and with a sprinkling of influence from Sparks and Fad Gadget. If Fellini had lived to make a movie about Bohemian New York City in the 80s, he would have done well to have tapped Daisy Mortem to score the soundtrack because this band is that exact vibe—bombastic, lush and brimming with vitality.

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The Damned, Evil Spirits, Search and Destroy/Spinefarm Records

The Damned – Evil Spirits – Search and Destroy/Spinefarm Records

Easily The Damned’s best record since Machine Gun Etiquette. But it would be more honest to say it’s the band’s best record since it’s debut. Most bands more than forty years into their career are creatively treading water. The Damned apparently found some juice in their collective imagination to write an album in the classic style of writing a cohesive record of quality material beginning to end. Most bands write a record this vibrant early in their careers. “We’re So Nice” rocks harder than but has a similarly deft orchestration of melody and harmony one might expect out of The Zombies. It should come as no surprise that Tony Visconti, one of the minds behind shaping the best Bowie records, was on board for Evil Spirits. But even the most brilliant production can’t make up for subpar songwriting. Even if you didn’t know this was The Damned, so many of these songs are striking and timeless. “Shadow Evocation” is like a long lost cousin to something The Moody Blues might have written in the 60s—a windswept, imagination stirring mini-epic. What makes Evil Spirits such a remarkable album is that The Damned prove track to track that they know that if they relied on only one trick, one tempo, one songwriting style they’d bore themselves as much as us and that should count for something in any band much less one that could easily skate along on the laurels of its older classic material. The Damned have create what should in time be considered new classics with this record.

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Frog Eyes, Violent Psalms, Paper Bag Records

Frog Eyes – Violent Psalms – Paper Bag Records

For its final record, Frog Eyes has refined its raw noir Americana sound to a place of great clarity that brings the conflicted emotions into sharp focus. Carey Mercer still sounds like he’s shaken by the force of emotion even as he delivers his words with the confidence and quaver of a Bryan Ferry. With this album, more than previous Frog Eyes releases, each song sounds like a room, an environment, a psychological space Mercer enters with immediate, cogent commentary. At times, as with “Idea Man,” the music feels like the modern equivalent of an early-to-mid-70s Genesis record with the elegance of sonic detail, mysteriousness and grandeur. Maybe Mercer wasn’t listening to a steady diet of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway or Foxtrot but this Frog Eyes swan song resonates with the artistic ambition and exploring the possibilities of one’s own songwriting and reach as a musician.

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Immersion, Sleepless, swim~

Immersion – Sleepless – swim~ 

Somewhere in England there’s a high tech train station going to the places where it sounds like Boards of Canada songs take place and this is the gentle effervescent music to put you in the mood to be in a place of peace and disconnect from the rough and tumble everyday world. The cycling tones of “Off Grid” seem aimed to help you reprogram your brain to check out of the ambient anomy that comes with life in the twenty-first century and take a trip through a languidly melodic soundscape for nearly fifty minutes before being dropped off in a beautiful place out in the country.

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The Milk Blossoms – Dry Heave the Heavenly – self-released

The Milk Blossoms – Dry Heave the Heavenly – self-released

With heartbreaking imagery throughout, this second album from The Milk Blossoms quickly becomes impossible to resist in drawing you in to tender yet intense emotional experiences that might be off putting to those with an aversion to psychological intimacy at this deep a level. But The Milk Blossoms never seem off putting. The band bares its alchemy of words and sounds with a brave openness borne of knowing you’re speaking truth or at least your truth—a quality that never goes out of style and which can never but completely duplicated as something idiosyncratic to the artist in question. The Milk Blossoms make pop music the way some people make something special for a loved one—with great attention to detail and with a care and affection and without expectation of anything in return. Was this written in an old lighthouse? A treehouse? A cottage in the woods waiting for the winter to thaw? Probably not but it has the feel of taking time out in isolation to allow the nuances and strength of feeling to emerge and find their perfect expression.

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Oryx, Stolen Absolution, Midnite Collective/Graven Earth

Oryx – Stolen Absolution – Midnite Collective/Graven Earth

This is the sound of the world around us crumbling and eroding and our inability or unwillingness to reverse course. Like the manifestation of Derrick Jensen’s Endgame. Oryx could have pummeled us with some doom-y deathgrind but there is simply a greater diversity of musical ideas here than all of that. The dynamics, for one, while often insistent, leave enough space so that the crushing avalanche of sound hits harder. It also means that, unlike some bands in the realm of extreme metal, Oryx’s songs never truly feel same-y. Across this album the duo pushes the boundaries of what the music can be by fully integrating brutal sonics with atmosphere. Stolen Absolution’s long stretches feel like an intense journey but none that leave you worn out for having taken them.

 

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Peach Kelli Pop, Gentle Leader, Mint Records

Peach Kelli Pop – Gentle Leader – Mint Records

Featuring what might be the album cover of the year for richness of content alone, Gentle Leader is ten songs in the noise pop vein. Upbeat, irreverent, bordering-on-twee-but-confident, Peach Kelli Pop’s songs have great melodic vocal harmonies and wide ranging rhythms. Closing track “Skylight” reveals the band’s experimental guitar edge hinted at earlier in the record confirming that Peach Kelli Pop has more to offer than the exquisite pop gems that have been a large part of its recorded catalog to date.

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Sugar Candy Mountain, Do Right, self-released

Sugar Candy Mountain – Do Right – self-released

The retro-futurist sonic flourishes across this album are reminiscent of a sunny Laurel Canyon psych Broadcast in a pop moment. Or perhaps like Death & Vanilla in that the melodies are nostalgic but the undertones and rhythms suggest a grounding outside the English-speaking music world. As the songs on the album fuzz and incandesce one wonders if the band watched a whole lot of reruns of The Ed Sullivan Show and nailed the vibe and the aesthetic when old Ed had on the hippest guests that didn’t have to compromise and could just shine on a program where the evils of the modern music industry weren’t so firmly in place to insidiously influence and water down popular music into the lowest common denominator product, rather when taste makers had taste and a sense of adventure. Do Right may be retro and couched in a sense of nostalgia but the details on album closer “Do You Know The Place,” and throughout the record, those qualities sound surprisingly fresh at a time when looking back four or five decades and more for inspiration is so played out.

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Synth_Drone collective, Tone Science, Symbolic Insight

Synth_Drone collective – Tone Science – Symbolic Insight

The track names on this album from Denver based synth supergroup Synth-Drone collective suggest a collective telling of life in some far flung future akin to Larry Niven’s Tales of Known Space but with the dark cloak of a minimalist, existentialist Tarkovsky science fiction film like Stalker. The name of the album doesn’t spell out but hints at the scientists of the time depicted in this album searching in earnest for the real science equivalent of the mythical first sound, the teleological ground zero vibration, that launched the universe into dynamic life because it has been discovered that the universe is dying and the only thing that can reverse the process is to discover the appropriate wavelengths to stop the impending doom of all and everything. Except someone in the scientific community knows it’s all for naught and just another attempt by sentient beings to interfere with the natural order of things with the hubristic notion that mortals can fix anything if they set their minds to it when in fact by our temporal nature and perspective we can never known enough to impact everything. Which is a downer but in the case of this album, it’s a beautifully compelling, drone-driven soundscape of a time when humans and other intelligent creatures have to learn to accept the inevitable.

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Wye Oak, The Louder I Call the Faster It Runs, Merge Records

Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs – Merge Records

There’s always been a bit of a cinematic quality to Wye Oak’s music and one might perhaps clumsily say the new album is to If Children what Fargo is to Blood Simple—not massively better but more sophisticated, more intentionally stylized with its newfound skill set and sonic palette. The melding of acoustic instruments and electronic production is so complete that the band seems to effortlessly bring to bear tones, rhythms, textures, melodies and atmospheres to craft songs as experiences. Wye Oak hasn’t ditched classic songwriting methods and models, it’s just taken those structures and filled them out with rich content. But what does Wye Oak have to say this time around? Refreshingly the band asks more questions than providing a set perspective. At a time when too many bold-yet-curiously-vapid-and-trite statements are made in the public sphere, it’s asking thoughtful questions and pondering issues about life and the world without a sense of one’s own certainty as a nod to the fact that we can’t know everything while not discrediting our own thoughts and feelings that makes this record remarkable. The title suggests chasing after goals while those goals we are encouraged to think of as ends in themselves become elusive and we are forced to really think about what it is we’re all on about and if the chase is worth it in the end. Because of that, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs really is the kind of record that needs to be out in the world questioning the dominant paradigm not with firebrand skepticism but compassionate curiosity for ourselves and others.

Best Shows in Denver 08/9/18 – 08/15/18

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Echo Beds album release Sunday, August 12, 2018 at Mutiny Information Café

Thursday | August 9, 2018

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Lady Gang, photo courtesy Jen Korte

Who: Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.

Who: Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray
When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.

Who: Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force
When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street)
Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.

Friday | August 10, 2018

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Meet The Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros
When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.

Who: Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.

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Parker Millsap, photo by James Coreas

Who: Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.

Saturday | August 10, 2018

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Itchy-O, photo by Christopher Cleary

Who: Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.

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Princess Dewclaw, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Washout Fest at Globe Hall: Muscle Beach, Rotten Reputation, Sliver, Moon Pussy, Princess Dewclaw, Sonic Vomit, Morlox, Ultraviolet, Eraserhead Fuckers, Bert Olsen, Juice Up, Lepidoptera, Fever Dreams, Saddy, Freak//When//Scene, Monty O’Blivio, Clutch Plague, Television Generation, King Slug and Wayward Sun
When: Saturday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Hands down the most eclectic music festival to happen in Denver in 2018. While many try to encapsulate too many genres with not enough interesting artists, others focus on indie rock and NPR-friendly pop, yet others an uninspired and obvious selection of popular artists and token local artists who aren’t going to ruffle any feathers, the organizers of Washout Fest have dug a little deeper. But more than that, not just artists on the Glasss imprint. It includes notable local noise artist Morlox, ambient project Lepidoptera, noisy psych punk group Princess Dewclaw, the industrial noise rock of Moon Pussy, dream psych pop group Fever Dreams, experimental metal band Sonic Vomit, unconventional punk bands Rotten Reputation and Muscle Beach, fuzz rock bands Sliver and Television Generation, noise hip-hop weirdo Eraserhead Fuckers and much more. The more conventionally-minded festivals have their place, especially when they have a local focus like The UMS and Westword Music Showcase, but this is one where radio-friendly wasn’t the consideration, just quality and putting one’s reputation on the line for declaring the bands as such.

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Valley Queen, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.

Who: Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.

Who: GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Aggie Theatre
Why: See above for 8.10 on Melvins.

Sunday | August 12, 2018

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Cannons circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Goon, faim, Soul Vice
When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.

Who: Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents
When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.

Tuesday | August 14, 2018

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The Chamanas, photo by Brett Muñoz

Who: The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.

Who: Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.

Who: Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.

Wednesday | August 8, 2018

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Aseethe, photo by Karlee Barr

Who: Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.

Who: Beach House w/Sound of Ceres
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.

Who: Father John Misty with TV On the Radio
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 6/7/18 – 06/13/17

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Of Feather And Bone perform at 71 Grind on Friday, June 8, 2018. Photo by Pale With Decay

Thursday | June 7, 2018

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Ryanhood, photo by Taylor Noel Photography

Who: Ryanhood w/Matt Cox
When: Thursday, 06.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Walnut Room
Why: Ever since Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, at a minimum, popularized folk pop to a massive audience more than a few musicians have tried their hands at that style of music. But Ryanhood predates that wave having started in 2003 in Boston (now based in Tucson, AZ where Green and Cameron Hood met in high school). And beyond that, Ryanhood has established itself as a popular live act on the college and small club circuit. Ryan Green’s proficiency with guitar got him a scholarship to Berklee but as a songwriter it gives some dimensionality to the songwriting that might not be there with a musician who came to playing more casually. Green’s songs with Hood, at this point, have the polish and tunefulness of anything you’re likely to hear on mainstream radio combined with the synergy that mostly comes from musicians who have known each other for a good deal of their lives growing together as artists. The duo’s 2017 album Yearbook is a record diverse in its emotional colorings and songwriting dynamics giving its positive sheen depth and listening longevity.

Who: Stella Luce 7” release for Gloria w/Señorita Sometimes and Seven Inches of Heaven
When: Thursday, 06.07, 9 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: Stella Luce is presenting its sixth release, the Gloria seven inch, tonight at Surfside 7. The Fort Collins-based experimental rock band combines an Eastern European musical sensibility with the kind of baroque pop that The Dresden Dolls and DeVotchKa perfected. Stella Luce, though a little weirder than both, and noisier, has created a body of work thus far with the same cinematic sweep and nuanced emotional colorings.

Friday | June 8, 2018

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Isenordal, photo courtesy Isenordal

What: 71 Grind IV Day 1 (see below)
When: Friday, 06.08, 2 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep and Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This is the major metal festival in Colorado. Independently run and promoted it features some of the most interesting acts in extreme and death metal, doom and grindcore. Things get kicked off at 2 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes in the late night hours at The Triple Nickel Tavern. For this first day you can catch Denver’s deathgrind stars Of Feather And Bone at the Black Sheep at 6:40 p.m.. The trio just started its tour in the wake of the release of its latest album, Beastial Hymns of Perversion. Immediately after at 7 p.m. on the main stage is Seattle’s black/folk metal act Isenordal will bring its layered, orchestral sound. For fans of Giant Squid and SubRosa. You can’t really miss with any of the bands but it would also be a good chance to see Wyoming’s great, grind-y, post-hardcore band Euth, Denver’s melodic doom giants, Wayfarer and Denver D-beat/thrash juggernauts Rotstrotter. Full schedule below.

Black Sheep
Side Floor Stage
2-220 Weaken
2:40-3 Berrated
3:20-3:40 Anakusha
4:20-4:40 Euth
5-5:20 Portrayal Of Guilt
5:50-6:10 Falter
6:40-7 Of Feather And Bone
7:30-7:50 Void Omnia
8:20-8:40 Closet Witch
9:10-9:30 Gaff

Main Stage
2:20-2:40 Full Bore
3-3:20 Salems Bend
4-4:20 Rotstrotter
4:40-5 Bleubird
5:20-5:50 Zeta
6:10-6:40 Wayfarer
7-7:30 Isenordal
7:50-8:20 Brainoil
8:40-9:10 Transient w/Bastard Noise
9:30-10:40 Mizmor

Triple Nickel
11-11:20 Cursus
11:30-11:50 Ice Sword
12-12:20 Modok
12:30-12:50 Hexist
1-1:30 Tejon St. Corner Thieves

Who: Today’s Paramount, Samvega and Archipelaghost
When: Friday, 06.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: This is a bill where none of the bands really fit in any musical subscene. Nor are they trying and the show is the better for that. Today’s Paramount has bits of gypsy folk, Americana, psychedelia and metal but really it’s more like some kind of odd glam prog band that dresses up like they’re all lead gumshoes in a noir novel. Samvega similarly skirts the edges of sludge metal, psychedelic rock and prog without being tied down by the conventions of any of it. Its sonically powerful shows feel orchestrated but only in that they have played the music so much they’re comfortable executing it in a way that leaves plenty of room to change moods, tempos and emotional colorings to fit the environment. If Archipelaghost’s recent single “Spinach” is any indication, those guys listen to a lot of the better hip-hop utilizing trap tracks while crafting their own electronic beats and burned the memo on not using kinda crap autotune. Archipelaghost takes musical ideas that shouldn’t work and puts it together in a way that seems more like a beyond ironic to legit and inventive take on electronic indie pop. Meta in its musical touchstones to the point of avant-garde.

Who: The Descendents w/The Potato Pirates and In the Whale
When: Friday, 06.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: The Descendents’ story sounds like it couldn’t be true. Drummer Bill Stevenson met future Black Flag and Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris before the latter’s stint in Black Flag and worked for Morris’ father as a fisherman. Of course Stevenson would spend some years as Black Flag’s drummer while also playing in The Descendents, a band he started with some friends from school when most of them were still in high school. The band’s blend of pop, surf rock and punk made for one of the earliest pop punk bands and its sound and lyrics throughout the 80s articulated teen angst, insecurities and simple aspirations better than a lot of music in the mainstream ever could and thus the band’s enduring popularity and viability. Even as its music is framed in the teen experience there was an evolution in thought and complexity of emotion that happened during the course of the band’s career. These days, seeing The Descendents is a great reminder that punk, even pop punk, can be silly, kinda dumb, but also thoughtful and vibrantly energetic in ways that don’t seem tamed by the compromises mainstream commercial success has exacted on some of the bands The Descendents have influenced.

What: Intendence Film Fest Opening Party with Sympathy F
When: Friday, 06.08, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Open Media
Why: When Sympathy F began in the early 90s Denver was in the prime of its period of urban decay. LoDo as we came to know it in the mid-90s didn’t exist. Squatters lived in buildings downtown and the Fifteenth Street and Twentieth Street viaducts led to areas of glorious industrial yesteryear. Denver felt dark, a little grimy and gritty while not as dangerous as larger cities. The band’s music, a moody, jazz-inflected post-punk, fit that milieu perfectly and it was one of the era’s classic alternative rock bands and one of the very few to have survived through the decades to now. Until a few years ago, the band had only released one record and soon it will release a third. Live, the band creates a lush but electrifying sound and for those that remember those older times in Denver, it’s like getting a taste of that vibe for the time the band drifts into its set.

Saturday | June 9, 2018

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The Corner Girls, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: 71 Grind IV Day 2 (see below for lineup)
When: Saturday, 06.09, 1 p.m.
Where: Black Sheep and The Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This second day of 71 Grind IV includes performances from powerviolence pioneers Infest, longtime Albuquerque grind legends Noisear and Colorado Springs death grind band 908 which includes 71 Grind organizer Bryan Ostrow. Things get started at 1 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes once again in the late hours at Triple Nickel.

Black Sheep
Side Floor Stage
1-1:20 Aerial Ruin
1:40-2 Nite Kidz
2:20-2:40 Blunt
3-3:20 Minimum Wage Assasins
3:40-4 Sentient Divide
4:20-4:40 Funeral Chic
5-5:20 Bandit
5:40-6 Pavel Chekov
6:30-6:50 Test
7:20-7:40 Noisear
8:10-8:30 Remission
9-9:30 Stapled Shut

Main Stage
12:40-1 Modern Color
1:20-1:40 Fortunes Fool
2-2:20 908
2:40-3 Addaura
3:20-3:40 Haunter
4-4:20 Badr Vogu
4:40-5 Apocalyptic Noise Syndicate
5:20-5:40 Cryptic Void
6-6:30 Dead In The Manger
6:50-7:20 Un
7:40-8:10 Scorched
8:30-9 Despise You
9:30-10 Infest

Triple Nickel
10:30-10:50 The Stalk
11-11:20 Pris
11:30-12 Anonymous Inc.
1210-12:30 Saus

Who: The Corner Girls (single release) w/Vic N’ The Narwhals, Kinky Fingers and Cocordion
When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A year after excellent 2017 Popcorn EP, The Corner Girls release the “Boyfriend” single. Given the band’s gift for giving songs with incisive and irreverent lyrics titles that could come from a vapid pop song, “Boyfriend” probably isn’t just a song about someone’s boyfriend in that tired, classic vein. From the imagery of the band’s artwork to its surf-y punk sound, The Corner Girls aesthetic resonates with that of early K Records bands and 90s indie pop, which in its time was a rejection of the masculine rock world. It isn’t an attack on the latter as much as creating something not defined by it.

Who: Screwtape, Gutter Villain, The Uglys and No Chance
When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The Uglys somehow mixed screamy posthardcore with sludgy riffs for a sound that is like what would have happened had grunge developed a decade and a half later with The Deftones as an influence. That sort of desperation delivered with a manic intensity fits in well on a bill with Denver hardcore stars Screwtape whose songs blur the radical political with the personal in a way we need to see more of right now.

Sunday | June 10, 2018

StillValley_PhotoCourtesyNicholasPryor

Who: 71 Grind IV Day 3
When: Sunday, 06.10, 12 p.m.
Where: The Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This third and last day of 71 Grind takes place at Triple Nickel and sort of a showcase of some of Colorado’s heavy bands. Still Valley is the kind of band that maybe got inspired by the stoner/sludge rock bands with that steady, slow cymbal work going like a hypnotic metronome but its sound is more uplifting, more melodic and ultimately more transporting. In that way Still Valley has a lot in common with Earth, taking the blues roots of the music and exploring its outer possibilities. Tricoma from Denver has similar influences but its sound is more like a fierce thrash/crossover and its heaviness more cutting. The Munsens’ 2016 album Abbey Rose sounds like a doom meditation on the darkened passages and cosmic terror merely hinted at by early Gothic literature, for example Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. But whatever band or bands you catch, it’ll be a great slice of heavy music’s current underground scene.

12-12:20 Ultraviolet
12:30-12:50 Still Valley
1-1:20 Tricoma
1:30-1:50 The Munsens
2-2:20 Innoculated Life
2:30-2:50 Scepter
3-3:20 Kenaima
3:30-3:50 Gutpest
4-4:20 Commonear
4:30-4:50 Remain & Sustain
5-5:20 Bonus Surprise!
5:30-5:50 Druids
6-6:20 Tower
6:30-6:50 Article 15
7-7:20 The Mutations
7:30-7:50 Broken Dead
8-8:20 Demerit
8:30-9 SMD
9:10-9:40 Homewrecker
9:50-10:20 Sledge
10:30-11 Dead Set

Who: Daikaiju w/TripLip and The Savage Blush
When: Sunday, 06.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock band that on the surface sounds like a band in that vein with some punk oomph behind it. But its shows are famously tribal affairs during which the band performs in kabuki masks, uses pyrotechnics in its sets and otherwise brings those who show up into a ritual of rock and roll chaos. Experimental jazz thrash prog band TripLip and surf rockers The Savage Blush will ably set the stage for the mayhem to follow with Daikaiju.

Monday | June 11, 2018

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Sleep circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sleep w/Primitive Man and Oryx
When: Monday, 06.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Nearly twenty years after the release of its most recent album, 1999’s until then posthumous release, Dopesmoker, the princes (naturally the kings being Black Sabbath) of stoner rock/doom Sleep released a new album in 2018 called The Sciences. Of course its laden with fanboy references to Sabbath (there’s a song called “Giva Butler”), science fiction and arcane knowledge. Oh, and cannabis. “Marijuananaut’s Theme” begins with someone taking a hit off a bong. But it seems as though Sleep has sculpted its sound ever so slightly giving it greater dynamism and fluidity. Don’t worry, the guitars still sound like the tone is in a constant state of splintering and the rhythms are off enough in the right places to be hypnotic and deftly launch the main melodies into spaces that Moebius might have drawn for one of his lost Jodorowsky collaborations—psychedelic, alien and raw. That deathgrind titans Primitive Man and doomdeath stars Oryx are on the bill just make the whole show twice as good.

Who: Violent Femmes
When: Monday, 06.10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street)
Why: Four decades on, Violent Femmes went from jazz-inspired folk-punk-pop weirdos who were perfect for the college rock world of the 80s to a still surprisingly powerful live band whose sound has been influential but not widely imitated. On recordings and on stage the Femmes bring in more than the usual rock instruments and since its early days the band has brought on a group of people called The Horns of Dilemma to play raw, chaotic sounds on a couple of songs in the set. For the Denver dates of the past several years The Horns of Dilemma has included avant-garde improvisational band Animal / object, a group in which Femmes singer Gordon Gano has been known to play violin. Several of the Femmes’ songs have entered the lexicon of popular music through the college and alternative rock path and even if you weren’t around or old enough for the band’s music to impact you the first time it was coming around its music has held up well because it was never grounded in any trendy sound or style but rather an premium on creativity and imagination. Go and be surprised by how of the moment and so not rote the Femmes remain today.

Who: Yes (Howe, Downes and White iteration)
When: Monday, 06.10, 2 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Progressive rock has a reputation as an overly intellectual music made by snobs for other technically proficient musicians and fans capable of appreciating the intricacies and compositional sophistication of the music. But most of those bands were seeking to create something deeply imaginative and capable of expressing ideas and emotions beyond the bare bones rock and roll sonic vocabulary. Yes wrote music that aimed to explore and articulate the dreams and aspirations of humankind. Sure, some of it got pretty out there and abstract but largely its songs came from a personal place writing about love, anxiety, fear and a broad range of emotions and the very individual experience of our struggles and triumphs. Yes just didn’t dumb it down. For this show you’ll get to see master guitarist Steve Howe, Alan White’s drumming wizardry and Geoff Downes’ gift for weaving together various keyboard and synth elements to create one of the sounds that has established Yes as a legendary live act for the past few decades.

Tuesday | June 12, 2018

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Covenhoven in Ojai, CA, photo courtesy Joel Van Horne

Who: Covenhoven album release w/The Still Tide
When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Joel Van Horne has been writing beautifully introspective songs under the moniker Covenhoven for several years and now, with A Kind of Revelation, three records. It was within a week of finishing the mixes for A Kind of Revelation that Van Horne’s brother Ben died from a pulmonary embolism following years of struggling with ulcerative colitis. As with his previous releases (the 2013 self-titled album and 2015’s The Wild and Free), Van Horne immersed himself in a natural environment, taking in the patterns, energies of the place and as much of its essence as possible to drive his creative inspiration. For A Kind of Revelation that place was Olympic National Park and Big Sur. Perhaps a kind of pastoral folk and pop is the form of Van Horne’s songs but the musical language feels like an emotional recreation of the places that influenced their writing. Since it’s at the Bluebird, chances are it’ll be a full band presentation of the music where Covenhoven will share the evening with dream pop/rock band The Still Tide.

Who: Calexico w/Julia Jacklin
When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Calexico and Mojave 3 were doing psych-folk-inflected pop Americana before it became a massive feature of “indie” radio in the past ten to fifteen years. Calexico, though, also absorbed a good deal of Mexican folk stylistic flourishes giving its sound a more exotic edge. The group released its latest record, The Thread That Keeps Us, in January 2018. Employing keyboards and synths alongside more traditional instruments has been one of Calexico’s hallmarks from its early days but the new record feels even more expansive and open as though maybe somewhere the band aimed to simplify its sound without sacrificing its full and rich tones.

Wednesday | June 13, 2018

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Ancient Elk circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Of Feather and Bone tour kickoff w/Tomb Mold and Casket Huffer
When: Wednesday, 06.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver deathgrind band Of Feather and Bone played 71 Grind in Colorado Springs this past weekend and it will kick of its tour in support of its new album Beastial Hymns of Perversion with this show at the Hi-Dive alongside like-minded bands Tomb Mold, from Toronto, Ontario and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Who: Sunmonks, Ancient Elk, Avifauna and GALLERIES
When: Wednesday, 06.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Sacramento’s Sunmonks has been honing its blend of R&B, indie pop and world music since 2012. Entertainment Weekly said the band was a “Worthy successor to the Talking Heads.” That seems like hyperbole and lack of life experience and knowledge of recent and older music history. Nevertheless, the band’s willingness to experiment with the form of pop music across various cultures as well as the sound and rhyme schemes to great effect makes it one of the most interesting bands to have bypassed being a psychedelic rock band but effectively making psychedelic pop music. Also on the bill is experimental, psychedelic folk band Ancient Elk, psych hard rock band GALLERIES and the windswept electropop soundscapes of Avifauna.

To Be Continued…

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

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

Thursday | March 1, 2018

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Oryx, photo by Alvino Salcedo

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

Friday | March 2, 2018

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Briffaut, photo by Kitty Colvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday | March 3, 2018

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Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

 

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

Monday | March 5, 2018

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Bully, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

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

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

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

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

Wednesday | March 7, 2018

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Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Best Shows In Denver 10/19/17 – 10/25/17

Bell Witch
Bell Witch, photo by David Choe

 

October continues to be the busiest live music month for Denver but one with few if any festivals, thank goodness. As usual here are several offerings worthy of your attention.

Thursday: October 19, 2017

Who: Din Virulent & MGNLP w/Rasmussen and Juice Up 
When: Thursday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: This is basically a harsh noise show but one thing lost on people that either actively despise it or don’t get it at all is that most noise artists are completely unlike every other noise artist. Juice Up has some disorienting arrangements of samples and sounds that’s something like a completely unconventional rhythm but there is a humorous playfulness there. Rasmussen is John Rasmussen of Denver noise legends Page 27. Rasmussen’s solo output is so diverse in texture and tone that even his “harsh” noise sets tend to have a subtlety and nuance that suggests the serious composition and planning that undergirds sounds that aren’t trying to fit at all into a pop song format. Din Virulent sounds like what happens when you chain a few delay pedals together and have them feed back off each other while manipulating the signal for an effect like watching white noise on TV if that image was sound and occasionally felt like it was aggressively charging out at you.

Friday: October 20, 2017

Who: Tera Melos w/Speedy Ortiz, Holophrase and Meet Me In Montauk
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Tera Melos might be one of the more misunderstood bands of the last several years because it sounds like its member spent some time playing in one of Trey Spruance’s projects: lots of unusual rhythms and dynamics requiring a precise musicianship while not sounding too in the pocket; heavy guitars, disorienting tones and an alternating driving and and hanging melodies. Its 2017 album, Trash Generator, is like a math rock shoegaze album with a touch of brutal psychedelia. In that way Tera Melos could be said to be a bit of a musical cousin to noise rock phenoms Deerhoof. Speedy Ortiz sounds like it picked up where The Breeders and Throwing Muses left off in the mid-to-late 90s with captivating, fuzzy melodic songs that take a walk out of every day mundane life while commenting on that life with with and sensitivity. Holophrase is a Denver band that has come out of being a guitar-based indie rock band (albeit one that didn’t sound much like anything contemporary and only slightly like Magazine) into being a mostly electronics-based band with deep atmospheres and Malgorzata Stacha’s layered vocal melodies serving as an emotional and sonic locus for the group’s hypnotic, chilly soundscapes.

Who: Thurston Moore w/The Diary of Ic Explura
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: It is indeed Thurston Moore of influential No-Wave-and-punk-inflected rock band Sonic Youth. His new album, Rock and Roll Consciousness, showcases Moore’s gift for writing moody pop songs bolstered by dynamic and complex yet tasteful guitar work. It’s melancholy stuff but much of Moore’s best material is yet he also manages to lend his songwriting a thoughtfulness not mired by despair. He can create a gritty image and imbue it with some future hopefulness not yet obvious in the moment he documents in his words—being in the moment but knowing that you can never fully get stuck there unless you try really hard. The Diary of Ic Explura is Toni Oswald’s ambient, sound collage experiments that she sculpts into coherent songs by adding instrumentation to elements that aren’t necessarily inherently musical. Like musique concrète with a soundtrack. Which is nothing new in the world of avant-garde music but Oswald’s vibrant and transporting music demonstrates well how noise and composition can work together.

Who: The Juan MacLean
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Deep Club 3rd Fridays brings The Juan MacLean to a relatively small venue. John MacLean’s first chapter in influential music came with his tenure as a guitarist for Providence, Rhode Island-based, experimental post-hardcore band Six Finger Satellite. The band was an early practitioner of fusing electronic elements with the usual punk rock instrumentation and operating in the same musical realm as bands like Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer—though predating them all. When SFS split near the turn of the century, MacLean left music for a few years before Six Finger Satellite’s sound engineer, James Murphy (who some may know as starting DFA Records and as a member of LCD Soundsystem) helped convince him to make music again. But instead of doing the noisy punk stuff he’d been doing, MacLean focused instead on forward thinking electronic music and a mutant form of modern disco. And that’s what you can more or less expect at this event.

Who: Don Strasburg, Cuckoo, Ashley Koett
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Cafe
Why: Don Strasburg isn’t just a clever name for a band. The Boulder-based outfit doesn’t bother to trace any lines on the punk rock spectrum but fans of modern, mathy emo will find something to like but so will anyone that is into the most genre-bending, noisy post-hardcore. Cuckoo is lo-fi dream pop that would have fit in well on the Siltbreeze imprint or so it’s 2016 album Mermaid’s Don’t Exist would suggest. For fans of stuff like early Sebadoh, Eat Skull, Times New Viking, No Age and Microphones. — update, Don Strasburg no longer on the bill, now Terremoto.

Who: Allout Helter & Black Dots FEST sendoff w/faim, The Larimers, Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Fest has been happening in Gainesville every year since 2002. It’s a mostly punk festival and this year’s festival includes the likes of Against Me!, Pegboy, Hot Water Music, Beach Slang, City of Caterpillar, Hum, Snapcase, Atom and His Package and Rainer Maria. But it will also feature Denver political punk thrashers Allout Helter and melodic hardcore band Black Dots. Sure, both bands play Denver regularly but here they are on one bill to send them on their way to one of punk’s most prestigious festivals.

Saturday: October 21, 2017

Who: Afghan Whigs w/Har Mar Superstar
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Afghan Whigs both predated and embodied what was great about the alternative rock era. The group started as a kind of garage rock band but infusing that sound with soul and R&B, with lyrics revealing a keen insight into human psychology, yielded some of the best records of the 90s. 1993’s Gentlemen was the band’s major label debut, after an independently released 1988 debut and two fine records for Sub Pop, and the record that was a departure from the fuzzy psychedelia of its earlier efforts. As “alternative rock” was running out of steam by the middle of the decade, Afghan Whigs continued to write and record vital music for 1996’s Black Love and 1998’s 1965 before the band amicably split in 2001. Singer Greg Dulli kept on battling his personal demons in other projects throughout the 2000s but in 2011 Afghan Whigs announced it was reuniting. A lot of bands from the alternative rock world have reunited and most of them have had respectable tours and the Whigs were no different. Dulli was and is an electrifying frontman and the band’s performance startlingly powerful overall. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2017 release In Spades. Har Mar Superstar has stylistically been all over the map from silly hip-hop early in the life of the project (Sean Tillman is also in pop band Sean Na Na) to a more Motown-esque soul and R&B sound while often performing all but nude and making an oddly compelling spectacle of himself. But the music is legit and if it’s tongue in cheek it is in the way that only someone with a deep respect for the musical style could pull off.

Who: Sound of Ceres album release of The Twin, Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms
When: Saturday, 10.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: When Ryan and Karen Hover started Sound of Ceres in 2015, setting aside their dreamy indie pop band Candy Claws for the time being, they seemed to be tapping into a daydream realm of freely associating ideas and sounds and something about the purity, honesty and transcendent beauty of the music translated well onto the recording of 2016’s Nostalgia for Infinity. On the 2017 follow-up, The Twin, the band is spending less time drifting through shimmering gossamer and luminous fog. The minimalist songwriting approach this time leaves enough space for greater clarity of tone and distinctness of sounds working in conjunction with each other. It is not a better record but it sounds very focused. Denver dream pop greats Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms open the show potentially opening a vortex into some realm Lord Dunsany would have written about. At least emotionally speaking. Vampires and werewolves aren’t real either, kids.

Who: Torres w/The Dove & The Wolf 
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Torres is an artist like PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, EMA or John Vanderslice who are difficult to pigeonhole, whose high imaginative and powerful work cannot be reduced to a simple genre. Mackenzie Scott, the person behind Torres, doesn’t limit her songwriting to a single instrument so her sound has a layered cohesion even as it sounds like she’s going off the rails. There is an honesty, power and vulnerability to her music that comes across perhaps most vividly on her new record, Three Futures. Interestingly enough, Mackenzie got Rob Ellis, a longtime collaborator with PJ Harvey, as well as Portishead’s Adrian Utley.

Who: The Rotten Blue Menace reunion show w/Short Bus Rejects, The Beat Seekers, The Beeves and Sentry Dogs
When: Saturday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: The Rotten Blue Menace spent a few years being one of the most entertaining and active ska bands in Denver so it’s only appropriate that it would have its reunion show sharing the stage with a band it likely influenced, Short Bus Rejects, who are playing their final show this night. It won’t all be ska or ska punk because street punkers Sentry Dogs and melodic grunge wonders The Beeves will fill out the bill.

Who: Kitty Crimes (DJ set), Snubluck, DJ Polyphoni and Just, Kevin
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: Kitty Crimes is normally a fast rapper with some explicit content in her lyrics and always pretty entertaining. For the DJ set who knows what might be in the mix because Maria Kohler, aka Kitty Crimes, has fairly diverse taste in music and the rest of the night will be some form of electronic dance music including experimental beatmaker and soundscaper, Snubluck.

Sunday: October 22, 2017

Who: Daikaiju w/TripLip, Kenaima and Chaff
When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Since 1999, surf rock band Daikaiju from Huntsville, Alabama, has been performing shows that are the stuff of legend. Fire, acrobatics, the kind of exuberant energy that’s impossible to not be swept up in at the show. They play in costume so you might think of them being, overall, something like Peelander Z and Crash Worship, lucha libre and kabuki. People often use the word “chaotic” to describe the show and fair enough but more like an explosion of fun. Also playing the show is TripLip, which is comprised of people who used to live at the late, great Five Points Denver DIY venue Mouth House. TripLip is more psych and prog but very much in the same spirit as Daikaiju, a band that somehow hosted Daikaiju’s wild live show more than once in a residential neighborhood.

Who: A Giant Dog w/SPELLS and Class President
When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s odd that Austin’s A Giant Dog hasn’t broken to a much larger audience. But for now count yourself lucky you’re getting to see the band in smaller venues in Denver for now. Its rowdy, tuneful mélange of early glam rock, punk and power pop is celebratory without coming off insincere. That’s probably because the songs are about things that anyone that isn’t living a glamorous or pampered life can relate to and delivered with an unlikely combination of vulnerability and conviction. In 2017, A Giant Dog released Toy, its most fully-realized album to date, through Merge Records. Denver’s SPELLS is cut from a similar cloth as a brash, minimalist punk band not short on melody in its own right.

Monday: October 23, 2017

Who: Daikaiju, TripLip and Today’s Paramount
When: Monday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: For Daikaiju and TripLip see above. Today’s Paramount is sort of a psychedelic jazz rock band with touches of carnival music and ska. But it works and Today’s Paramount doesn’t sound much like anything else in Denver except for maybe a band where the chops, songwriting and humor are blended together well and developed to a high degree like The Inactivists.

Who: Shadows Tranquil, Voight, Equine
When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Shadows Tranquil is a band including longtime music fan, often threatening to be musician, finally is, Doran Robischon, and this is the band’s EP release show. Knowing Robischon’s taste for noise, witchouse, dark atmospheric music and stuff on the moody spectrum of all of that, his band will probably be interesting. Voight is the post-punk band that has interwoven strong strains of noisy shoegaze and industrial. Equine is the solo project of Kevin Richards and it’s guitar soundscaping stuff that comes off like a sculpted version of ambient and musique concrète.

Who: Hissing w/SUTEKH HEXEN, Of Feather and Bone, Worm Ouroboros, Vermin Womb and Casket Huffer
When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Hissing and Sutekh Hexen recently released a split record, fitting since both are more on the brooding end of death grind. Disorienting, hypnotic pummeling through sound and rhythm. Minimalistic yet loud and aggressive. Both are in good company with the rest of this bill. Of Feather and Bone is certainly the more in-your-face style of deathgrind that is thankfully too alienating for casual fans of metal. Vermin Womb is similarly-minded but has more hanging dynamics and sounds closer to the roiling chaos bordering on nasty atmospherics in some black metal. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Casket Huffer has a flavor that still has some connection to thrash, at least in the guitar work. Oakland’s Worm Ouroboros, however, will be a bit of an anomaly with its beautifully expansive, minimalistic and melodic, ethereal metal rooted in themes of nature and humankind’s relationship with the environment. If you’re fans of SubRosa, Dreadnought and Wolvserpent you’ll probably find something to like about Worm Ouroboros. Update: Worm Ouroboros no longer on the bill, instead Un, the “Aetherical Doom” band from Seattle. Also, it appears Sutekh Hexen dropped out of the show too.

Tuesday: October 24, 2017

Who: Hans-Joachim Roedelius w/Xambuca and Dream Hike
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 10 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Hans-Joachim Roedelius is one of the true pioneers of krautrock and synthesizer-based music generally. His diverse body of work influenced the development of the aforementioned as well as new age music, psychedelic rock, ambient and electronic music generally. He was one of the co-founders of Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin in 1968, one of the most important spots for experimental music and the avant-garde of its time. Along with Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius he formed Kluster (later Cluster after Schnitzler left the group), a band for which any idea seemed a go and its’ mixture of standard rock band instrumentation (albeit used toward unorthodox ends), cello, synths, feedback manipulation and unusual devices to use in music like car batteries and signal generators. Kluster didn’t exactly hit the charts but its legacy of experimentation and recontextualizing sounds continues to this day.

Roedelius has since then been a prolific artist whose projects (solo and otherwise) and collaborations have pushed the boundaries and horizons of experimental music and synthesizers. With Cluster and Harmonia, Roedelius took truly unusual and groundbreaking musical ideas and made them accessible. Cluster collaborated with Brian Eno on 1978’s ambient music classic After the Heat. In the next decade Roedelius’ work helped to refine and further define the aesthetic of techno. But, interestingly enough, Roedelius’ most prolific years came in his mid-sixties around the turn of the century. This is a rare opportunity to witness one of the founders of modern music and especially at a small and intimate venue like The Mercury Café.

Who: Ariel Pink w/Bite Marx
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ariel Pink as much as Animal Collective and Deerhunter can be said to have been responsible for inspiring a whole generation of musicians to use reverb on their vocals and guitars in an attempt to create a dreamlike soundscape that pre-dated the full-on psychedelic rock revival by half a decade. Except that those three acts did that and pushed the aesthetic further than most of the people they influenced. AC released a few of Ariel Pink’s earlier records before he was a touring act or one that played live much at all. To his credit, like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, every one of Ariel Pink’s albums pushes his own envelope and his new record, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, is a fitting homage to the late, great cult songwriter of transporting psych folk.

Who: Dinosaur Jr w/Easy Action
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the clear draw for this show and rightfully so. The band has inspired more great guitar music to have come along since the early 80s out of proportion to their level of fame than most other bands you could name. Certain an influence on shoegaze, noise rock, alternative rock in general and any kind of left field music that dares to use guitar sounds with a nod to classic rock virtuosity and punk rock’s willingness to repurpose and deconstruct rock tropes. But get there early and catch one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock music in John Brannon of Easy Action. One, the band is like a psychedelic version of Black Flag with that kind of forcefulness and ability to write guitar riffs that also disorient the senses. Brannon first came to the attention of most people in the know with his hardcore band Negative Approach. But in the mid 80s, Brannon formed legendary noise rock band Laughing Hyenas with the late Larissa Stolarchuk, Jim Kimball and Kevin Munro. For a decade the band set a high bar for intense live performances and songs that really articulated the harrowing struggle between desperation, inspiration and dreams of a more meaninful existence. Easy Action formed near the turn of the century and alongside a re-formed version of Negative Approach it has been Brannon’s outlet for his unique vocal style that is as terrifying as it is riveting.

Who: Tei Shi w/Twelve’len
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Valerie Teicher was born in Buenos Aires and spent part of her childhood in Bogotá and Vancouver, BC. So maybe somewhere along the line her knack for gently but vibrantly soulful vocals started to develop. However it happened, her early singles as Tei Shi found an audience among fans in her then adopted home city of New York, where she moved after attending Berklee. After a string of acclaimed EPs, Teicher released her 2017 full-length Crawl Space. It is an expansive gem of a downtempo, R&B-inflected synth pop album named after a place Teicher used to go to confront her fears of darkness. An apt metaphor for the various situations (emotional, social, professional, personal and so forth) Teicher discusses with nuance and insight across the album’s fifteen tracks.

Who: Dayglo Abortions w/Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: With a name like Dayglo Abortions the Canadian punk band was never going to have to worry about being co-opted by mainstream music outlets. During its existence, Dayglo Abortions have been punk, hardcore and crossover but its messaging has been the same—a big middle finger of irreverence for mainstream normalcy. Read the track list to the 1986 classic Feed Us a Fetus and you might even wonder where this band is coming from except for a healthy and vitriolically humorous disdain for right wing politics and racism and other aspects of Western culture that make it a bummer for anyone trying to live an authentic life. This is also the band that named its 1991 album Two Dogs Fucking. That level of surrealistic humor and pointed political statements didn’t exactly end, thank goodness. Opening the show are Denver’s Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service, all great punk bands that aren’t just irreverently funny but who have some fairly pointed commentary on the ills of American society.

Who: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/Ritual Aesthetic and DJ Ritual
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is celebrating its 30 year anniversary with this tour so they’ll be playing a whole lot of early albums Confessions of a Knife (1990) and I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits (1988) so you’ll get to see some vintage material. The show is the best kind of spectacle and it perfectly blends B-movie horror kitsch, a carnival, trash culture and industrial dance music into an inspired whole. Chances are it will be one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year even if you’re not necessarily into industrial music. DJ Ritual will spin his relatively eclectic set at the show and between bands. Ritual Aesthetic is an industrial rock band from Denver in the vein of stuff like Electric Hellfire Club and Stabbing Westward when that band is more industrial than metal.

Wednesday: October 25, 2017

Who: Arcade Fire w/Bomba Estereo
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Arcade Fire quickly became one of the most popular of early 2000s indie rock bands following the release of its 2004 debut album Funeral. On that tour the band played in Denver at Hi-Dive and Larimer Lounge. By the time Neon Bible came out in 2007, Arcade Fire had become too commercially successful to play small clubs. And that’s where it cold have ended with all the pressures of the music industry guiding the band into tried and true territory. But Arcade Fire actually risked alienating fans with 2013’s Reflektor and its emphasis on the electronic side of the band’s soundscapes. For 2017’s Everything Now, the band recruited Pulp’s Steve Mackey, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Geoff Barrow of Portishead to come in and do production work and the resulting set of songs is lush and has a warm, sweeping quality that one might expect out of a 70s glam rock record. As such the live show is sure to not skimp on a visual component to aid in the elevated tone of the songwriting. It’s kind of a past time of music critics and older fans to trash Arcade Fire today but it’s arguable the band is writing the most interesting music of its career by being willing to push forward instead of sticking to what some people think is what they do best. Bomba Estéreo is an alternative Cumbia band from Colombia.

Who: KMFDM w/OhGr and DJ Ritual at Summit Music Hall
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Kein Merheit Für Die Mitleid does not in fact mean “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,” per the long-running joke. The industrial band was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1984 and has undergone numerous incarnations and stylistic shifts from its early performance art-oriented shows to its full embrace of bombastic kitsch, sardonic humor and thoughtful social critique. You can probably start anywhere to get an idea of what the band’s music is about but for beginners give 1997’s Symbols a listen. Which is appropriate enough because Ogre from Skinny Puppy will perform his solo material as OhGr as a kind of co-headliner for this show. His set lists have included a good deal of material from Welt and SunnyPsyOp. And it’s Ogre so his set will have plenty of the inspired weirdness that has made him one of industrial music’s most interesting performers and artists. And who knows, maybe he’ll join KMFDM on stage for “Torture” as he did during KMFDM’s tour for that album in the 90s.

Who: Guided by Voices
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Robert Pollard is by now both a godfather of modern lo-fi rock and one of its most accomplished and prolific artists. Had he ended Guided By Voices after 1994’s epochal Bee Thousand he would still be a legend. But 18 albums later, Pollard is still going strong with two 2017 albums: August By Cake (Pollard’s 100th recorded album) and How Do You Spell Heaven. Not every song is a winner but even Bob’s “lesser” material is worth a spin. The live show is an unabashed flood of splintery rock and roll in an era when there’s too much emphasis on being smooth and polished or faking grit. There’s no fake grit with Guided by Voices except maybe as an inside joke with fans and the audience.

Who: Glasss Records presents The Artists of Glasss and Friends: Princess Dewclaw, RAREBYRD$, Bianca Mikahn, Gold Trash, Juniordeer, EVP, Abeasity Jones, Pearls and Perils, Super Macho and Chromadrift as well as Adam Selene and Nighttimeschoolbus
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Alamo Drafthouse – Sloans Lake
Why: This is a big showcase for Denver experimental music imprint Glasss Records and it includes some of the Mile High City’s most interesting bands and guests like alternative hip-hop group Nighttimeschoolbus.This show is a great opportunity to get a taste of a lot of what the artists on the label have to offer as they won’t be playing full sets.

Who: Bell Witch w/Primitive Man, Urn and Oryx
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Seattle-based doom band Bell Witch released one of the genre’s most haunting and crushing albums of 2017 with Mirror Reaper. The duo manage to conjure spectral horror and primal energies crying out in drawn out triumph with processed bass, drums and vocals. A perfect pairing with tourmates Primitive Man from Denver whose own 2017 album Caustic not only beyond lives up to and embodies the album title, it is an evocation of sustained despair, desperation and frustrated rage transmogrified into colossal and punishing songs that somehow also serve as a catharsis and a channel into an inner peace that are the opposite of the songs themselves. Opener Oryx is a sort of doom grind duo and the other opening act, Urn, injects some psychedelic elements into its own brand of doom. Probably the loudest show of the week outside of that Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action show on October 24 but also easily one of the best lineups of heavy music all month.