Best Shows in Denver 5/24/18 – 05/30/18

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High Plains Honky, photo by David Sands

Thursday | May 24, 2018

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Bianca Mikahn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Left Handed Electronics, Grrrl, Bianca Mikahn
When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Bianca Mikahn’s combination of almost free verse poetry and beats should be well within the canon of hip-hop and ultimately is. But her delivery and her crafting of her songs has as much in common with the kind of hippie-ish, open mic, slam poetry world as it does with any hip-hop context. Mikahn’s ability to critique society at large while speaking to those issues with a compassion and positive spirit minus any note of insincerity sets her apart from most other artists. That her beats contains elements of noise and melodic ambient music makes her immediately accessible music an otherworldly dimension even as the songs are grounded in fairly earthbound experiences.

Who: High Plains Honky 7” release w/Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels Band and Danny Dodge & The Dodge Gang
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If Ronnie Milsap had gone a little more honky tonk with a grittier voice, the results might sound a bit like High Plains Honky. The group is releasing its latest seven inch record tonight at the Hi-Dive joined by a couple of other bands who are no slouches in the local country scene. Maybe comparing a Denver band to a best selling artist like Milsap seems like a bit much to some but what made him such a compelling songwriter beyond the masterful combination of musicianship and an ear for catchy and evocative melodies is the vivid storytelling. High Plains Honky have both qualities as well as no holding up of the nose at pop conventions used in a country context. “Goin’ All The Way” and “I Know Where You Go,” the two sides of the record, seem so relatable even if country music isn’t your thing. A tastefully tiny hint of psychedelia haunts the edges of the music and the aspirational, anthemic quality of the stories suggest a deep knowledge of personal reality but needing to write the songs to escape being too bogged down by current circumstances to go after what you really want while also honoring the emotions subsequent to the potential disappointment, pain and lack of resolution that is a part of everyday life. High Plains Honky invites its listeners to dream just a little bit and to embrace their heartsickness.

What: Girls Rock Denver: Showcase series 7-11 p.m.: Dressy Bessy, Rotten Reputation, Contender, Cheap Perfume, Surf Mom, The Catcalls and Mirror Fears
When: Thursday, 05.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is a fundraiser for Girls Rock Denver to give some of the young women who want to be involved a scholarship to this summer’s programme and beyond. For your donation you get to see some of the best local bands from the indie pop legends Dressy Bessy, punk rock phenoms Rotten Reputation and Cheap Perfume, fuzz rock feminist rock band Surf Mom and electronic dream pop start Mirror Fears.

Who: DOA and MDC
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: In the annals of hardcore outside of American coastal cities, DOA and MDC have to be considered two of the most important acts out of that movement. DOA from Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of the hardest touring bands for years, spreading the gospel of hardcore across the continent and whose album Hardcore ’81 is, perhaps apocryphally, is often cited as the first use of the term in connection to the musical movement. DOA’s political songs struck personal tones in Joe Keithley’s deft songwriting allowing the band’s music to have an appeal beyond agreeing with every iota of the band’s politics. MDC started in Austin, Texas as The Stains with similarly political punk songs that were more left than most of its peers at the time. It didn’t hurt that singer Dave Dictor seemed to havea personal agenda to push the envelope with fans in his stage persona as the ultimate freak and always with the aim of challenging reductive notions of animal and human rights. Listen to that first MDC album and it’s clear that Dictor was an unabashed critic of police brutality and creeping fascism in a way that makes those songs and their specific anti-authoritarian tone even more relevant now.

Who: The Blackouts w/Adrian Conner (Hell’s Belles) and We Are Invisible and Wild Call
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: The Blackouts are an all female rock band that really shows how you can have a fairly straightforward hard rock band and not fall to the boring tropes that happen with too many bands with roots in punk and metal. Adrian Conner from the great all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Bells is also playing this show as well as Wild Call, a band whose forthcoming album is reminiscent of White Hills and Medicine.

Who: Amy Shark and Tomi globehall.com/event/1663566-amy-shark-denver
When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Amy Shark is a pop songwriter from Australia whose 2016 single “Adore” caught the attention of tastemakers in Australia and the song was reissued by Sony Music Australia. That Shark was either in her late 20s or 30 when the song came out explains a bit how her voice and the perspective present in the song had a bit of depth and more of the weight of experience than would be the case of a pop artist a decade or more younger. Shark’s debut full-length, Love Monster, will drop in July 2018 so you can catch her live tonight at Globe Hall before everyone has heard of her.

Friday | May 25, 2018

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Demo Taped, photo by Savannah Ogburn

Who: Amber Mark w/Demo Taped and Adiel Mitchell
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Amber Mark seemed to come out of nowhere when she uploaded her song “S P A C E” to Soundcloud in February 2016. Her voice strong and assured, drawing immediate comparisons to Sade for those qualities and a soulfulness one rarely hears in someone just twenty-two years old. But Mark had something to say and in subsequent singles like “Monsoon,” Mark revealed herself to be a brilliantly poetic songwriter. The 3:33 a.m. EP followed in 2017 and in 2018 Mark released the EP Conexão. Joining her on the Denver date of the tour is Adam Alexander, aka Demo Taped. His electronic pop songs are bright and upbeat but the subject matter of his songs run a broad range of subjects including struggles with anxiety and insecurity. His nuanced and layered songwriting manifested especially strongly on his 2018 EP Momentary.

Who: Orbit Service, Church Fire, The Drood and DJ Mudwulf
When: Friday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Denver ambient/space rock legends Orbit Service don’t play many shows these days and even less often at a dive bar like Lion’s Lair. The project’s primary figure, Randall Frazier, has been responsible for maintaining and putting together some of the best live sound in Denver rooms like Walnut Room and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox as well as championing experimental music in the local scene and collaborating with Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots fame. And that would be reason enough to go to this show but also on the bill are Church Fire, a band one might describe as industrial synth pop but its inspired and emotionally fiery performances elevates what could be considered excellent dance music to a higher level. Also, The Drood, a dark, psychedelic, avant-garde prog band.

Who: How To Measure the Weather: Tobias Fike, Ryan Wade Ruehlen, Kari Treadwell, Scott Ferguson
When: Friday, 05.25, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Emmanuel Gallery
Why: This show has been described as a “migratory sound installation” meaning the performers, members of the Flinching Eye Collective, will move their respective sound-making rigs to take advantage of the Emmanuel Gallery on Auraria campus, one of the oldest buildings in Denver, and its architecture to provide a truly unique, one-off environmental sonic experience.

Who: Muscle Beach w/Colfax Speed Queen, Kenaima and Voight
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Confrontational, arty hardcore. Furious post-psych garage punk. Crushing, post-hardcore noise rock. Emotionally-charged, industrial post-punk. Also, four of Denver’s best, most interesting and always compelling and entertaining live bands.

Who: Super Bummer album release w/Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Super Bummer may be both one of the most ironic and yet accurate names in Denver underground music. The band’s melancholy compositions sure do articulate life’s downbeats with sincerity and self-deprecating humor—a rare combination. Its new album, Big Ambition, out on GROUPHUG, comes out tonight at Syntax where the band will share the stage with the broodingly melodic Americana band Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie, whose 2017 album Holographic Universe is a rabbit hole of beautifully enigmatic sounds and ideas to get lost in across its nine tracks.

Who: La Luz w/Savila and The Kinky Fingers
When: Friday, 05.25, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: La Luz may have originally been (and continue to be) inspired by 60s surf rock giants and the great girl groups of the era. But the Los Angeles-based group have long since made their own mark in music, especially with its 2018 album Floating Features, out on Hardly Art. Spooky and soulful, La Luz have mastered the art of nuanced emotional textures and mood so that its songs can be urgent and spend passages of sound swirling in the sweeping heat of a memory that unexpectedly rushes back into your consciousness triggered some moment or detail you encounter in the present. Denver’s The Kinky Fingers possess similar powers of evoking vivid emotions and imagery with their own surf-rooted rock songs.

Saturday | May 26, 2018

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Victoria Lundy, Snails and Oysters, Sporehive, Denizens of the Deep and Floating Cave, DJ sets by Franklin Bell and visuals by Orchidz3ro
When: Saturday, 05.26, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: An entire afternoon of some of Denver’s most interesting experimental and avant-garde bands. For instance, Snails and Oysters used to be just Joe Mills but is now a duo creating organic ambient music using rock instruments in unconventional ways. A project that cites psych folk legend Sandy Bull, the artist that did an arrangement of Carl Orff’s symphonic opera masterpiece “Carmina Burana” for five-string banjo and released it on a debut album in 1963, is definitely not coming from predictable places. While every act on the bill is worth checking out and nothing really much like each other, the star of the show is Victoria Lundy who at one time people might have said is better known for being the Theremin player in The Inactivists. But by now she has established herself locally as a gifted composer of electronic and ambient music with the Theremin and synth. One thing that sets Lundy apart is that her music tends to be free of transient, modern culture reference tropes and is rooted in 20th century classical and the first wave electronic music avant-garde. And yet, Lundy makes her music accessible and emotionally engaging. There is plenty of intellect going into the making of the music and the craft and technology but the art comes from the heart.

Who: 102 Wires
When: Saturday, 05.26, 5 p.m.
Where: Bar Max
Why: This is a celebration of the possibilities of guitar in music beyond the typical use of the instrument in popular or even experimental music. Read our interview with organizer Kevin Richards here.

Sunday | May 27, 2018

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eHpH, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A Life Celebration For Steve Gordon
When: Sunday, 05.27, 1 – 4 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: This will be an event honoring the late, great, Steve Gordon. Steve was a visual artist, sculptor and musician who contributed greatly to the local avant-garde improvisational and ambient music scenes in Denver. Steve passed away in early May following a prolonged battle with cancer but as a widely admired figure, his legacy of excellence, originality, humanity and humor will continue to have an impact in the Denver art world for years to come. For the event friends and collaborators will share stories, music, poetry, food and drink. Read Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s excellent piece on Steve for Westword here and our own interview with the artist from November 2017 here.

Who: Textures featuring Tunica Externa, paperbark, Lepidoptera
When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This will be John Mulville’s last show in Denver for a while as he’s moving back to Minneapolis for the duration. His ambient project paperbark has brought some of the most compelling, textured to grace Denver spaces in recent years. Generating sounds with treated modular synth tones, Mulville’s compositions suggest natural spaces with a physicality suggested by the earlier reference to texture. It’s like you experience a tactile sensation through a creative crafting of atmosphere. Though Mulville will be back through town, we won’t have the luxury of catching any of his soothingly hypnotic sets regularly.

Who: ManifestiV, Bloodied, eHpH and Keldari Station
When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: ManifestiV from Vallejo, California sounds like it came out of the intersection of the burner community that embraces both industrial music, electronic dance and New Age concepts in the use of sound. But it works though at times you expect it to be the soundtrack to some kind of hippie-esque cyberpunk video game. But who wouldn’t want to play that game? Denver’s Keldari Station sounds like it’s coming from a similar place but its own music is more pop, has more elements of dub and old school glam rock. eHpH, like the other bands on this bill, is a duo with a penchant for dark, atmospheric music. Except this duo has managed to combine EBM with industrial rock without sounding like they’re trying to fit in with the tired old Goth scene sound of the 90s and 2000s. The band’s music is more experimental, more nuanced in its emotional expressions, than bands who really want to be a new version of Suicide Commando.

Tuesday | May 29, 2018

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King Tuff, photo by Olivia Bee

Who: King Tuff w/Cut Worms and Sasami
When: Tuesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: At the end of his last tour, Kyle Thomas was sick of the party monster persona he had cultivated for years as King Tuff. The pressure to live up to something you’re not because it benefits you professionally and to some extent artistically erodes you more than a little on the inside and Thomas was feeling it. “I was a lost soul,” Thomas posted on his website regarding the release of his 2018 album The Other. “I didn’t know who I was anymore.” The new record is certainly a bit of a departure for Thomas. Any trace of the garage rock that informed his earlier releases is pretty much gone. There is a soulfulness and an overt spirit of experimentation running through all the songs for the release. In moments its tinge of futuristic funk and glam prog are reminiscent of I Robot period The Alan Parsons Project.

Also playing this show is Cut Worms. The band’s main creative force is Max Clarke who seems tapped into a mid-60s pop sort of sound and aesthetic. There is a simplicity and clarity of melody and songwriting that we’ve heard plenty of, likely, in this era of mining past decades for artistic inspiration. But especially on Clarke’s 2018 album Hollow Ground the subject matter isn’t so clean and tidy and his songs, like the era it perhaps sonically echoes, reflect a self-aware sense of social anxiety, a painful yearning but struggling with real or endlessly imagined inability to not fuck things up somehow and a willingness to stumble and scrape through even if life doesn’t always, or never does, turn out as planned or hoped. The brilliance comes in striking that balance—being real alongside the sounds of a time many romanticize in spite of the dark and grisly underbelly of people’s lives and the culture itself.

Who: Broncho w/The Paranoyds and Valen
When: Tuesday, 05.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Broncho formed in 2010 in the wake of the dissolution of indie pop weirdos Starlight Mints. Ryan Lindsey of the latter, went on to play guitars, keys and perform lead vocal duties in Broncho. The four-piece has always been kind of an outsider in the music world in that it never really fit in with any emerging trend and was probably too weird to hit it big time in the mainstream. But Lindsey knows he doesn’t belong there. At this point, Lindsay has already done his time deconstructing pop in Starlight Mints and it’s obvious that subverting the tropes of indie, garage and psych rock this past decade isn’t as interesting as it might have been a few years ago. 2016’s Double Vanity found Broncho excavating and exploring some of the sonic ideas that Phil Elverum was onto on those final two The Microphones records, 2001’s The Glow Pt. 2 and 2003’s Mount Eerie. But without imitating Elverum’s richly imaginative and innovative soundscaping. With any luck, this version of Broncho will represent the band’s next phase of its injecting the pop format with expansive ideas and sounds.

Wednesday | May 30, 2018

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Gang of Youths, photo by Sergey Osipov

Who: Gang of Youths w/Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Gang of Youths’ 2017 sophomore album Go Farther in Lightness garnered near universal acclaim in the band’s home country of Australia. Rightfully so. It has the poetic insight and depth of early Bruce Springsteen and more recent from Titus Andronicus. Like both of those artists, Gang of Youths has a gift for taking the mythical/universal aspect of everyday experiences and giving it a poignantly personal expression. There’s a song called “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?” that goes beyond that whole rediscovering your bliss and your passion nonsense. But it’s a whole record of songs that might seem like a collection of trite platitudes but in the end are the exact opposite. It’s highly energetic indie rock but the emotional and intellectual content run a lot deeper with Gang of Youths.

Who: Nunofyrbeeswax w/Open to the Hound, Claudzilla and Rat Bites
When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Berlin’s Nunofyrbeeswax brings together aspects of indie pop, naïve lo-fi rock and outsider pop in its music. Good thing its on a bill with local weirdos in keytar punk Claudzilla, gritty indie pop outfit Open to the Hound and Germs-esque noise punkers Rat Bites.

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White Hills, photo by Simona Dalla Valle

Who: Ufomammut w/White Hills and Tjutjuna
When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Saying Ufomammut is a doom metal band from Italy is a bit like saying that Neurosis is a post-hardcore band from the Bay Area. Clearly Neurosis found some kinship with the trio from Tortona, Italy because Neurot Recordings issued the group’s most recent four records in the USA. Ufomammut’s music has elements of doom and sludge metal but its psychedelic drones and industrial sounds have more in common with the other bands on the bill than a straightforward doom band.

New York City’s White Hills has been exploring past settled territories of modern psychedelic rock since its 2003 inception. The duo of Dave W and Ego Sensation use drum machins and sampled rhythms to set a frame in which each can weave a mind-altering and hypnotic soundscape of vivid tones and dark atmospheres. The band’s storytelling and Dave’s vocals are reminiscent of what one might hear on a Legendary Pink Dots or Skinny Puppy album in which there’s no rockist self-aggrandizement or empty calories rhetoric. Dave has something to say, observations to make and narratives to give in his songs that are frankly worth listening to in themselves but couched in an immersive experience in the listening and especially so in the live setting. The group’s 2017 album Stop Mute Defeat, out on Thrill Jockey, is a major leap forward in terms of capturing the band’s masterful use of mood, texture and atmosphere to craft psychological experiences in the form of song.

Denver’s Tjutjuna rarely plays live shows these days, but the band and its talent for krautrock-inspired mind-expanding drones and percussion was always ahead of the curve of so-called “psychedelic rock” bands in the Mile High City. Like White Hills, Tjutjuna is no stranger to employing motorik beats except with a live drummer and the clear melding of the aesthetics of psych, noise and the avant-garde sets the group galaxies ahead of indie rockers who recently discovered how to maybe use reverb pedals with chorus. Quaint. Tjutjuna? Not so much.

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 01/11/18 – 01/17/18

 

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St. Vincent at Bluebird Theater, February 13, 2010. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 11, 2018

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Rachael Pollard, Bonnie Weimer on left, Johnny Sherry behind. Photo by Tom Murphy, May 2008

Who: Erica Brown w/The Movers & Shakers 
When: Thursday, 01.11, 2 shows doors 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Powerhouse blues singer Erica Brown has been a staple of Denver music for decades at this point. Sure, she has shared the stage with numerous noteworthy blues and R&B musicians including Al Green, B.B. King and the like and that’s cool. But more importantly, Brown’s powerful voice has been present not just in her own bands and solo efforts but also in Denver music in general. She has done vocals for Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band and weird funk group Cherry Bomb Club (which later meant joining Warlock Pinchers on stage for their 2010 reunion shows). She has contributed to albums from Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Xiren. Erica Brown is a multifaceted talent who has done things on her own terms and established a reputation for excellence that is all but unique in Denver.

Who: Infernal Coil, Inoculated Life, Augur and Heathen Burial
When: Thursday, 01.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Could be described as the industrial grind show since it involves Boise, Idaho’s Infernal Coil, Colorado’s own Heathen Burial, the hanging buzzsaw atmospherics of Denver’s Inoculated Life and the ritualistic vibe of black metal band Augur from Denver as well. It’ll be at Mutiny so it’ll be intimate in the back area for such a show with such abrasively gloomy music. Perfect.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Bonnie Weimer, FULL BLEED, Lepidoptera
When: Thursday, 01.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: It’s Musical Mayhem, the monthly (or is it bi-monthly?) showcase hosted by Claudia Woodman and simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. You never quite know what you’re going to get except that it’ll be a little different, as it were, and worthwhile. Full Bleed says “Droney psychedelic stoner metal shoegaze instrumental improv RöCK from Denver.” Lepidoptera is meditative guitar, field recording and keyboard-y soundscapes. Bonnie Weimer, though, has been in various projects in Denver over the years including her solo project. “Banjo Bonnie” may play some traditional banjo stuff in her set but mostly its originals that take a familiar sound in unfamiliar directions.

Friday | January 12, 2018

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I’m A Boy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ice Troll, New Standards Men, Paperbark, Venereal Crush and visuals by Orchidz3ro
When: Friday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Ice Troll is a sprawling psychedelic, doom prog band. Paperbark uses modular synths to create deeply textured ambient drones. Venereal Crush from Dubuque, Iowa is probably well within the realm of noise but its compositions feel like ambient music or composed sound environments using organic/live instruments alongside incredibly minimal synths. Is New Standards Men post-rock? Maybe so but it is also reminiscent of a doomier, more melodic Laddio Bolocko or Dazzling Killmen. Fortunately bands like this and some others playing venues up and down South Broadway are helping to keep the neighborhood a little weird in the face of Nü Denver tourist culture.

Who: Deer Creek w/Still Valley, Piojos and Drune
When: Friday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: The doom/sludge rock thing kinda died off in Colorado around a decade ago but mutated and turned into something maybe even better. Deer Creek has its roots back to the older sludge scene and remains one of the heaviest bands in Denver. Piojos includes former members of various heavy acts from Denver and Pueblo including Black Lamb. But pedigree aside, the sharply irreverent humor of Piojos can be heard all over its excellent 2016 album Fuck Everyone in Pueblo. Need it be mentioned they’re based in Pueblo and some people didn’t get the humor? Still Valley from Colorado Springs is classic sludge doom in the vein of Sleep, Acid Bath and Grief.

Who: Surrender Signal, Laurium and Old Sport
When: Friday, 01.12, 9 p.m.
Where: BarFly (Alamo Drafthouse, West 4255 W. Colfax location)
Why: Surrender Signal’s gritty melodies and fluid dynamics are reminiscent of Lungfish and East Coast post-punk/post-hardcore bands of the early 90s. Maybe a little Jawbox, Slint and Quicksand are in there too. Old Sport blurs the line between post-hardcore and melodic math rock and doesn’t skimp on the raw energy and passion in its performance.

Who: I’m A Boy, Grammar School and Teacup Gorilla facebook.com/events/136041710495512
When: Friday, 01.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: I’m A Boy is one of the few straight ahead rock and roll bands that doesn’t seem like it’s trying too hard to tap into the realm of classic rock. That’s because singer/guitarist Jimmi Nasi is a gifted songwriter in his own right who has a knack for knowing when a song works rather than lean on someone else’s music as a prop. Bassist Whitney Reher and drummer Jeffrey Mince provide a simple but dynamic jumping board for Nasi’s melodic gyrations, Nasi and Rehr striking poses because it’s more fun for them and more enjoyable as someone there for the show. Teacup Gorilla manages to write glam rock with inventive atmospheres and a theatrical flair of their own. Apparently Grammar School is bringing ragtime back.

Saturday | January 13, 2018

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Sgt. D’s List, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Choosey Mothers
When: Saturday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Choosey Mothers came out of Denver’s 80s punk scene with former members of bands that are even difficult to find online like the Trontils and Malice in Wonderland. But the Mothers established themselves as a raw punk band of note in the 90s at a time when the Dead Silence, Burnt Fase and, of course, The Fluid were exerting a strong influence on Colorado punk generally. This reunion show is to celebrate the 50th birthday of Sam Grampsas of The Mothers so it’s only fitting the show, which is free, is happening at Mutiny Information Café which is run by other smart, old school Denver punkers.

Who: Mr. Atomic, Television Generation and Meet the Giant
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: When a lot of 90s fuzz rock gets co-opted by a new generation of wannabes a watering down of what made that older music worthwhile is inevitable. Fortunately, these bands pushed that kind of rock and roll into more interesting territories and actually rock rather than playing AT it. Television Generation, sure, sounds like they got put into a deep freeze in 1993 Seattle and woken up in recent years. But its songwriting is strong and they’ve absorbed influences that have come along since grunge imploded in the mid-90s. Meet the Giant sounds like what happens when people who may have tried to make sludge rock got bored and wanted to write dynamic songs that would be fun to play instead of living up to a stoner rock cliché in their garage.

Who: Sgt. D’s List (S.O.D. Tribute), Hallowed Screams (Slayer tribute) and FUBAR
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Sky Brewery
Why: Normally tribute bands are kinda wack. But Sgt. D’s List is comprised of veterans of Denver’s grind, death metal and thrash scenes who bring to life the music of a S.O.D., one of the early crossover bands and tongue in cheek in a way that no one would do these days for obvious reasons. That band included members of Anthrax and Nuclear Assault and became an influence on metal and hardcore from its 1985 inception.

Who: Hot Rize 40th Anniversary
When: Saturday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: A gala celebration of one of Colorado’s most influential bands, Hot Rize, who helped to make modern bluegrass accessible to a wide audience without watering down the virtues of the music through attaching it directly to other genres of music. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of bluegrass, go check out Hot Rize and see an engaging live act whose musicianship and songwriting speaks for itself beyond genre. For this event, the band will bring in friends/guests Del McCoury, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Jerry Douglas and more

Who: Shattered Mirrors – GSTV, Ritual, Julian Black and guest DJ Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Box
Why: This is the newest music night hosted by DJ Ritual. This edition including a guest DJ set from Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ. Given Erickson’s dry yet surreal sense of humor, he may end up playing a bunch of dance-worthy stuff that isn’t in what one might presume to be his musical bailiwick.

Monday | January 15, 2018

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St. Vincent at Bluebird Theater, February 13, 2010. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: St. Vincent: Fear the Future Tour
When: Monday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Annie Clark was once a member of Polyphonic Spree but as St. Vincent she has long since distinguished herself as one of the most interesting songwriters and musicians of the past decade with a string of albums that explore the nature of identity, the complexities of dreams and aspirations and the way unexamined social norms warp our natural growth. Her latest album, 2017’s Masseduction, seemed more personal than previous offerings and hit with the emotional nuance and finely crafted dramatics of a J.G. Ballard novel.

Tuesday and Wednesday | January 16 and 17, 2018

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DIane Schuur. photo courtesy dianeschuur.com

Who: Diane Schuur
When: Tuesday, 01.16 and Wednesday 01.17, two shows each night, doors 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Diane Schuur is cooler than most of us because her mentors include Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra. She has collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Quincy Joes, Dizzy Gillespie and BB King. Among others. Her emotive vocals and expressive pianowork has garnered the admiration of her peers and a fanbase appreciative of an artist that doesn’t just have chops but the soul and poetic, lyrical sensibility to guide her songcraft. She’s playing four shows in Denver, early and mid-evening shows, on both Tuesday 1/16 and Wednesday 1/17.