Best Shows in Denver and Beyond September 2022

Boris performs at Bluebird Theater with Nothing on 9/14 , photo by Yoshihiro Mori
Nine Inch Nails at Red Rocks in September 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 09.02 and 09.03
What: Nine Inch Nails w/Yves Tumor
When: 7
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nine Inch Nails is too famous and for too long and rightfully so to bother to get detailed about its significance in popularizing industrial and electronic music and even ambient. The band’s shows are always innovative and pushing the performance envelope in some way whether that be in the visual presentation, with the sound production end, with sets that change throughout the show or playing with how the band itself presents its music as a live act. Nine Inch Nails doesn’t skimp on putting on probably the best show you’ll see this year or among the top tier at the least. And Trent Reznor or someone in the NIN camp always finds one of the coolest, up-and-coming, genre boundary challenging, innovative musical project going and for these two shows it’s Yves Tumor the experimental electronic and R&B artist whose shows are part Prince, part HEALTH, part Janelle Monáe but very much his own glorious earth alien charismatic psychedelia.

Courtney Barnett, photo by Mia Mala McDonald

Saturday | 09.03
What: Here and There Festival: Japanese Breakfast, Courtney Barnett, Arooj Aftab and Bedouine
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Courtney Barnett’s “Here And There” Festival makes a stop in Denver at the Mission Ballroom on September 3 with a unique lineup that for the Denver date in addition to Barnett includes Japanese Breakfast, Arooj Aftab and Bedouine.

The concept for the event was born of Barnett’s love of curation. As the owner of Milk! Records for the past decade Barnett has championed and released music by artists from her home town of Melbourne, Australia as well as US artists like Sleater-Kinney, Chastity Belt, Hand Habits and others.

Over the course of the tour from August through September, lineups will include all of the following artists: Alvvays, Arooj Aftab, Bartees Strange, Bedouine, Caroline Rose, Chicano Batman, Courtney Barnett, Ethel Cain, Faye Webster, Fred Armisen, Hana Vu, Indigo De Souza, Japanese Breakfast, Julia Jacklin, Leith Ross, Lido Pimienta, Lucy Dacus, Quinn Christopherson, Sleater Kinney, Snail Mail, The Beths, Waxahatchee and Wet Leg.

Barnett quickly went from a beloved and critically acclaimed indie artist known for her masterful use of the English language and powerful and imaginative guitar work and songwriting when her early EPs released 2012-2013 to widely celebrated singer-songwriter of no small cachet by the time of the 2015 release of her debut full length album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. With each record Barnett has distinguished herself as a songwriter able to expose her vulnerabilities and anxieties in a way that conveys a solidarity with other people and their own struggles.

Sharing the bill is Japanese Breakfast, the band lead by Michelle Zauner whose own trajectory as an artist parallels that of Barnett going from playing all the small clubs on the same circuits a little under a decade ago and delivering emotionally arresting pop songs that aren’t short on musicianly artistry. In 2021 she released her memoir Crying in H Mart to great acclaim in its poignant and loving depiction of her life coming up with a Korean mom, coming into playing music and the passing of her mother from pancreatic cancer in 2014. Her own pop music has as much in common with art rock in its creative ambition and songwriting with her songs easily fitting into the categories of dream pop, shoegaze, psychedelia, indie rock and R&B.

Arooj Aftab is the US-based Pakistani singer and songwriter who is the first person of Pakistani origin to be awarded a Grammy for Best Global Music Performance for her song “Mohabbat.” Her style is a hybrid of experimental folk, jazz and more traditional Pakistani music with elements of her 2021 album Vulture Prince reminiscent of Qawwali, the devotional music of Sufism. But her orchestral arrangements and powerfully tranquil yet emotionally rich vocal delivery defies easy categorization.

Bedouine aka Azniv Korkejian is a Syrian-American musician who grew up with both mainstream music via MTV and traditional Armenian and Arabic music. Her third album Waysides (2021) is a masterful evocation of loss, isolation, yearning and introspective insight cast in the sounds of Laurel Canyon era folk.

Jim Ward, Feb. 19, 2020, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre

Sunday | 09.04
What: The Get Up Kids w/Sparta
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Get Up Kids from Kansas City were one of the defining bands of 90s emo but stylistically never quite trapped in the tropes of the genre and its songwriting came to include keyboards and more focused pop songcraft without sacrificing the energy and intensity of its early music. Like Jawbreaker, The Get Up Kids made music in a style that isn’t cringey decades later unlike that of some of their peers. For this tour the band will perform its debut full length album Four Minute Mile as well as the Woodson EP in their entirety. Jim Ward of Sparta came up through similar circles of 90s underground punk and post-hardcore as a member of the influential and incendiary At The Drive In. But when the latter split in 2001 and part of the group went on to form The Mars Volta making music of a very different style, Ward continued to refine the style of music he’d helped develop in ATDI. The angular punk with searing emotional energy and intellect informing the lyrics. The group went on hiatus in 2008 and outside of a brief reunion in the early 2010s didn’t fully come back together until 2017. During the interceding years wrote and released music under his own name and with Sleepercar and honed his songwriting so that when Sparta returned to write and release 2020’s Trust the River the artistic growth was obvious and what has been put out from the forthcoming self-titled Sparta album is like a fusion of that fiery sonics of early Sparta and a more refined focus in the dynamics and structure of the songs to hit with emotional precision.

Sunday | 09.04
What: Echo & The Bunnymen w/Cayucas
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Echo & The Bunnymen were and are one of the classic bands out of the second wave of UK post-punk with a rooting in the first. The Bunnymen brought a romantic sensibility to the lyrics and a sense of mystery and tenderness to the music that has made its songs age exceedingly well apparently having formed outside immediate and obvious influences rather drawing inspiration from across decades of music and aiming to craft their own creative mythmaking. You’ll hear the hits, probably, but also deep cuts that will please true fans of the group’s deep well of great material.

Peter Hook at the Royal Albert Hall on September 29, 2018, photo by Jody Hartley

Monday | 09.05
What: An Evening With Peter Hook & The Light – Joy Division: A Celebration
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Peter Hook is of course one of the founding members of influential post-punk band Joy Division. For this occasion Hook will make an evening of a broad spectrum of that band’s songs. Anyone that has seen Peter Hook & The Light knows that Hook isn’t phoning in some greatest hits set. The band conjures the spirit of the original music and Hook’s own bass lines are iconic and foundational the sound, the mood, the cadences of post-punk and by extension through New Order pop and dance music. He brings a commanding presence and no small amount of his own fire to the performances though he shares bass duties with his son Jack who some may have seen play in The Smashing Punpkins. Hook’s three books The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club (2010), Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division (2012) and Substance: Inside New Order (2016) are essential reading for not just entertainment value but for the perspective and sense of history and culture that Hook was there to witness and in some ways shape.

Flume, photo by Nick Green

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday | 09.05, 09.06, 09.07
What: Flume ( w/Pospa, Sega Bodega at Mission on 9.05 – w/TSHA, Porspa and Oklou on 09.06 – w/Eprom, Shlomo and Oklou on 09.07
When: 7 p.m. for 09.05 and 5 p.m. for 09.06-09.07
Where: Mission Ballroom (09.05) and Red Rocks (09.06-09.07)
Why: Harley Streten has come a long way since learning basic production from a DJ and mixing program CD he got from a box of Nutrigrain. From early smaller club shows far afield from his home home town of Sydney, Australia, Streten as Flume steadily but fairly rapidly established himself as one of the more innovative ED artists of the 2010s whose facility with sculpting atmosphere and melody and merging it seamlessly with unconventional beats to make for music that has been able to evolve, absorb and move beyond micro-stylistic shift in the world of electronic dance music and today he’s one of the most popular artists in a realm of music that has remained important but seemingly plateaued in its cultural impact. But Streten’s musical imagination and skills have consistently kept him ahead of the curve and in mentoring newer artists in an organic way his shows are not just a showcase for his own work but that of potential future stars already doing interesting work.

Thursday | 09.08
What: Alphabet Soup #52: Felix Fast4ward, Reed Fox, Furbie Cakes, Sky Floor and Green Leader https://blackboxdenver.co/events/alphabeat-soup-sep8
When: 9
Where: Black Box
Why: Long-running experimental electronic dance-oriented music showcase Alphabet Soup returns with some of the local scenes more daring producers and imaginative soundscapers.

Kal Marks in October 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.09
What: Kal Marks – My Name is Hell Tour w/Moon Pussy and Cherished
When: 9
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Boston’s Kal Marks recently released its new album My Name Is Hell. The record out on NYC label Exploding In Sound is a further development of the group’s hybrid of emo, noise rock, pop collage and post-punk. The live band brings a visceral energy that takes the core of the recorded material and transforms it into cathartic performances that seem simultaneously passionate and vulnerable. Also playing this show is the crackling ball of nervous energy and roiling angular dynamics that is Moon Pussy whose fractured soundscapes and raw power transforms anxiety and amused outrage into inspiration. Cherished has become one of the most emotionally charged, melancholic shoegaze bands in Denver and elsewhere and the melodically gloomy counterpart to the other bands you’ll get to witness at this show.

Friday | 09.09
What: Gary Numan w/I Speak Machine and DJ Slave1
When: 8
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan probably needs no introduction and this is a show rescheduled from the spring for the foundational synth pop and industrial rock songwriter and musician. Maybe you only know “Cars” or “Down In the Park” but Gary Numan has had a long and consistently boundary pushing career and whose body of music is like a distinguished career in the kind of science fiction as song that puts the human experience at the center and thus it has aged well and his intense and riveting live shows are proof positive of the enduring vitality of his creative genius.

Flogging Molly 2021, photo by Katie Hovland

Friday | 09.09
What: Flogging Molly & The Interrupters w/Tiger Army and The Skints
When: 5
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Celtic punk can be a bit niche for many but Flogging Molly’s songwriting transcends that niche partly due to the exceptionally powerful vocals courtesy actually Irish lead singer Dave King. Though often lumped in with the pop punk world in which its spirited performances seem to find a natural home, there is a charming nuance of sound and style in the group’s music that lend its tales of poverty, love, death, revelry and struggle an artfulness to its clearly authentic sentiments. The band’s latest album Anthem includes “A Song Of Liberty” that starts out, at least in the music video and in the lyrics, to be a show of solidarity for the people of Ukraine against Russia but extends that solidarity with struggles for national liberation across decades and across continents. There’s nothing performative or phony about that messaging in the music nor in the band’s general, internationalist working class solidarity born out of basic compassion for other humans.

Emerald Siam in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.09
What: Munly & The Lupercalians w/Church Fire and Emerald Siam
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Munly & The Lupercalians, longtime project of Jay Munly of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, is celebrating the release of its latest album Kinnery Of Lupercalia; Undelivered Legion with this show at the Bluebird. This band is also an Americana band in a dark vein akin to that of some of SCAC’s own style but generally darker, more overtly literary and conceptual and in the live setting often accompanied by an element of the ritualistic. Breaking with local scene custom, and all the better for that, the opening bands aren’t going to be Americana at all except in the larger sense that political, darkwave industrial band Church Fire wouldn’t emerge anywhere but America where its incisive critique of the perils of patriarchy and religion as infused into the culture and politics as a lived experience perhaps has the greatest impact, or that Emerald Siam’s own moody, garage rock noir flavored post-punk would seem like an odd affectation coming from anyone but people who have breathed deep in what it’s like to live and struggle in the fractious society that is the USA.

Friday | 09.09
What: Westword Music Showcase Part 1
When: 7
Where: Various Venues in RiNO
Why: This is the first night of the Westword Music Showcase and it’s free. So some best bets no explanations given because there’s a lot going on this night.
7pm: Honey Blazer
8 pm: Bellhoss, Plasma Canvas or Kayla Marque
9 pm: Endless Nameless, Ritmo Cascabel, Bluebook
10 pm: Julian St. Nightmare
11 pm: Despair Jordan
12:20 am: Pink Fuzz or Citra

Allison Russel, photo by Marc Baptiste

Friday and Saturday | 09.09 and 09.10
What: Brandi Carlise ( w/ Lucius and Allison Russell on 09.09 and w/Indigo Girls and Allison Russell on 09.10)
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Brandi Carlisle is rightfully an incredibly famous and commercially successful singer-songwriter for her broad stylistic and emotional range as an artist with a powerful and expressive voice. Her latest album is In The Canyon Haze. Opener Allison Russell is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter whose debut solo album Outside Child released in 2021 on respected jazz, folk and Americana label Fantasy. Her orchestral yet spare arrangements bring her powerfully soulful vocals together in a style that might be described as Appalachian jazz R&B yet it works because Russell’s commanding presence and facility in playing multiple roles in performance is riveting for both its instrumental virtuosity and emotional resonance. See her band’s performance on KEXP below.

Saturday | 09.10
What: Westword Music Showcase Day 2
When: 12
Where: Various Venues Around Mission Ballroom
Why: This is the Westword Music Showcase day where you need to buy a ticket and here are some recommendations with no details.
2 pm: The Mañanas
2:35: Cannons
3:20: Ramakhandra
4:05: Wet Leg – canceled
5: Don Chicharrón
8:40 N3PTUNE
9:30: The Flaming Lips

Lucy Dacus, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Monday | 09.12
What: The National w/Lucy Dacus
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: The National rose to prominence in the 2000s and its brooding, atmospheric pop songs has certainly been one of the templates of modern indie music. Even early on its lush production and layered, orchestral arrangements felt like a natural successor to 90s indiepop and its contemplative lyrics can’t help but strike a chord with anyone that actually takes them in. Matt Berninger’s vocal delivery always seems to come across like he’s reading from a memoir from some future decade and having a poignant memory to relate, the kind that takes you back vividly to that time in a way that makes it possible to articulate with the benefit of life experience—something not everyone can do as well as Berninger does. After a eight acclaimed albums The National has returned with material for the upcoming ninth album and performing some of that at its 2022 live shows. Opening the proceedings is accomplished songwriter Lucy Dacus. Some may know Dacus more for her membership in supergroup boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. But Dacus’ records under her name are a body of personally insightful and emotionally fortifying songs that the songwriter delivers with an understated cool that nevertheless doesn’t mask the feelings and examinations thereof that went into distilling them into musical poetry. Even on her first album No Burden (2016), Dacus displayed a sophistication of songwriting at twenty one that can take many more years to attain. 2021’s Home Video has moments of almost uncomfortable rawness and honesty that aren’t made easier to hear with the gentle performances. Rather the songs are a vivid trip through psychological spaces perhaps we all experience but sometimes try to forget and Dacus makes it seem okay to think and feel these things because emotional self-honesty can be as healing as it can be searingly painful and haunting. Dacus brings that kind of compassionate energy and sense of mystery to her live performances as well so clearly a fine match for the headliner.

Stereolab in 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 09.13
What: Stereolab w/Fievel is Glauque
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Stereolab is the long-running experimental rock and electronic band formed in 1990 in London with former members of leftist political pop band McCarthy, Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier. The new group would adopt lo-fi pop aesthetics, Krautrock, avant-garde electronic and musique concrète into its ever evolving sound so that the “groop” could never get fully stuck in its own stylistic rut. Stereolab has become one of the most respected and beloved cult bands of the 90s that endured through the late 2000s before going on hiatus for a decade until 2019. Its most recent release is the 2022 compilation album Pulse of the Early Brain: Switched On, Vol. 5 which brings together tracks from across its career including a 1997 collaboration with arch experimentalists Nurse With Wound and other non official album tracks that have formerly been hard to come by including the 1992 Low Fi EP that marked the first appearance with the group of the late Mary Hansen and longtime and current member Andy Ramsay. The live shows are a combination of impassioned performance and sultry cool.

Full of Hell, photo by Jess Dankmeyer

Tuesday | 09.13
What: Full of Hell & Blood Incantation w/Vermin Womb, Mortuous and God is War
When: 6
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Might be the noisy heavy show of the month. Death grind legends Full of Hell whose 2021 album Garden of Burning Apparitions is as relentless as it is unsettling in its haunting vibes co-headlines with progressive death metal weirdos Blood Incantation from Denver who recently released an entire synth album though you probably won’t hear much of that for this show. Vermin Womb just release the blistering and thrillingly punishing Retaliation EP and will probably hit the stage hard with economical precision in its sonic brutality and exit before you’re full aware of what hit you.

Boris, photo by Yoshihiro Mori

Wednesday | 09.14
What: Boris w/Nothing
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: For the past thirty years Japanese rock band Boris has truly explored so many different styles of heavy and experimental across its prolific career that one would have to be hesitant to try to define the group’s aesthetic because from album to album it’s always been an exploration of the trio’s interests at the time from gear to songwriting to genre. In addition to the impressive and influential body of work under its own name, Boris has multiple collaborative albums with noise legend Merzbow, albums with Michio Kurihara of psych legends Ghost (not to be confused with the Swedish heavy metal band) and an album with respected Japanese avant-garde musician Keiji Haino. Its most recent album is its 2022 and second album titled Heavy Rocks. And as advertized it’s a rock album that is heavy but this time more in the vein of a strange and fascinating hybrid of punk, glam rock and heavy psychedelia. Live Boris has a mystique that renders all of its music strange and alluring rendered with a forceful intensity. Also on this tour is post-hardcore/noise rock band turned heavy shoegaze outfit Nothing whose 2020 album The Great Dismal is a great exercise in mood sculpting through hazy melodies and introspective vocals making observations on the decay of society and a fragile hope for things in the world to flow toward the better.

Wednesday and Thursday | 09.14 and 09.15
What: Kikagaku Moyo
When: 7:30 (09.14) and 7 (09.15)
Where: Fox Theatre (09.14) and Ogden Theatre (09.15)
Why: Legendary psychedelic folk prog band Kikagaku Moyo from Tokyo is taking its live show on the road one last time with two shows in Colorado. In May 2022 the group released its latest and likely final album Kumoyo Island and revealed the influence of cosmic funk on its sound in addition to the fusion of Japanese folk and Krautrock.

Wilco, photo by Annabel Mehran

Wednesday | 09.14
What: Wilco w/Margo Price
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Wilco is of course one of the most critically acclaimed indie rock bands going on three decades now and deservedly so. There isn’t a Wilco record that isn’t worth an earnest listen. Its 2022 album Cruel Country isn’t just brimming with solid songwriting and performances but the social commentary is poignant and personal in a way worthy of early Bob Dylan. The title track addresses youthful misconceptions about the country of one’s birth and the evolution of one’s nuanced understanding not just of countries but one’s own place in them. Perhaps unintentionally but one hears a touch of the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty on this record but that just gives it a cultural resonance across decades that is probably warranted in making meaningful and creative statements about society in the times we’re in now rather than hit issues of national identity on the nose. Of course the show will include material well beyond the new album and Wilco is reliably delivers a lively and highly entertaining performance. Opener Margo Price is one of the rising stars of modern country music but of course this means she’s not just a charismatic performer but her own songwriting expands the boundaries of what that music can be. Her new single “Been To The Mountain” borders on the psychedelic and is reminiscent of more adventurous country artists of the past like Lone Justice and Green on Red.

The Head and the Heart, photo by Shervin Lainez

Wednesday and Thursday | 09.14 and 09.15
What: The Head and the Heart w/Hiss Golden Messenger
When: 6:30
Where: Mission Ballroom (09.14) and Red Rocks (09.15)
Why: The Head and the Heart has established itself as one of the definitive artists of indie rock of the past decade and more. Earnest vocals and spacious arrangements and expansive melodies are components of its sound from early on but the Seattle based sextet has a knack for crafting pop hooks and imaginative arrangements that easily get stuck in your head but you don’t mind because it’s not repetitive or insipid, just heartfelt and memorable. Its 2022 album Every Shade of Blue seems to have pared its usual sonic mode to a spare minimalism that may not be what some fans are expecting from The Head and the Heart but within each one hears an experiment with where the group will go with its next album. Coming out of the pandemic every band can probably be excused for indulging a wide range of songwriting ideas that can make their new album sound like a transitional effort and maybe that’s what the sound of this record may come across as being yet there are undeniable gems on the record including the title track. At the very least at the show you’ll get to see old favorites live and see how The Head and the Heart pulls off material from the new record.

Perturbator, photo by David Fitt

Thursday | 09.15
What: HEALTH w/Perturbator and Street Sects
When: 6
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: This tour features some of the most inventive modern electronic industrial artists going. HEALTH got its break as one of the most prominent bands to come out of the DIY music scene around the non-profit venue The Smell in the mid-2000s. Weaving together noise, electronic dance music and darkly urgent post-punk, HEALTH has garnered a global audience with its ferocious live shows and idiosyncratically stylish aesthetics. Perturbator is more in the vein of blending industrial rock with 1980s horror movie synth soundtracks but delivered with a confrontational energy. James Kent aka Perturbator has a background in black metal and brings that attitude to his compositions and performance. 2021’s Lustful Sacraments turns down the aggression of Perturbator’s sound a little in favor of a touch of ethereal guitar melody and creative use of space in the mix lending the overall sound a haunting undercurrent. Street Sects is an industrial punk duo from Austin, Texas whose use of drastic dynamic shifts and spiky rhythms in a cloak of fog and metallic percussion that has been a flagship band of the experimental music label The Flenser. Its shows can have an unhinged intensity with a sense of danger to them though lately they haven’t as often brought out the bladeless chainsaw to change out into the crowd.

Pink Turns Blue, photo by Daniel Vorndran

Thursday | 09.15
What: Pink Turns Blue, Radio Scarlet, Redwing Blackbird
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Pink Turns Blue is the influential post-punk/darkwave band from Berlin, Germany that made waves in the 1980s through the mid-1990s for its moody yet triumphant songs imbued with a political awareness and sense of urgency within its gloomy melodies and dynamically measured paces. The group got back together in 2003 after the so-called post-punk revival that happened shortly after it broke up the first time and prior to the development of the modern darkwave scene yet clearly, directly or otherwise, exerted a bit of influence on artists in both periods. TAINTED is the 2021 record by the band and contains some of its most poetic and poignant political material of its career in challenging the world’s mishandling or really ignoring of the climate crisis and the rise of authoritarianism and income inequality—all seemingly so pressing now.

Alice Glass, photo courtesy Sacks & Co 2018

Thursday | 09.15
What: Alice Glass w/Uffie
When: 7
Where: Meow Wolf
Why: Alice Glass is perhaps most widely known for her work in electronic duo Crystal Castles where her expressive and otherworldly yet intimate vocals were a large part of the appeal of the project. After parting ways with Crystal Castles in 2014 later accusing her bandmate of assault and sexual misconduct, Alice Glass has emerged a solo artist whose work has a unique emotional resonance and vulnerable intensity that vibes perfectly with the inventive and mysterious beats in a style that sounds like it’s taken elements of hyper pop and the 8-bit electronic production of her earlier music and pushed it in a direction that suited the likely painful subject matter of her songs. After a 2017 debut EP Glass had some conflict with her label and parted ways but released her debut full length PREY//IV in February 2022 and she’s still putting out some honest words that speak truth about the kind of struggle and pain a lot of people go through every day especially people that have experienced abuse and in doing so provides maybe a tiny bit of catharsis with the music and with her powerful live show.

Melvins, photo by Chris Casella

Friday | 09.16
What: Melvins w/We Are The Asteroid and Taipei Houston
When: 7
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Melvins are one of the foundational bands of the heavy punk scene out of the Pacific Northwest and one of the primary influences on the bands that became the first wave of grunge. But Melvins never got stuck there or with that legacy even as it evolved its early sound and went on to explore a multitude of ideas in the music they made and how it was presented and where they would play and the kinds of tours they would tackle including the time they played every U.S. State in fifty days. All along the way Melvins have left us an impressive body of albums that push the boundaries of what heavy music can be and with every album Melvins offer something very different from the one that came before. This time around for the newly released 2022 album Bad Moon Rising there has been little advance promotion or videos or really much of a peak into what it sounds like. Making it a good excuse to go see one of the most entertaining and consistently impressive live rock bands of the modern era.

Friday | 09.16
What: George Cessna & His Band perform Lucky Rider w/Rose Variety, Fainting Dreams and DBUK
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: George Cessna & His Band will perform the 2021 album Lucky Rider in its entirety. The existential and haunting, lo-fi record distills the essence and spirit of being a creative and thoughtful person in the current time dealing with a multitude of challenges from those of the pandemic, to an increasingly neglectful media environment for the arts especially those local, trying to navigate personal challenges while reaching deep into self to find a reason to keep doing creative work when all sensible arrows point elsewhere. It is one of the most poignant personal music statements in the last few years and worth getting to witness in the live setting.

Grace Ives, photo by Samuel Metzger

Friday | 09.16
What: Grace Ives w/Super Bummer
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Grace Ives’ 2022 album Janky Star has likely snuck onto the year end best lists of more than a few music critics because not only are her eccentric pop songs imaginative crafted but speak to the current cultural moment. There is a meta self-awareness that is employed to make earnest commentary on mental health and seeking out deeper meanings in a cultural environment where so much is thrown your way often decoupled from context. All the songs on the album are short and to the point but rich with ideas. Ives says a great deal in a small space without overwhelming the listener. Somewhere between synth pop, hip-hop and even some bit of progressive rock Ives’ music has obviously absorbed a lot of modern music and come out more surprisingly original for it.

Friday | 09.16
What: Patched Out – Live Electronic Dance Music Party: Acidbat, Paul City, Love Cosmic Love, ALX-106
When: 9:01
Where: Black Box
Why: This is a more than ordinarily experimental electronic music showcase featuring local artists who pull from not only electronic dance music but noise and industrial styles. Minimal techno, glitchy acid house, mutant deep house grime.

Wild Rivers, photo by Samuel Kojo

Friday | 09.16
What: Wild Rivers w/Violet Skies
When: 7
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Toronto-based indie folk trio Wild Rivers released its sophomore album Sidelines in 2022, the follow up to its 2016 self-titled debut. Like most bands Wild River basically had to take a couple of years off from performing live and maybe rediscover and reimagine its sound some but in this case Wild Rivers leaned into its superb use of space and minimal instrumentation for a good deal of the material to allow for the gentle, warm and expressive touch of the vocals to sit center but also in allowing the percussion and rhythm to guide the music subtly but firmly, a feature of music one doesn’t often hear so clearly in folk-oriented music.

Porridge Radio, photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Saturday | 09.17
What: Porridge Radio w/Blondshell and Moodlighting
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Porridge Radio is a post-punk band from Brighton, UK formed after songwriter and lead vocalist Dana Margolin realized she needed a band to fully bring to life the songs she had been crafting and mainly performing at open mics and her own bedroom. There is a grittiness to the atmospheric music that can be found rooted in Margolin’s raw and tenderly honest lyrics and the way the band manifests the layered the contrasting emotions the singer/guitarist brings to bear and let out in often unexpected and engulfing outbursts that make it obvious you’re not listening to a conventional indie band because Porridge Radio doesn’t try to smooth over the rough edges. Its new album Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky (2022, Secretly Canadian) is rich with poetic metaphors for relationships fracturing and the struggles of one’s inner life that are too often kept bottled up and never addressed. Porridge Radio lets that anxiety out in a gripping sustained catharsis. Tourmate Blondshell aka Sabrina Teitelbaum is a songwriter based in Los Angeles whose own vulnerabilities and insecurities are also laid out in exuberant pop songs. Blondshell’s sound, though, is more akin to 90s alternative rock in its liberal use of fuzz and bombastic song structures to give some sonic and emotional boost to songs about the kinds of thoughts and experiences that can make us feel like we’re falling apart and failing ourselves yet finding some redemption and positive transformation in being willing to own the feelings and work through them. Moodlighting is a dream pop band from Denver whose fragile and winsome melodies are charged with an ethereal melancholy that lends the music more depth than seems obvious on first encounter.

Blondshell, photo by Dominique Falcone

Saturday | 09.17
What: Sick of It All and Agnostic Front w/Crown of Thornz
When: 7
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Agnostic Front may predate the existence of Sick Of It All by six years and technically part of the first wave of hardcore, but New York City hardcore didn’t really get its due or hit its stride until later in the eighties and these two bands were a couple of the leaders of that punk milieu along with Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law and others.

Colin James, photo by James O’Mara

Saturday | 09.17
What: Colin James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Colin James is a Canadian blues and rock guitarist/vocalist who got his big break into a national and international music world when his band was tapped to open last minute for Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984 when another opening act was no longer available. Since then James has expanded upon his electric and acoustic blues style and was an early adopter of swing in the early 90s when straight ahead blues wasn’t as much in favor for a number of years and his Colin James and the Little Big Band project enjoyed some success when the swing revival was under way throughout the 90s. But in the 2000s and 2010s it seemed as though blues enjoyed a bit of a renaissance including the popular Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and numerous blues festivals that have come about since the turn of the century. James’ most recent album, 2021’s Open Road, is a collection of interpretation of blues classics and original material that showcases the musician’s masterful command of the musical idiom and ability to innovate within it.

Sunday | 09.18
What: Bob Mould Solo Electric: Distortion and Blue Hearts!
When: 7
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Bob Mould is of course the co-founder of Hüsker Dü and Sugar but his solo albums have provided some of his best and most refined songwriting to date. This tour will be a chance to see Mould perform from across his solo catalog including the 2020 Blue Hearts album which included Jon Wurster of Superchunk fame and Jason Narducy also of Superchunk filling in for Laura Ballance. So this performance will probably include both of those guys and Mould’s own lively presence.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, photo by Brendan Meadows

Sunday | 09.18
What: Snotty Nose Rez Kids w/Freedom Move…
When: 7
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: Snotty Nose Rez Kids are a First Nations hip-hop duo from Kitamaat Village, BC but now based in Vancouver. Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce have a style that people that appreciate trap and hyper pop would appreciate including the meta self-awareness required to pull that off with creativity and artistry. So of course there is a deep sense of play and humor in the music but so many of its songs hit as poignant and as powerfully as the best hip-hop especially in painting a portrait of life in their First Nations community and the unique struggles attendant with that experience.

Monday | 09.19
What: Pavement w/Annalibera
When: 6:30
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Almost all indie bands of any originality worth listening to can trace their roots to the idiosyncratic and masterful guitar rock of Pavement. The group long made a virtue of unconventional song structure, Stephen Malkmus’ unusual vocal style and an almost free associating lyrics. Its loosely arranged guitar jangle both loping and angular leaves room for truly creative improvisation that have yet to be fully appreciated by many fans who might be put off by how much Pavement’s music resonates with free jazz and a psychedelic blues jam. Live Pavement has remained a brilliant head scratcher which is really the reason to see them live if you can afford the exorbitant ticket price because even though the influence on modern music is obvious no one has really been able to quite mimic the idiosyncratic melodies and bizarre observational lyrics.

Wednesday | 09.21
What: of Montreal w/Locate S, 1 and Duck Turnstone
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: of Montreal is one of the longest running bands that emerged out of the 90s indiepop milieu with roots in the Elephant6 collective (i.e. Apples in Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel). Its colorful album cover imagery and borderline performance art stage personae come from a real place of genuine eccentric creativity informed by an experimental literary approach to lyrics and not just conceptual album arcs but individual songs as well. There is a deep imagination discernible on any of its albums including the 2022 offering Freewave Lucifer F<ck F^ck F>ck. This new music sounds even more like a collage of psychedelic pop and space rock glam.

Wednesday | 09.21
What: PROBLEMS w/Goo Age, Andy Loebs, DJ Arman and DJ Fresh Kill
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: Daren Keen has been responsible for some of the most creative electronic and noise music of the past several years and with his project PROBLEMS it’s like he is mixing techno with surreal spoken word, hip-hop and electronic dance music as a vehicle for what might be musical autobiography as exposure of neuroses and insecurities inverted bravado.

Thursday | 09.22
What: Dan Deacon w/PROBLEMS
When: 7
Where: Meow Wolf
Why: Dan Deacon is one of the most prominent experimental electronic pop artists to have emerged from the American DIY underground whose graduate degree in electro-acoustic and computer music he has put to direct use as a composer and songwriter whose work can be found across a long career of high concept albums and film scores. The former also serving as sage commentary on modern American culture. His shows tend to be incredibly interactive involving audience participation which may make the stage at Meow Wolf more conducive to such adventures than more traditional concert venues. Also on the bill is PROBLEMS mentioned above for that date at Glob.

Built to Spill, photos by Isa Georgetti, collage be Lea Meida

Friday | 09.23
What: Built to Spill w/The French Tips and ORUA
When: 8
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Boise, Idaho’s Built to Spill needs no real introduction as one of the bands to emerge in the 1990s that embraced a noisy punk sound and jammy psychedelia at once to craft a body of work that could express deeply personal contemplations on life as well as commentary on the nature of existence. Its new record When The Wind Forgets Your Name is one of its most gritty and bracing in years with Neil Young-esque guitar leads and Doug Martsch’s signature, haunted, playful mystic vocals offering more of the band’s unique creative vision that never seems trapped by an era or style of music thus its continued vitality.

…And The Black Feathers, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.23
What: …And The Black Feathers EP release w/The Trujillo Company, Jaguar Stevens and Bootleg Baldwins
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: …And The Black Feathers is a band that somehow grinds out bluesy garage rock without sounding like its trying to be some other artist. It’s tempting to compare it to John Spencer Blues Explosion but it’s not that bizarre yet there is something otherworldly to its performances and air of having come to us from the same parallel dimension that gave us Tav Falco and Kid Congo Powers. The group is releasing its first EP in a few years.

Dehd, photo by Alexa Viscius

Friday | 09.23
What: Dehd w/Exum
When: 8
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Dehd is a trio from Chicago that is somehow able to be funny and incredibly poignant and powerful at the same time with an eclectic body of work that blurs the line between blues, punk, garage rock and dream pop. Its 2022 album Blue Skies is one of its more melancholic and contemplative records but as per usual there is a defiant spirit running through the music that directly translates to the live show where Dehd take minimalist elements and turn it into something that seems so gloriously bombastic and celebratory it exorcises some of the pain and disappointment that went into making the writing of the songs possible.

Divide and Dissolve, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 09.23
What: Divide and Dissolve w/Matriarch and Vulgarian
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Divide and Dissolve is an instrumental doom band from Melbourne, Australia. And yes, instrumental but its songs crafted from saxophone, guitar and percussion are a commentary on colonialism and its corrosive effects not just on indigenous culture but on itself as an extension of a racist economic system that ultimately commodifies all things and all people and devalues life, the earth and inspires so many to rationalize its predation because they benefit from its narrow vision of sharing resources and the “proper” use of our time in what little of it we have on the earth. The music sounds like a deconstruction of that system and the 2021 album Gas Lit leaves no question about how “the legacy of greed has grown from its seed to infiltrate every place, every face, releasing a suffering recorded in stone and in bone, so old that language can’t console it.”

f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.23
What: F-ether tour kickoff w/UaZit, FOANS, Knife Band and Causer
When: 7:30
Where: Glob
Why: F-ether is one of the few producers in Denver who is steeped in both the noise, electronic dance and rock scenes who seems adept at navigating these musical concepts in crafting his own playful and imaginative tracks. He’s setting off on his latest tour and celebrating with likeminded, creative electronic artists for this show including the always powerful and engrossing Causer.

Foreign Air, photo by Luke Adams

Saturday | 09.24
What: Foreign Air w/Anna Shoemaker and Ghostpulse
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Foreign Air got together when Jacob Michael’s former rock band U.S. Royalty split in 2017 and he came to work with Jesse Clasen whose own rock bands The Bear Romantic and HRVRD had played shows with U.S. Royalty. For their band together the duo tapped into a more electronic music production approach to crafting lush pop songs. The sound is can range from lo-fi, spare but energetic post-punk flavored pop to enveloping melodic haze given solidity with organic instrumentation. The advance tracks from the new Foreign Air album Hello Sunshine finds the band using the sound palette of modern indie pop and funk with an ear toward more unconventional arrangements and rapid adding and dropping of layers to convey not just gradations of sonic saturation but in doing so the emotional as well. Anna Shoemaker’s 2022 debut album Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire) is a collection of sharply observed sketches of lived experience expressed through gritty guitar pop and quiet-loud dynamics akin to 90s alternative rock. But as with lyrics like on her new single “I’m Your Guy” Shoemaker’s songwriting subverts convention by threading her songs with modern electronic details that give the music some unexpected turns of phrase in parallel with her taking relationship, gender and sexuality norms in pop music and turning them over in a way that is both rebellious and gives those normally not in the usual power structure of culture another way of imagining how things can be and dispensing with othering.

Anna Shoemaker, photo by Emma Berson

Saturday | 09.24
What: Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends w/Almanac Man and An Antiquated Bluff
When: 8:30
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: To the casual listener Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends may sound like they listened to a lot of stoner rock and Monster Magnet before forming this band but there is something subversive in the way the group has used its music to challenge transphobia and hideously lazy and destructive thinking in general. Its 2022 split with The Erratic Retaliator Strategy is part noise rock and part philosophical exploration of social phenomena with titles like “Competitive Grief” and “The Misplaced Optimism of the Doomed.” That’s keeping it real. Also on the bill is Denver-based experimental noise rock band Almanac Man and emo Americana math rock phenom An Antiquated Bluff whose own songs examine and attempt to exorcise the anguish of external and internalized oppression.

Trentemøller , photo by Karen Rosetzky

Sunday | 09.25
What: Trentemøller w/TOM & his Computer
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Anders Trentemøller has been perfecting his particular fusion of moody rock and the electronic under the project moniker of his surname since 2006. The tonally cool downtempo of his earlier albums seemed to anticipate and transcend the forthcoming darkwave movement of the 2010s as his own minimalist compositions organically unfolded to enhance the nuanced melancholy of the song lyrics. In 2022 the songwriter released his latest album Memoria which features the usual reconciliation of thematic and musical contrasts with gritty, saturated synth and ethereal melodic drift over steady beats all conspiring to produce a dynamic that seems aimed at raising spirits against the gloom of the album’s subject matter of acceptance of when things feel off or aren’t going how one might prefer. It gives an element of complexity that feels like a process you’d need to go to shed deep seated regret and process bittersweet memories without forgetting what made them significant.

Laveda, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 09.25
What: Laveda w/Isadora Eden, Nina De Freitas and Alana Mars
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Laveda from Albany, NY is a dream pop/shoegaze band whose gorgeously lush melodies and warmly evocative singing never masks its all too real and bracing assessments of the world as it is and the challenges we face and the feelings we go through as we try to navigate a culture and society that isn’t giving an adequate response to the specter of climate disaster, fiscal malfeasance from the top, legislative and judicial corruption and all the ways the powerful are making life more difficult for those not in positions of power on a granular level. Sure, ethereal, heavy guitars but as a kind of ambient catharsis and path to staying out of the pits of despair even while giving voice to the concerns that when they hit you at once can paralyze your psyche. But also enjoyable as one of the best new shoegaze bands operating in America.

Julia Jacklin, photo by Nick Mckk

Monday | 09.26
What:
Julia Jacklin w/Katy Kirby
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: On her new album Pre Pleasure, Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin makes uncertainty seem so comforting and reassuring. Like her 2019 album Crushing, this new album has concepts guiding its exploration of themes one does not often hear in music written in a way that sounds like something that landed in the Twenty-First Century from the 1960s with the wash of melody accomplished with spare, organic musical elements in miniature orchestral fashion and Jacklin’s introspective vocal style that seems to draw out the nuances of emotion and psychological details of how we feel that can often be brushed under in the push of the raw, face fronting emotional experience. Jacklin emphasizes the whole picture in its lived experience. On Pre Pleasure she makes acceptance of unresolved feelings and situations seem as satisfying as we’re going to get out of so many circumstances in life.

Monday | 09.26
What: Rein w/DJ Eli and Niq V
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Swedish darkwave/industrial artist Rein makes a stop in Denver after her performance at the Coldwaves festival in Chicago. Her blend of synth pop and a gritty and stylized delivery that balances aggression and grace like a more Goth-y Youth Code and more steeped in 90s EBM but with the same sort of punk style and spirited performance.

Tuesday | 09.27
What: The Foreign Resort, Hapax and Plague Garden
When: 8
Where: HQ
Why: Also fresh off their performances at Coldwaves X in Chicago are Depeche Mod-esque, Danish post-punk band The Foreign Resort and the urgent and almost strident melancholic sound of HAPAX from Naples, Italy. Local support from Plague Garden’s whose emotionally charged, electronically infused post-punk is well outside the cookie cutter trendiness that can be heard in too much modern post-punk and darkwave.

Tatsuya Nakatani, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 09.27
What: The Nakatani Gong Orchestra w/Ryan McRyhew and Ben Donehower
When: 7:30
Where: Scorpio Palace
Why: Master percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani brings his 10-piece gong orchestra for an intimate performance at Scorpio Palace (formerly known as Rhinoceropolis). Nakatani will conduct the ensemble in performance with bowed gong. Prior to the 10-person performance there will be a trio comprised of Nakatani and local improvisors Ryan McRyhew, aka Ntrancer who will utilize a Hordijk system, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Donehower who some may know for his avant-pop project Petite Garçon. Seating is limited for this unique performance and doors are 7:30 p.m. with the show starting promptly at 8 p.m.

Genesis Owusu, photo by Bailey Howard

Tuesday | 09.27
What: Khruangbin w/Tennis, Vieux Farka Touré and Genesis Owusu
When: 5
Where: Civic Center Park
Why: Houston’s Khruangbin has emerged as one of the most popular bands to have emerged from modern American psychedelic rock. It’s sound has trended more toward a upbeat funk and soul sound like the kind of music you’d expect to hear as a regular guest on a modern incarnation of Soul Train. On its 2020 album Mordechai it certain seems to tape into the energy and style of later P-Funk and the kind of mutant funk of early 99 Records bands. But whatever the exact aesthetic one might try to push on Khruangbin its music defies easy pigeonholing and has as much in common with the aforementioned as it does with W.I.T.C.H. and Afrobeat. Opener Owusu Genesis is a Ghanaian-Australian artist who doesn’t just make music but designs his own fashion and those impulses seem to inform each other in an asymmetrical way in that he mixes and matches styles and aesthetics to create something uniquely his own. With rich synth work and polyrhythms his music might be considered hip-hop but his vocal style is decidedly different and playful and imaginative the way one might hear an analog of in Thundercat’s solo material where it would be difficult to pigeonhole him as well. His 2021 debut album Smiling with No Teeth is a genre busting delight of experimental hip-hop and electronic pop.

Pale Waves, photo by Kelsi Luck

Wednesday | 09.28
What: Pale Waves w/Gatlin
When: 7
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Underneath Pale Waves’ effervescent energy and infectious melodies are lyrics that directly and sensitively deal with issues of anxiety, depression and class. Its 2018 debut EP All the Things I Never Said delivered on the promise of early singles like “Television Romance” and “There’s a Honey.” Employing a palette of wonderfully melodramatic pop punk and straight ahead pop, Pale Waves delivers music that is immediately and thrillingly accessible for anyone not looking to be alienated by catchy music but with deftly crafted, meaningful content. Pale Waves recently released its third album Unwanted on August 12, 2022.

The Luka State, photo by Rob Blackham

Friday | 09.30
What: The Luka State w/Micky James
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Luka State from Winsford, Cheshire brings its tour to Denver ahead of the release of its sophomore full length The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same. If its new single “Stick Around” is any indication the group isn’t short on the anthemic melodies that drove its earlier releases. Its live show looks more fiery and intense than one might expect from songs coming from a place of seeming thoughtful vulnerability.


Best Shows in Denver and Beyond July 2022

Primitive Man performs at Bluebird Theater on July 15, 2022
Aldous Harding at UMS 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.01
What: Aldous Harding w/H. Hawkline
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ever since the release of her 2014 self-titled debut album Aldous Harding has been crafting some of the most unique songs in the realm of indie folk of the past few decades. With each album Harding offers songs that seem like a blend of the deeply personal, the mythical and the conceptual. Her song titles suggest a surreal aesthetic that lends itself to her imaginative story telling and a willingness to seek beyond tropes and clichés for ways of signing about relationships, identity, aspirations and dreams and commenting on society. 2017’s Party and her subsequent North American tour revealed Harding to be a truly and fascinatingly idiosyncratic artist whose emotionally powerful and riveting performances were reminiscent of Joni Mitchell with a touch of Kate Bush. Her latest album Warm Chris (2022) puts the focus on fusing the jazz elements of her songwriting with the avant-garde pop for a set of songs that sound like lounge music from a parallel universe where creative weirdos are in charge and creativity is more valued than affirming popular trends.

Reverb and The Verse, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.01
What: Yonbre Netz w/Reverb and The Verse
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: Yonbre Netz is a Boulder-based hip-hop and experimental electronic artist whose varied collaborations can be heard on his Spotify account where his keen ear for colorful, percussive melodies can be heard. But this is also a rare chance to catch Reverb and The Verse who recently put out their tenth and supposed final album BLACKWALL under this project name. Shane Etter and Jahi Simbai have been at it since the late 90s making hip-hop that has always been rich with creative soundscaping and truly clever wordplay informed by incisive commentary on society and the travails of everyday life. Seemingly never content to repeat the same musical ideas album to album the duo’s catalog of material is a great trail of creative evolution and experimentation. BLACKWALL is a little like if Public Enemy collaborated with Nine Inch Nails with the gift for emotionally charged and politically and poetically astute as that comparison might imply. You may not get many chances to catch those guys in action and the Broadway Roxy would be a great room to make that the opportunity to witness one of the finest hip-hop acts Denver has to offer.

Friday | 07.01
What: Vmthanaachth w/Church Fire, Sell Farm, Ray Diess (album release) and Coma Roulette
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Vmthanaachth from Dallas, Texas combines ambient music and industrial with classical avant-garde in a way that fans of Pedestrian Deposit will appreciate. Church Fire has been really upping their game with making irresistible bangers that also dismantle status quo sentiments and ways of being. For those not in the know Church Fire is something like an alchemical mixture of synth pop, industrial dance music, confrontational feminist punk and one of the best bands out of Denver or anywhere of the past decade. Ray Diess is releasing his latest album the hyperpop inflected and rawly honest It’ll Always Ache. It sounds like something that might have come out of Manchester in the late 80s or early 90s but with musical references and more obvious inspirations of a couple of decades later. There is some fine shade and ascerbic wit across the album but in the end it’s about seeking the authentic in experiences and embracing one’s own feelings as valid and does so with passion and playfulness.

Spyderland, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.01
What: Spyderland video/EP release w/Machu Linea and Random Temple
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge/Bobcat Room
Why: Spyderland is an electro pop duo comprised of Marie Litton and Drew McClellan. The two have been veterans of the Denver underground scene for years and to their credit this project is really unlike anything else they’ve done. Rather, they’ve taken their strengths as artists and applied then to crafting a different style of music meaning an experimental form of pop that can at times be a bit downtempo but with a spirited sense of play running through how they spark off each other as performers. It comes off as a bit of a musical dialogue which lends itself to a body of imaginative and fresh songwriting. For this show Spyderland is releasing a new animated video and its new EP. Machu Linea is a likeminded artist who can often be seen DJing around town but it turns out Armando Garibay has a gift for assembling beats and sounds that transform popular styles into something far more inventive. The 2020 album HeXotica showcased Garibay’s range as an artist and collaborator with some of the most talented artists in the local hip-hop and electronic music scenes. Random Temple has been in various types of bands over the years but under this moniker his ambient and IDM music freely weaves together textures, tones and even musical structures as a way to deconstruct conventions of genre.

sleepdial in June 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 07.04
What: Zach Rowden, Terravault Network, Tripp Nasty and sleepdial
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Zach Rowden is a member of collaborative improvisational project Crazy Doberman that began life as a series of collaborations with John Olson of Wolf Eyes fame. But since its inception in the late 2010s Crazy Doberman has had a prolific output of recordings. Under his own name or with Tongue Depressor Rowden has been running experiments in texture and environmental sounds as they intersect with a hypnotic, almost ritualistic form of ambient. Terravault Network is Eli Windler (Spectral Voice, City Hunter, No Thought and others) and Kevin Wesley (Hot White) making industrial ambient soundscapes that sound like abstracted and processed environmental field recordings at a distance from an active factory late night near the train tracks and processed to preserve rhythms and an enigmatic mood. Tripp Nasty has had quite the eclectic run of music experiments over the years from modern classical music to performance art, weirdo punk and now an almost academic analog/modular synth composition project that he recently displayed opening for legendary avant-garde musician William Basinski. Sleepdial is Luke Thinnes’ musical alter ego to French Kettle Station. Whereas the latter pushes the boundaries of electronic dance music and new age pop, the former is Tim Hecker-esque textured ambient music that layers subtle running pulses and flowing drifts of white noise and purely abstract melody that conveys a sense of endless space and wonder.

Darkest Hour, photo by Rick Ceauliue

Tuesday | 07.05
What: Darkest Hour w/Toxic Holocaust and Necropanther
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Darkest Hour from Washington D.C. has been evolving its particular flavor of melodic death metal mixed with post-hardcore since its inception in 1995. Its epic guitar progressions and apocalyptic visual style makes the band sound and look like something from the near future after the fallout of the collapse of worldwide civilization as we know it has been sorted out. This tour represents the group’s first with new lead guitarist Nico Santora and Darkest Hour will perform its 2007 album Deliver Us in its entirety and subsequent to the tour the group will return to the studio to record its tenth album. Opening the show is blackened death thrash mutants Necropanther from Denver as well as veteran thrash band Toxic Holocaust from Portland, Oregon whose own music has more than a leg in hardcore and grind as evidenced by its blast beats fused with acidic, Venom-esque menace.

Grief Ritual October 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 07.05
What: Under the Pier, The God Awful Truth, Vexing and Grief Ritual
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Under the Pier is a math-y post-hardcore outfit from Baltimore whose songs feel chaotic even as they are guided by a bizarre precision of execution. Vexing from Denver is difficult to pin down even though it clearly has roots in extreme metal and post-hardcore mainly because it also comes off like a grindcore band that’s dialing back the onslaught a little to let sounds hang in the air and hit you differently than a persistent force. Makes its gruff vocals and mathematically precise accents in a riff seem more nuanced and creative. Grief Ritual is going through some transitions since long time guitarist Mykel Monroe is departing but this may be a last chance to check out his guitar wizardry with Grief Ritual. Its own hardcore stylings have a brutal elegance from guitar pyrotechnics, to finely executed, cathartic vocals to surprisingly spare yet interlocking rhythms that allow for the songs to switch moods and focus of forcefulness with great flexibility. Its most recent album The Gallows Laugh may be more in the realm of metallic hardcore but has the beautifully confrontational and caustic quality of a melodic black metal record.

Puscifer, photo by Travis Shinn

Wednesday | 07.06
What: Puscifer w/Moodie Black
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Puscifer is Maynard James Keenan’s vehicle for a plethora of creative musical ideas that don’t really fit in with the art prog of his more famous band Tool. So he’s been able to infuse it with some of his more innovative experiments in sound and theatrical performance. The group hasn’t toured the U.S.A. since 2016 and reports of shows and footage that has made it onto the internet reveals what you might hope for and expect with elaborate sets and Maynard performing almost like a cosmic variety show host and his cohort of weirdos. The most recent Puscifer album Existential Reckoning (2020) must have been a head scratcher for anyone expecting industrial rock or hard rock in general. Its extensive and evocative use of synths and other keyboards as the drivers of melody and dramatic vocals is tempting to compare to something Peter Gabriel might be doing now but also not unlike something Gary Numan might do and really one of the most sonically fascinating records of Keenan’s career thus far.

Thursday | 07.07
What: The Pine Hill Haints w/Glueman and George Cessna
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Pine Hill Haints from Auburn, Alabama perform fairly traditional bluegrass and folky country with great the intensity and energy. Fans of rockabilly will probably appreciate what the Haints have to offer but its music also seems just slightly out of frame of normalcy to be interesting. Opening the show is George Cessna whose 2021 album Lucky Rider is a beautifully and paradoxically warmly haunting piece of work that transcends “alt-country” into the realm of slowcore and pastoral, Lanois-esque Americana that feels like reading an idiosyncratic noir novel comprised of impressionistic vignettes about navigating a culture and society in decline and trying to do something worthwhile with integrity in spite of one’s personal limitations and the weight of one’s history and attachment to tradition and sentimental notions.

Gila Teen, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday – Sunday | 07.08 – 07.10
What: Compost Heap Music Festival V
When: 3-11 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Can’t sum up why better than the verbiage from the FB event below which includes set times and other information.

“It’s happening again! July 8th, 9th, and 10th! One of the biggest temporary DIY music festivals you’ll ever see! Three days of great music from underground bands from across the nation and local support that you may have never heard of but you will definitely love!

ACCESSIBILITY INFO: This event will be wheelchair accessible. ADA portapotty onsite. Proof of vaccination is required. Masks are strongly encouraged. Denver will be hot and dry, dress in breathable and moisture wicking clothing and avoid dark colors. There will be shade provided and cooling misting fans throughout the day. This event will be live-streamed.
We created this festival with a goal, it’s organized to center and amplify the music and art of marginalized folks, and to celebrate radical perspectives and ideologies in general. It’s focus is to try and raise awareness about oppressive institutions that stunt our ability to flourish as individuals and communities, and to come together to resist against them for our collective liberation, express solidarity and make some new friends.

FRIDAY, JULY 8TH
4:00-4:25 Team Nonexistent
4:35-5:00 Mx Wander (PA)
5:10-5:35 Old Scratch & The Holy Mess (AZ)
5:45-6:10 Bird Teeth (WA)
6:20-6:45 Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists
6:55-7:20 Endless, Nameless
7:30-7:55 Gutter Town (AZ)
8:05-8:30 Fables of the Fall
8:40-9:05 Shooting Tsars (TX)
9:15-9:45 RAT BATH (WI)
10:00-10:30 Ceschi Ramos (CT)
10:45-11:15 Crow Cavalier

SATURDAY, JULY 9TH
3:00-4:00 OPEN MIC
4:00-4:25 Marissa.
4:35-5:00 Loud in the Morning (WA)
5:10-5:35 Sunnnner
5:45-6:10 HappyHappy (IN)
6:20-6:45 Fruiting Body of the Larger
6:55-7:20 Straight Line Arrival (ND)
7:30-7:55 Gila Teen
8:05-8:30 Danbert Nobacon (WA) (x Chumbawamba)
8:40-9:05 Ludlow (OR)
9:15-9:45 Self Neglect (NM)
10:00-10:30 Lo Cash Ninjas (NN)
10:45-11:15 Doom Scroll

SUNDAY, JULY 10TH
3:00-4:00 OPEN MIC
4:00-4:25 The Michael Character (MA)
4:35-5:00 Rumbletramp (NC)
5:10-5:35 Hello the Camp (ID)
5:45-6:10 Helga Pataki
6:20-6:45 Gone Full Heathen
6:55-7:20 The Ragetones
7:30-7:55 Mr. Atomic
8:05-8:30 Dana Skully and the Tiger Sharks (IN)
8:40-9:05 Caustic Soda
9:15-9:45 Noogy (TX)
10:00-10:30 Plasma Canvas
10:45-11:15 Anxiety Cat (LA) (x Taxpayers)

Compost Heap music festival is a not-for-profit event. All festival revenue will be used to pay touring bands, or donated to the Harm Reduction Action Center in honor of Marci, a dear friend who is no longer with us. Thank you for your support.

$45-75 suggested donation for a weekend (3 day) pass

$20-25 suggested donation for a day pass

+$5 SEVENTH CIRCLE MEMBERSHIP FEE (if you don’t have one already): In order to attend any event at the venue you must posses a membership card. This helps 7C stay afloat and protects them from getting shut down, help keep DIY alive in Denver!

If you would like to pre-order your weekend pass, please email us @ compostheap2022@gmail.com (please put “Compost Heap 2022 pass” in the subject line) You should get an immediate response, but if for some reason you don’t, please email wormfooddiy@gmail.com instead.”

New Standards Men, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 07.09
What: Derek Monypeny w/New Standards Men, Sex Funeral and Pythian Whispers
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Derek Monypeny is coming from communing with the Methuselah tree to bring his accumulated musical wisdom fostered while living in Joshua Tree. Think drone and “free jazz” if you were hanging with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Werner Herzog. Sex Funeral brings their celebration of the transmogrification of tantric rites through the necromantic meditation practices cultivated in secret sites in southern Iowa. The manifestation of these mystical energies will emerge as improvisational ritual drone for guitar and electronics. New Standards Men are fresh off a sabbatical merging analog synth and guitar as synth alchemy as structured exercises based on the deep secret knowledge shared by Robert Moog, Don Buchla and Morton Subotnick as conducted by Terry Riley. And probably opening this afternoon of high psychedelic frequency modulation is Pythian Whispers. Lore has it the three early members of the band that wrote and performed the album The Dark Edge of Hippie Life met on a mountaintop, perhaps at Machu Picchu, perhaps at Alamut Castle, perhaps in the secret chamber below the skeletons of ancient trees at the top of Mount Evans. Whatever the truth might be and whatever arcane secrets of improvisational music learned it will be unleashed in short form by those ragged vagabonds of psych prog ambient. So what do you have to lose and trust me everything of something to gain? Probably donation based. We’ll see if Jodorowsky can come from Paris to do tarot readings for the event but no promises. Tamam shud.

Hulder, photo by Liana Rakijian

Sunday | 07.10
What: Skeleton and Hulder
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Austin’s Skeleton started out as a hardcore band but has since its 2014 inception morphed into something that has clear sonic roots in thrash and black metal. Its 2020 self-titled album is too slow to be some kind of crossover thing but not slow enough to be some kind of doom project. Its blunt yet jagged riffs are reminiscent of early thrash but without be defined by that aesthetic. Also on the bill is HULDER whose own black metal style weaves together an elegant classical music sensibility with a refined black metal onslaught that reaches epic peaks of evocative and gritty atmospheres like the elevated subjects of her songs. The new album The Eternal Fanfare finds HULDER expanding her sonic palette so that melody and texture seem to work in perfect tandem to cinematic effect like scoring the saga of an ancient heroic journey to the underworld and back.

duck turnstone, December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 07.11
What: TV Star w/Broken Record, Flor De La Luna and Duck Turnstone
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: TV Star from Seattle apparently aimed at being somewhere between the sound of dysfunctional era The Brian Jonestown Massacre and the more dream pop period of The Jesus and Mary Chain. But it ended up more in the realm of late period Sarah Records jangle pop with delicate melodies and warm vocals. Denver’s “Flora de la Luna” talks about being a “tough guy boy band” but really sounds more like an angsty power pop band with really tight songwriting and enough sneer to keep it from being safe. Maybe that’s what they meant by the whole “tough guy” thing that one presumes was a more humorous and ironic thing you write about your band as an inside joke. Broken Record also from Denver is like if an emo band discovered Dinosaur Jr and didn’t shed some of its roots including drawing some slight inspiration from Rainer Maria. duck turnstone is the band fronted by Melissa K. Jones who moved to Denver in 2018 with her then partner, apparently had an ugly break-up, and then shortly thereafter the pandemic happened and she had the opportunity to pour some of her heartbreak into writing music that in 2021 she was able to turn into a full band shortly after she released the album Howling & Crying under her own name. The album is a collection of vivid and delicate portraits of human vulnerability and exploring the nuances of rebuilding your life on your own terms. The live band is more in the power/indie pop vein.

Tuesday | 07.12
What: Kill You Club Presents: Haunt Me w/Weathered Statues, S!ntax and Precious Blood
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Haunt Me is a post-punk/darkwave band from Austin whose 2021 album This Sadness Never Ends had some familiar hallmarks of the genre with the spidery guitar melodies and Paul Banks-esque vocals. But Haunt Me tends to switch up the rhythms and dynamics in unexpected ways and never full stays the same vibe for the whole song thus setting itself apart from many of its peers. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver with roots in the local punk scene. S!ntax is an industrial noise project with some grounding in confrontational performance art.

Mondo Cozmo, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday and Wednesday | 07.12 and 07.13
What: The Airborne Toxic Event w/Mondo Cozmo
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: [Rescheduled from April 2022] Joshua Ostrander aka Mondo Cozmo made a name for himself as the frontman for Laguardia in the the first half of the 2000s and then for a decade as the lead singer for Eastern Conference Champions. But since 2015 he has been recording and performing under the Mondo Cozmo moniker and crafting heartfelt and genre eclectic music. His new album, 2022’s This Is For The Barbarians takes Ostrander deep into his roots in rebellious folk artists like Bob Dylan and his more experimental electronic interests at the same time. The album is like a Radiohead album but more informed by folk and more overtly pop but with the appropriately rough around the edges quality to suit the times that surrounded the process of writing the songs with Ostrander commenting on the highs and very low depths of the world in the past half decade and his insight into personal psychology and the American zeitgeist is as cathartic as it is inspirational. And yes, opening for Toxic Airborne Event whose own long career of luminously gritty alternative rock has garnered a bit of a cult following. Its 2020 album Hollywood Park, sharing the title with singer Mikel Jollett’s memoir of the same name from the same year, was unsurprisingly as literarily as musically as poignant album as any in the group’s career to date and certainly seemingly its most personal.

The Black Keys, photo by Jim Herrington

Wednesday | 07.13
What: The Black Keys w/Band of Horses and Ceramic Animal
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: When The Black Keys started out of Akron, Ohio in 2001 it seemed very much like a niche, blues rock outfit like the lesser cousin of The White Stripes. When the duo first rolled through Denver it played small venues like Lion’s Lair where it opened for Reverend Dead Eye. But Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney stuck it out and developed their sound and songwriting and transformed what was likely a stripped down initial configuration into something more akin to a minimalist funk phenomenon as embodied well by its 2022 album Dropout Boogie. With the expansion of sounds and textures for the album the touring line-up of the band is also much more expansive than the core of Auerbach and Carney that will showcase how The Black Keys are a bit like a blues based rock version of ELO which is no bad thing. Opening is the well-known indie rock power pop group Band of Horses whose expansive songwriting is irresistibly uplifting especially its 2006 hit “The Funeral.” The proceedings will begin with a set from Ceramic Animal whose Dan Auerbach produced new album Sweet Unknown is brimming with warmly melancholic songs informed by a poignantly tangible sense of loss and reconciliation with emotional devastation and the inadequacy with which life and culture prepares one for the loss of the most significant people in your life.

Ceramic Animal, photo by Up in Smoke Photo
Elizabeth Colour Wheel in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.15
What: Primitive Man w/INDIAN, Jarhead Fertilizer, Body Void, Spirit Possession and Elizabeth Colour Wheel
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Primitive Man assembled one of the most interesting lineups of heavy music you’re likely to see in Denver all year in celebration of its 10 year anniversary as a band. The death-grind trio has long created some of the most brutal, crushing and exciting music of the past decade obliterating the line between noise, extreme metal and doom while making commentary on a world all but ruined by international corruption and collusion in diminishing the lives of everyone below the 1% of the 1% of the economic and political power scale in ways deranged and in the end self-destructive. It’s cathartic stuff and in its sharp edges and raw ugliness holds a mirror up to the world we all feel hitting us but may not see or hear concentrated so powerfully in one place. It will also be one of the few times to see the band locally for a good deal of time to come. Chicago’s INDIAN has for nearly 20 years crafted a sound that wouldn’t be out of step with what one hears out of a band on Amphetamine Reptile or Touch and Go but with more sludge rock flavor and songs that go in for a more fluid and wide ranging dynamism than most bands that get lumped in with the canon of doom. Elizabeth Colour Wheel is a startlingly energetic fusion of a noisy shoegaze band and a grindcore outfit as unlikely as that combination sounds. Body Void’s ominous, clashing guitar and drum interplay has a somehow both feral and elegant quality that lends the desperate, distorted vocals an elevated outrage and pain like a harsh noise duo using more standard instrumentation to deliver a dense, caustic and textural soundscape.

Knuckle Pups in October 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.15
What: Knuckle Pups “TV Ready” album release w/Jeff Cormack of South of France and Earth to Luna
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Knuckle Pups is an indie pop band that has been around for a few years but which is finally putting out its debut album TV Ready. Oliver Holloway was once a member of the great folk punk band The Fainting Fansies that used to hold shows at a place where some or all of the band members lived back when people could rent out a house in neglected or underutilized houses or buildings in Denver. That time in deep, DIY “Old Denver” days has stuck with Holloway and Knuckle Pups isn’t a band short on charmingly earnest expressions of joy helped by the fact that the group’s multiple singers harmonize extraordinarily well.

Sky Creature, photo by Noah Kalina

Saturday | 07.16
What: The Velveteers w/Sky Creature and Holographic American
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: This is probably the smallest venue you’re going to see The Velveteers play for some time. The band that has taken a foundation of a modern interpretation of classic blues rock and infused it with sharply observed lyrics, imagination and youthful energy has been and will go to keep touring with Greta Van Fleet and playing big cities and the hinterland to large crowds. And that will be quite a contrast with Queens, NY-based experimental pop band Sky Creature whose new album Bear Mountain is exuberant and ethereal and by all indications mostly electronic. Majel Connery has a voice that is both intense and fey which suits being paired with music that sounds like something you’d want to hear if you could travel to a museum of snow globes and spend time in each exploring the worlds of which each gives you a surface level taste. It’s otherworldly stuff and has a cool energy that will be welcome on what is likely to be a hot day in Denver. Holographic American is a trio consisting of guitarist Caleb Tardio formerly of math rock wizard weirdos I Sank Molly Brown and currently of doom metal greats NightWraith and drummer Matt Grizzell who some may know for his time with prog indie band Alan Alda and indie rockers Instant Empire along with bassist Owen Pearson. So of course it’s a little different with some of that math rock vibe in its songs thus far released in demo form but moody and delicately and intricately yet not busily melodic.

Green Typewriters in 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 07.16
What: Green Typewriters album release w/Falcon’s Eye
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: After fifteen years the psychedelic indiepop band Green Typerwriters are finally releasing its debut EP The Solar Anus which brings together musical ideas across its entire existence for a beautifully coherent and moving experimental pop album with as much wisdom as whimsy. Engineered and produced by Zach Bauer, one of Denver’s secret, genius pop songwriters and recordists, who most that know who he is know for having been a member of avant noise punks Zombie Zombie, stoner doom trio The Outer Neon, psychedelic post-punk art rock band Wicked Phoenix and Can tribute band Future Days. Among others. So you know the album is going to sound good and for the show the band is bringing in guests and making it the kind of show that you’re not going to get to see every day. Look out for the Queen City Sounds Podcast episode featuring Gioja and Jared Lacy from the band.

Saturday | 07.16
What: Emerald Siam, Cyclo Sonic and Bridey Murphy
When: 8 p.m.
Where: 1010 Workshop
Why: Denver is fortunate that some of its elder statesmen and stateswomen are still out there making valid, interesting and imaginative music. So Emerald Siam and its flood of brooding atmospherics and rich emotional colorings help to turn finely honed songwriting into something that seems larger than life and will seem like you’re getting to see something mythical outside at 1010 Workshop. The band’s blend of post-punk darkness and the way The Church took that framework into a more psychedelic and expansive realm of music as a platform for telling meaningful stories with arrestingly poetic lyrics. Cyclo Sonic may be basically a garage rock punk band but when it’s Matt Bischoff formerly of The Fluid and Arnie Beckman formerly of Choosey Mothers and other luminaries of the local punk scene the songwriting just hits as stronger and the precision of rhythm pushed forward and working in tandem with a ferocious energy it makes a lot of other operating in a similar realm of music seem quaint. Bridey Murphy includes Jay Tonne (Black Forest Fire), John Call (Baldo Rex, Veronica), Rich Groskopf (Boss 302, The Black Smiths, The New Idols etc.), Collette St. Clair and Dave Harrison so it’s going to not be short on rock theater and surprisingly fun songs in the garage rock and soul vein.

Cola, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 07.16
What: Cola w/Voight and Gazes
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Cola consists of Tim Darcy and Ben Stidworthy formerly of great now defunct Canadian post-punk band Ought along with Evan Cartwright. When Ought split in 2021 ending a decade-long run as one of the more interesting and inventive guitar rock bands of recent years Cola came along shortly after and its 2022 debut album Deep In View (Fire Talk) with its offbeat song structures and hypnotic rhythms will appeal to fans of Ought for sure but also anyone who appreciates the art rock proclivities of a band like Pile. Voight may still be a guitar band at this point and not yet committed to being a full-on dark techno and power electronics project so you’ll get to see the post-punk/darkwave band scorch the rafters with its own intense and emotionally charged music. This is the first Gazes show and it features former Tyto Alba members Melanie Steinway and Andrew Bair along with former Male Blonding vocalist/guitarist Noah Simons. It’s a curse to call a band a supergroup but considering the membership of Gazes expect great things in a vein that will fit in with this bill overall.

Itchy-O, photo by Studio Apocalypse

Saturday | 07.16
What: Itchy-O’s Tetrapolar Purification Ceremony w/BleakHeart
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Itchy-O has seemingly found ways to imbue its few shows on the large scale with an aspect of the mystical and tie it to a new dimension of the band’s sound and performance. This time the Tetrapolar Purification Ceremony will signal the debut of the SÖM SÄPTÄLAHN, a massive instrument inspired by the gamelan assembled from over six hundred pounds of cynbals and gongs donated from local percussionists and crafted in collaboration with the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, a prestigious academic institution that specializes in geology and engineering. The show will include an audience participation aspect involving three elemental themes of Fire, Air and Water. Perhaps the fourth in the “tetrapolar” theme of earth is the SÖM SÄPTÄLAHN itself. For Patreon supporters of the band there will be a ticket giveaway to an “augmented reality scavenger hunt.” It’s always an extravaganza of sights and sounds and with the addition of the new instrument it’s going to be a new era for the band that has consistently found ways to augment already familiar elements in new ways with new ritualistic creativity.

Steve Von Till, photo by James Rexroad

Wednesday | 07.20
What: Steve Von Till and Helen Money
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Steve Von Till is the charismatic singer and guitarist from influential post-metal band Neurosis. Anyone familiar with the long arc of stylistic experiments in that band will probably appreciate what Von Till has done as a solo artist. His raspy vocals often sound like they’re harboring haunted memories and a flood of emotion that he has released in focused, cathartic bursts. His most recent albums No Wilderness Deep Enough (2020) and A Deep Voiceless Wilderness showcase the songwriter’s ear for organic song structure like his instrumentation is a direct reflection of the moods and feelings as weather patterns that swirl around you when you take a long period to reflect deeply on life and the often hidden wells of emotions you neglect as you spiral through life in a cultural hellscape that does little to nurture our humanity. Alison Chesley as Helen Money has contributed imaginative and evocative cello work for the likes of Bob Mould, Mono, Russian Circles, Broken Social Scene, Chris Connelly and Thalia Zedek. But her own arresting compositions have a stark yet maximalist beauty. With her cello, a spare chain of effects and a looping pedal, Chesley creates an orchestra of one that is both surprisingly heavy and elegantly ethereal, imbued with the compositional architecture of classical music. Her most recent album Atomic (Thrill Jockey, 2020) likely didn’t get the proper presentation as Von Till’s own most recent records didn’t and the sets of both artists seem like the perfect complement to each other’s.

Helen Money, photo by Natalie Escobedo
French Police, photo from Bandcamp

Wednesday | 07.20
What: French Police w/Wisteria and Julian St. Nightmare
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: French Police from Chicago have a brooding and delicate, darkly melodic sound like they dug deep into Italian and Russian post-punk of the 80s and wrote a set of songs in a cold apartment and had to do so through headphones so as not to get a noise complaint from a neighbor. That’s probably not how the music came about but it has that intimate and mildly claustrophobic quality that is also part of its downtempo charm. Wisteria from Los Angeles seems to have come out of a similar process of crafting the darkwave equivalent of bedroom pop with a thin synth sound that is somehow also evocative in a tender way that is a bit like one imagines what would have happened had New Order had to construct its music given similar limitations on writing the music. Julian St. Nightmare is a great example of when people discover an eclectic musical palette at a young age and find a way to integrate it all into a coherent and vibrant sound so you hear in its songs the influence of surf rock, Molchat Doma and The Cure—all performed with a for now self-effacing confidence and charm.

CXCXCX in May 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 07.22
What: CXCXCX w/Occidental, Perdi La Luz, K129, Organ and DJ Precious Blood
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is a Plains Archaic showcase featuring artists affiliated with the Denver-based experimental music label. CXCXCX seamlessly blends noise, techno and power electronics for a sound like dance music for a crumbling civilization. Occidental was once and may still be affiliated with the electronic music collective Deep Club that used to hold some of the most interesting and well curated underground techno and deep house and other forward thinking electronic music events in Denver for a few years. His own sound is more like a fusion of deep house and trance. Perdi La Luz is reminiscent of the kind of fluid and psychedelic techno one heard on some edges of what Underworld and Future Sound of London were doing in the late 90s. K129 plugs some well processed organic percussive sounds into a beat heavy techno mix. Organ is a collaboration between glitch techno noise artist Cremedelacrvvp and industrial glitchcore ambient artist Kid Mask. DJ Precious Blood recently did a solid post-punk set at a Kill You Club event for the Haunt You show but for this event we may hear some deep recent techno and IDM cuts.

Vinny Golia, photo from Bandcamp

Friday | 07.22
What: Vinny Golia w/SeFaLoCo
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Atlas Theater (709 16th St. Greeley)
Why: Vinny Golia is a prolific and respected multi-instrumentalist and composer whose career has fused world music, modern classical music and avant-garde jazz. A specialist in woodwinds Golia’s work has been featured in performance with the likes of Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Patti Smith, Eugene Chadbourne, Lydia Lunch and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. He has led ensembles as small as the trio that will perform a series of three shows in eastern Colorado (this date in Greeley and others listed below) to the 50-piece Vinny Golia Large Ensemble. His music in both the small and larger format are vehicles for his imaginative musicianship with musical ideas that span more broadly and deeply than most musicians will ever attempt. Even in his 70s Golia has been an innovator in the use of texture and atmosphere and his 2020 album Music for Gongs, Singing Bowls and other Metallaphones is like the lost soundtrack for an elevated horror masterpiece (there’s even a song called “King of the Spanish Horror Movies”) while also sounding like a nod to Alex North’s score for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Penderecki. Not many free jazz masters of Golia’s stature roll through Colorado and this series of intimate shows might be a good time to catch him live.

Polly Urethane in May 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 07.23
What: Multidim Records Presents Listening Lawn II: DJ Ilind, Polly Urethane, Deb the Demo, Luke Leavitt, H-Lite and Entrancer
When: 5-8 p.m.
Where: Carpio Sanguinette Park
Why: Multidim has been releasing some of the most forward thinking electronic music of the past few years and this showcase held at the Carpio Sanguinette Park includes a DJ set from avant-garde noise and techo artist Isaac Linder as Ilind, a purportedly more mellow performance from Polly Urethane whose recent live sets have been a bravura display of the blending of contemporary classical, industrial noise and the avant-garde, Deb the Demo’s tracks capture the mood of the modern media environment with both playful and urgent pieces of techno house that really push the brain beyond preconceptions of the genre and the methods of emotional expression, Luke Leavitt is always doing something different and even though many may know him for the expanded Afrobeat No Wave of his time as Cop Circles there will be a conceptual aspect to his performance with an intentional discipline behind the making of sounds, H-Lite has made some bright and upbeat electronic downtempo glitchcore bangers but his own sonic palette is also so broad and imaginative he’ll bring surprises too and of course Entrancer has been steadily refining and expanding his own craft of techno utilizing analog synths and a visionary challenging of where he’s already been as an artist.

Dust City Opera, photo by Gracie Meier

Saturday | 07.23
What: Dust City Opera
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: Albuquerque’s Dust City Opera recently released its latest album Alien Summer and perhaps fortuitously making a stop during an unusual summer in Denver and elsewhere with heat waves and social turmoil brewing. So the band’s theatrical performance of songs that sound like a colorful manifestation of years spent taking in campy science fiction and horror cinema and taking away from it all the inspiration to craft songs that don’t fit neatly into a trendy genre. The songs on the album is like a collection of poignant and poetic stories of human life even when the setting is a zombie apocalypse or an encounter with aliens. The pure amalgamation of chamber pop, indie folk and a hard rock edge in the guitar convey a cinematic feel that draws you in for the duration. Intimate and epic the miniature grunge and indiepop orchestra of Dust City Opera is something unique in an era of too much bland imitation.

Saturday | 07.23
What: Vinny Golia w/SeFaLoCo
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Muse Performance Space (Lafayette)
Why: See above for more on Vinny Golia.

Sunday | 07.24
What: Vinny Golia Trio
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Art Lab (Fort Collins)
Why: See above for more on Vinny Golia.

Goo Goo Dolls, photo by Claire Marie Vogel

Wednesday | 07.27
What: Goo Goo Dolls w/Blue October
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Goo Goo Dolls became a bit of a household name in the 90s due to hit songs like “Name” (1995) and of course “Iris” (1998). But the band originally from Buffalo, New York garnered a bit of a cult following during its early punk and then more power pop years for its potent blend of tunefulness, grit and raw emotional honesty. The group lead by singers John Rzeznik and Robby Takac has made a career of writing evocative songs about relationships, life and finding essential meanings in all of it so that even its ballads, love them or not, are not generally trite or without insightful commentary. The group’s latest album Chaos in Bloom, the first produced by Rzeznik, is definitely more in the realm of modern pop but if you watch the video for “Yeah, I Like You” you can hear more than a touch of that early punk rock verve and sharply observed social and personal commentary that sets it apart from a lot modern pop rock with undeniable instrumental hooks to pair with energetic vocal harmonies. But if you go it seems like there’s a better than average chance the Goo Goo Dolls will dip into its back catalog and not just the biggest hits.

Roselit Bone, photo from roselitbone.com

Wednesday | 07.27
What: Roselit Bone w/Snakes and No Gossip In Braille
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Portland, Oregon-based Roselit Bone fronted by trans singer Charlotte McCaslin is somehow a rockabilly band, dark Americana, Mexican ranchera and whatever one might call the likes of Gun Club, The Blasters and Lone Justice. It’s a really different take on genre bending so that it can seem like some countrified folk but with the intensity of punk without the sonic trappings. Its most recent album Crisis Actor is a little more gentle in tenor but not in attitude and its songs of daily struggle and working class politics are poignant and powerful. Snakes similarly has the kind of frayed musical roots that bring together a variety of musical instincts in forming its own dark Americana informed by nuanced thinking on the ways one has conversations with oneself in an ongoing process of sorting out the oftentimes perverse misfortunes and charmed moments in life. It’s lively music but more philosophical than expected from music that has a similar flavor. No Gossip in Braille is decidedly not Americana but its ethereal post-punk comes from a similar emotional place in exploring and making meaning of experiences that hit us as vital whatever their essential and specific impact on our lives.

Black Star, photo from talibkweli.com

Thursday | 07.28
What: Black Star w/Dead Prez, Pharoahe Monch and TH1RT3EN
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Yasin Bey and Talib Kweli were already stars of hip-hop in their own right when they formed Black Star in 1997 named after a shipping company founded by Pan-Africanist political activist Marcus Garvey. The project’s debut album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998) was pretty much an instant classic with thoughtful explorations of black culture with beats more in line with late-80s and early 90s hip-hop with a creative and vivid use of jazz and funk samples as well as more unique sounds that framed the powerful lyrics well in establishing a mood with cinematic resonance. Afterward the duo released a single here and there while focusing on other musical and creative endeavors. But in 2022 Black Star released its most recent record No Fear of Time. The almost existentialist bent of the lyrics remained but seemingly more direct and with music more stark yet no less imaginative and immersive. Black Star has toured in the last 25 years but not often and somehow its music seems even more relevant in subject matter today.

Thursday | 07.28
What: Lost Network, Blackcell and DJ Mudwulf
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Lost Network might be considered an industrial rock band but more on the industrial side and plenty of its output is more in the realm of darkly ambient soundscapes. Though its guitar sound is more cutting and its sound often more jagged, fans of The Tea Party may find what this veteran band out of the Denver scene has been doing for years. Also on the bill is long-running, legendary EBM band Blackcell whose sharp social commentary and personal songwriting blurs the line between ambient music and classic EBM the first wave of which it emerged out of the tail end. Of course DJ Mudwulf will bring a set of songs that are well curated and also not 100% predictable. A lot of music out of the Goth-industrial world can be corny but that won’t be on display at this show.

TRAITRS, photo from Bandcamp

Saturday | 07.30
What: TRAITRS w/Radio Scarlet and Wingtips and DJ Luci Ghost
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Canadian post-punk band TRAITRS on its 2021 album Horses in the Abattoir separated itself from many bands out of that vein of music with creative vocals that don’t sound like a cut-rate imitation of any obvious influences. And its synth work and songwriting has an orchestral aesthetic that establishes a truly enveloping and haunting sound that isn’t driven by the wheedly guitar sound that is the hallmark of too much darkwave now. TRAITRS’ sound is rich and expansive and though melancholic isn’t a downer. Chicago’s Wingtips is more electronic and one hears in its music including 2021’s excellent Cutting Room Floor a touch of influence from Vince Clarke-period Depeche Mode. Its moody songs have strong dance beats and the vocals widely expressive also distinguishing the group from some of its peers that intentionally sing in ways murky and obscure. There is something effusive in Wingtips’ songs that are immediately striking. Radio Scalet is a death rock band from Denver. The title of its 2017 album Too Goth for Punk, Too Punk for Goth sums up its aesthetic well and sure these people look the part but there is a joyful element to its performances that prevents it from slipping into the wrong end of dour. DJ Luci Ghost is a long time DJ in the local Goth-industrial scene but fortunately for anyone that is around for one of her sets her taste is much more eclectic and expansive beyond narrow conceptions of expected music.

Best Shows in Denver 12/05/19 – 12/09/19

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She Past Away performs at Marquis Theater on December 6, photo by Jonas Fransson

Thursday | December 5

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The Ocean Blue, photo courtesy Darin Back

What: The Ocean Blue
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Dream pop band and precursors of modern indie pop, The Ocean Blue, makes a stop in Denver in support of its new album Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves. Read our interview with singer/guitarist David Schelzel here.

What: Dog Basketball and Dry Ice album release
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Old Main Chapel CU 1600 Pleasant St. Boulder 80302
Why: Dual album release show from experimental pop band Dog Basketball and “psychedelic dream punk” band Dry Ice from Denver. A rarity to see any show at Old Main much less something this underground and experimental.

What: Morbid Angel w/Watain and Incantation
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Friday | December 6

Altas_Jun8_2019_TomMurphy
Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: She Past Away w/Radio Scarlet and WitchHands
When: Friday, 12.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: She Past Away is the Turkish post-punk band from Bursa that began in 2006 and making them early adopters of the current darkwave movement. Its synth and bass-driven songs have a different quality than its Western European and American counterparts while sharing that dark, introspective quality that is clearly descended from the likes of D.A.F., Depeche Mode and Clan of Xymox with an aesthetic that isn’t so far removed from its punk roots. The group’s third and latest album 2019 Disko Anksiyete saw a dual release on Fabrika Records and Metropolis Record and with a US tour currently under way it’s proof that its music transcends barriers of language.

What: Altas with Tiffany Christopher
When: Friday, 12.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Open Media
Why: Instrumental rock band Altas performs at Denver Open Media for a free show with Tiffany Christopher. Altas released the powerfully cinematic All I Ever Wanted Was in June 2019.

What: Josh Miller (MI), New Standards Men, Dean Berlinerblau and 50 Miles of Elbow Room
When: Friday, 12.6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Elektric Animals w/The Hollow, Star Garbage, False Report
When: Friday, 12.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Saturday | December 7

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May Erlewine, photo by Michael Poehlman

What: May Erlewine w/Dango Rose
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Tuft Theatre (Swallow Hill)
Why: May Erlewine is a prolific blues folk artist from Big Rapids, Michigan with fifteen albums under her belt since 2003 including 2019’s In the Night. Erlewine cut her teeth as a live performer, according to a piece on MTV.com, while hitch hiking across North America and performing on the streets. For In the Night Erlewine picked herself up from the state of despair that hit many people in the wake of the Trump presidency and use her music as way to address 45’s ignorant and hateful and destructive remarks and behaviors with thoughtful commentary and observations on life and the American culture she and many of us know to be much more authentic than the spewage from a pampered, narcissistic child of privilege. But expect that music to be delivered with Erlewine’s usual warmth, nuance and strength with her dynamic and elegant voice.

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Lettuce, photo Courtesy Casey Flanigan

What: Lettuce w/Antibalas and Chris Karns
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Lettuce is an experimental funk band that has crossed over into the realm of jam bands and EDM even though its music has ranged far afield of that for years including its 2019 album Elevate. The group freely borrows from styles and sounds to craft its signature synthesis of funk, Afrobeat, jazz and electronic pop.

What: Vio-Lence, Havok and Axeslasher
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: American Grandma presents SUPERDOG w/Midwife and Entrancer
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Saturnalia: Church Fire, Chess at Breakfast, Punk Rock Burlesque, Katalysk, Plasma Canvas
When: Saturday, 12.7, 6 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

What: Don Chicharron, Wolf van Elfmand, Dylan Earl, Tiger Saw and DJ Wax Dattie
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Cattle Decapitation w/Atheist, Primitive Man and Vitriol
When: Saturday, 12.7, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: M I N O R w/Quiet Warlock and Phil Beard
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Sharone album release w/Something For Tomorrow, Asylum 9 and 21 Taras
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: The Slacks, The Crooked Rugs and Sliver
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

Sunday | December 8

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Anamanaguchi, photo by Leia Jospe

What: Anamanaguchi w/Default Genders and Nullsleep
When: Sunday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Mix an anthemic J-pop band with an 8-bit glitchcore project and a progressive rock/jazz fusion band and task it to make dynamic and engrossing video game music with an uncommon sense of space, composition and emotional impact and you have Anamanaguchi. Particularly on its 2019 album [USA]. Seems gimmicky at first but the New York-based band doesn’t get stuck in the hyperactive songwriting that plagues a lot of “Nintendocore” acts or the dull focus on displays of technical prowess and knowledge of theory that is behind a lot of prog. Just well crafted, expansive pop songs that feel like endless possibilities and the positive ghosts of childhood reverie manifested in sound.

What: Surrender Signal, No Comma, Downward Sun and We Are Not a Glum Lot
When: Sunday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Monday | December 9

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Alex Cameron, photo by Chris Rhodes

What: Alex Cameron w/Jackladder and Emily Panic
When: Monday, 12.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Alex Cameron’s 2019 album Miami Memory is like a set of vignettes about people in crisis. But the take is one of compassion and understanding without trying to underplay or make light of the struggles. At a time when a lot of synth pop is generic, Cameron’s eccentric and psychologically insightful take on songwriting is strikingly different with a knack for changing up the vibe, texture and tone of his songs throughout an album. Just watch the video for “Far From Born Again” for a bit about Cameron’s keen understanding of the human condition.

Best Shows in Denver 11/29/19-12/4/19

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Cheap Perfume performs on November 30 at Hi-Dive, photo circa 2016 by Tom Murphy

Friday | November 29

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Black Mountain circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Black Mountain w/Ryley Walker
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Mountain is one of a handful of bands that was associated with 2000s “stoner rock” that evolved past and beyond the tropes of that genre. Probably because from the beginning the psychedelic end of its sound was more developed than some other bands that were essentially making a form of what’s now called “drone metal.” But even at the beginning, with its 2005 self-titled debut, the band wrote heavy songs with an ethereal tonal architecture like “Heart of Snow.” The group’s 2019 album Destroyer is its first with former Sleepy Sun guitarist/vocalist Rachel Fannan and Adam Bulgasem of Soft Kill. It sounds like it has more extensive use of synthesizer than previous albums and thus having more in common with obvious influences like Hawkwind and Can. Live the new direction for the band has been more immersive and hypnotic without sacrificing its rock and roll punch, a testament to its integration of its musical instincts and incorporation of even more of Jeremy Schmidt’s transporting synth work which he used to great effect on the soundtrack to dark science fiction film Beyond the Black Rainbow under his moniker Sinoia Caves.

What: High On Fire w/Power Trip, Devil Master and Creeping Death
When: Friday, 11.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental, Theater

What: Automatic w/Sweetness Itself and Chrome Wave
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Babah Fly, Ill Se7en, Zanib
When: Friday, 11.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy

What: Catching Flies w/Chitchat, Sifts and Chromadrift
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Saturday | November 30

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Plasma Canvas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Cheap Perfume Burn It Down album release, SPELLS, Plasma Canvas and Wild Lives
When: Saturday, 11.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Cheap Perfume is the Colorado Springs-based punk band who make no bones about their feminist political orientation but that really should be part of anyone’s agenda in the modern world and a centerpiece of any human who claims to have morality, ethics, basic human decency and concern for human rights as part of their perspective on the world. But Cheap Perfume makes it fun with pointed songs that while sometimes snarky are heartfelt and clever but with no fence sitting. Its new album, Burn It Down, is being released this night with some of the Mile High City’s best punk acts sharing the stage for the occasion.

Tuesday | December 3

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The Allah-Las circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Allah-Las w/Mapache & Tim Hill
When: Tuesday, 12.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In the rush to cop the 60s and early 70s southern California sound in the past half decade and more so many bands seem to have mimicked those Laurel Canyon artists outright. Allah-Las dipped into a similar pool of references but didn’t forget to write great songs or to inject that with modern sensibilities. Its soundscapes are paired well with entrancing melodies and not merely indie rock with some reverb and chorus and a laid back vibe. Its 2019 album LAHS is typically introspective and expansive with more than a dash of playfulness.

Wednesday | December 4

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Men I Trust, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Sporehive, Fables of the Fall, Babushka’s Naughty XXXmas Carols, DJ Andy Z
When: Wednesday, 12.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday this month will include experimental drone collective Sporehive, chamber folk quartet Fables of the Fall, Babushka of Little Fyodor & Babushka fame doing her Naughty XXXmas Carols and DJ Andy Z spinning tunes.

What: Turnover & Men I Trust w/Renata Zeiguer
When: Wednesday, 12.4, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Men I Trust has been described any number of ways but the live band evokes the mood of dusky nightclub R&B and soft lighting. But without evoking the early 70s Laurel Canyon pop sound so much in vogue lately. The band’s videos look like some kind of cinematic rendering of 1980s home movies and in a way reminds one of fan videos various people have made for Boards of Canada. It’s not often a band can maintain some sense of mystique these days but Men I Trust definitely has some. Currently touring in support of its lushly downtempo 2019 album Oncle Jazz.

Best Shows in Denver 6/27/19 – 7/3/19

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Earth performs June 27 at The Marquis Theater, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | June 27

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Zealot, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Earth w/Helms Alee
When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Earth is as much an influential and pioneering drone metal band as it is an avant-garde blues folk group imbued with mystical overtones. It’s 2019 album Full Upon Her Burning Lips finds the trio channeling more than the usual measure of its crawling, Black Sabbath-esque gloom. Seeing the live show it’s always fascinating to see how Adrienne Davies moves in an orchestrated string of slow sweeping moves and fast, accenting flourishes as Dylan Carlson and their collaborators of the moment drone with a smoky fluidity.

What: Meet the Giant, The Jinjas, Monty O’Blivion and Zealot
When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Zealot would be a Mountain Goats cover band but Luke Hunter James-Erickson would find that too rote so he injects his own eclectic tastes into the songwriting. Recently released the “Snake Goddess” single, a typically eccentric, high energy, angular indie rock gem. Meet the Giant, informed by electronic music and hip-hop beat-making, write and perform deeply evocative, brooding rock songs that maybe now would overlap with the whole darkwave thing except that Meet the Giant often crosses over into the realm of hard rock in a way most of those bands don’t.

What: Cholo Goth Night featuring Dave Parley of Prayers
When: Thursday, 06.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Just like it says, Cholo Goth Night at Streets Denver with Dave Parley of Cholo Goth and spinning Darkwave and Goth for the evening. When this event happens in the Los Angeles area and select other cities Parley brings in other darkwave musicians of note to guest a set but not for tonight.

Friday | June 28

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Blue October, photo by Chris Barber

What: The Kinky Fingers w/Vic N’ the Narwhals and Colfax Speed Queen
When: Friday, 06.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Now that the Denver “party rock” scene has withered away and garage psych/surf is going the way of pop punk in the early 2000s only the strong and more interesting survive. In the case of these three bands it’s partly because their songwriting was always good and their individual sounds not so susceptible to the blowout of trendiness. Each has also evolved.

What: Tyto Alba and Steele Douglas
When: Friday, 06.28, 5 p.m.
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Why: Tyto Alba is always surprisingly evocative with music coming from the tender places of the psyche and coloring the tones in warm, incandescent tones and hypnotic rhythms. Seeing them on a rooftop while a thunderstorm threatens to hover in but never does? Seems symbolic and entirely appropriate.

What: Blue October w/Mona
When: Friday, 06.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Blue October has been around for nearly a quarter of a century now and its career has crossed over from the old way of major labels and the album release cycle to the modern mess and disarray of the industry now that offers bands to connect directly to an audience more so than ever before but to earn far less for their efforts. That the group has weathered that period is impressive itself. Oddly enough its own style of power pop seemingly inspired by late 80s proto-alternative rock like Icehouse and The Outfield and their dramatic presentation of being a bit on the outs of true emotional fulfillment but yearning for that special connection with another human with music that is a little too triumphant in tone and uplifting to be sad bastard music. But Blue October didn’t stay trapped in a past style and its newer music reflects a diversity of newer influences.

What: Primal Birth: Hotpiss, Drume, Eyeface, Padfut, Worldwide Dungeon, DJ 7 Heads
When: Friday, 06.28, 10 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A bit of a weirdo underground techno show that starts late and goes late like a rave.

Saturday | June 29

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PUP, photo by Vanessa Heins

What: Westword Music Showcase
When: Saturday, 06.29, 12 p.m.
Where: Golden Triangle Neighborhood
Why: This is the longest running music festival of its type in Denver. Held on just one day in the Golden Triangle neighborhood near the Westword offices off Tenth Ave and Broadway, it is arguably the most concise way all year to see a broad spectrum of the local scene without having to walk too far. This year’s line-up includes several of the local luminaries. Here is a list of see-if-you-can acts at each of the stages and a given set time. Tastes will vary and I’m certainly no expert on big chunks of the local music world.

Breckenridge Brewery Stage
12:25 YaSi
6:10 Jai Wolf

White Claw Stage
7:20 CHVRCHES

Vinyl Main
12:50 Techno Allah
2:30 Erin Stereo

#vybe
12:50 Venus Cruz
6:40 Lady Gang
7:30 RARE BYRD$

Stoney’s Main
12:35 Gora Gora Orkestar
5:35 Wes Watkins
7:15 Roka Hueka
8:05 Los Mocochetes

Bar Standard
12:50 Hail Satan
2:30 Ghosts of Glaciers
5:50 Fathers
6:40 Plasma Canvas
7:30 Cheap Perfume

Temple/Mirus Gallery
3:20 Starjammer

Stoney’s South
1:40 Brianna Straut
2:30 Bevin Luna
5:50 Florea

The Church
12:00 eHpH
2:30 Ramakhandra
5 Vic n’ the Narwhals
5:50 Spirettes
6:40 The Hollow

100% Agave
1:40 Bret Sexton
5:50 Los Dog Ensemble
6:40 The Maybe So’s
7:30 Joshua Trinidad Trio

What: PUP w/Ratboys and Beach Bunny
When: Saturday, 06.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: PUP started making waves a handful of years ago outside its hometown of Toronto, Ontario among aficionados of pop punk and emo who missed that brashly confessional style of songwriting before the music hit maximum saturation level in the early-to-mid 2000s. When the band began in 2010 a quasi-movement was under way across the North American continent in making fun, melodic punk that was raw and expressive. With PUP and others the key difference was embracing the relatively unrefined side of that songwriting and how that opened possibilities for the music to go where it will rather than fall directly in a worn out style. This has given PUP’s songwriting a freshness that even if at first it seems completely within the realm of standard pop punk. Its new record, 2019’s Morbid Stuff, arguably its best to date, revealed the influence of the more vital garage punk and 2000s lo-fi noise rock on its sound. Like the Reatards and perhaps No Age. Its irreverent spirit and deft local cultural references that are relatable to people who experience similar social phenomena in their own cities makes for a consistently endearing listen.

What: Luxury Hearse, Timelord SFX and blank human
When: Saturday, 06.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Luxury Hearse combines the forces of blank human’s ambient/noise sound sculpting and Psychic Secretary’s beat-driven experimental electronic music. What to call it? Some might think industrial because of its sometimes sharp edges but it’s more in the vein of edgier yet dream-like dance music.

What: 5th Annual Colorado Goth Fest: Suicide Commando and Læther Strip w/Offerings to Odin, The Union, The Midnight Marionettes, eHpH and WitchHands
When: Saturday, 06.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: This edition of the Colorado Goth Fest features headliners who are significant and one might say pioneering artists in the realm of EBM with Suicide Commando and Læther Strip. The local acts are a fairly diverse group as well including death rock band WitchHands from Colorado Springs and Denver’s own EBM/electro-post-punk duo eHpH.

What: Blue October w/Mona ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/369899
When: Saturday, 06.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: For Blue October see above for 6.28.

Monday | July 1

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Culture Abuse circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Culture Abuse w/Tony Molina, Young Guy, Dare, Regional Justice Center and Cadaver Dog
When: Monday, 07.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Culture Abuse has big melodic hooks for a band that came up through the milieu of garage punk. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream greatly expanded its range as a band both tonally, dynamically and emotionally as it’s informed by a sensitivity to the inevitability of the death of those close to you and a wry sense of humor and irony. After all Culture Abuse has a song called “Dave’s Not Here (I Got The Stuff Man)” referencing the classic Cheech & Chong skit. While there’s plenty of wiry punk energy behind the material, especially live, it’s really more of a great power pop record. Tony Molina got started in music playing in hardcore bands but his solo work is more in line with jangle pop and C86 with a sprinkling of The Byrds. His own 2018 record Kill the Lights wouldn’t have been out of place in the same musical realm as Teenage Fanclub circa 1992. Except with more folk-inflected, introspective songwriting throughout.

What: Muscle Beach, Buildings (MN) and Simulators
When: Monday, 07.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Buildings form Minneapolis is a vital cross between a math-y noise rock and post-hardcore. Muscle Beach is of similar mind but its own version of post-hardcore is a splintery assault on the senses that drags you down emotional pathways that purge angst and personal darkness – all done with a cathartic sense of joy. Simulators are an angular noise rock duo whose music is both cutting and unhinged yet mathematically precise. It’s always an interesting contrast.

Wednesday | July 3

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Total Trash, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Bud Bronson + the Good Timers, The Right Here, Bad Licks, DJ Sara Splatter
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bud Bronson + The Good Timers are always surprisingly good. Its earnest power pop sounds like it’s of today but has a quality and a vibe that is reminiscent of the stories and sentiments one heard in the music of late 70s/early 80s Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Also on the bill is Bad Licks who somehow do a kind of psychedelic blues rock that is legitimate and high energy because good songwriting transcends pre-conceptions.

What: Weird Wednesdayl: Total Trash, Pretty Loud, Klaus Dafoe
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl
Why: Total Trash is a band comprised of luminaries of Denver’s indie rock scene going back nearly two decades and yet it’s not all middle aged people. If you remember Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Lil’ Slugger, it’s people from those bands. It’s psychedelic, shoegaze-y jangle pop is transporting yet relatable and down to earth. Klaus Dafoe is an instrumental band that collides together 2000s math rock, weirdo punk and indie pop for a sound that is familiar yet unusual.

What: Pale Sun, Palehorse/Palerider, Random Temple and Grass
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Palehorse/Palerider’s drummer Nathan Marcy said to bring earplugs. Good idea, because his own group is the kind of doom/shoegaze/dark desert psych band that makes beautifully dark, atmospheric, consciousness expanding music with ritual/tribal flourishes that is, yes, in fact, quite loud. In good company with gritty psych band Grass and Pale Sun. The latter’s dreamy yet dense rock music will take you to a different psychological space than the one with which you walked into the show. Includes former members of Bright Channel, Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.

Best Shows in Denver 07/12/18 – 07/18/18

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Neurosis performs at The Ogden Theatre on Wednesday, July 18 with Converge and Birds in Row Photo by Scott Evans.

Thursday | July 12, 2018

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Bell Witch, photo by David Choe

Who: Yob, Bell Witch and Primitive Man
When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Yob’s sludgy doom has always been accompanied with a healthy sense of play. Yes, the crushing heaviness of the band’s music is undeniable but so is the group’s obvious self-awareness. It’s latest record, 2018’s Our Raw Heart subverts doom conventions with almost buoyant melodies and dynamics and a layering of conventionally pretty sounds and gritty, deeply textured atmospherics. It’s only fitting that the trio is touring with fellow Pacific Northwesterners in the duo Bell Witch from Seattle. The latter has crafted majestic and minimalist soundscapes since its 2010 founding. With the tragic death of former drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra in 2016, bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond recruited Jesse Shreibman to continue with the project. The first album with Desmond and Shreibman, 2017’s Mirror Reaper, is both a continuation of the colossal sonics of the band’s first two albums but also a step further into a powerful and moving expression of grief and despair as well as an evocation of cosmic time and our place in it. Conceived of as a single track at over eighty minutes, Mirror Reaper may move slowly and employ repetitive dynamics but it never seems to overstay its welcome. Opening the show is Denver’s own juggernaut of death metal and doom, Primitive Man.

What: Musical Mayhem: Spyderland, Enji and Snaggletoothe
When: Thursday, 07.12, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Musical Mayhem had a home for quite some time at The Skylark Lounge. But now the night curated by Claudia Woodman is happening at Lion’s Lair. Spyderland is a weirdo music duo including Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth and Drew McClellan of Archipelaghost. Enji is TripLip bassist Kevin Schultz doing solo material that sounds like Hella doing music for an 8-bit video game. Snaggletoothe is a noisy, improvisational rock guitar and drum duo.

What: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Fringe Class and Dorian
When: Thursday, 07.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: How Portland, Oregon’s synth pop dance band Fringe Class is going to play at Hooked On Colfax is anyone’s guess. But paired with the more ambient Denver project Dorian maybe the group will do a more stripped down set than it will do in other rooms during its trip through Denver.

What: Lou Barlow
When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Bruz Beers
Why: Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh playing a solo set at Bruz Beers? Given Barlow’s love of brilliantly unusual guitar styles like those of Joni Mitchell, it could be a chance to see something unlike anything you’ll see from Barlow in Denver again.

What: The Dandy Warhols w/Uni
When: Thursday, 07.12 and Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Dandy Warhols are still kicking along and remain one of the great live bands that came out of the alternative rock milieu that’s still around and not milking some nostalgia circuit. Normally the band plays much larger venues making this string of shows at Ophelia’s a rare chance to catch the band in an intimate environment.

Friday | July 13, 2018

 

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A$AP Ferg, photo by Jason Goodrich

What: A$AP Ferg w/IDK and Buddy
When: Friday, 07.13, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For a guy that did visual art and fashion before doing music, realms in which he excelled, A$AP Ferg has done well for himself. While not a pioneer of trap, which had its roots in music that came out before he was born, Ferg nevertheless became one of the genre’s most skilled practitioners in the 2010s. Having the nerve to name his 2013 album Trap Lord, Ferg could at least back-up the bravado and embody the claim. What has kept the rapper interesting is the fact that there’s an unmistakable unusual quality to his beats and wordplay. Perhaps grittier than the work of his A$AP Mob cohort A$AP Rocky, Ferg nevertheless shares a sensibility that aims beyond genre and beyond hip-hop. Even when he engages in lyrics rife with hip-hop tropes, Ferg uses them as elements rendering them meta and more like musical elements than anything to be taken at face value. 2017’s Still Striving showcases the artist’s ever-evolving incorporation of musical elements that give his songs a layered dimensionality.

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Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, photo by John Gessner

What: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Timmy The Teeth
When: Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sarah Shook’s country songs of survival and struggle reflect her upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian family that made the town elders in the movie Footloose seem open-minded by comparison. The video for “New Ways to Fail” (doesn’t the title tell a lot already) shows some everyday urban rebels skateboarding as Shook lays out immediately relatable, self-deprecating lyrics. But every song on the band’s 2018 album Years is, as Henry Rollins once said of early Black Flag records, a direct line to what the fuck it’s all about in America for anyone that can’t expect much out of a society and a culture built on getting us to neglect ourselves and each other on a rat race to nowhere. But there’s an inherent hope in Shook’s music because she’s out there touring and expressing so eloquently and understanding of the everyday lives of anyone that might come to catch one of the band’s shows.

What: Compost Heap Day 1
When: Friday, 07.13, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: The first day of a festival that is to some extent a celebration of the more folk end of punk and bands within that general realm of music. Schedule for today: Real Lyin’ Rohr 4, Just Hanging Out (TX) 4:40, Violet Valentine 5:20, Fire Ant Season (TX) 6, Marissa 6:35, Paul Ski & The James Joyce Letters 7:15, Bird Teeth (WA) 7:55, Long Sought Rest (WA) 8:35, JSR 9:15, Whistlepig (AZ), Crow Cavalier 10:35

What: Quintron & Miss Pussycat w/Phallic Meditation
When: Friday, 07.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Quintron & Miss Pussycat from New Orleans somehow combine a high energy weirdo cabaret/psychedelic rockabilly show with a mind-altering puppet theater performance. Always entertaining and it will transport you outside your everyday life if you let it.

Saturday | July 14, 2018

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Rowboat circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Great American House Fire
When: Saturday, 07.14, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Ross Cherry Creek Library
Why: Someday more bands will figure out that the emotional rawness of emo, the diverse songwriting methodology of 2000s indie rock bands, Americana’s textures and warmth and soulful vocals are completely complementary elements for a band. But for now you can catch a group that excelled at that going back to the days of Denver’s Spokeshaver, from which Great American House Fire draws some of its membership. Now presented on a Saturday morning at the Cherry Creek branch of Denver Public Library,

Who: Rowboat, Wild Call and Grass
When: Saturday, 07.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Sam McNitt’s roots in folk music and literature probably account for some of the sophistication and poetic sensibility to his music. When he was writing music with his old space rock band Blue Million Miles he met the challenge of amplifying his expressive and emotionally taut vocals. Rowboat is more an expression of McNitt’s more sonically gentle work but the emotional colorings are still vibrant and complex. Wild Call is one of Denver’s best psychedelic rock bands because it’s gone beyond the whole psychedelic bandwagon of the past decade with grittier sounds and lyrics that tap into psychological spaces that can’t be reduced to a celebration of mind altering chemicals and partying. Grass is a noisy shoegaze band from Boulder whose 2016 album Dragwire is pleasantly reminiscent of Night Beats and the more dirty dream pop acts on the Siltbreeze label.

What: Compost Heap 3 Day 2
When: Saturday, 07.14, 3 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Schedule for day 2 of Compost Heap 3, a kind of folk punk festival (Sliver isn’t folk punk unless someone wishing they were Bad Brains is folk punk–the argument could be made) featuring artists from Colorado and far beyond: open mic 3, Murder Person For Hire (IL) 4, Sliver 4:40, Old Fox Road (IL) 5:20, Rascal Mikes (OR) 6, Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists 6:35, Hello Darkness 7:55, Human Behavior 8:35, Shooting Tsars (TX) 9:15, Fun Abuse (CA) 9:55, Suspicious Activity 10:35.

modern-leisure-promo-pic
Modern Leisure, photo courtesy Modern Leisure

Who: Modern Leisure album release w/Down Time and shark dreams 
When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Indie pop band Modern Leisure is celebrating the release of its new album, Super Sad Rom-Com. As usual, Casey Banker’s songs are well crafted pop gems with lyrics that are self-deprecating but never maudlin. This time around Banker seems to have a chuckle at the excesses and absurdities of life in America now and navigating interpersonal hurdles while finding it all a bit wearisome. Banker’s employment of melancholic tones has always been good but with Super Sad Rom-Com he’s taken it to places he hasn’t before with his keen ear for emotional and tonal nuance. Also on the bill is Down Time who have quietly been one of the most interesting pop bands out of Denver since its inception two or three years ago combining the intimacy of folk, rock and an experimental streak born of needing to do things in your own way with available equipment and personnel like a drummer/bassist at one point. Not unlike a Young Marble Giants but one that could only have happened in the Twenty-First century.

Who: SPELLS (album release) w/Cheap Perfume, Future Perfect, People Corrupting People
When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SPELLS is putting out its odds and sods album Loose Change, Vol. 1 at this show. The band’s joke, and song, is “80% is Good Enough” and isn’t it really? Forget that oh so American overpromising, boastful nonsense that seems to be an angstrom of our president’s ego and narcissism. Trying too hard without adequate compensation makes chumps of everyone. At any rate, the Denver-based punk band is releasing the compilation through guitarist Chuck Coffey’s scrappy little label Snappy Little Numbers as well as Chicago imprint Anxious and Angry. On red vinyl. So get them while you can. The other bands on the bill are pretty alright too including Colorado Springs’ unabashedly fun feminist punk band Cheap Perfume. At this point having to say a band is feminist seems redundant and regressive because it’s a perspective that should be the part of the thinking and ethos of anyone in America in this century and if not, do some catching up. Maybe start slow and check out some bell hooks, Betty Friedan, Adrienne Rich, Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Inga Muscio. It could happen.

Sunday | July 15, 2018

JackieCohen_AniseLew
Jackie Cohen, photo by Anise Lew

Who: Jackie Cohen w/Jobless and Hillary Susz
When: Sunday, 07.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jackie Cohen just put out her first proper music EP, 2018’s Tacoma Night Terror Part 1. If you’ve spent any time in Tacoma this might be a truthfully humorous exaggeration of a memory from time spent there. For a Colorado specific reference, big stretches of Tacoma are a lot like Commerce City and Thornton but even more worn out with blocks of dubious legitimacy. Cohen’s songs may have some connection to that vibe on some level. The recordings sound older like finding a well-listened to pop cassette from the 70s including the hiss. But none of these songs could really have come out back then. It’s the post-jaded self-discovery vibe that Cohen nails that makes the best Fleetwood Mac songs worth listening to after enduring repeated broadcast of those songs on the radio or friends who never had to experience that music the first time getting obsessed with entire too much music that came out of artists who were entirely too familiar with cocaine and quaaludes. Cohen’s performance isn’t jaded and that’s what makes the difference. She sounds like she’s been through it, man, but finds that dulled emotions don’t work for her and that life must go on even if you’re not over the pain of a bad experience in relationships and other disappointments in life. That you get to see Denver’s great folky, experimental indie rock trio Jobless is more than a bonus, it would be reason enough to go.

What: Compost Heap 3 Day 3
When: Sunrday, 07.15, 3 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is the third and final day of Compost Heap. Less on the folk punk side this day with the likes of hip-hop artist Adam Selene, noise punks Plasma Canvas and hard rock band The Velveteers but the ethos is one shared between the artists. Today’s schedule (all times being p.m.): open mic 3, Patrick the Pirate 4, Adam Selene 4:40, Queen Ren Faire Dance Party (TX) 5:20, Davey Dynamite (IL) 6, Bert Olsen 7:15, Wayfairy 7:55, Ludlow 8:35, Dandelion Massacre (CA) 9:15, Plasma Canvas 9:55, The Velveteers 10:35

What: Final Show at The Climax Lounge
When: Sunrday, 07.15, 4 p.m.
Where: The Climax Lounge
Why: A Taste of Denver to most 80s punks, The Raven to punks in the 90s and in the 2000s mostly The Climax Lounge (its original name), this building at 2217 Welton Street was one of the most important venues for a real underground music world in Denver. It will be knocked down to build yet another shitty, cheaply built condo that downtown doesn’t need or maybe yet another brewery or some other Nü Denver crap that has become the inevitable for all the cool, historic buildings that made Denver a worthwhile and interesting place to live and make art and music for decades. It’s not the nail in the coffin by any means and it hasn’t been a terrible active music venue in years but for many it’s like seeing your favorite high school hangout get the axe. The bands playing on such short notice include the following: Sputnik Slovenia, Scooter James, The Narrow Down, Bourbon Brawlers, Dangerous Friends and National Blues Arsenal.

Monday | July 16, 2018

Marisa-Anderson-by-Jason-Quigley
Marisa Anderson, photo by Jason Quigley

Who: Marisa Anderson w/Howling Hex and Cuckoo
When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Marisa Anderson’s masterful, expressive, guitarwork, on mostly instrumental songs, evokes moods, landscapes and memories in a way more vivid and emotionally immediate than many artists. One might consider her music in the realm of folk but in the more experimental vein of a John Fahey or Michael Hurley. Her 2018 album Cloud Corner finds Anderson sketching in different ways with her guitar, more impressionistic than solid, if intricate, lines. She shares the bill with Colorado-based Howling Hex whose music is a hypnotic, for lack of a better word, avant-garde Mariachi/norteño band led by Neil Michael Hagerty whose legacy of experimental guitar music includes his stints with influential bands like Pussy Galore and Royal Trux as well as noise super group Dan’l Boone. Cuckoo pretty much blurs the line between noise rock, punk and mathy-folk.

Who: Unknown Mortal Orchestra w/Shamir
When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Ruban Nielson probably could have enjoyed a respectable career in music in his home country playing in his Flying Nun-signed band The Mint Chicks. But New Zealand is a small place and Nielson relocated to Portland, Oregon as he and his brother Kody have dual citizenship with their mom having been a hula dancer from Hawaii. Their new band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, formed in 2010, had that quality of just off of standard guitar rock that seems to be the hallmark of all New Zealand Bands but it also introduced a kind of psychedelic flavor that wasn’t basically following what would become a popular musical trend in America and elsewhere. UMO had crafted its own flavor of transporting music that suggested a parallel dimension where pop music could reconcile atonality, unusual shifts in rhythm the likes of which one might expect out of one of the weirder prog bands like Can or Faust. UMO has done well enough and produced a solid body of work up to and including the 2018 album Sex & Food. Lead single “Hunnybee” with its yacht rock leanings probably confused some fans because it sounds a bit like an old Foxygen track but the whole album has plenty of UMO’s wonderful weirdness.

Wednesday | July 18, 2018

ChiefWhiteLightning_Jack-Grisham1
Chief White Lightning, photo by Jack Grisham

Who: Neurosis w/Converge and Birds in Row
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Neurosis evolved out of the San Francisco Bay area’s post-punk/hardcore scene and its earliest albums have more in common with the likes of English anarcho punk bands like Amebix and Crass than perhaps some of their hometown’s well-known punk luminaries. Yet by 1992 the group had garnered the interest of former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra who mixed that year’s Neurosis record, the decidedly more metal Souls at Zero. Neurosis has since then established itself firmly as a powerful live act whose records have pushed the boundaries of metal, hardcore and psychedelic music more than almost another other single band. Most of the truly interesting and innovative modern extreme metal bands can trace a strand of influence to Neurosis. Tourmates Converge were pioneering their own form of metal and hardcore crossover in Salem, Massachusetts. By 2001, the group had developed a particularly savage and precise form of posthardcore whose sound and aesthetic permeates a good deal of the extreme metal of today as well as any hardcore band that wants to taken seriously. Its live shows are legendarily intense and be prepared for the cascade of would-be stage divers and crowd surfers.

Who: Greg Hill presents the Zebra Skin Shirt release
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Tattered Cover – Colfax location
Why: Former Six Months to Live and current Manotaur frontman Greg Hill will present the release of his latest novel, Zebra Skin Shirt, the third and final installment in the Stratford County trilogy all set in Colorado (including 2012’s East of Denver and 2015’s The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles). Hill’s gift for incorporating the supernatural and even science fiction concepts into deeply personal novels about people struggling with their personal shortcomings in life and in their relationships or attempts thereof are always incredibly engaging and entertaining brimming with Hill’s vivid descriptions, sense of humor and attention to detail whether that’s in recreating past Denver and Joes, Colorado locations or intricacies of plot. Zebra Skin Shirt may be Hill’s most unusual novel to date and his best. If you have to miss the release it’s easy to find the book online including at Amazon.

Who: Chief White Lightning w/Keef Duster
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Josh Logan may be cultivating that look somewhere between Elvis, Zach Galifianakis and Joaquin Phoenix from I’m Still Here, but seeing as he is a member of Austin stoner rock band Blind Pets, his music pleasantly flies in the face of the expectations one might have just looking at his stage persona. The band’s fuzzy, poppy punk and country mix shouldn’t work and the kitsch should render it difficult to take seriously but the group’s new self-titled album is impossible to dismiss as anything but a great rock and roll album with more diversity of sound and songwriting style than a lot of bands who have delved into modern rock and roll.

Best Shows in Denver 11/30/17 – 12/06/17

Maria Bamford
Maria Bamford at Paramount Theatre on Friday, December 1. Photo by Natalie Brasington

Thursday: November 30, 2017

Charlie Parr
Charlie Parr, photo by Nate Ryan

Who: Charlie Parr w/Them Coulee Boys
When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Charlie’s stage banter is pretty much worth the price of admission. But his take on country and blues is so personal and individual that he leaps over expectations of the genre performed by modern musicians. You can start anywhere in his discography and it’ll be worth a listen. His latest record, 2017’s Dog, seems to capture this moment in American history where a lot of people are experiencing depression and despair and a need to catch a break from that wearying state of mind. In articulating that mood so well, Dog is actually a therapeutic record that actually finds a way to explore dark places without getting stuck in them.

Who: To Be Astronauts album release w/The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Flahoola
When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: To Be Astronauts is a psychedelic hard rock band that sounds like the main songwriter might listen to a whole lot of the Misfits and Clutch. Fortunately, on the band’s new album, indifferentstates, these tendencies are morphed into something more original and the songs seem to be about something substantive as in the songs “This Is Not Normal” and “Discontent.” The Patient Zeros are the kind of blues rock band that there should be more of instead those more easy to mock. Probably because CJ Kjolhede, younger brother of former Cutthroat Drifters frontman Nicolas Kjolhede, and Joe Schramm and Michael Raymond aren’t trying to be the next Dead Weather or whatever. Their songs sound more like they’re rooted in some kind of folk and country sensibility with a spooky edge. Add some grit, fuzzy melodies and excellent use of space and that’s a bit of what you get with The Patient Zeros.

Friday: December 1, 2017

SPELLS
SPELLS, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Maria Bamford
When: Friday, 12.01, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Maria Bamford spent the 90s honing her comedic craft and flew almost completely under the radar of everyone but fans of underground comedy. She got her start in stand-up in the late 80s at age 19 and by the mid-90s she had spots on various television comedy showcases getting a few minutes on screen here and there. But those sports were memorable and you could tell there was more going on with her comedy than the usual faire. During that time Bamford obviously made connections with other comedians and be her 30s she started to become known for her surreal, intelligent, thoughtful, brilliant comedy to wider audiences. Bamford has voiced various animated TV shows and films such as Stuart Little 2 and Barnyard because of her sheer versatility as a voice actor, her gift for tone, inflection and vocal texture, all features of her stand-up, a real asset for character acting. Her appearances on Arrested Development, Louie, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Kroll Show and numerous others have been standouts, taking all of those shows in more temporarily unusual direction than was already the case.

The Bammer now has her own comedy skit show called Lady Dynamite. As funny as the show might be, like George Carlin, who had a short-lived comedy series on Fox from 1993-1995, Bamford shines brightest in her stand-up where she can exercise her genius for free association storytelling, her illumination of ridiculous moments in all our lives, her sensitivity to the vicissitudes of the traumatized psyche and some of the most incisive social and political commentary of our time. Many don’t “get” Bamford but one might suggest these people take too much too seriously and handle all situations in the world with a shocking lack of nuance and subtlety. Bamford expertly treats subjects with the right stresses, the right pressures, the proper intensity, the appropriate tone and with a true appreciation for the humor inherent to almost every experience without unduly diminishing what really is important by, even in joking about it, not trivializing the truly weighty on the social and especially the personal level.

Who: SPELLS, Colfax Speed Queen, Cheap Perfume and Simulators
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: All four bands on this bill could be considered punk but also a step or more in a different realm of music from that. Cheap Perfume is a raw yet melodic punk band that minces no words about sexism, Nazis and El Presidente Cheeto. Stephanie Antillon is an electrifying and commanding front person and that is something not common enough in music. SPELLS has a motto. Something about “80% is good enough.” And sure they live up to that on average in that sometimes you see an unhinged show because Ben Roy is a madman singer and everyone else in the band doesn’t exactly hold back even in hook-driven, pop-oriented punk (though not pop punk, per se). Other times, it’s just a fun, energetic show. Sometimes you don’t need unhinged and thus, yes, 80% is indeed good enough. Stop going for broke all the time or telling yourself you need to do that with all things in life, America. It burns you out. SPELLS teaches us by example that something can be good even if you’re not giving it your all. Colfax Speed Queen didn’t get that memo, apparently, because the psyche garage act seems to play like they’re trying to set a new bar for what that music can sound and look like on stage. Simulators is a noise-punk duo that came about, in part, from wanting to get away from the ideas and sounds of the bands Bryon Parker and Brian Polk are in and have been in. But it still reminds one of Shellac as did Parker’s old band Accordion Crimes—truly no bad thing.

Who: Kacy & Clayton w/Many Mountains and Patrick Dethlefs
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Kacy & Clayton are kind of a vocal and acoustic guitar duo and while that can be one of the most boring things in the world, Kacy & Clayton are drawing upon the great British folk-rock tradition embodied by the likes of Fairport Convention. Resonant tones, spare arrangements that feel full. The duo’s latest record is 2017’s Siren’s Song, for which it is touring in support. Opening the show is Patrick Dethlefs whose own folk music is so richly developed, mastetrfully written and emotionally powerful yet finely nuanced that when you see him you kind of assume he should be the headliner.

What: Rubedo Album Release Popup Shop and Local Music Record Store Debut
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Understudy (890 C 14th Street)
Why: Rubedo’s full blown album release show for Vaca is scheduled for January 6 at The Bluebird Theater with iZCALLi, Wes Watkins and El Cro. But you can pick up the band’s latest record, a tribute to and meditation on the impact of friends and community on our lives. Over the weekend there will be a showcase celebrating the opening of a popup local record store at Understudy. Friday will celebrate the release of the record, Saturday there will be performances from Rubedo, Holophrase, Entrancer and many others. Sunday will continue live music performances with artists to be announced. For more information and more up-to-date schedules, please visit the link above or here.

Saturday: December 2, 2017

 

Alex Lahey
Alex Lahey, photo by Giulia McGauran

Who: Pink Hawks 
When: Saturday, 12.02, 11 a.m.
Where: Children’s Library at Denver Public Library Central Branch
Why: The sprawling afrobeat band from Denver finds a way to mix humanistic radical politics with high energy performances. And this time you’ll be able to catch the band in the Children’s Library at the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library in the morning. Yes, the content doesn’t mince words but it’s also safe for kids because Yuzo Nieto and his bandmates are brilliant that way in making accessible music with deep content designed to bring you in rather than alienate you.

Who: Alex Lahey w/Dude York and Porlolo
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Alex Lahey hails from Melbourne, Australia and over the last couple of years she’s garnered some attention for her spirited, fuzzy, pop songs. Lahey’s lyrics are tender, self-deprecating, often humorous tales of desire, angst, seemingly thwarted aspirations, and everyday struggle and misfortune. Lahey’s songs are usually upbeat but she seems to honor the downbeat emotions even as she transforms the experience into something with real fire and energy behind the delivery. Her debut full-length, 2017’s I Love You Like a Brother is brash yet sensitive and bluntly yet somehow thoughtfully honest.

Who: Rocky Mountain Low 2: United Mutation, Vile Gash, Cadaver Dog, The Pollution and Combat Force
When: Saturday, 12.02, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The second edition of Rocky Mountain Low, a mini-festival put together by Reed Bruemmer of Poison Rites and Heavy Dose Records head Brian Castillo. This time it’s mostly punk and hardcore including a rare appearance from United Mutation from Washington D.C.–a band that existed in the 80s alongside the bands on the Dischord imprint of that day. U.M. had incorporated psychedelic rock sounds into its songwriting so that it still has the bite and energy of hardcore while seeming to have learned a thing or two from Chrome and Hawkwind. Similar ethos, different side of the D.C. punk scene of the 80s. Jay Fox of United Mutation has lived in Denver for several years and his more overtly psychedelic punk band The Pollution will perform as well.

Who: Jed Kopp’s Birthday Bash: Pretty Mouth and The Sleep Escape
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Gary Lee’s
Why: Jed Kopp has been lending his drumming talents to several bands in Denver over the years and his clear musical talent plus his affable nature has made him a real fixture in Denver underground music. One band he plays with these days is the alt-country/punk band Pretty Mouth whose singer Marie Litton has an otherworldly presence as a front person, giving the songs and the performances an elevated and elegant quality.

Who: Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Savage Blush, Modern Leisure and Down Time
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Must be the top notch all local bill weekend in Denver. For this show Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, formerly from Fort Collins, will bring its literate yet gritty folk rock. The Savage Blush’s deeply reverby psychedelic pop will illuminate the stage. Modern Leisure’s superbly crafted pop songs graced with Casey Banker’s insightful lyrics and ability to truly capture a moment in time and tell a story will be on display. And Down Time is an indie rock band but it will demonstrate, as it always does, how you can work with familiar sounds and tools and by being willing to experiment with all elements make something incredibly compelling and original. The band’s use of percussion in a way that is very tied to the vocals and the use of synths in the mix brightens the sound and augments all the melodies in a way you don’t often hear.

Who: The Lollygags, Hot Apostles, Jonny Barber and The Ghost-Towners
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ Englewood
Why: Very mixed bill but no filler. The Lollygags is a power pop band that sounds like it’s listened to a lot of The Wedding Present and Elvis Costello. Hot Apostles is a hard rock band that sounds like its members worked all the obvious influences out of its sound. Like maybe the members were into 70s classic rock and glam rock of the 80s but ditched the gross trappings and held onto the solid songwriting and passion. The Ghost-Towners describe themselves as an outlaw country band, which could be more retro-mundane rip-off of better material but the band includes Dario Rosa formerly of Cabaret Diosa, his former Cabaret Diosa bandmate Kimmy Franco, Zack Littlefield who spent time playing with Supercollider, Greyhounds and Sonnenblume, Bobby Genser and Chuck Cuthill both of Slakjaw and Mark Aubie of The Jaguars. Not a supergroup, per se but the outlaw country claim is no idle boast because of that lineage.

Who: Blackcell with Solypsis, The Psybrid, DJ Hepster Pat
When: Saturday, 12.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: This will be a bit of a different show with Denver’s longest-running industrial/experimental electronic band Blackcell as the duo collaborates with ambient and industrial artist Solypsis. Whatever the exact nature of the set it’ll be an entrancing, enveloping sonic experience.

Sunday: December 3, 2017

Chella And The Charm
Chella And The Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chella and The Charm, Bryan McPherson and Sputnik Slovenia
When: Sunday, 12.03, 5 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Two of Denver’s great storytellers will be playing this show. Michelle Caponigro of Chella and The Charm, can write a song about situations and experiences pretty much anyone can relate to but in the telling take aim at larger issues and while thoughtfully unpacking what are often complicated subjects. Anyone can write a trite song about relationships for the gendered fist bump of solidarity. Caponigro gives us something much more profound and anything but rote. Jim Yelenick will perform his more or less solo material as Sputnik Slovenia but you may remember him for being the frontman of Nuns of Brixton, Pitch Invasion and Jet Black Joy. Among others. There’s a very self-conscious and irreverent humor in his show and in many of his songs. Amid that, and because of that, there’s an unexpected sincerity that you get when a natural born smartass gets real even using irony as an element in the art.

Who: Punk For Positive Change—Benefit for Northern Colorado AIDS Project: Discount Price, Equine, Smashy Claw, Plasma Canvas, Teacup Gorilla, Sinister Pig
When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: Obviously a benefit show for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, not so obvious is how, thank goodness, broad the sense of punk might be for this show. Kevin Richards, who is Equine, was once in experimental post-hardcore band Motheater even though his current project is more like an avant-garde guitar solo project that wends toward the realm of ambient. Teacup Gorilla is more like a post-punk-oriented glam band that doesn’t seem to be looking to any era or scene for inspiration and what’s more punk than that, really. If you mixed Weird Al with Dead Milkmen you might get something like Smashy Claw. Who knows what instruments they’ll use in the songs? Live, the band is probably more stripped down and will still probably confuse people who don’t get bands that don’t fit into a narrow genre. The irreverent, fuzz-fueled melodies of Plasma Canvas’s post-sludge-doom garage punk has more in common with Kyuss and Mudhoney than King Tuff. Not that this duo isn’t into King Tuff.

Who: Whitney w/Julie Byrne
When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchel’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.

Monday: December 4, 2017

Whitney
Whitney, photo by Sandy Kim

Who: Whitney w/Julie Byrne
When: Monday, 12.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchell’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.

Who: Grizzly Bear w/serpentwithfeet
When: Monday, 12.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Grizzly Bear’s 2017 album Painted Ruins sounds like it’s tapping into the same emotional states of fantasy, yearning, uncertainty, nostalgia and self-examination that Joe Walsh expressed in his 1978 album But Seriously, Folks… and the wistful, deeply atmospheric soundscaping conjured by Supertramp for the songs on 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments and 1979’s Breakfast in America. The melody is there, even the pretense of upbeat tempos and gestures of hope. But all are about anxiety in an age of fake plenty expressed with a sublime irony and compassion for all of us living through this moment. All those albums were written by relatively successful artists who may have fully indulged in the “good life,” to varying degrees, that music made possible for them but all of whom also saw the limitations of the hubris that commercial success and the privilege it provides engenders in many people and wrote existential songs to that effect. That’s not to say Grizzly Bear is “important” or that Painted Ruins is a masterpiece, certainly the other three records mentioned aren’t necessarily so for those respective artists, it’s just refreshing to hear a solid, thoughtful album that doesn’t give the impression that nothing’s wrong but also doesn’t try to offer shallow, pat advice.

Tuesday: December 5, 2017

Overcoats
Overcoats, photo by Anna Azarov

Who: Overcoats w/Sarah Jaffe
When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Electronic pop duo Overcoats released its debut full-length YOUNG in 2017. It has the kind of sonically rich production you would hope for from a band of its kind but where Overcoats truly distinguishes itself is in its willingness to incorporate fairly unconventional sounds and rhythms in its songs and the subject matter of the lyrics sound more like a worthwhile country or folk artist. The vulnerability and startling frankness may not be obvious amid ghostly atmospheres and lushly smooth low end pulses but if you take some time with the songs it’s striking. And who better to tour with Overcoats than Sarah Jaffe’s whose own 2017 album Bad Baby swims in bright yet melancholic synth tones and sweeping rhythms as well as thought-provoking words that unwind some of the complexity of mixed emotions everyone seems to navigate in modern life these days. Definitely for fans of St. Vincent and EMA.

 

Who: Supersuckers, The Bellrays, Bombpops
When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Supersuckers have tried on various sounds over the course of the last thirty or so years. But initially the band was kind of a garage punk band with an irreverent and ironic sense of humor. Probably too many people took their song “I Say Fuck” too much at face value, totally missing the significance of Daniel Clowes having done the artwork to The Smoke of Hell and Clowes’ own views on the lunkheads of the world. Whatever your takeaway from the band, its shows are energetic and celebratory even after it wisely progressed away from its roots a bit and became more of a gritty country rock band in recent years. Bellrays are a soulful revolution rock band fronted by the incomparable Lisa Kekaula. For its 1998 album Let It Blast, the band wrote a song called “Blues For Godzilla” and actually lived up to the title. That image should give you some idea about the live show.

Wednesday: December 6, 2017

Sheet Metal Skingraft
Sheet Metal Skingraft, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Sheet Metal Skingraft, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Universal Devils
When: Wednesday, 12.06, 9p.m.
Where: 3 Kings
Why: For this edition of Weird Wednesday you get to witness the noise-driven beatmaking of Sheet Metal Skingraft, the sinister one-man band folk-metal of Universal Devils as performed by Tricky Dick Wickett of Little Fyodor and Babushka Band and Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars which answers the question “What do you get when a noisy, experimental funk band makes music that J. Dilla might have wanted to sample while making a song that sounds like a lo-fi version of J. Dilla’s more out there beats?” Very meta. Thus, Weird Wednesday delivers another night of some of the most interesting and unusual music in Denver.