Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 45: Polly Urethane

Polly Urethane, photo by Tom Murphy

Polly Urethane is the performance moniker of Amber Benton. She started performing under that name in 2021 and garnered some attention in certain Denver underground music circles for her performance art style shows in which she breaks the stage and audience barrier pretty much every show at this point. Her music combines classical music in her piano work and operatic vocals, electronic composition, musique concrète and industrial soundscaping. In 2021 Polly Urethane released her collaborative album Altruism with Rusty Steve who some may know from his work in futuristic hip-hop glam project N3PTUNE. It showcased a shared knack for pop songcraft that fused darkwave, hyperpop, industrial and R&B. Though Polly Urethane’s presentation can be confrontational the intention is to shake up expectations and arbitrary norms of the performer and audience relationship and is informed by a spirit of humor and the absurd in the intensity and mysterious aesthetic of the performance.

Listen to our interview with Polly Urethane on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Friday, 8/19/22 at 9:45 pm. For more information on the festival and on Polly Urethane visit one of the links beneath the interview.

www.downindenver.com

Polly Urethane on Instagram

Polly Urethane on YouTube

Live Show Review: The Body with Polly Urethane and Midwife at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22

The Body at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy

The Body has long been a band that you could rely on to roll into town once a year or so for years before the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to live shows as we know it for a good long while. The band’s uniquely cathartic, experimental extreme metal, monolithic onslaught was something you could take for granted as an inevitability. And finally the duo returned to Denver for a show at Larimer Lounge that was not a bill of all metal or heavy bands in any conventional sense and that is part of why this show felt particularly impactful. On a personal note when I walked up to the merch table drummer/programmer Lee Buford complimented by Chari XCX t-shirt and it was sincere. I would have been surprised but The Body is a band that has made no bones about its appreciation for music far afield of that for which it’s known and its 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness paired heaviness with 80s dance tracks. For me this acknowledgment of a mutual appreciation for one of the more interesting pop artists of today set a mood for the show to come.

Polly Urethane at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Less than a week prior Polly Urethane had performed with Rusty Steve for a powerful set opening for A Place to Bury Strangers. For this show Polly Urethane performed alone for a set of music completely different from her performance the previous Thursday. She had the long white cowl on hand for part of the set but performed much of the show in black with a t-shirt. Elegant piano work and operatic classical style vocals paired with an old Realistic Air Force Sound Effects record sampled directly and some of Polly’s electronic pieces.

Polly Urethane at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy

The music felt like part of a greater arc of performance wherein Polly broke that stage and audience barrier by going out into the crowd with her extended mic chord and while on stage stood on top of monitors balancing there somehow as if setting an example of fearlessness vulnerability. When she brought her left leg up on top of the piano while leaning forward to play it and sing it challenged notions of how the instrument is “supposed” to be played in performance and gave a visual element to the show that seemed to change regularly so that you really had no chance to get bored not that the music itself gave that opportunity either as it fused classical convention with the avant-garde in equal measure and performance art as much as musical.

Polly Urethane at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Midwife at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Anyone that hadn’t seen Midwife in a good long while, like many of us, couldn’t have been quite prepared for how much Madeline Johnston has honed her set. Not that she lacked for emotional power before and maybe it’s all just a matter of the weight of the past few years that went into the writing of the music and fine tuning its performance and presentation but every song hit deep. If your heart didn’t break from the way Johnston held pauses in the flow of the song to allow the unspoken emotional swell to build before heading back in to direct that energy to greater heights and depths you have probably lost the capacity to be affected by music. It’s just Johnston, her guitar and maybe some backing tracks and it’s spare stuff but it has all been refined for maximum evocative power at this point. You can feel the anguish and sorrow cathartically flowing through songs like the utterly crushing and devastating “S.W.I.M.” – the hazy soundscapes and perfectly accented guitar riffs coupled with Johnston’s warmly gentle vocals and ability to draw out the distillation of despair and memories of better times honors the loss she depicts in her songs in a way that hits all the emotional keys in your brain the way maybe they need to be more often.

Midwife at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy

The whole set felt like one, extended, beautiful exorcism for a few moments the sadness of the living memory of people and places and situations you’ll never get back. It was shamanic in effect and transcended simple music which is an utter rarity in live music with how Johnston is able to make your time with her feel so intimate, moving and healing.

The Body (Chip King) at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Maybe it never hit full before but the colossal, gritty and unusual sounds that had made The Body such an interesting band in the past had always been something of an orchestration of sounds, textures, rhythms and moods that Chip King and Lee Buford orchestrate in a two person format to accomplish nuances that full bands sometimes don’t. King’s eccentric, screechy vocals have subtleties of their own and part of that is the syncopation of his vocals with guitar and percussion. Buford using both electronic drums and acoustic is somehow both utterly bludgeoning and elegant in execution like he is fully aware of how every aspect of what he’s doing has the potential to have an effect on the listener and his partner in crime King’s emotional state during the performance and vice versa. And yet it felt so spontaneous and raw it was easy to miss unless you were keyed into that dynamic between the two musicians and the crowd. King’s feedback sculpting spiraled out like a jet engine at times and within those scorched gyres of distorted guitar fragments there was a great sense of release and a joyful abandon that seemed like the reason to play and to witness music like this.

The Body (Lee Buford) at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy

King and Buford performed with a zen-like intensity and focus yet released the energy they coiled up across the set with a dynamic force that was impossible to rest and in which to be caught up. After over a decade of seeing this band now and then this show made it obvious that The Body has built into its craft and its songwriting a lack of laurels upon which to rest and if its eclectic and prolific set of releases isn’t proof enough it’s that absorbing of disparate influences into its music that is channeled into the show that sets it apart from many other extreme metal bands experimental or otherwise.

The Body at Larimer Lounge 5/31/22, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Live Show Review: A Place to Bury Strangers and Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Like many other musical projects A Place To Bury Strangers emerged from the early phase of the global pandemic a different band, certainly with a different membership other than guitarist and singer Oliver Ackermann. Following the highly experimental, even by APTBS standards, 2018 album Pinned the group probably had to have a different approach and lineup to avoid coasting into too familiar territory and musical habits. So we heard Hologram (2021) and what seemed more pop and garage rock in structure and sonics. Then the new full-length See Through You (2022) which felt like a reconciliation of Ackermann’s songwriting and soundcrafting instincts and channeling that through new creative filters and doing a sort of self-remix of a sound to expose a raw core that sometimes, if not for the obvious level of creative development, sounded like an early demo from a time before a band has settled on a sound that might appeal to some more conventionally-minded record label type. Then again APTBS doesn’t seem to have kowtowed that direction with any of its records. But whatever the motivations in assembling these sounds for the new record and whatever the methods for achieving these sounds both jagged and vulnerable how would this version of APTBS translate live.

Polly Urethane at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

For this leg of the tour Florida-based post-punk band Glove was to have opened the dates but something went sidewise in its camp and that left only the Denver-based openers Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve. It’s a relatively new musical entity though Polly Urethane at a minimum has garnered attention and praise and even recommendation in the local scene with unexpected people telling me I should check out her work and initially thinking it was Polyurethane of Zach Reini vintage, the Godflesh-esque industrial grind duo, upon listening to Polly Urethane’s 2021 EP Altruism with Rusty Steve, Altruism, it was obvious this was going to be something very different. The lush production of the EP and the emotionally refined and powerful vocals hit with greater dramatic effect and force live bolstered by Amber Benton decked out in a white, gauzy dress and long, black hair lending an aspect of one of those vengeful female spirits of Japanese folklore. When Benton crawled up top of some cases on the side of the stage and sang from there as well as going out into the crowd she broke the convention of the audience and performer barrier with a seeming fearlessness but also the intention of transgressing unspoken rules that protect nothing but a subconscious status quo.

Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

The music combined with the theater of the performance was reminiscent of Zola Jesus and her own fusion of classical music and ethereal yet cathartic, darkly electronic pop. And Benton’s persona has to be compared to that of Diamanda Galás—that intensity and conviction perfected melded with a musical sophistication that helps to elevate aspects of the show some less charitable types that aren’t open to witnessing something different might call gimmicky to a realm of high art. At the beginning of the performance there was a projection of a the great, highly political collage artist Barbara Kruger—looked specifically like her 1990/2018 “Untitled (Questions)” piece—that calls into questions assumptions about society, challenging power and privilege. Seemed entirely appropriate to the current political climate even before the Supreme Court started to in full force dismantle civil rights in America. The performance seemed informed by the spirit of Kruger’s piece and if you take the time to give the EP a listen it’s a deeply personal and emotionally rich expression of the fallout of authoritarian influence on culture on the psyche. Really, an unforgettable performance that wasn’t the typical local band opening for someone with whom their music might fit.

Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22
A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

From the flood of colored lights projected in shifting arrays and textures to the sheer controlled caustic sonics and brutally syncopated rhythms A Place to Bury Strangers unleashed its steady flow of electrifying sound and launched into “We’ve Come So Far” and didn’t much let up minus some breaks between songs and an unexpected and brilliant interlude toward the end of the set. It felt like being elevated into a different psychological space where your brain is stimulated in with a bright and dense energy pulsing with a driving momentum until we were let down at the end. The guitar and rhythm section just had that kind of rare synergy that is pretty much impossible to ignore with sounds that hit different parts of your listening spectrum.

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

Even songs you already know and have heard many times over several years had a heightened freshness like the band had learned to rediscover its music to deliver in a way that still felt exciting for them. Most bands probably do this especially after roughly two years of not being able to play live shows. Seeing the outfit going back to 2008 when it came through Denver and played the Larimer Lounge with its gloriously disorienting, scorching swaths of sound this performance felt like the trio was connecting to a new source of inspiration.

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

At one point toward the latter half of the set the band came off the stage to the center of the room where Ackermann had set up what looked like a self-contained sound generating device through which he could process vocals and his bandmates brought instruments to join in what certainly had to be a familiar experience for anyone who got to go to DIY spaces in America circa 2006-2012 akin to Ackermann’s own venue and studio in New York City, Death By Audio. In taking the show to people off stage in this way it was like the band recreated that experience in a more commercial venue thereby injecting the situation with some of that free form and free flowing spontaneous spirit and energy of the DIY world pre-Ghost Ship and pre-complete corporate/private equity firm takeover of the real estate market nationwide more or less ending that era completely into the foreseeable future. For that alone, this show felt exceptional and subversive. But of course there was more to come including the familiar strains of the always epic and enveloping “Ocean.” But the whole set came off like a scrubbing away of the mundane world and getting reconnected to one’s own raw emotions as expressed through this band that is inaccurately called a shoegaze band or noise rock or simply noise or dream pop or industrial. It’s all of that and beyond that. When the show was over that purging of regular life lingered for long afterward from two sets of deeply imaginative and creative music that directly challenged convention and that’s a gift no one should take for granted.

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

Partial Set List
We’ve Come So Far (Transfixiation)
You Are The One (Worship)
My Head Is Bleeding (See Through You)
Hold On Tight (See Through You)
Everything Always Goes Wrong (Exploding Head)
Let’s See Each Other (See Through You)
Never Coming Back (Pinned)
End of the Night (Hologram)
In Your Heart (Exploding Head)
I Live My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart (Exploding Head)
Have You Ever Been In Love (new song)
Ocean (s/t)

A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22
A Place to Bury Strangers at Larimer Lounge 5/26/22

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond May 2022

ADULT., photo courtesy the artists
Dehd, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Monday | 05.02
What: Dehd w/Pixel Grip
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Chicago’s Dehd amalgamated and stripped to their essence strands of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelic garage rock that might have informed the trio’s bands prior to forming this group in around 2015. The result has been a body of work including what tracks have been released for listening of its fourth album Blue Skies (due out May 27 via Fat Possum Recordings) that consistently deconstructs recent trends in indie rock to create something somehow familiar yet decidedly different. Its inventive rhythms seemingly counter to the R&B flavor of some of its songwriting yet works well in spite of fusing styles so otherwise incongruous and as a live band there is a wash of atmospherics and moods that nonetheless comes across as focused and energetic. Sometimes its early records can when listened to in small samples don’t seem to convey this quality of the band but a deep dive on their records seems rewarding for the attentive listener. Pixel Grip is also from Chicago but its mutant blend of industrial disco synth pop would sound like a noise version of commercial pop if not for its eccentric streak in processing sounds and disregard for convention. Like a more accessible Atari Teenage Riot.

Mudhoney, photo by Niffer Calderwood

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Mudhoney w/Cyclo Sonic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Mudhoney is arguably the pioneering grunge band that cohered an aesthetic and attitude beyond the earlier explorations of Green River. Its wild dynamics and ramshackle rock and roll is almost like the early Replacements but more rooted in garage rock and punk. Mudhoney is also a charismatic and highly entertaining live band whose music isn’t inherently silly but despite the immense talent of its membership this group doesn’t take itself too seriously. Opening is Cyclo Sonic which includes members of various important Denver punk bands including Choosey Mothers, Rok Tots and of course Matt Bischoff of influential garage punk legends The Fluid who may have been an influence on Mudhoney and countless other bands of that era.

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Interpol w/Matthew Dear
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Most people who haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years, unless they’re also too young for it to have mattered, have heard of Interpol. More than most other bands of its time and of the so-called “post-punk revival” in the late 90s and early 2000s its brooding and widely dynamic post-punk reached the widest audience. Its 2002 album Turn On the Bright Lights was probably among the most played record in college dorms, hip bars and indie dance nights of that time outside of The Strokes’ 2001 classic Is This It. Paul Banks’ controlled yet highly emotional vocals jibed so well with Daniel Kessler’s nuanced and expressive guitar atmospherics and Sam Fogarino’s ear for subtle detail in percussion alongside Carlos Dengler’s duskily melodic bass lines. Dengler hasn’t been with the band since 2010 but Interpol continues to make evocative and beautifully moody music including its forthcoming 2022 album The Other Side of Make Believe. Brilliant experimental pop artist Matthew Dear could probably have a headlining tour of his though hard to say it would be at Mission Ballroom but you get to see his scintillating songwriting and performance on the same bill with Interpol so treat yourself and don’t skip the opener this time. It’s been 4 years since the release of Bunny so maybe Dear will treat us to new material.

Moodlighting in April 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 05.05
What: Moodlighting album release w/Mainland Break and Style Animal
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver dream/twee pop band Moodlighting is released its debut album Boy Wonder at the beginning of April and is now celebrating the occasion on this night. Musically the group sounds like it came out of the more recent bedroom pop aesthetic with strong melodic lines and evocatively vulnerable vocals. The album seems to be an assessment of what it’s been like living your post-college years trying to establish your adult life during a global pandemic on top of the usual struggles and the things that make it all endurable from small joys to creative and personal aspirations that you know won’t manifest now but serve as a beacon to get you through the roughest stretches. Mainland Break is a power pop band with a fuzzy and urgent edge that sounds sometimes like it was influenced by the more psychedelic end of Jay Reatard and of course Ty Segall without being weighted down by the now faded psych garage aesthetic of the 2010s.

Thursday | 05.05
What: Drune w/Only Echoes, New Standards Men and Nightwalker
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Remember when there was this active organization called the Denver Art Rock Collective that put on shows featuring bands that were either inspired by or by default fit in with bands inspired by experimental rock of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Stuff like New Ancient Astronauts, The Skivies, Action Friend, Mourning Sickness and such? Maybe not. Well these bands would have fit in that milieu nicely. Drune might have had some origins in doom metal but has long since expanded into more progressive, noise and psychedelic territory as it has developed and a more interesting and original group because of it. Only Echoes is a post-metal/post-rock band that includes Austin Minney who has engineered the releases of more underground Denver bands in the DIY scene than most other people you could name as well as Alex Goldsmith who has spent more than his fair share of time in a broad range of music from hard rock band Sharone to the late, great experimental noise pop group Roommates. Only Echos releases its own album Sunsickness at Seventh Circle Music Collective on May 13, 2022 with Endless Nameless, Abandons and Old Soul Dies Young on that bill. But of course one of the current also outstanding and unusual bands out of Denver now is the art rock/prog/post-rock/space jazz group New Standards Men.

BleakHeart November 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.06
What: BleakHeart tour kickoff w/Matriarch and No Gossip In Braille
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver shoegaze/darkwave metal band BleakHeart is ready to go on a tour with Blackwater Holylight and marking that occasion with a hometown show with the colossal, doom-drone soundscapes of Matriarch and the elegantly haunted post-punk of No Gossip In Braille.

Friday | 05.06
What: The Cult w/King Woman and DES ROCS
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Cult were pioneers of post-punk and death rock in an earlier incarnation but by the late 80s were making the kind of bombastic yet moody hard rock that strode the line between heavy metal, alternative rock and the music of its early days. With charismatic frontman Ian Astbury and the surprisingly consistently inventive guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult remain a forceful live band worth your time to witness. But then there’s also the dark and dramatic metal/folk/psychedelic stylings of King Woman whose 2021 album Celestial Blues was one of the best albums of that year placing her in company with great songwriters who don’t feel the need to fit into a narrow genre yet embraced by fans of experimental music, metal and folk like Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler.

Friday and Sunday | 05.06, 05.07 and 05.08
What: Henry Rollins
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre on 05.06, Stargazers Theatre on 05.07 and Boulder Theater on 05.08
Why: Henry Rollins is of course the legendary frontman of the final incarnation of Black Flag in the 80s. And he had his own group Rollins Band from the 80s through the 2000s. But for much of that time Rollins was writing intense poems and observations about life and tales from the road that he published in various books across a prolific career as a writer and parallel to that he also did spoken word shows and arguably it is that work that is his greatest legacy as a cultural figure with insightful commentary on what it means to be a human trying to navigate an often perilous social and political landscape and try to pursue a life exploring what interests you and bring it back to inform and hopefully entertain others. His spoken word shows have always been highly entertaining and he’s usually very generous with his time. The most recent tour found Rollins sharing photographs from his extensive travels in parts of the world most of us will never go as a way to hopefully expand the perspective of people who show up. This time around who can say other than it will be well worth the time and resources invested in making it to the gig. You have three chances in Colorado over this particular weekend.

Dorothy, photo by Courtney Dellafiora

Sunday | 05.08
What: Dorothy w/Joyous Wolf and Classless Act
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Dorothy is a hard blues rock band fronted by the charismatic Dorothy Martin. A lot of bands have been tapping into classic rock and the blues in recent years with mixed and often cringeworthy, laughable results. But there’s some genuine gusto behind what Dororthy brings to the music. Could be an unusual comparison to make but imagine some 80s glam metal band with better songwriting minus the questionable lyrical content but with the bombast and larger than life energy that those bands aimed to put across and you get some of the vibe of Dorothy.

Sunday and Monday | 05.08 and 05.09
What: The Church
When: 6:30 p.m. (05.08) and 7 p.m. (05.09)
Where: Washington’s (05.08) and Fox Theatre (05.09)
Why: The Church may still mostly be known for their 1988 hit “Under the Milky Way” by most people who only pay attention to a band’s Top 40 charting. But The Church has been releasing extraordinary records consistently from its 1981 debut Of Skins and Heart through its most recent record Man Woman Life Death Infinity (2017) and the forthcoming, tentatively titled, In the Wake of the Zeitgeist is likely to not be short of thoughtful, emotionally stirring material as well. And as a live band The Church has a mystique about them that is also relatable like you want to be a part of it and they make you a part of the experience. Their music is hard to pin down for genre but the psychedelic rock is there, the post-punk, the folk roots and one has to assume most shoegaze bands since the 80s has had more than a brush of influence by The Church. Two Colorado shows this tour and maybe you’ll get to hear some of the new material before it finds official release.

Monday | 05.09
What: Fontaines D.C.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Fontaines D.C. from Dublin has garnered an international cult following since the 2019 release of its debut album Dogrel. A couple of the members of the band met at college and bonded over a shared love of poetry and inspired in part by both the Beats and classice modern Irish poets like James Joyce and Yeats. And that sensibility can be heard in its narrative songs depicting the way the slow moving wrecking ball of late capitalism is crushing the life out of life for most people and their communities. Yet the music isn’t a bummer, just honest and unpretentious. Its fiery live performances early have evolved into something more nuanced and intense without losing that power and emotional resonance.

Monday | 05.09
What: Christian Death w/Luna 13 and Plague Garden
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Christian Death was the foundational band of the death rock side of early eighties post-punk and its 1981 debut album Only Theatre of Pain a classic of the genre. Valor Kand wasn’t part of the band at that time but for the group’s 1984 follow up Catastrophe Ballet Kand was the band’s guitarist and only constant member since 1983 including beyond band founder Rozz Williams departing and then doing his other projects and establishing a different version of Christian Death before his death in 1998. Under Kand’s leadership the group has explored a variety of styles and in recent years the sound has been more like a fusion of metallic blues punk and deathrock including its 2022 album Evil Becomes Rule. Luna 13 is sort of a blackened industrial metal band from Los Angeles. Plague Garden is a post-punk group from Denver that in the interests of transparency the author of this piece writes but figures people are really coming out to this show to see Christian Death.

Slow Crush, photo by Kat De Laet

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Slow Crush w/SOM
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SOM’s new album The Shape of Everything (2022) picks up where its previous releases have drifted with a colossal yet deeply melodic sound. Like a slow moving fusion of a classic shoegaze group and a doom band. Post-metal and post-rock doesn’t quite cover it because it has hooks like you’d expect out of one of the better emo and post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s except translated to something with exquisite and epic soundscaping. Fitting that SOM is sharing this bill with Slow Crush from Belgium whose 2021 album Hush is a flood of luminous sounds and grainy textures like SubRosa gone full shoegaze or Tamaryn collaborating with members of Kylesa. Clearly the transcendental metal/shoegaze crossover show of the month and likely the whole year.

Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Metz w/Moon Pussy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Canadian post-punk/noise rock trio Metz has been evolving its beautifully discordant sound since 2008. But its 2020 album Atlas Vending though a bit of a grower showcases the band at its most dynamic, frantic and raw yet fully realized. And in many ways its most overtly political in a general rather than topical sense. Obviously Metz wasn’t able to tour in support of the record so this is your chance to catch the wiry power of the group showcasing its recent work. Opening the show is probably the perfect Denver band for the slot in Moon Pussy. The sheer eruption of sounds and nearly unhinged musical dynamics and scorching yet angular sonic assault always seems like something that could go off the rails at any moment but never does. Fans of Touch and Go noise rock weirdness or that of Amphetamine Reptile should definitely make the effort to see Moon Pussy but your appetite for that kind of sonic savagery will get filled aplenty by this show.

MXMTOON, photo by Lissyelle Laricchia

Tuesday | 05.10
What: MXMTOON w/Chloe Moriondo
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: MXMTOON garnered a cult following as a bedroom pop YouTuber but her songwriting chops were clear from early on and her thoughtful lyrics expressing the yearnings of a young, sensitive person examining her own insecurities and the intricacies of her own psychology and observations on life resonate much more broadly than one might expect. Employing mostly a ukulele and her own resonant voice, MXMTOON’s performances are confident yet introspective and imbued with a fresh and spontaneous energy. Her sophomore album Rising is due on May 20, 2022.

Wednesday and Thursday | 05.11 and 05.12
What: Nox Novacula (w/WitchHands and Plague Garden on 05.11 and w/Radio Scarlet and Witch Hands on 05.12)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Fritzy’s (05.11) and HQ (05.12)
Why: Seattle’s Nox Novacula is a brash and energetic post-punk band whose fast-paced songs are more akin to a classic deathrock group with widely dynamic, propulsive rhythms and passionate vocals. Its 2021 album Ascension is a combination of grit and fire with vividly macabre and inspired lyrics that are dark and dramatic yet never cartoonish.

Thursday | 05.12
What: Front Line Assembly w/Rein, Choke Chain, DJs Paul and Eli
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Bill Leeb the vocalist of Front Line Assembly got his start as a member of an early incarnation of Skinny Puppy but by the late 80s he had branched off with his own with long time bandmate and collaborator Rhys Fulber called Front Line Assembly in 1986. A pioneering band of the EBM movement and then electro-industrial, Front Line Assembly built on the political consciousness of the music with its often dystopian depictions of the effects of commercialized technology and industry on human lives and civilization. But even if you weren’t into that content as much its soundscapes and mix of menacing sounds and hard, danceable rhythms has been a consistent feature of its music from the beginning up to and including its 2021 album Mechanical Soul. Swedish electro-industrial pop artist Rein is also on the bill with her soulful vocals and well-orchestrated synths and textures. Choke Chain’s distorted, ominous songs are reminiscent of early Nitzer Ebb and his 2021 EP Invoking Shadows has an uncommon edge even for the genre with Mark Trueman sounding a little like William Faith at his most unhinged.

Friday | 05.13
What: William Basinksi w/Tripp Nasty
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Outside of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and a few others, William Basinski is likely the most famous avant-garde composer in America and certainly one whose work has been most celebrated in recent years including his now classic 2001 electronic masterpiece The Disintegration Loops. His career has been greatly varied and includes work in modern classical and ambient music and styles that are unique to him though informed by process music and tape collage. He rarely comes to Colorado and not often playing a small club. Opening is Tripp Nasty who is no stranger to classical avant-garde, noise, experimental pop music, noise rock and analog synthesizer composition. You never quite know what to expect from Tripp except that it’ll be interesting and of quality.

Fozzy, photo by Adrienne Beacco

Friday | 05.13
What: Fozzy w/GFM and Krash Karma
When: 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Fozzy is the hard rock/melodic metal band fronted by Chris Jericho. The latter most probably know from his professional wrestling career throughout the 90s and on into the 2010s and his outsized persona like he was auditioning to be the lead singer of a rock band. The early Fozzy records were mainly covers albeit pretty solid as far as that goes but more recent offerings reveal the group’s knack for anthemic hard rock as evidenced on its 2022 album Boombox. The single “I Still Burn” has all the aggression and bombast you’d want from a band like this but its lyrics are also introspective and vulnerable and lacking in the bravado that helped make Jericho a celebrity and yet that’s why it’s definitely a cut above a lot of other hard rock that might get compared to 80s glam metal which this is not yet has a similar appeal I its uplifting dynamics and willingness to indulge a tasty and tasteful guitar solo.

ADULT. circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.14
What: ADULT. w/Kontravoid and Spike Hellis
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers (mostly if not entirely designed by Kuperus) and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux. Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Bluebird Theater, March 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.15
What: OMD w/In The Valley Below
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were early pioneers of synth pop in the 1970s and turning the style of music into a mainstream phenomenon throughout the 1980s. Turned off by what today might be called toxic masculinity of too much guitar driven rock in the 70s, singer and bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Humphries arrived at their own style of music inspire by Kraftwerk as solidified by their having witnessed the foundational electronic band live (McCluskey has the seat number memorized and mentions it now and then in various interviews, such was the enduring impact). The electronic post-punk of OMD quickly caught attention early on and their 1979 debut single “Electricty” was was released on Factory Records, the imprint started by Tony Wilson to release Joy Division’s records. Following a tour with Gary Numan OMD’s self-titled debut failed to chart commercially but the group had built their own studio and had a place to refine recording and composition. And with the release of their second album Organisation (1980) and the hit, anti-war single “Enola Gay” (named after one of the airplanes that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to great horror and bringing to a swifter end World War II though at what cost, thus the point of the song), OMD garnered international popularity. Through ups and downs of popularity including the lack of love for its arguably most experimental and interesting album Dazzle Ships (1983), OMD persevered until splitting in 1989. But By 2006 interest in synth pop was starting to become more pronounced than it had in decades and OMD re-convened as chillwave, vaporwave and related musical forms gained popularity in the indie music world and then well into mainstream music. Don’t go OMD expecting to see a sedate band performing some of the most gorgeous, most heartfelt electronic-driven pop of all time. OMD plays it like they’re a punk band but with grace and humor.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Cut Copy w/Suzanne Kraft
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Unfortunately Australian band Cut Copy is playing opposite a clear influence in OMD not far from the Paramount at The Ogden. The quartet has made finely sculpted pop songs informed by not just synth pop but modern dance music and shoegaze soundscaping and guitar work since 2001 with a string of albums that seem to have pushed the band into new territory even if in what can sometimes come across as subtle ways but all are beyond a surface level massively different. Freeze, Melt, the 2020 and most recent record, hit a tonal yet highly evocative plateau that sounded like an attempt to reach a place of emotional tranquility and put that across in a set of songs for a time of great turmoil. Also, a consistently surprisingly passionate live band in spite of its ethereal melodies.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Eve 6:The Extreme Wealth Tour w/Field Medic and Jake Flores
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Eve 6 had a bunch of hit singles in the 90s and did well for itself with songs like “Inside Out” and “Leech.” Nevertheless, Eve 6 was one of those mid-to-late alternative rock acts that weren’t so bad but nothing as exciting and as innovative as what came much earlier in the decade. And yet, nothing cringey which can’t be said about all the later-era alternative music. So probably the show will be good. The band also named itself after the titular character in the “Eve” episode of X-Files (S1E11). But one thing that is indisputable is that singer Max Collins’ Twitter account is one of the most real and amusing things you’ll read from any musician in social media and that must be honored.

Collen Green, photo by Jason MacDonald

Monday | 05.16
What: Juan Wauters w/Colleen Green
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Juan Wauters was once a member of psychedelic, indie garage band The Beets who garnered some critical acclaim and popularity during its heyday of the early 2010s. His albums under his own name show a broad spectrum of musical interests. His 2021 album Real Life Situations is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson crossed with Devendra Banhart. Except that Wauters has his own sound wherein he freely goes off the conventional map. Colleen Green made a solid career out of fuzz pop songs across a handful of releases with songs that seemed like a vivid portrait of personal insecurities discussed with a poetic honesty and sardonic humor. Her 2021 album Cool found Green using her songs as a vehicle for shedding outmoded lifestyles and frames of mind that might have seemed critical to one’s identity at an earlier point in life. Her career got going at the height of the indie/surf punk explosion of the 2010s and the influence of pop punk is obvious in Green’s work but her songwriting has always been more interesting than the prevailing trends and her lyrics consistently more sharply observed.

Tuesday | 05.17
What: Nilüfer Yanya w/Tasha and Ada Lea
When: 8:30 doors 9 show
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Nilüfer Yanya is a UK-based singer-songwriter whose music is a hybrid of various styles and modes somewhere between what some might call indie folk, synth pop, jazz and trip hop. Her subtly expressive vocals alongside lush arrangements and layered textures give her songs a gentle presence with great nuance of emotional resonance. The artist is now touring in support of her 2022 album Painless.

Author & Punisher, photo by Becky DiGiglio

Wednesday | 05.18
What: Author & Punisher w/MVTANT
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tristan Shone has refined his Author & Punisher project from its early days of using his mechanical engineering skills to modify mechanical and electrical devices as controllers for sound generators and other instruments into a sort of industrial noise project. His latest album Krüller (2021) found Shone pulling back from the colossal wall of sound that characterized a good deal of his previous body of work and the melodic side of his songwriting is more obvious and enhanced as is his expert use of space and overlapping rhythms this time used with even more atmospheric effect so that one might get lost in the gorgeous soundscapes rather than be thrillingly overwhelmed by them. But don’t worry, A&P hasn’t lost its visceral edge and sense that you’re seeing a musical project from an actual cyberpunk future and not the second rate, B-movie version.

Thursday | 05.19
What: Testament w/The Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste and Meshiaak
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Testament is one of the second wave of bands to have emerged foundational to Bay Area thrash metal. Its aggressive precision was rooted partly in progressive/technical metal and jazz fusion except Testament utilized those ideas to make imaginative, thoughtful, politically charged music. With Chuck Billy’s commanding bark and Eric Peterson’s and Alex Skolnick’s intricately interweaving guitar work these days buoyed by Steve Di Giorgio’s bass and now Dave Lombardo’s (formerly of Slayer) paradoxically tastefully bombastic drums, Testament remains one of the greats of the genre.

Molchat Doma, photo courtesy Sacred Bones Records

Friday | 05.20
What: Molchat Doma w/Pompeya
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Considering world events it’s fortunate that Belarusian post-punk band Molchat Doma (“Houses Are Silent”) is touring North America at the moment. Formed in Minsk in 2017, the trio’s sound fuses synth pop, New Wave and the sort of post-punk informed by both as perhaps most notably embodied by classic Russian post-punk band Kino. There is a melancholic and resigned tenor to much of the music as though there is a spirit of not wanting to get your hopes up too much only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control. Which makes it a solid soundtrack not just for a band living in Belarus and in the sphere of Russia but life under this particularly crushing version of late capitalism where you’re encouraged to grind yourself to death just don’t cause any major trouble for the powerful and wealthy. The group’s latest album Monument (2020) was to have come out the same year the band was to undertake its first tour of North America with a May 2020 date at the Hi-Dive. But the pandemic hit and the band’s cachet grew dramatically beyond the appeal of a few dozen connoisseurs of post-punk in every city of size in America and beyond. The track titles on the new record spell out a bleak present and future and despite the sound of the music it also points to an ability to resist the inevitable despair which is always key in the toughest times. This show is sold out and has been for weeks but you never know. Maybe it’ll get moved to a bigger venue or will should there be a future tour.

Elder Island, photo by Nick Kane

Friday and Saturday | 05.20 and 05.21
What: Elder Island w/JORDANN
When: 8 p.m. (05.20) and 8:30/9 p.m. (05.21)
Where: Bluebird Theater (05/20) and Fox Theatre (05.21)
Why: Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK. Starting life as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even experimental folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.

Kurt Vile, photo by Adam Willacavage

Monday | 05.23
What: Kurt Vile and the Violators
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Kurt Vile has more than proven himself as one of the foremost songwriters to have emerged from the American indie underground with a thoughtful and evocative body of work that traverses and transcends simple categories like psych, Americana and garage rock. His new album (watch my moves) (2022) isn’t too much of a surprise to long time fans of his songwriting and its homespun charm. But where it perhaps departs a bit from expectation is in the subtle sonic details. None of Vile’s albums seem overproduced but this one, granted recorded in his home studio OKV Central, really feels like Vile was honing in on a sound like his own version of what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska—relatively stripped down production, spare arrangements, a sense that this could have been done on a four track with few overdubs. Which is saying something considering multiple collaborators worked on the album including Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Cate Le Bon, Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt), Farmer Dave Scher (Beachwood Sparks), Annie Truscott and Lydia Lund (both also from Chastity Belt) among others. It’s a deeply introspective and layered album that sounds disarmingly intimate so it should be interesting to see how it translates to a big stage.

Monday | 05.23
What: Weedeater w/High Tone Son of a Bitch and J.D. Pinkus
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A lot of sonic brutality for the small stage at the Hi-Dive this night with Wilmington, North Carolina’s kings of stoner rock Weedeater. Its doomy, grindy music is like a flood of caustic sonic tar like Thrones but even more metal. J.D. Pinkus will probably bring his heavier solo material rather than his excellent country tunes to this show but you just never know and either way the Butthole Surfers/Honky bassist will be entertaining and fit in somehow. Veteran, Bay Area psychedelic doom band High Tone Son of a Bitch rounds out the lineup.

Spoon, photo by Oliver Halfin

Tuesday | 05.24
What: Spoon w/Geese
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022) is Spoon’s latest album and its most arduous in terms of production and release mostly because of the whole pandemic thing that’s still going on. But, as with every other Spoon album, it finds the group exploring new songwriting and stylistic territory. Its previous album 2017’s Hot Thoughts at times sounded like an old synth pop album but with modern sensibilities informing the songwriting architecture. The new record has an immediacy that was always part of the group’s sound but the production makes the music seem very up close and its blend of soul and Americana in the more raw rock and roll songwriting with touches of the unusual around the edges and at times what seems like a sound design approach to arrangements gives the song a different dimension and aural depth than most of its previous output. Of course live Spoon has always been a lively and charismatic group of performers all around. The inclusion of Brooklynite post-punk band Geese on the bill may be a label or management arrangement but it’s also an inspired selection of an opening act as its soul, funk and psychedelia-infused post-punk is reminiscent of something Factory records would have signed in the late 80s. That or a band that would have fit in at 99 Records because its sound is so richly eclectic and its 2021 album Projector a refreshingly different entry in the post-punk canon. Fans of Parquet Courts will indubitably appreciate what Geese is offering.

Bauhaus, photo by Gary Bandfield

Wednesday | 05.25
What: Bauhaus w/Automatic and Vinsantos — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Bauhaus is one of the most influential albums in post-punk and like the best of that first wave of bands they borrowed heavily from dub, early glam rock, psychedelia and the avant-garde. Its gloomy and often hypnotically otherworldly music immediately set itself apart from other bands from a similar background with not just the art school influence and conceptual soundscaping but also the theatrical aspect of its performances as manifested in the songwriting. Its use of melodrama never seemed corny and only enhanced its mysteriousness. Of course it got boosted into a wider circle of fame by basically opening the 1983 vampire film classic The Hunger with its own enduring classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But Bauhaus never rested on its creative laurels with its albums and each one expanded what not just post-punk could be but was essentially an art rock band without the progressive rock baggage. Nearly four decades hence Peter Murphy’s haunting and dramatic warble can still give you chills, David J and Kevin Haskins’ unconventional and fluid rhythms expand the brain with compound time experiments and Daniel Ash’s guitar-as-soundscape approach to the instrument hits like few other guitarists of the era. One of the most imaginative bands of the post-punk era, Bauhaus could just be going for a cash grab, nostalgia tour but it’s not that rote a thing and its new song “Drink The New Wine” (2022) is vintage Bauhaus weirdness and inspired dreamlike moodiness. New wave-esque, minimal post-punk band Automatic, which includes Kevin Haskins’ daughter Lola Dompé on drums and vocals, is also on the bill. Their turn opening for IDLES in April 2022 revealed a band more visceral than its excellent new album Excess might immediately suggest.

A Place To Bury Strangers, photo by Heather Bickford

Thursday | 05.26
What: A Place to Bury Strangers w/Glove and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: A Place to Bury Strangers is often lumped in with the resurgence of shoegaze around the turn of the 2010s and the exquisite sound sculpting with noisy, atmospheric guitar shaped into evocative melodies definitely fit in that loose realm of music. But the knack for employing raw, nearly uncontrolled or not always reigned in noise in the mix made the music have an edginess closer to some kind of old noise rock band like Big Black or even the most unhinged guitar wall of noise that The Jesus and Mary Chain perpetrated so brilliantly on Psychocandy. This group could have skated on those core ideas but its body of work has evolved without compromising an individual vision for how music can occupy psychological spaces with not just organized tones and sonic textures but with the sheer physicality of that sound. Its most recent record See Through You (2022) on initial listen seems more pop oriented in some ways than the more avant-garde Pinned or even earlier records but with it definitely goes off into realms of experimentation that has more in common with some 2000s band that might have not decided to choose between styles and influenced by the most anti-music No Wave, the lowest of lo-fi psychedelic garage rock/punk you might find on the Siltbreeze imprint and menacing, scuzzy post-punk but with lyrics that give glimpses into a head space where a person is trying to pull themselves back together after having their heart stretched thin and feeling like they’ve hit the point of no return and finding some shred of meaning and truth in that low place as a thread to crawl back to something resembling normalcy. It’s both vintage APTBS and the next step in its sonic evolution. Glove is a post-punk band from Tampa that apparently didn’t get the memo that you can’t combine disco with synthpop, glam rock and post-punk and its music all the more interesting for it since the style side of its performance isn’t lacking either. Polly Urethane is a darkwave/industrial artist from Denver whose music has an enveloping vulnerability that feels like a memory of a dream at times even when evoking painful memories while transforming those strong emotions into catharsis. Think The Knife or Jenny Hval but perhaps inspired by the likes of SRSQ.

Thursday | 05.26
What: Faster Pussycat w/Love Stallion and Grind Cat Grind
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: In the bloated haze of Los Angeles and international glam metal in the 80s a few bands stood apart from the rest of the Aquanet-teased hair fashion victims wishing they were Led Zeppelin but couldn’t even pull off Aerosmith or Hanoi Rocks with any integrity. One of those was Faster Pussycat whose hedonistic, sleazy glam rock had a core of good songwriting and strong stage presence. It didn’t hurt that lead singer Taime Downe is one of the few people in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) to not look silly and whose band in retrospect isn’t incredibly cringe. After the band split in 1993 Downe formed an industrial band called The Newlydeads but reformed Faster Pussycat in 2001.

Built to Spill, illustration by Alex Graham

Friday and Saturday | 05.27 and 05.28
What: Build to Spill w/Sunbathe and Distant Family
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre (05.27) and Boulder Theater (05.28)
Why: Built to Spill like contemporaries Pavement established that jammy, psychedelic guitar was not antithetical to authentic alternative rock rooted in punk and the 80s underground beyond punk. Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch had been in the more overtly psychedelic post-punk band Treepeople at the same time Built to Spill was forming but the latter became Martsch’s going concern after 1994. The singer’s unconventional yet melodious voice served as a consistently interesting and elegant contrast to the sometimes amped ocean of sound that the band could unleash during the climax of a song and as the embodiment of the music’s more tender moments. BTS’s 1997 album Perfect from Now On was a masterpiece of late era alternative rock with a wide-ranging style of songs that unabashedly indulged in thought-provoking, heartbreaking epics like “Randy Described Eternity” and the bombastically celebratory “Stop the Show.” The band has consistently provided a soundtrack to introspective exploration and contemplation on the meaning of life up to and including its 2022 album When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Most live albums are not as good as the studio albums but BTS’s 2000 Live might as well be a greatest hits album performed at the near peak of its powers surpassed perhaps only by witnessing the band in the flesh.

Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Friday | 05.27
What: The Antlers w/Wild Pink (solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: When Brooklyn-based indie folk project The Antlers released its first full band offering with 2009’s Hospice it immediately established itself as a band that could make powerful emotional statements with great delicacy and simplicity. The concept album is about a hospice worker and his relationship with a patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. After a hiatus of five years until 2019 due to primary songwriter and singer Peter Silberman experiencing hearing loss. While in recovery Silberman discovered he could still write music and following the 2017 release of the solo album Impermanence The Antlers returned with 2021’s Green to Gold. Opening the show is John Ross of Wild Pink performing solo. His band’s 2021 album A Billion Little Lights is one of the most affecting albums out of the indie rock milieu to be written from the adult perspective with adult concerns without waxing into self-parody or “dad rock” territory.

Animal Collective circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.27
What: Animal Collective w/The Spirit of the Beehive — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Animal Collective is one of the most influential bands of the past 20 years. Its amalgam of psychedelia, folk, electronica, ambient and the avant-garde has yielded a rich and prolific body of work across several albums that has been oft imitated but rarely in a way equal to the group’s truly idiosyncratic songwriting and eccentric methods of composing and performing music with an almost live orchestration/remixing live during performances. It’s truly transporting music, an otherworldly pop. Its new album Time Skiffs (2022) marks the return of Deakin and a robust organic tonal element in the group’s signature, unconventional percussion and what appears to be its most sonically interesting record since Strawberry Jam with its arrangements sounding like weather events coming together to make songs through a purely intuitive process that likely involved a great deal of work to make sound effortless. The Spirit of the Beehive has been making pop music that sounds like something from another dimension like Black Moth Super Rainbow turned into more of a rock band but with a live show that sounds like it’s been orchestrated like a set of medleys and remixes performed in real time.

Friday | 05.27
What: Fiddlehead w/Flower Language, Destiny Bond and Public Opinion
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Boston’s Fiddlehead is an anthemic, melodic post-hardcore band that for the uninitiated sounds akin to an emo band that was more influenced by Fugazi and Jawbreaker than what you might expect. Destiny Bond and Public Opinion are both post-hardcore bands from Denver whose songwriting stretches beyond the too often self-imposed limitations of hardcore.

Ezra Furman, photo by Tonja Thilesen

Saturday | 05.28
What: Ezra Furman w/Grace Cummings
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ezra Furman and the Harpoons was an excellent band in the more indie folk vein but Furman herself had more to say in music than that loose format. And since writing and releasing music under her own name as a solo artist she’s seemed to have slowly shed obvious stylistic influences like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed among others across several albums since the literary, haunted Americana of 2012’s The Year of No Returning. With the new album All of Us Flames Furman takes into the consideration the concept of the end of the world, certainly the world as we know it, and examination the assumptions and hopes and dubious freedom from thinking the world is over and even finding proof of that with the pandemic and the failure of all political parties in America to deal adequately with the crisis even to this day nevermind the ecological disaster slow crashing through human civilization, the perils of right wing extremism entering into governments worldwide posing a threat on its own and compounding all others as fascism is completely unprepared to actually deal with the crises we face and establish a sustainable response to issues those types fail to comprehend to the detriment of all. The lead single from the new album “Forever In Sunset” is a fiercely compassionate presentation of that whole backdrop as the ambient weight that amplifies whatever mood we’re feeling but suggests we don’t have to be overwhelmed while in survival mode and the meaning and significance of our lives can and will continue beyond the immediate brace of crises at our collective doorstep. Sonically it’s like a great glam rock song with an elevated folk flavor layered with enveloping atmospheres. Which is reason enough to go see how Furman pulls this music off live. But you also get to see Australian singer Grace Cummings whose 2022 album Storm Queen has a brooding grit and fiery passion that is a little reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. But Cummings isn’t ethereal like the latter yet both songwriters have an almost spiritual immediacy and an instinct for crafting the kind of guitar rock that burns from within like the ghost of another era of music trying to manifest through her performance. For instance one hears in the single “Heaven” shades of Big Star, Tommy Bolin and Zeppelin. The rest of the album proves that Cummings isn’t just a rocker, her expressive voice and songwriting chops range far from bombastic heights to tranquilly introspective songs with emotionally vibrant performances. Fans of Aldous Harding will find much to like in Cummings’ rich repertoire.

Grace Cummings, photo courtesy the artist
Causer in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.30
What: Bestial Mouths w/CXCXCX and Cau5er
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with industrial noise dance phenom Cau5er and Denver-based power electronics artist CXCXCX.

The Body, photo by Zachary Harrel Jones

Tuesday | 05.31
What: The Body w/Midwife and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With its extensive history of touring since starting in 1999 there’s a good chance that if you’ve been involved in underground music since that time you’ve seen or had a chance to see The Body from Providence, Rhode Island. The experimental duo might in a reductive way be described as a doom metal band crossed with a grindcore band informed by harsh noise. But drummer Lee Buford and guitarist Chip King really push their art into different sonic territory and in different formations with a fairly long list of collaborative releaes with the likes of Thou, Full of Hell, Unform, BIG BRAVE, and Krieg to name a few. The 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness was inspired by synth pop music and sounds it while also being one of the heaviest and most raw albums of that year that had an inexplicable and undeniable sonic nuance. Its most recent release is a split record with OAA called Enemy of Love and is harrowing fusion of doom, power electronics and intensely pointed social commentary fitting the state of the world today. But it’s not all just the sound of civilization crashing into a burning heap, there are moments when the record uses an almost ambient aesthetic to arrange the denunciation of the world’s destructive bastards and humanity’s seemingly unending instinct for self-destruction. By contrast though completely fitting Midwife is also on the bill with Madeline Johnston’s heartbreaking and soul soothing soundcapes that express a similar pain and rejection of a horrifying situation in the world in a broad and not topical sense while doing so through deeply personal songs about loss and trying to make sense of losses so deep they leave you shaken to the core. Midwife’s 2021 album Luminol provides some of the most transcendent and cathartic passages of music to address the aforementioned to have come out in the past decade. Opening this show is Polly Urenthane mentioned above opening the A Place to Bury Strangers show and will bring to this event her own music to transform trauma into inspiration.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver April 2022

IDLES, photo courtesy the artists
Baroness, photo courtesy the artists

What: Baroness
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.

Friday | 04.01
What: Brandon Wald (owner of Black Ring Ritual Records out of ND), Viator, Many Blessings, Maltreatment, Tripp Nasty and MPW
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: There aren’t too many noise shows or places to see noise in Denver these days meaning a form of music/sound art is hard to come by in the live setting where it is best experienced. But this show will include local stars like Many Blessings aka Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man doing his harsh industrial noise project and Tripp Nasty whose body of work is so diverse and broad that some of it is in the realm of noise so who knows how that will manifest for this show so just best to go if you’re so inclined. Brandon Wald runs Black Ring Ritual Records, home to some of the more prime noise records and tapes of the last several years and his own noise is part power electronics, abstract industrial, harsh ambient and musique concrète.

Friday | 04.01
What: The Blue Rider w/Cleaner and Wes Watkins
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Psychedelic garage rock band The Blue Rider hasn’t been playing much in recent years since Mark Shusterman has been busy playing in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. So catch the always surprisingly powerful and brain expanding show with Wes Watkins who has been involved in a variety of projects over the years like Wheel Chair Sports Camp and the aforementioned Night Sweats. But his own music betwixt jazz, R&B and funk is worthwhile in its own right.

Friday and Saturday | 04.01 and 04.02
What: The Goddamn Gallows & Scott H. Biram w/JD Pinkus
When: 8 p.m. both nights
Where: Larimer Lounge (04.01) and Swing Station (Laporte, CO on 04.02)
Why: The Goddamn Gallows sound like something you’d get if you mixed a scuzzy punk band, some murder ballad honky tonk and Black Sabbath. Scott H. Biram plays solo and while many men of his ethnic persuasion have abused the blues and country in ways largely boring and unforgiveable, Biram’s songwriting is so strong, diverse and sincere yet poetic he’ll make you forget those other guys that served as a blight in blues clubs for decades. JD Pinkus is indeed the bass player of Butthole Surfers and member of Honky. But this tour showcases his fragmented, haunted psychedelic country material. His 2021 album Fungus Shui is the peak of that aesthetic as crafted by Pinkus thus far.

Monday | 04.04
What: Spiritualized
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: With the 2022 album Everything Was Beautiful expected out on April 22, 2022, Jason Pierce finds yet another way to blend freaky, spooky yet warmly engaging folk with space rock in ways transporting and transcendent. The roller coaster dynamic of late 90s music has long since given way to lush orchestral builds that flow in unpredictable yet satisfying directions so that listening to the album gets your brain to go down a different path than previous records from Pierce. With any luck the live show will reflect this bright aspects of this album without losing the dark cool that has made the songwriter’s material so fascinating since his early days with Spacemen 3.

SASAMI, photo by Alice Baxley

Tuesday | 04.05
What: SASAMI w/Jigsaw Youth
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Squeeze, the 2022 album from SASAMI, is definitely a departure from the songwriter’s 2019 self-titled debut. Whereas there was a deeply chill energy to the downtempo aspect of that album, there is a more distorted and visceral quality to Squeeze that seems like a mirror image of the wonderfully ethereal quality of that first record. This might seem like too wide a stylistic swing, Sasami Ashworth has had a very eclectic career playing in Cherry Glazerr and contributing to albums by artists as widely different as Vagabon and Wild Nothing. Ashworth explores metallic sounds and much more aggressive song dynamics this time around while pushing the boundaries of her knack for pop songcraft with songs that sound sometimes metal, sometimes industrial, sometimes grunge and all made accessible. Fans of the broad spectrum of St. Vincent’s catalog would appreciate what SASAMI has been doing the past few years and beyond.

girl in red, photo by Jonathan Kise

Tuesday | 04.05
What: girl in red w/Holly Humberstone
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: girl in red is the performance moniker of Marie Ulven Ringheim whose guitar pop has garnered critical acclaim beyond her home country of Norway. Her 2021 debut album if i could make it go quiet found the songwriter expanding beyond the bedroom pop compositions and recordings that brought her to prominence and it charts her struggles with the various ways in which one’s mind can sabotage your life. In addressing these personal demons in such a direct, honest and relatable way with such luminously warm melodies Ringheim doesn’t insult herself or the listener by suggesting something as trite as it’s all going to work out. Her depictions of the head spaces in which you can get stuck seem so vivid and immediate that they seem like something you can overcome or at least survive and dare to want more for yourself and reach for it than you seem to think is possible when you’re in the depths of your own personal hell.

Tuesday | 04.05
What: Hiatus Kaiyote
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.

Baby Tate, photo by Scrill Davis

Wednesday | 04.06
What: Charli XCX w/Baby Tate
When: 06:30 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: This show should probably be at a bigger venue but hey you get a chance to see Baby Tate before word gets out that her sex positive songs aren’t all production in the studio and in music videos. Sure, her mom is Dionne Farris who hopefully most people remember from her time in Arrested Development before branching out into a popular music career under her own name. But Baby Tate’s confidence isn’t just swagger, regardless of subject matter and word choice there is a deft and creative wordplay that syncs her words with the always imaginative beats with a fine ear for the use of bass that one doesn’t hear in enough hip-hop these days. Fans of Kari Faux should probably give Baby Tate a listen. And of course headlining is Charli XCX who is touring in support of her 2022 album Crash. Whether the record is the end of a chapter in the pop star’s career or hinting at a more experimental future direction, the singer sounds as confident as ever and the eclectic influences are on display so that beyond the typically strong vocals the driving bass of post-punk and the expert electronic dance music production allows for all elements to flow freely together in a way divergent from the hyperpop aesthetic of earlier offerings. Of all the pop songwriters in the mainstream, Charli XCX has long been one of the more consistently inventive and fascinating whose lyrics also hit as poignant and poetic.

Thursday | 04.07
What: CELE Presents: Chihei Hatakeyama w/Carl Ritger and Wind Tide
When: 7-11 p.m.
Where: 860 Vallejo St. (Denver)
Why: Chihei Katakeyama is an ambient/experimental electronic/drone artist from Tokyo, Japan whose work has found a home on Kranky but lately largely out of his own White Paddy Mountain imprint which showcases other artists that operate in similar realms of composition and sound design. Carl Ritger has been producing prepared environmental sound experiences under his own name and as Radere and a fixture of Denver’s ambient music scene for more than a decade. Wind Tide is presumably the musique concrète/ambient artist from Littlefield, Texas whose use of field recordings and processed noise captures the essence of the background sounds of civilization that often go ignored unless brought explicitly to your attention though not often as creatively as Wind Tide has done in an extensive Bandcamp catalog.

Jawbreaker, photo by John Dunne

Thursday and Friday | 04.07 and 04.08
What: Jawbreaker w/Descendents, Face To Face and Samiam
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Between 1986 and its break-up in 1996, Jawbreaker helped to shape the aesthetics and sound of what became pop punk and emo during that time and going forward. With albums like 1994’s influential 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and Dear You from 1995, which the group celebrates with this tour, Jawbreaker brought an existential self-examination to the lyrics and a creativity to the dynamics and textures of its songs that transcended the genres it helped to define. The trio has been back together since 2017 with a documentary about the band Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker releasing that same year. Listening back to its old albums the fingerprints of that music is clearly evident on a large swath of punk-oriented music of the past 25 years. Also on this bill are pioneering pop punk band The Descendents whose own anthemic songs likely proved an inspiration for Jawbreaker and both Face to Face and Samiam also sharing the stage this night.

Sarah Shook & The Disamers, photo by Harvey Robinson

Saturday | 04.09
What: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers w/Lillian
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sarah Shook could have had a perfectly fine and successful career sticking to the modern country sound of their excellent first two records Sidelong and Years. Shook’s expressive vocals and finely crafted songs have always been informed by a thoughtful sensitivity with some grit underlying the delivery. The new album, 2022’s Nightroamer, produced by Dwight Yoakam collaborator Peter Anderson, has touches of effects on Shook’s voice which might strike some longtime fans as odd but overall those sonic details and a more expansive quality to the sound in general on the album feels like it opened up the singer’s songwriting a bit and lends it a quality that sounds more full and the musical equivalent of a color photo versus a black and white. Both have their appeal but more hues in emotion are emphasized. Lillian is a Denver-based singer-songwriter whose luminous songs in an Americana vein are difficult to pigeonhole. Her new album Chasing Shadows will be released at a show at The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Club on April 21.

Hex Cassette at Hi-Dive 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 04.09
What: Lose Your Head II: Ponce (Swampy Erotic Punk Blues), Julian St. Nightmare (Goth Rock), Ray Diess (Goth Pop), Savant Tarde (Post Wave), Hex Cassette (SynthGoth For Satan), Painted City (Synth Pop)
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Palace
Why: Lose Your Head is an event that highlights some of Denver’s better underground bands in a more dawkwave, post-punk and experimental pop vein. The genres listed above in parentheses work as a vague idea of what you’re in for. Julian St. Nightmare are a visceral yet atmospheric post-punk band. Hex Cassette is industrial darkwave pop with a confrontational and wildly energetic live show. Painted City is for sure synth pop but in that art rock sense one might have seen more in the early 80s but with a sensibility that speaks to having coming up post-Radiohead. Ray Diess is definitely “Goth Pop” but also with a theatrical live show that fans of classic EBM will appreciate.

Saturday | 04.09
What: Abandons, Brother Saturn, Equine and Denizens of the Deep
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Brother Saturn will celebrate the release of his latest album Dreams of Sand at this show. As per usual, ethereal soundscapes that are both subtle and transporting and fans of the Hearts of Space program will find a lot to like with his material in general. Abandons is a heavier post-rock band. Denizens of the Deep also produces ambient/noise/modern classical music in a variety of modes but the latest album End Times is a good deal of distorted synth drone over mournful, melancholic compositions and moody piano. Equine is avant-garde prog informed by modal jazz and cosmic mathematics.

Saturday | 04.09
What: Fern Roberts, Vampire Squids From Hell and Mossgatherers
When: 8-11 p.m.
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Fern Roberts is a band that isn’t easy to classify and its latest album I’ll Do It Again Tomorrow occupies a musical space between late 80s Talk Talk, Animal Collective and Beach Fossils. Vampire Squids From Hell are an instrumental, psychedelic surf rock band.

Melvins, photo by Bob Hannam

Sunday | 04.10
What: Ministry w/Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: For this tour Ministry is mainly tapping into its songs from Psalm 69 and earlier and even playing”Supernaut” which leader Al Jourgensen covered for an EP by his side project 1000 Homo DJs. So maybe some other early material is in store for the rest of the tour as well. Corrosion of Conformity wasn’t explicitly a crossover band but one whose hardcore bridged the worlds of punk and thrash almost from the beginning. And of course Melvins are always a reliably entertaining live act that has pushed its own envelope since its early days in the 80s when it inspired a great swath of the grunge scene including guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osbourne teaching Kurt Cobain to play guitar and drummer Dale Crover having been a member of Nirvana for a time in the early days. The trio’s impact on modern rock music is often underrated but indelible. In 2021 Melvins released two albums, Working with God, a record more in line with its always compelling noise rock, and Five Legged Dog, an acoustic album. You never have to worry about a rote Melvins show so get there early and see one of the truly great bands of the last 40 years in a place that sounds as great as Mission Ballroom.

Girl Talk, photo by Joey Kennedy

Monday | 04.11
What: Girl Talk w/Hugh Augustine
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Gregg Gillis as Girl Talk took the mashup to new levels in the 2000s as a DJ who, inspired by 90s IDM, alternative artists and noise, created surprisingly unique blends of sounds, rhythms and musical concepts. In 2022 Girl Talk released a collaborative album with Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T. And Smoke DZA called Full Court Press in which Gillis was able to use his production expertise to weave together the contributions of three hip-hop artists not short on personality and idiosyncratic styles. The album represents Gillis’ first full record since 2010’s All Day but also one of the higher points of an already interesting and genre bending career.

Bootblacks, photo by Katrin Albert Photography

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Bootblacks w/Plague Garden and DJ Kilgore
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Bootblacks started in New York City in 2010 around the early stage of the current wave of darkwave and post-punk. Its intricate rhythms and brooding atmospherics sync well with what feels like a visceral intensity, especially live, that brings an urgency and forcefulness to the music that is missing from the music of some later bands tapping into similar sources of inspiration. Bootblacks didn’t get to tour on its 2020 album Thin Skies for reasons with which we’re all too entirely familiar so this tour will find the band able to give the material its proper presentation. Fans of Chameleons will appreciate Bootblacks dusky take on dreamlike, observational nightlife anthems. Plague Garden is a similarly-minded post-punk band from Denver with roots in punk and EBM.

Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre, photo by Thomas Girard

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Mercury Rev
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre and Mercury Rev started around the same time around the beginning of the 90s on opposite sides of the country. But both incorporated elements of folk, psychedelic rock and experimental soundscaping into their respective mix of sounds. BJM became an influential band in the American and international underground with a fiercely DIY spirit that went from making records to touring and promoting its music. Singer Anton Newcombe’s thoughtful and poetic lyrics and ever evolving songwriting injected the expansive and imaginative spirit of late 60s psychedelic rock and art rock into a the zeitgeist of the often anemic late-90s post-alternative rock musical landscape and culture with ample personality and unpredictable live shows, some going sideways, mostly striking a chord with disaffected creative people wherever the band toured. Since that time Newcombe has tried his hand at a variety of musical styles while maintaining a subversive and forward thinking creative vision channeled into prolific output. In late spring we can expect to see the release of the new BJM record Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees and its the result of Newcombe’s active experiments in composition and production over the past few years in his Berlin studio. Of course live the group is reliably vital. Mercury Rev from upstate New York was started by former Flaming Lips guitarist Jonathan Donohue and with longtime guitarist Grasshopper, Mercury Rev too has been on a creative arc that has taken them to fascinating places from early, warped psychedelia and space rock to the deeply affecting dream pop of breakthrough album Deserter’s Songs (1998) and explorations of personal mythology and the ways our inner lives manifest in how we make sense of the world on every album since. Live, Mercury Rev is transcendent, inspirational and just the thing you need to fill up after a long time being hollowed out by the less fun aspects of life.

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Bill Frisell Trio
When: 6 p.m.
Where: MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater
Why: Bill Frisell is one of the great living jazz guitarists. From Baltimore, Frisell spent many of his formative years in Denver and Colorado as a graduate of East High School. Going to Berklee took him back to the east coast and he was a studio musician for the prestigious jazz label ECM and when he was living in Hoboken, New Jersey he became a fixture in the NYC jazz scene where he came to collaborate with multiple luminaries of the era including John Zorn, going on to become a member of Naked City, the wildly experimental jazz band. By the late 80s Frisell had relocated to Seattle and continued his already noteworthy solo career but also continuing to collaborate with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and on film and television scores. Frisell maintains his connections to the Denver avant-garde and occasionally plays locally including this rare chance to see his trio at the MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater.

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

Friday | 04.15
What: The Velveteers w/Dry Ice and Rose Variety
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The Velveteers released its most recent album Nightmare Daydream in 2021 and demonstrated a great leap forward in terms of songwriting for anyone that hadn’t been keeping up with the band in its live performances. Produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame, Nightmare Daydream is a blues rock record informed by imaginative songwriting with lyrics that reveal an astute assessment of relationships, the social scene around the world of music and the nuances of human psychology but channeled into bombastic songs that in the live setting have proven to be forceful and captivating. Anyone that saw the Gothic Theatre album release show got to witness a band in full command of its powers with a fiery performance that felt like you were getting to see a famous rock band on the verge of reaching a far wider audience. With upcoming dates with Rival Sons and Greta Van Fleet it’s likely the trio’s star will be rising so catch The Velveteers for a hometown show at The Fox Theatre before it breaks through to a mainstream audience.

Friday | 04.15
What: Mogwai w/Nina Nastasia
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Scottish post-rock band Mogwai has consistently delivered cinematic guitar music across the breadth of its career going back nearly three decades. But even at that its 2021 album As the Love Continues comes as a bit of a surprise as it includes even more evocative vocals in no way buried in the mix as well as those more processed and a finely nuanced soundscaping with electronic elements and rock instrumentation working in perfect sync to at times remind one of a Wendy Carlos composition (i.e. “Fuck Off Money”). There are no mediocre Mogwai albums but it is one that goes to wider vistas musical vistas than to which the band has traveled in some time.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Actors w/Scifidelic, Weathered Statues and DJ Sin
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Canadian post-punk band Actors have been crafting New Wave-inflected darkwave for around a decade now and its 2021 album Acts of Worship sounds like a dance club soundtrack from a forgotten, 1980’s transcendental science fiction movie. Like maybe if the club Tech Noir from The Terminator got its own movie after being re-opened in 2020. The album’s echoing guitar riffs, melodically brooding vocals, hazy synth lines accented with crystalline tones are reminiscent of early 80s Human League had the league fully incorporated guitars and taken some inspiration from Fad Gadget. And the warping, upbeat, melancholic melodies of songs like “Killing Time (Is Over)” is thoroughly captivating with its unconventional dynamics like something you’d hear on an early Brian Eno “solo” album.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Calm./Time w/Wilt to Live and Lucy Freedom at Mutiny Information Café 8 p.m.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Calm./Time is one of the great hip-hop projects of Denver music with sharp, political lyrics infused with an incisive and playful sense of humor. With some of the most creative beats steeped in not only classic alternative hip-hop but experimental music and art pop, Calm. (comprised of rapper Time and producer Awareness) always seems to make high concept social commentary accessible and engaging.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Pile (Rick Maguire solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: From the Facebook event page because I can’t do better: “While the band is known for its dynamic and bombastic live performances, Maguire recontextualizes the material by performing on his own, something he has continued to do throughout the project’s history. 2021 saw documentation of this aspect of Pile in Songs Known Together, Alone, a solo re-imagining of 15 songs across Pile’s catalog.”

Snail Mail, photo by Tina Tyrell

Sunday | 04.17
What: Snail Mail w/Joy Again
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Lindsey Jordan seems to have packed more than a lifetime of heartbreak and pain into her 2021 Snail Mail album Valentine. The title track alone so vividly captures what it feels like to be in the worst throes of a bad breakup and is kind of an inverted Valentine expressing feelings of love and affection that have no direction because of the split and how that can churn inside you leaving you in agonized confusion. Which is a tricky feeling to get across. “Ben Franklin” is apparently about Jordan’s time in a rehab facility, a place for which there all sorts of reasons to end up in for a time, and in the music video for the song she moves about with an energetic playfulness the way many people do with words and actions until they’re ready to have the breakthroughs that are necessary to move on. But the whole record is a brilliantly poetic pop exploration of the various phases of being in some of life’s lowest places set to lush arrangements and inventive guitar compositions that are reminiscent of the more interesting late 90s emo bands that blurred genre lines like Rainer Maria and Milemarker except that Jordan’s sounds reflect the gentleness better suited to expressing wounded feelings and lingering hurt. And yet there is a sense that these songs helped Jordan to crawl through the most vivid memories of their inspirations.

Sunday | 04.17
What: Radolescents w/The Haji, Noogy and Egoista – canceled
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Radolescents is Rikk Agnew and Casey Royer of the Adolescents along with original Adolescents guitarist Frank Agnew’s son Frank Agnew Jr on vocals, Dan O’Donovan on guitar and Dan Colburn on bass performing the Adolescents’ 1981 self-titled record aka The Blue Album in its entirety. Rikk Agnew has been responsible for some of the most inventive and memorable guitar tones out of punk rock including his performance on the 1982 deathrock classic Only Theatre of Pain while a member of Christian Death. Live performance video out there for this lineup has been pretty solid so here’s a chance to see one of the most iconic bands out of punk of the last 40+ years.

Sunday | 04.17
What: mssv aka Main Steam Stop Valve (Mike Bagg, Stephen Hodges and Mike Watt)
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: mssv has quite a pedigree including obvious master bass player Mike Watt of Minutemen, fIREHOSE and Stooges fame but also Stephen Hodges who played drums on Tom Waits records like Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Mule Variations. He also played on various soundtracks including those for Until the end of the World and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. No big deal. But with Mike Bagg whose own performance resume is respective for his work with distinguished jazz artists and avant-garde musicians like Nels Cline. Together they make what might be described as a mutant type of free jazz and surf rock.

Monday | 04.18
What: Sleep w/Superwolves (Matthew Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The right people are going to appreciate this strange folk and blues band Superwolves comprised of Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Chavez guitarist/singer Matthew Sweeney opening for psychedelic sludgerocks’s heaviest of the heavy, Sleep. Some people are going to be so put off and angry that will be amusing on its own. Too bad for those people though because two great bands on one bill with this stylistic swing should happen more often. Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) has influenced a generation of musician though his various bands over the years and his solo records as well for inventive and intricate guitar work and heartfelt, tender, poetic and witty lyrics and Sleep has perhaps more than any other single band outside of Black Sabbath spawned the doom metal genre as we know it but few have equaled their sonic grandeur and imaginative songwriting.

Mondo Cozmo, photo by Travis Shinn

Monday and Tuesday | 04.18 and 04.19
What: The Airborne Toxic Event w/Mondo CozmoRescheduled, date TBD
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: 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.

IDLES, photo by Tom Ham

Tuesday | 04.19
What: IDLES w/Automatic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: IDLES first came to the attention of a wider international audience with the 2017 release of its debut full length album Brutalism. Its exhilaratingly spirited live shows and the poetic intensity and social consciousness and deep self-examination reflected in the lyrics had an immediately appeal that seemed another high point in the then relatively recent resurgence of punk and post-punk that made that style of music seem relevant and exciting again. The 2018 second album Joy As An Act of Resistance in title alone sounded like a call to action for putting energy and will into the world around you that engages people in a positive and compassionate yet passionate manner. Since then 2020’s Ultra Mono took some knocks by various critics as a creative plateau if not a dip in the exciting potential of the band’s previous work but Crawler (2021) proved IDLES is not out of ideas and certainly not out of the incredible energy that is clearly behind its live performances. When IDLES performed at Larimer Lounge 2018 it was unlike most club shows of late with lead singer Joe Talbot ranging far into the crowd to break down the performer and audience barrier the way the songs often do, like they’re speaking directly from your life. Opener Automatic is a trio from Los Angeles whose own flavor of rhythm-and-synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of early OMD. Its forthcoming and second album Excess releases on June 24, 2022 with retrofuturist music videos that compliment its aesthetic so well. In commenting on the song “New Beginning” the band references the Swedish science fiction film Aniara which is one of the better neo-dystopian films of recent years.

Tuesday | 04.19
What: Soft Kill w/Alien Boy, Topographies, Candy Apple and Destiny Bond
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Soft Kill was one of the earliest of the current wave of darkwave/post-punk bands with a decent string of releases with its 2020 album Dead Kids R.I.P. City being its finest and a poignant commentary on the confluence of the growth of Portland, Oregon both organically and through the poisonously mutant manner that the tech industry and other moneyed interests have initiated globally and the ways in which underground music scenes and cultures have been all but washed out of larger and perceivedly hip cities. The music was a little predictable in that obviously influenced by The Cure and The Chameleons way early on but that latest record has some more inventive songwriting and what comes across as a sincere and tender, melancholic observational lament on people lost and a way of life for creative people and others involved in vital subcultures essentially made a thing of the past or at least a shadow of its former self. Alien Boy is also from Portland and its own melancholic blend of punk, emo and atmospheric guitar rock is imbued with its own melancholic spirit inspired by the struggle with the usual everyday stuff that can be a drag if you’re at all sensitive and thoughtful but also with a culture that in too many quarters is hostile to the very existence of certain sectors of society. Candy Apple from Denver perfectly combines spirited hardcore and Hüsker Dü and The Jesus And Mary Chain-esque noise rock. Destiny Bond also from Denver comes from a similar realm of music but one closer to emo but more aggressive in its expression of vulnerability.

Black Map, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 04.19
What: 10 Years w/Black Map and VRSTY
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Black Map is a post-hardcore band from San Francisco comprised of members of Far, Dredg and Trophy Fire. Though supporting alternative metal band 10 Years on this tour its 2022 album Melodoria is the kind of melodic heavy music that bends toward emo and definitely in your wheelhouse if you’re a fan of Circa Survive as its not on the screamo or pop punk end of post-hardcore.

Tuesday | 04.19
What: Jon Spencer & The HITmakers w/Quasi
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Jon Spencer has been giving us gloriously demented and exciting psychedelic blues and garage rock since at least his time in Pussy Galore. But with his new band he collides together all of the stuff you might expect with industrial music production and willingness to introduce non-musical sounds and concepts into the mix. The group’s new album Spencer Gets It Lit is like a retrofuturist science fiction movie as imagined through the lens of an unlikely Suicide and the Cramps team-up and then turned into wonderfully strange and sometimes unsettling songs, which has been Spencer’s modus operandi through various projects for decades. Anything to weird out the squares and honestly the world has been in desperate need for such creative gestures in increasing amounts over the last several years. On the record you can hear the synth and vocal stylings of Sam Coomes of opening band Quasi which is no experimental rock slouch project either with drummer Janet Weiss who in rock and roll right now has to be considered one of the top tier talents. Most people probably know her from her long stint in Sleater-Kinney but anyone lucky enough to have seen her with Quasi or Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks has seen a different facet of her considerable talent.

Letting Up Despite Great Faults, photo courtesy the artists

Wednesday | 04.20
What: Blushing, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Old Soul Dies Young and Moodlighting
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is pretty much the shoegaze or shoegaze adjacent show of the year with Blushing touring in support of its new album Possessions. Its hazy and urgent melodies are enveloping and hypnotic. Letting Up Despite Great Faults also based in Austin weaves in a bit more twee pop stylings into its gorgeous soundscapes. Its own new album, IV, is back to back entrancing material about the more subtle sides of life and daily struggles and in “She Spins” one of the great melodic guitar progressions of the past two decades. Old Soul Dies Young from Denver mixes expansive guitar atmospheres with an almost black metal grit and lo-fi aesthetic seemingly inspired in part by anime and manga, or so its releases on the group’s Bandcamp suggests. Moodlighting like Letting Up Despite Great Faults puts the pop songcraft at the center of its own amalgam of indiepop and dream pop.

Wednesday | 04.20
What: Parquet Courts w/Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: If you were to name the top ten post-punk bands now that are pushing that form of music forward with creativity and ambitious songwriting while putting out some of the most sharp critiques of modern politics and society, Parquet Courts would be near the top of that list. Its 2021 album Sympathy For Life has an almost mystical album art design and its songs combine the use of mythical storytelling with stories of the folly of human civilization, especially late stage capitalism, and our often flawed ways of coping in the face of a deeply uncertain future.

Waxahatchee, photo by Molly Matalon

Friday | 04.22
What: Waxahatchee w/Madi Diaz
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Katie Crutchfield has been releasing deeply personal and insightful folk pop albums as Waxahatchee since her 2012 solo debut album American Weekend. Crutchfield’s gift for articulating existential uncertainty, personal devastation and yearning has imbued her recorded output with a underlying but always present spirit of compassion for self and others. Her 2021 album Saint Cloud expands her sound palette further with synths and programming serving as a backdrop, a context for songs that speak directly to a world of accelerating sources of anxiety and by grounding her songs in directly relatable experiences rather than contemplative theoreticals. The songs come off like a great country record informed by imaginative songwriting that pairs grit with poetic observations as ingredients in keeping present when so many things drive us to dissociate.

Friday | 04.22
What: Emerald Siam, Weathered Statues and We Are Not a Glum Lot
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Emerald Siam has long been fusing a dark and melancholic sound with a brightness of spirit that rises through the psychological murk that can bog everyone down so easily these days. Its membership includes former members of bands like Twice Wilted, Tarmints, The Bedsit Infamy and Wild Call and its alchemical use of rhythm tied to dynamic rhythms plus frontman Kurt Ottaway’s passionate vocals is hard to beat. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver whose sound is rooted in the classics of that subgenre but there is something so upbeat and spirited about its sound and performance that associating the music with something gloomy seems inaccurate as its moody atmospherics have an expansive energy. We Are Not A Glum Lot all but suggests it’s going to be a an emo band of some kind and that wouldn’t be too far off the mark as its intricate guitar melodies and wiry rhythms have a leg in 2000s emo but also one in shoegaze and gritty post-punk. Think something like Sunny Day Real Estate mixed with Jawbox and you have some idea of what you’re in for.

Saturday | 04.23
What: Ho99o9 w/N8NOFACE
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Ho99o9 from Newark, NJ have somehow managed to completely fold together industrial music, hip-hop, hyperpop, hardcore and noise for one of the most immediately riveting sounds around. The live show is as visceral and as confrontational as you might imagine but also brimming with a sense of joy at shattering the conventions of established genre music-making.

Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, photo by Chris Phelps

Saturday and Sunday | 04.23 and 04.24
What: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs w/Sammy Brue
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre and Bluebird Theater
Why: Mike Campbell is indeed the influential guitarist who was once a member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and a co-writer of many of the band’s hit songs across decades. This is his new band and they’re touring small venues in support of the band’s lively new album External Combustion. So go expecting an arena rock level show at these small theaters. Less polished than the Heartbreakers, this project from Campbell showcases the musician consistently cutting loose a little more than he has in his long and storied career.

PUP, photo by Jess Baumung

Sunday and Monday | 04.24 and 04.25
What: PUP w/Sheer Mag, Pink Shift
When: 7 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre and Boulder Theater
Why: PUP is one great bands to have emerged out of the 2010s as purveyors of the kind of heartfelt pop punk that seemed to revitalize that style of music and bring to it a healthy sense of self-deprecation and introspection expressed in spirited, anthemic songs that feel less like refurbished angst and more like catharsis in camaraderie. Its new album The Unraveling of PUPTheBand has more than its fair share of tasty hooks but also of lyrics that vividly capture the frustrations of the average person trying to navigate the vicissitudes of life in the modern world seemingly on the brink of some kind of disaster. Sheer Mag is the punk band that sounds like it grew up listening to a ton of AC/DC and Slade but ended up discovering working class punk and decided not to see why those sounds and ideas should be separate. Its 2019 album A Distant Call has the visual aesthetics of a Judas Priest record but lyrics that were a sharp critique of plain old American greed and political corruption and the immediate and deleterious impacts on every aspect of life.

Particle Kid, photo by Randi Malkin Steinberger

Monday | 04.25
What: The Flaming Lips w/Particle Kid
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Flaming Lips will forever be to some people the scrappy weirdo band from Oklahoma that made strange, psychedelic music with vivid lyrics about life’s challenging and colorful moments before and after a brief flirtation with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s before circumstances within the band and a crisis of creativity sent the group back to the drawing boards. After the parking lot experiments in performance, the perhaps ill-considered yet brilliant Zaireeka released on four CDs meant to be played simultaneously for the full effect of the music and then deep diving into alternative methods of recording with its creative high point then thus far with 1999’s The Soft Bulletin. In the 2000s the band’s star ascended further than most people might have expected with its various stylistic experiments and becoming the kind of band that seemed to be playing every festival and embraced by fans of unusual rock music and jam band types. And then the Lips would put out some of its most daring and deeply introspective and insightful albums like 2013’s The Terror and American Head from 2020. If history seems correct for the Lips, this would be a tour to see. Opening the show is Particle Kid and his eclectic, countrified, psychedelic new record TIME CAPSULE includes collaborations with J Mascis and Willie Nelson. Which sounds like it could be a trainwreck but instead it’s an unusually touching set of contemplative, observational songs on American culture and our trying to make sense of it all. It is somehow both nostalgic and imbued with a paradoxically chill immediacy.

Yumi Zouma, photo by Nick Grennon

Monday | 04.25
What: Yumi Zouma w/Mini Trees
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Yumi Zouma from Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand have spent the last eight years or so crafting tender dream pop imbued with a buoyant energy tempered by hazy, introspective tones. It’s 2022 album Present Tense explores the nuances of love and romance in the current period with a poetic sensibility and music that flows with a smoothly cinematic quality lending each song feel like a short film with all the drama of the story coming together poignantly in under four minutes. Jazz-like structures and strings throughout the album renders it like a new take on chamber pop without any of the pretentiousness.

Deftones, photo by Tamar Levine

Monday | 04.25
What: Deftones w/Gojira and VOWWS
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Deftones are arguably the most influential of the newer style of metal band that came to prominence in the 1990s. The ability of the band to not just tap into a hybrid metal aesthetic but to weave in an always interesting and evolving atmospheric element that has been a part of its songwriting since early on. 2000’s White Pony was like a dream pop album written with the sound palette of a brooding metal group in search of a sound that better expressed the breadth and depth of emotions of its content with the tonal nuance to hit the ears with something more creative and interesting than the usual bludgeoning edginess of much of 90s metal. The combination gave the anger and pain in the album a raw accessibility than it might have had otherwise. The group’s 2020 album Ohms pushed the songwriting further into a more soundscape-y mode that had more in common with the likes of Failure and at times Swervedriver than metal. But that record came out in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic and of course the veteran band didn’t have a way to tour in support of what might be its finest set of songs until this run of shows with support from French death metal band Gojira and prominent darkwave duo VOWWS.

Deserta, image from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 04.26
What: Deserta w/Little Trips and Mon Cher
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Deserta is a Los Angeles-based shoegaze band whose songs sound like a more benevolent side of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. The project’s new album Every Moment, Everything You Need has whispery vocals that fit right in with the languid builds and grainy melodies and insular mood. Its previous album 2020’s Black Aura My Sun was reminiscent of a more summery Slowdive if influenced by bedroom pop and the new record like a modern take on 80s New Wave but with sultry guitar atmospherics that trail off into the middle distance. Little Trips is a lo-fi dream pop outfit from Denver with a knack for subtle synth melodies that integrate well with chill beats and Mon Cher, also from the Mile High City, is a synth and piano-driven dream pop trio whose melancholic spaciousness is refreshingly not in some trendy mold of that style of music broadly speaking.

Tuesday | 04.26
What: Bloody Knives w/Twin Image and Juliet Mission
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Austin’s Bloody Knives sound like what might be called an industrial shoegaze band with fairly strong electronic and electric musical components in its sound and seeming inspiration from 90s experimental electronic pop. Twin Image is the latest project from former Fell frontman and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Josh Wambeke and this time it’s more like a shoegaze/slowcore hybrid which is roughly the lane in which Fell existed but Twin Image is even more introspective and somehow more brash. Juliet Mission includes former members of alternative rock/shoegaze band Sympathy F and this long-running project truly captures and expresses the dark, moody vibe of Denver from back when downtown at night was both a perilous and magical place, evoking the specific melancholic flavor that is one of the hallmarks of the city no matter how much shine Nü Denver projects try to gloss over the top.

Knocked Loose, photo by Perri Leigh

Wednesday | 04.27
What: Knocked Loose w/Movements, Kublai Khan and Koyo
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: While metalcore battered itself into self-parody as a movement sometime in the 2000s its leading lights and adjacent artists of note like Poison the Well, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and others have endured as an influence on hardcore and heavy music for their ability to express a furious kind of outrage through cathartic live performances and having a more imaginative take on that hybrid musical style that can seem monolithic. Since the 2010s metalcore has experienced a kind of renaissance with Knocked Loose from Oldham County, Kentucky being one of the most prominent bands out of that new wave. In 2021 Knocked Loose released its latest EP A Tear In The Fabric of Life with an full animation of the EP by Swedish filmmaker Magnus Jonsson from a story by Knocked Loose frontman Bryan Garris. This time out the band seems to be drawing out its grindcore influence a bit while expanding its dynamic range.

Thursday | 04.28
What: MONO w/Bing & Ruth
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Japanese post-rock band MONO has been quite prolific in its 23 years of existence releasing creatively ambitious, mostly instrumental rock albums that speak more eloquently to emotions and ideas in a nuanced and eloquent way than many standard issue rock bands that spell out what they have to say more explicitly. This has mean the group’s music takes on rendering its meaning beyond specific cultural context. The music is rock but also extends to a modern version of classical music with elegant structure and formal composition tempered by an organic spontaneity. Live this quality translates perhaps most directly.

Vahco Before Horses circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 04.28
What: Vahco Before Horses, Polly Urethane, Pearls and Perils, Blank Human, Esu the Illest, Space Pirate, Morpgorp and Joohs Uhp
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Vahco Before Horses is moving to the Netherlands soon and this is going to be his last show as a resident of Denver. The producer/singer/musician has run a local record label called Glasss and now Glass Melts which focused on more experimental music in the local underground and beyond. Vahco spent some time on both coasts in the music industry at various levels and brought some of that sensibility to his work in music in Denver. His own music is a surprisingly soulful form of electronic pop music with powerful vocals and vivid emotional portraits of life. Also on this bill is experimental downtempo artist Pearls and Perils, the weirdo techno of Blank Human, avant-garde mashup hip-hop hooligans Joohs Uhp, transcendent industrial pop soundscaper Polly Urethane, forward thinking rapper-producer Esu the Illest and others. Though kind of a farewell show to Vahco it’s also a fairly solid showcase of one important branch of left field underground music from the Mile High City.

VR Sex, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 04.29
What: VR Sex w/Lunacy
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: VR Sex is the more punk alias of Andrew Clinco of Drab Majesty fame. This project is more gritty in tone, noisier and more brash. Adopting the performance moniker of Noel Skum (an irreverent anagram of Elon Musk which is pretty on point), Clinco’s songwriting for VR Sex is ordered around clashing dynamics that sound like the kinds of songs a futuristic biker gang might listen to when getting up to some crimes aimed at yet another attempt at authoritarian control of all things in an asymmetrical warfare approach to taking down the man. The new record Rough Dimension with its cover clearly a nod to The Blair Witch Project all too poignantly encapsulates in sound the static, urgency and chaos that we face every day but blasting it apart with buzz saw riffs and attitude. Lunacy from Pennsylvania recently released Echo In The Memory is a bracing, ghostly industrial post-punk record that sounds like life after humans per the History Channel series but for real—gorgeously stark soundscapes with firm rhythm lines and washes of ethereally caustic atmospheres.

Big Thief, photo by Alexa Viscius

Friday | 04.29
What: Big Thief w/Kara-Lis Coverdale
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Big Thief became so popular so quickly you might be excused for dismissing it out of hand as a buzz band of the moment. But its particular brand of indie folk rock strikes deep chords, comes off as deeply honest and personal and its use of space expertly rendered so that it feels like Adrianne Lenker is singing directly to you about your own life. Its 2022 album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You seems so developed and practiced yet also unvarnished and vulnerable. If there is a popular style of indie folk that has been plaguing playlists and the airwaves and watering down the impact of the music, Big Thief here is the opposite of that by embracing what might be considered flaws as simply an essential aspect of our analog humanity and the way we live and exist in a world where not everything is streamlined for easy consumption and the band takes many sonic chances on the record that many artists on a similar level of popularity would not and that makes what Big Thief is doing now seem incredibly refreshing.

Tempers, photo by Julia Khoroshilov

Saturday | 04.30
What: Tempers w/Lesser Care, Julian St. Nightmare and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tempers from NYC has been developing its dusky darkwave synth pop for the last several years with albums that seem to draw on a hazy 80s post-punk aesthetic for inspiration but also rooted in modern techno. Its 2022 album New Meaning is arguably its most coherent effort yet with songs about coming to terms with living in a time of great uncertainty and needing to create meaning where it might be eroding in meaningful ways in various areas of life and in the world around you. The cover image of the staircase to nowhere that is a part of contemporary creepy pasta culture as manifested so powerfully in Butcher’s Block, the third season of prematurely canceled horror anthology series Channel Zero. As a symbol for the album it works too as an enigmatic image that requires us to imagine where we might make the staircase take us and the peril of not building something beyond the great unknown that seems to be paralyzing the psyches of so many and otherwise sowing insecurity and desperation in a social environment that wasn’t already short on such things.

Saturday | 04.30
What: LEAF w/Negativland and SUE-C
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Arts Hub
Why: Lafayette Electronic Arts Festvial returns with a set from legendary performance art/avant-garde electronic/sound collage project Negativland and live cinema artist SUE-C collaborating on a performance that comments on the dystopian tech environment that is plaguing so much of life in the 21st century thus far.

Best Shows in Denver February 2022

Dinosaur Jr, photo by Cara Totman

Tuesday | 02.08
What: Everything is Terrible KIDZ KLUB Tour
When: 7 and 10 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Los Angeles-based video collage and and performance collective Everything Is Terrible! Brings its latest live show and presentation of some of the best of the worst video clips found at thrift stores, garage sales, odd ends of video websites and the like to Sie Film Center. This tour is called KIDZ KLUB so surely some of the most demented yet often earnest bits of trash Americana will make its way into the show perhaps themed after some of the surreal and you want to think are manufactured parody but aren’t passages of video made for children and for educational purposes. But who can say and with the costumes and other outright strangeness that comes with an EIT live show it’ll all be maximum weird in a time when normie culture insipidity is the norm and we need stuff this eccentric and inspired as a reminder that accidental creativity can be fun when recontextualized and presented with a spirit of fun and an odd sense of humor and irony.

Wednesday | 02.09
What: Action Bronson & Earl Sweatshirt w/The Alchemist and Boldy James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt has been one of the most innovative hip-hop artists of recent years mixing a more traditional hip-hop beat making approach with utilizing ideas and sounds well outside the usual spectrum of that style of music making. Some of his albums at times sound more like a noise record than anything you hear much outside the most experimental of underground hip-hop projects. The Alchemist is also one of the cutting edge beat makers of today and his 2021 album with Armand Hammer pushed the art form to new vistas of soundscaping to bolster that duo’s own masterfully creative rapping and production. Action Bronson may not quite be in that league as an innovator but his forcefulness as a rapper and performer is unquestionable.

Spyderland at Down in Denver Fest September 2021

Friday | 02.11
What: Church Fire, Spyderland, Glass Human and Partyteeth
When: 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Church Fire has spent the better part of the past decade honing its vital fusion of darkwave, political punk and electronic dance music and today remains a forceful live act that should probably be known outside of Denver but for now you can still catch them at small stages mostly in and around Denver and the eastern slope of Colorado. Spyderland brings some songwriting heft to its eclectic and inventive pop songs combining Marie Litton’s experience in bands like Clever Elsie, Ghost Buffalo and Lil’ Thunder with Drew McClellan’s knack for hybridizing genres and production methods to make for music that has tactile presence while inviting its listeners to dream beyond one’s immediate limitations.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Down In Denver Fest Presents: Emerald Siam w/Zealot and Gila Teen
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: This is a fundraising event for the 2022 edition of Down In Denver Fest. Last year some local underground music luminaries put together a festival pretty much last minute with a focus on local artists in a way other festivals were not. It featured all the bands playing this event as well as groups from a broad spectrum of time having put into the local scene and genres. At a time when local culture is neglected and otherwise treated as fodder for digital marketing platforms rather than cultivated and curated in a manner outside that technocratic way of thinking an event like Down In Denver Fest is necessary. So for this night you get the brooding and triumphant psychedelia of Emerald Siam, Zealot’s playfully thought-provoking pop and Gila Teen’s emo-enriched post-punk noise rock.

Friday | 02.11
What: Satellite Pilot, King Ropes, Flora de la Luna
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bozeman, Montana’s King Ropes are a bit like the Dead Milkmen of lo-fi psych Americana whose 2021 album Way Out West straddles the line between the early, on-the-verge-of-collapsing charm of early Mercury Rev and the irreverent humor and oddly respectable musical chops of Dead Milkmen.

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Backseat Lovers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Backseat Lovers from Provo, Utah strike that delicate balance between folk pop, hazy, late afternoon psychedelic rock and Americana. It’s a blend that might not work or sound like too much music in the larger indie world. But there’s enough grit in the band’s music and an earnestness in its performances to set it apart from other bands in a similar spectrum of style. Its dynamics and balance of force and delicacy allows its songs to go from hushed, contemplative moods to heightened emotional flares of intensity with a rare grace. The band is set to go back into the studio to record its next album so this would be a good time to catch it in high form performing its earlier music and maybe catch some of the new material before these guys put it through the studio process.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Bluebook, American Culture and Alison Lorenzen
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bluebook has had an interesting arc of musical evolution since its inception in the 2000s and lately its experimental, baroque pop has emerged as theatrical and dramatic with Julie Davis striking a commanding and focused figure with a band that creates a mysterious atmosphere. So with punk-infused indie pop band American Culture on the bill seems like an odd pairing but one fitting since American Culture frontman Chris Adolf is a bit of a musical rebel whose own vision places a premium on authenticity and not fitting in with expectation. Its 2021 album For My Animals on the respected Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records imprint is possibly Adolf’s most fully realized album to date with expert players to help manifest meaningful and powerful pop music in an era of entirely too much blandness.

The Siren Project in April 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Siren Project w/The Midnight Marionettes and Katastrophy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Siren Project is one of the longest running bands in the Denver post-punk and Gothic-industrial underground with roots in the 90s, influenced by both alternative rock, European folk music and downtempo electronic music. Charismatic frontwoman Malgorzata Wacht and longtime keyboard player Alex Seminara weave a beguiling and unique style of thrillingly dramatic and lush dark pop with a strong strain of romanticism and self-affirmation.

The Wombats, photo by Tom Oxley

Monday | 02.14
What: The Wombats w/Clubhouse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: UK indie band The Wombats like many bands began work on their new album in 2019 and had to piece together the songwriting and recording as best they could from 2020 through 2021 due to the ongoing global pandemic. But Fix Yourself, Not the World was finally released in January 2022 and it’s the sort of cinematic pop with a literary flair we’ve come to expect from the band. The lead single “Method to The Madness” builds into a glorious torrent of sound like a manifestation of our collective frustrations unleashed. And the album appears to be a struggling against and an acceptance of the things we can’t change but learn to work around or take into account in our attempts to move forward through life.

Wednesday | 02.16
What: Public Opinion, Destiny Bond, No Roses and The Clue
When: 7 p.m., $10
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Local hardcore show. Destiny Bond has a bit of D-beat flavor.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Abandons, New Standards Men and Hoverfly
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: If heavy instrumental music is something you’re into Abandons has been making some of the more dynamic and moody variety thereof for a few years or so. More post-rock than doom and extreme metal but there’s a plenty of that in the mix too. Fortunately for this show you also get to see those instrumental heavy music experimental tricksters New Standards Men whose twin albums I Was a Spaceship and Spain’s First Astronaut answer the question not enough people were asking in wondering where art rock bands into Zappa, Isis, Amphetamine Reptile noise rock, post-hardcore, John Zorn and ambient music were hiding.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Screwtape, MSPAINT, Cyst and CFX Project
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: MSPAINT from Hattiesberg, MS sound for all the world like a noisy post-punk band that came out of a brilliant blend of hardcore, Protomartyr-esque art punk and Sleaford Mods attitude. One wonders also if they were into mclusky or Future of the Left at some point in their creative trajectory. You also get to see one of Denver’s top five punk bands in Screwtape who always put on a ferociously energetic show.

Cautious Clay, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday – Saturday | 02.17 – 02.19
What: Cautious Clay w/Ivy Sole and Julius Rodriguez
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Belly-Up (02.17) and Bluebird Theater (02.1802.19)
Why: Cautious Clay’s wide emotional range as a vocalist and his introspectively and poignantly observed lyrics coupled with the eclectic beats and instrumentation of his songs is instantly captivating. Through a series of EPs over the past few years as well as his 2021 album Deadpan Love, Clay has revealed himself to be one of the most creatively vibrant artists in recent years whose music spans beyond R&B and hip-hop as the jazz influences in his music synergize well with ambient and psychedelic pop undertones. Catch Clay during his run through Colorado at the Belly-Up in Aspen and The Bluebird Theater in Denver (dates and links above).

Saturday | 02.19
What: Machine Girl w/Evic Shen and Polly Urethane
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Machine Girl is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole with any simple genre designation. Fans of digital hardcore, breakcore/glitchcore, industrial in the more modern mode will definitely find something to like about its surreal and colorful production and refreshingly coherent songwriting for a world of music that makes a virtue of the musical equivalent of radical jump cuts in tempo and tenor. People into Ho99o9, Atari Teenage Riot, Ghösh, 100 gecs and their ilk should at least give this band a listen. It’s like the next generation or two out from whatever it was HEALTH did in the 2000s and witch house from the same era. Yet it has some stylistic resonances with all of that. Rumor has it that at a Machine Girl show at a DIY venue people danced so hard part of the floor caved in so Machine Girl goes hard. If a legit horror movie could be made up of memes and rapid cycling anime footage it would sound like the duo’s 2020 album U-Void Synthesizer. Denver’s own dream pop/industrial project Polly Urethane is clearly a good fit for the bill.

Enumclaw, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 02.20
What: Naked Giants w/Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Naked Giants are a lively and playful rock band whose roots in grunge and psychedelic rock are obvious without preventing the trio to lay out some nice surprises where they go way beyond expectations they set for themselves at the show. Enumclaw shares a similar irreverent spirit and effusive punk energy but their guitar work has more in common with The Smiths and The Cure than Nirvana or Mudhoney or even Jay Reatard. Their combination of authenticity and eccentricity as a live band is proving to be uncommonly compelling.

The Weather Station, photo by Jeff Bierk

Monday | 02.21
What: The Weather Station w/Helena Deland https://globehall.com/event/the-weather-station-helena-deland-presented-by-kgnu
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tamara Lindeman of The Weather Station has the rare gift of being able to project an ethereal thoughtfulness and fragile elegance and emotional strength at once. The group’s 2021 album Ignorance brings forth a full range of sounds and orchestrated emotions for one of the most satisfying listens of any album that we at Queen City Sounds basically slept on last year. Catch The Weather Station ahead of the March 4 release of its new album How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars.

Wallice, photo by Jerry Maestas

Thursday | 02.24
What: Still Woozy w/Wallice https://www.missionballroom.com/event/405967-mission-ballroom-denver-tickets
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Still Woozy is part of a big wave of bedroom pop of the past decade but like the better artists out of that world he has some musical chops with a background in classical guitar and formal educaton in electronic music that aren’t so obvious and fortunately get focused in songwriting. After spending a few years in the math rock band Feed Me Jack, Sven Gamsky departed in 2016 to start making music under the moniker Still Woozy. Making a virtue of what might be seen as a limited format, the music out of Still Woozy has a simple charm informed by a subtle sophistication in the songwriting. In 2021 he released his debut album If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is. Opening the show is Wallice whose own roots in jazz training have been channeled into finely crafted and poignant pop songs. Her single “Punching Bag” garnered her early attention as a poetically succinct summation of a friendship gone awry and how our digital footprints can complicate life when we’d really rather just part ways with someone. The track appeared on her 2021 EP Off the Rails which included songs that showcased Wallice’s growth as a songwriter beyond the style of contemporary indie pop. “Michael” really nails how all the tired narratives a young woman or really anyone else has had to suffer from a certain kind of male is just unwelcome. Some things never change but thanks to Wallice all the same for articulating this so well and Philip Stilwell for giving the song visual form.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Ogden Theatre in 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 02.25 and 02.26
What: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
When: 8 p.m. (02.25) and 7:30 p.m. (02.26)
Where: Gothic Theatre (02.25) and Boulder Theater (02.26)
Why: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are pioneers of post-rock but also a band whose left anarchist politics are part of its operating as a group and its music therefore is orchestrated and organic while sounding as planned as a classical piece of music. But the group does not skimp on evoking feelings and pairs the emotional content of its songs with the visual representation thereof often as projections on the stage as a stirring visual component. Godspeed’s 2021 album G_d’s Pee at State’s End! reintroduced a strong component of musique concrète to help ground and reinforce its more than usual tumultuous, brash and direct compositions.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Blood Incantation
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Experimental death metal band Blood Incantation will perform its 2022 ambient album Timewave Zero in its entirety and then engage in some improv for this show. Will there be any of the death metal its more conventionally-minded fans might crave? Who can say but the guys in the band are into enough unusual and experimental music that likely the ambient album will be worth a listen. Heck, if Wolves in the Throne Room could put out Celestite at the peak of their popularity, Blood Incantation can drop something like Timewave Zero at one of the peaks of its own renown.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Dinosaur Jr w/Pink Mountaintops
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr influenced more music than is generally taken into account and clearly an inspiration to the entire shoegaze movement of the 90s, all of alternative rock and even current psychedelic guitar bands from the more indie variety to those heavier. J. Mascis honed in on the tender feelings and angst people often shuffle aside trying to get through life and gave voice and dignity to feelings that many people would otherwise find shameful. Along the way Dinosaur Jr also managed to never release an album that wasn’t always surprisingly well crafted with imaginative guitar rock in a seemingly endless knack for reinventing the language of the instrument in the context of tasty hooks and evocative storytelling. And as a live band always intense yet seeming to tap into a daydreamy quality.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Denial Of Life w/Implied Risk, Moral Law and Ukko’s Hammer
When: 10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Tacoma, Washington’s Denial of Life brings its thrash punk stylings to HQ for a late night set with local hardcore bands of similar spirit including the D-beat super group Ukko’s Hammer.