Best Shows in Denver 04/18/19 – 04/24/19

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Oko Tygra releases Assistoma at the Hi-Dive on April 19. Photo by James Holden Cromwell.

Thursday | April 18

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Lady of Sorrows, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lady of Sorrows and Dead Orchids
When: Thursday, 04.18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series features Lady of Sorrows which is a combination of luminous, synth-driven post-punk and spiritual operatic vocals. It would be a misstep to compare it to Dead Can Dance or Enya or something like that but fans of either might find Lady of Sorrows interesting. Dead Orchids is on the darker end of post-punk but bluesy and gritty.

Friday | April 19

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Voight, performs Monday, January 14, at DATELINE gallery. Photo by Tom Murphy

What: OKO TYGRA Album release w/Voight and DJ Noah (of Flaural)
When: Friday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: OKO TYGRA has been through a few permutations as singer/guitarist Joshua Novak and his bandmates have explored various paths to creating a lush, expansive sound that reflected but was not limited to the sort of dream pop and post-punk that is the group’s foundational influence. With Assistoma the quartet created a fluidly dynamic set of songs that use subtle textures and drifting hazes of melody like Novak is floating in clouds of emotion and memories moving forward and commenting in typically thoughtful fashion on how so much of modern life is conditional on the seemingly tentative nature of relationships (personal, professional, social) while we yearn for something more solid with genuine connection. Although there is an ethereal quality, Novak sings with a warmth that casts his music in a different mode than a lot of the music that influenced him. Grounded in the rhythm and low end, Assistoma’s tracks seem to dance throughout the record with grace and nuance without getting bogged down in any kind of stylistic repetition while maintaining a coherent sonic aesthetic. Also on the bill is industrial post-punk duo Voight who keep threatening to do an all production set but is still always worth seeing for the sheer colossus of wiry energy and sonic intensity of its performances.

What: Shadows Tranquil, Feigning,The Machine That Stole My Family, Kid Mask, A23P
When: Friday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: On one hand, dark shoegaze and experimental guitar music with Shadows Tranquil and Feigning and out there weirdo electronic music with Kid Mask and A23P.

What: Detroit In Effect (M.A.P./Clone), Flora FM (Kalahari Oyster Cult/Vanity Press), French Kettle Station, Wild Dungeon World, Occidental, James Tao, b3b, Mr. Lin
When: Friday, 04.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Experimental dance/noise/IDM night at Rhinoceropolis.

Saturday | April 20

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In The Valley Below, photo by Jaimie Skriba

What: In The Valley Below presents: The Pink Chateau
When: Saturday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Alamo Drafthouse Sloan’s Lake
Why: In The Valley Below is doing a different kind of tour this time around with a sonically immersive live performance and the screening of its film The Pink Chateau. The latter is a sort of silent movie with musical accompaniment in which a series of vignettes involving a young woman follows a stranger into the countryside into dreamlike vignettes exploring the protagonists deep desires and the nature thereof. All inspired by, according to the promotional video on YouTube (youtube.com/watch?v=G6H-qvyf72U) “vintage French erotica and the faded colors of 1970s films.” Maybe a bit engimatic like Picnic at Hanging Rock or like a more introspective, non-vulgar Going Places. Whatever the tone or influences, the music of The Pink Chateau is, like much of the band’s music, gorgeously saturated and enveloping giving the experience the aforementioned immersive quality as the soundtrack won’t be provided by a prerecorded track but by a live band.

What: Lost Network, Never Kenezzard, Blinddryve, Wiretrap, DJ Cozmos Mudwulf, visuals Opia
When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: With Lost Network and Wiretrap this will be kind of a hybrid of industrial rock and EBM show but not the sort that is steeped in the future pop version of that. Lost Network is a bit like where Ministry should have gone after Filth Pig. Never Kenezzard is an experimental kind of sludge metal band but one more like Unsane if the people in the band were more into Frank Zappa and John Zorn.

What: Shelley Hirsch
When: Saturday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Muse
Why: Shelley Hirsch is an avant-garde vocalist and performance artist whose range and diversity doesn’t sit comfortably in any genre. She has worked with John Zorn, Ikue Mori, David Weinstein and Anthony Coleman. Her forceful and imaginative vocal exercises can be both exhilarating and forbidding, eccentric and otherworldly.

What: Space in Time, Halahierba and Keef Duster
When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s 4.20 so hey, a show with legitimately worthwhile stoner rock/sludge metal bands should happen somewhere and tonight it’s at the Hi-Dive.

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Ages and Ages, photo by Joe Bowden

What: Ages and Ages w/The Harmaleighs and Mondegreen
When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Ages and Ages has been developing its particularly engaging style of pop music since 2009. Utilizing unconventional percussion alongside a drum set and expertly orchestrated vocals and instrumentation, Ages and Ages sounds like it could have come out of the tail end of the first wave of indie pop with a sound that seems to embrace the infectious melodies of ABBA and the meticulous song craft of Harry Nilsson as well as the experimental flourishes of the Beatles. Of course the influence of The Apples in Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control are in the mix. Its 2019 album Me You They We is a beautiful blend of introspective exploration of inner space and the nature of yearning.

What: Half Hearts, Porlolo and Tammy Shine
When: Saturday, 04.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: It’s the debut of Jason Heller’s and Karen Walton’s new power pop band. Heller is a renowned science fiction author, editor and music writer but he’s also been a member of some of the greatest bands from Denver including Crestfallen, Red Cloud West and The Blue Ontario. Walton has been the drummer for beloved local punk acts like Turbo Knife Fight, Rabid Ragdolls and Naako Deesko. But her musical interests have always been far ranging and her sensibilities with those of Heller seem like a good match. You also get to see Porlolo’s witty, irreverent folk pop and Tammy Shine, the charismatic singer of Dressy Bessy, doing her more or less solo thing.

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Steel Pulse, photo by Patrick Niddrie

What: Stick Figure w/Steel Pulse, Pepper, The Movement, Iya Terra, hosted by Nick Swardson
When: Saturday, 04.20, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For better or worse, depending on your outlook on these things, there’s a reggae concert at Red Rocks on 4/20. But this one includes Steel Pulse. When the band started in 1975 in Birmingham, England, the home of other working class bands like Black Sabbath and Napalm Death, it helped to shape what reggae would sound like for decades. Its particular sound is more traditional but in a way that has evolved and embrace technology and production. Its latest album, and first in over a decade, is 2018’s Mass Manipulation.

Sunday | April 21

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Eels, photo courtesy Gus Black

What: Eels w/Inspector Cluzo
When: Sunday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Even a seemingly endless prolific and inventive songwriter like Mark Everett hits the wall. And that’s what Everett did following the touring cycle of 2014’s The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. Absolute burnout pushed the songwriter into taking a break from music after nearly thirty years of exploring a variety of emotional spaces through his songwriting. Having lost his father when he was 19, his sister to suicide in the mid-90s and his mother to lung cancer in the late 90s and a cousin in the 9/11 attacks, Everett has had more than his fair share of personal tragedy. In some ways re-living and processing that in your music gives it a depth and heaviness and an attended ambition to do justice to the subjects that isn’t always there in pop music. But carrying that weight also takes its toll on your psyche and then your life.

With 2018’s The Deconstruction, Everett takes the time to unravel the angst and burnout lays bare the need for patience and gentleness to self needed to recover when your core has fractured in the wake of the momentum of your life when that machine isn’t entirely working anymore in a way that suits real life. All the bravado, insisted enthusiasms and the pressure to be on and up all the time even as an artist who writes melancholic music will not get you over that kind of ditch in the road. It’s obvious The Deconstruction wasn’t meant to be a coherent album as in most of the rest of Everett’s career. One does not rediscover joy and reconnect to one’s creativity in a linear fashion, rather in honoring one’s frailties and soothing the endless series of existential crises that wrack the mind once you’ve bottomed out at level that didn’t seem possible when you’re a teenager or in your twenties. Or even in your thirties. What Everett is doing now is not just writing music with a sense of compassion and kindness at their root but showing how you can express at length, even with mixed results (unless you’re completely delusional life is a lot of mixed results that many overly ego driven people choose to edit out of their telling of it), that coming out of a low period can’t be accomplished through hard work alone, perhaps not at all, but in nurturing and discovering new or neglected ways of being you and creating therefrom.

What: Chris Cohen w/Jobless and American Culture
When: Sunday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Former member of Deerhoof Chris Cohen has a gift for writing songs that have a hazy, easily digestible quality that perfectly capture quiet moments in everyday life with a poetic economy and emotional sensitivity. His 2019 self-titled album sounds like it could have come from an alternative reality version of Southern California in the 1970s. Like music that would suit the later-era Philip K. Dick novels or the works of Jim Thompson. That said, the new record is like a kinder, gentler Imperial Bedroom.

Tuesday | April 23

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Com Truise at The Bluebird Theater circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Com Truise w/Jack Grace and ginla
When: Tuesday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Touring ahead of the May 17 release of his new album Persuasion System, Seth Haley’s Com Truise is making a stop in Denver and chances are you’ll get to experience that new music live before legally getting a hold of the new record. Seems as though Haley has further refined his sound with a greater degree of the separation of sound in the layers of tone and texture. Like futuristic “library music” mixed with downtempo but brightly melodious IDM, the new Com Truise stuff is musical science fiction capturing a likely future post-climate-change-crisis and post-oligarchic domination.

Wednesday | April 24

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Big Business, photo courtesy the artist

What: Big Business w/The Lycan
When: Wednesday, 04.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Beast You Are could simply be described as psychedelic sludge. But that has never really encompassed what Big Business is about. The duo came out of the 90s punk and underground rock scene in the Pacific Northwest. Jared Warren from Karp and Coady Willis from Murder City Devils—both bands that would be difficult to pigeonhole on their own. Both musicians also played as part of Melvins for nearly a decade, yet another band whose musical legacy and sound is so much more than “sludge rock” or whatever one might call a band that was a direct influence on grunge. The Beast You Are, though, is a collection of dynamic, triumphant songs with unconventional melodies and an elevated updraft of tone. Big Business has always been, if nothing else, heavy but buoyant. On The Beast You Are, Big Business experiments further in the songwriting with its use of space and pacing. There’s still the headlong rush you’d expect from the band but also an imaginative application of its palette of sound that has kept the band from being predictable, an uncommon quality in heavy music. For Big Business it is not enough to pummel with its colossal sound but to have emotional and thoughtful intentionality behind it.

Porlolo Encourages Existential Self-Care With New Single “I Quit”

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Porlolo, photo courtesy the artist

On the new Porlolo single “I Quit,” Erin Roberts lays out in no uncertain terms her departure from a job that has worn out its welcome in her own life. And ending situations and internal desires that have lead down the path of exhaustion and being worn thin from unreasonable demands placed on her psyche from without and from within. Perhaps the inspiration was being fed up with her full time job, the kind where one is not paid enough for emotionally and physically demanding work and where perhaps “other duties as assigned” were added with no adequate compensation. And sometimes there is no such thing as the latter. Early in the song Roberts sings “I don’t wanna be cool anymore, I quit/I don’t wanna be you anymore, I quit,” later “I don’t wanna be yours anymore, I quit” and speaks to social pressures that tug at everyone in some way at some time that become so egregiously tiresome. Somehow Roberts makes her litany of those things that erode us from the inside trying to carry them in our hearts seem not so difficult to ditch.

Recorded with Anna Morsett and Jake Miller of Still Tide and James Barone (of Beach House, formerly of Moccasin and Tjutjuna, also producer of the forthcoming Porlolo full length due in October), Roberts taps into the sense of liberation and casting off of psychic weights on one’s time and any hooks into one’s identity and self-expression as demanded by far too many jobs. Roberts has long been a bit of a musical chameleon and one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and while “I Quit” could be said to be informed by Brill Building or Southern California pop, Roberts’ feisty spirit and just shy of surreal sense of humor shines through and gives the track some undeniable zest.

Best Shows in Denver 3/28/19 – 4/3/19

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Dilly Dally performs Friday 3/29 at Larimer Lounge. Photo by Michelle Homonylo

Thursday | March 28

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Eugene Chadbourne, photo courtesy the artistEugene Chadbourne

Who: Creative Music Works Fundraiser: Special guest Eugene Chadbourne
When: Thursday, 03.28, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Mighty Fine Productions
Why: Creative Music Works is, according to the event page, a “nonprofit organizartion providing educational and performance opportunities for musical innovators.” Meaning the organization furthers the endeavors of artists whose work often falls outside the traditional commercial and popular music environment—the people pushing the boundaries with form, method and conceptualization. CMW members Janet Feder, Mark Harris, Scott Kinnamon, Elena Carmerin Young and Isaac Linder will contribute to a performance as well as avant-garde music legend Eugene Chadbourne.

Who: Starjammer w/Bianca Mikahn
When: Thursday, 03.28, 4-7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Starjammer’s “avant-garde dub reggae”/performance art/home made instrument rig glory is paired tonight with one of Denver’s poetry greats and forward thinking hip-hop experimentalists, Bianca Mikahn.

Who: Rob Sonic w/The Maybe So’s, Brett Gretzky and Hakeem Furious
When: Thursday, 03.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Rob Sonic has had a fairly distinguished career for his innovative hip-hop projects Sonic Sum and Hail Mary Mallon (which included Aesop Rock and DJ Big Wiz). What has made his various efforts interesting is his use of a fairly different palette of sounds from many of his peers. His 2018 album Defriender lays out moods and textures that wouldn’t be out of place on a post-punk or deep house track or an industrial noise song. Denver’s The Maybe So’s is a duo that also weaves in unconventional electronic music and samples of organic percussion into its flow of beats and poetry.

Friday | March 29

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American Culture, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dilly Dally w/Chastity and American Culture
When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: On Dilly Dally’s 2015 album Sore the group sounded like a bit like a weird mixture of Bully and Courtney Barnett. But to be fair, it was probably something in the universe/confluence of influences across a broad swath of the collective musical consciousness. But with the 2018 album Heaven, Dilly Dally has expanded its range as a band and there is more brooding, atmospheric darkness flowing through its fuzz-laden riffs. It’s song “Doom” is more doom in tone and emotional resonance than a lot of what passes for such in the doom genre. But its inherently introspective yet expansive melodies keep the music from wallowing in stagnation. Along for this date is fellow Canadian band Chastity who are definitely more well within the realm of doomy noise rock. American Culture lately has straddled the line between indie pop, post-punk and psych country jam rock minus the wacktitude.

Who: Furbie Cakes, Space Monkey Mafia (MN), MTHirst, Fancy Pantz, Shocker Mom, Luxury Hearse and Wooflet
When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Your Mom’s House
Why: A show chock full of weirdo electronic bands, ambient and noise. And then Shocker Mom who is making the most heartwarming and healing sad beats currently being made.

Saturday | March 30

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Hand Habits, photo by Jacob Boll

Who: Hand Habits w/Tomberlin and Porlolo
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Meg Duffy may be more well-known for being a touring member of Kevin Morby’s band. But with the release of her album placeholder under the moniker Hand Habits should garner her plenty of attention for her own creative efforts. Superficially its mid-tempo moody indie folk but her words go deep into thoughts and feelings we don’t want to entertain but must face honestly. Not necessarily obvious and brutal trauma but the subtler pains that can deeply haunt you every day and from which are more elusive in evading. Disappointment in self, reflecting on one’s suddenly seemingly damning mistakes and the cognitive dissonance of the complexity of conflicting feelings about people, situations, existential ponderings and life in general that are all valid. Her tonal choices are all interesting and the perfect companion to explicating and maybe untangling and processing the aforementioned.

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Robyn Hitchcock, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Robyn Hitchcock
When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall
Why: One thing that isn’t so obvious about seeing Robyn Hitchcock playing solo or with collaborators is how his simple but richly detailed guitar work is creatively varied and incorporates percussive elements with an expressive delicacy that focuses the emotional impact of his songwriting. He seems to be an endless well of interesting and poetic stories that make even what some may consider his lesser records worth a listen. Pick a point in Hitchcock’s career and you’ll find some of the best songwriting of that period whether while he was a member of The Soft Boys, his work with The Egyptians or The Venus 3. Like a magical-realist (emphasis on realist) novelist, Hitchcock’s songs offer observational insight into the human psyche through an intensely personal window.

Who: Jeff Carey, Sigtrygur Sigmarsson, Diffuser, Flesh Buzzard, Joshua Westerman. Sunk Cost and Page 27
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Noise shows are pretty infrequent in Denver these days but this one is a showcase for some of the best noise acts going and not in the vein of the cliché harsh noise/shakebox feedback sculpting mode. Much more craft, imagination and originality here with Denver noise legends Page 27, former Austin-based noise prankster Sunk Cost, Adam Rojo of Voight’s Diffuser noise-scaping pieces and raw noise punk Flesh Buzzard. Among others.

Who: Black Dots, SPELLS, Lawsuit Models, Girl Scout Heroine and Good Family
When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A fairly traditional punk show with less of the fashion victim thing than usual. SPELLS wears costumes and get a solid B for the music but hey, that’s better than you get a lot of the time. Girl Scout Heroine includes former members of The Geds and The Blast-Off Heads.

Who: King Buffalo w/Pale Sun and The Lycan
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: What King Buffalo is doing, to some extent, we’ve seen a lot of over the past decade—drone-y, blues-y, doom-y psychedelia. But to give the band its due, if 2018’s Longing To Be The Mountain is any indication, it didn’t just adopt some motorik beats, it takes that sonic vehicle to places of heightened emotional impact beyond just hypnotic drive with occasional flourishes. Also it’s songwriting is much more creative and not grinding away at the same vibe and pace for an entire record. King Buffalo often reaches moments of true sonic sublimity in a way that transcends any genre associations. Pale Sun will bring a different kind of atmospheric heavy as the trio’s finely honed space rock has similar roots as King Buffalo but whose music touches subconscious places in the mind with both tone, rhythm and emotional vibrancy. Vocalist/guitarist Jeff Suthers channels the visceral quality of the music well with his singing but he’s also tapping into something in the collective consciousness in the performance as well.

Monday | April 1

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Olivia O’Brien, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Olivia O’Brien w/Kevin George
When: Monday, 04.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Olivia O’Brien was about fifteen years old when she got a boost up as a singer and songwriter after garnering the attention of Australian pop artist gnash who discovered her through her posting of a cover of one of his songs on Soundcloud. Over the past four years, O’Brien has recorded with gnash and released a string of singles. “Trust Issues” from 2016 revealed a thoughtful sensibility and self-awareness that can be uncommon in general but definitely in a teenager. O’Brien’s R&B and soul inflected pop and commanding, emotionally nuanced, stage presence will probably find a wider audience after this current tour and the April 26 release of her debut full-length Was It Even Real? For now, you can see her at a small club like Larimer Lounge.

Tuesday | April 2

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Ten Fé, photo by Eleanor Hardwick

Who: Ten Fé w/Ten Miles South and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Been Moorhouse and Leo Duncan got their start busking in London before recording their 2017 debut album Hit the Light. Before taking the music on the road, the duo brought on board a band to fill out the sonic details. The group’s 2019 album Future Perfect, Present Tense sounds remarkably sophisticated for a relatively new band. Its particular incorporation of synth into songwriting might remind some listeners of The Call or later-era The Sound, but without the punk edge. That’s no knock on the music because its softness doesn’t quite wax into the 70s Laurel Canyon worship that’s been en vogue of late. Rather its the sound of a band exploring and refining where it will go next while perfecting an exquisitely lush minimalism without sacrificing the textural details that have made its songwriting noteworthy up to now.

Who: Vanilla Milkshakes digital album release show
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Its been four years since Vanilla Milkshakes released Tall People Have No Feelings. Line up changes and a release of a cover of “Breed” by Nirvana in 2018 later, the grunge-y pop-punk band (singer/guitarist David McGhee makes no bones about being influenced by The Offspring) has released its best record with Punching Cows. Recorded with Jack Endino and guitars tracked through one of Kurt Cobain’s old amps, on the record McGhee’s vocals are clearer and stronger, the songwriting more focused. But the idiosyncratic quality of the lyrics and McGhee’s vocals, which is one reason none of this comes off like a band that would be playing that final Warped Tour. The sense of melody and tight rhythms give even the most melancholy of the songs (“Mommy Said to Get a Job” and “Green And Sober” for instance) a buoyant quality that doesn’t seem to downplay the real feelings and experiences that likely inspired the song. There are enough rough edges to keep the record interesting throughout. The band performs infrequently these days so this is a good opportunity to see the Vanilla Milkshakes in a small venue with the jokes from stage inserted between songs. Besides, drummer Frank Registrato is a wizard at helping keep things on track with no heavy hand and the sheer finesse and power of his playing.

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Hop Along, photo by Matt Allen, OctFest

Who: Hop Along w/Summer Cannibals
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Frances Quinlan performed in early versions of Hop Along as a solo acoustic act for the first four or five years until putting together a fledgling band around 2009. Even before signing to Saddle Creek Records in 2014, Quinlan’s songwriting was not short on imaginative storytelling like she was imagining the lives and situations she encountered in either her everyday life in Philadelphia or on the road and extrapolating it into colorful imagery and a keen sensitivity and insight into the subjects of her songs even when the inspiration is drawn directly from her own life. Any band that names its album Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018) has a healthy sense of humor and the absurd without drifting into self-parody.

Wednesday | April 3

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Gort Vs. Goom circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Gort Vs. Goom, The Far Stairs, The Pollution
When: Wednesday, 04.03, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: None more weird for Weird Wednesday. Gort Vs. Goom are like the post-Devo, prog punk version of The Fugs. The Far Stairs is a deconstructionist pop project that sounds like more well-crafted pop than most bands trying to fool us into thinking they’re not utter frauds. Plus sometimes there’s a Robyn Hitchcock cover involved which bespeaks of an unspoken artistic ambition far beyond the usual. The Pollution got back to punk through burning through on hardcore, psychedelic rock, krautrock and Kiwi rock and taking bits and pieces of each to put together a Frankenstein’s Monster of music where you can’t find the sutures.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 05/03/18 – 05/09/18

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Alice Glass performs with Zola Jesus and Pictureplane at Fox Theatre on Saturday, 5/5/18. Photo courtesy Sacks & Co.

Thursday | May 3, 2018

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Ariel Pink, photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

Who: Desert Daze Caravan 2018: Ariel Pink w/DIIV
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: Desert Daze Caravan is the traveling mini-version of the Desert Daze festival in California that features some of the best of the more psychedelic-leaning bands existing today. While the festival happens in October, for this touring edition, Desert Daze brings along a couple of the most interesting artists playing music in its wheelhouse. Los Angeles based lo-fit mutant pop renegade Ariel Rosenberg, aka Ariel Pink, has had a varied and storied musical career that should be the subject of a book someday because it’s not short on drama, controversy and artistic achievement. In 2017 Rosenberg released Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, a collection of songs that bridge dream pop, psychedelic rock, what one might called garage soul and lo-fi funk. As with all of his records, Rosenberg plays with the form of genre with an offbeat use of sound and weaving together aesthetics that most other artists wouldn’t. At times one is reminded of some early 80s German synth pop, others of Get Lost-period Magnetic Fields and of the music of his friend and contemporary, John Maus. Unlike many of his contemporary synth artists Rosenberg isn’t trying to show how big a sound he can get with a synthesizer, he makes it serve the song as much as any other musical element and not as the basis for the composition.

DIIV became a bit of a cult band for Zachary Cole Smith when Oshin came out on Captured Tracks in 2012. Though the record felt a bit indistinct it made krautrock’s repetitive beat structure softer like downtempo with a little more emotional urgency. The follow-up, 2016’s Is the Is Are found Smith embracing the raw and vivid emotionalism of Elliott Smith’s lo-fi pop and the messy, atonal trash rock of Royal Trux. It’s challenging to hear that on the beautifully melodic songs of Is the Is Are but that the songwriting is growing beyond the band’s earliest phase is obvious and at times Is the Is Are sounds like Smith is training himself to deconstruct his own musical instincts to make something more creatively rewarding.

Who: In/Planes Radio Wave tape release w/Down Time and Kyle Emerson
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: In/Planes’ music has a very soft touch and is the “Mixtapes” single from its new tape, Radio Waves, is any indication, the duo has a gift for taking fairly common experiences and making them resonate with an immediacy of the deeply personal. Joining the band for the tape release show are like-minded tender pop band Down Time and Kyler Emerson with his jazz-inflected, incisively poetic, desert-y folk pop gems.

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series season 2: Lepidoptera, MYTHirst, Bow Shock
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: MYTHirst’s sound is part bright, modular-synth sounding beats with organic string sounds and textured percussion. The Denver version of Lepidoptera, not the Palm Beach, Florida band, has a dream-like guitar and minimal atmospheric sound reminiscent of mid-90s Flying Saucer Attack but not quite as noisy. Bow Shock is somewhere between improvisational electro jazz funk and whatever it is one might call Prefuse 73 with its own mixture of samples of records and live instruments in a way that expands the parameters of what constitutes electronic dance music.

Friday | May 4, 2018

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Television Generation, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Jane Doe, Television Generation and Meet the Giant
When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Three of Denver’s best off the beaten path rock bands are playing the Skylark on this bill. Jane Doe is in the realm of post-punk but there are elements of noise rock and avant-garde jazz and performance poetry as delivered by Becca Mhalek. The latter spent some time playing with Nels Cline as well as Denver experimental bands Nightshark, MVP and Aenka. Television Generation takes the harrowing intensity of early grunge and mixes it with melodic and energetic post-punk. Meet the Giant has taken what could be fairly gloomy music and given it a driving rhythm and grit that somehow perfectly captures urban melancholy and desperation as experienced by anyone living in American west: uncertainty, disconnection, disaffection, undercurrents of fatalism and a sense of pondering whether or not its foolish to hope for things to change for the better where or not you give it a good try. All while sounding scrappy and not ready to give up on the rewards of creative expression for one’s own fulfillment. Meet the Giant’s self-titled full-length releases digitally on May 15 with a vinyl release later in Spring or Summer.

Who: Porlolo (album release) w/Land Lines and Spirettes
When: Friday, 05.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Porlolo released Awards on April 27 but this is the official release show. Erin Roberts, the lead singer and guitarist in Porlolo, has kept the band going for years while not exactly breaking through to a mainstream audience, Roberts’ songwriting has been noteworthy for its humor, wisdom and sensitivity. Maybe some of the roots are in folk and Americana but at this point Porlolo transcends both and has as much in common with Luna, Cat Power, Mojave 3 and Mazzy Star as it does with anything fully in the country spectrum of songwriting. Getting to see Land Lines’ experimental, string driven pop and Spirettes’ incandescent dream pop in person just makes this show three times worth seeing.

Who: SPELLS, Quits, Wild Lives
When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: SPELLS is a poppy punk band that is as much a party as a band. Wild Lives is more in the realm of punk bands from the 80s and 90s who were melodic but not pop punk. Like The Didjits, New Bomb Turks and Blatz. Quits, a little different from the rest of the lineup in being more a noise rock band than punk. Which makes sense in that every member of the band has contributed to some of the most noteworthy post-hardcore and noise rock out of Denver of the last two decades including former Hot White members Tiana Bernard and Darren Kulback as well as Luke Fairchild and Doug Mioducki who were last in a band together in the early 2000s with Sparkles who always seemed to play like they were ready to explode.

Saturday | May 5, 2018

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Al Scorch band, photo by Alexis Ellers

Who: Alice Glass – Snowblood tour w/Zola Jesus and Pictureplane
When: Saturday, 05.05, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: When Alice Glass released her self-titled EP in August 2017 it sounded like a a purging of several years of having told hold back in revealing her own truth and a declaration of her identity as an artist viable beyond any past associations with Crystal Castles. In the latter, Glass was a riveting performer and a singer that channeled perfectly the synthesis of 8-bit music, synth pop, modern dance music and hip-hop that was the essence of Crystal Castles and its being ahead of a curve in modern electronic music that embraced lo-fi and collage production as much as more conventional compositional techniques. For this tour Glass paired with one of the other powerful songwriters in electronic underground music with Zola Jesus whose own 2017 album Okovi represented her own breaking with the methodology and career path of an “indie” artist that might have been open to her. Instead, she trusted her personal and creative instincts and put together an album that was awash in ambient sounds and an hypnotic melodies and sonic structures reminiscent of classical music and black metal. Pictureplane is an old friend of Glass’s from his days as a Denver artist living at Rhinoceropolis. As an artist whose work traverses noise, electronic pop, hip-hop and dance, Pictureplane has a broad palette of sounds and sensibilities employed in his songwriting and performance style.

Who: Al Scorch (full band), Gun Street Ghost, Matt Rouch & The Noise Upstairs
When: Saturday, 05.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Al Scorch earned a name for himself as an energetic and engaging performer with his blend of punk and Americana. Sure, a ton of punks have turned country and the great Camper Van Beethoven and Green On Red, among others, set a high bar for that sort of thing. A number of punk and country artists have even threaded in some eastern European and non-Western musical ideas into their mix. But Scorch does so with an irresistible energy and charisma. His most recent record, 2016’s Circle Round the Signs, contained more than a small amount of poignant social commentary about class and the consequences of war and conflict.

Sunday | May 6, 2018

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HIDE in August 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: HIDE, Curse, Echo Beds and Jump Scare – DJ Brian Castillo
When: Sunday, 05.06, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Chicago-based post-industrial duo HIDE makes a return visit to Denver in the wake of the release of their 2018 album Castration Anxiety. Using samples, pounding beats and corrosive drones, HIDE’s shows are like confrontational rapidfire snapshots into our culture’s nightmares and insecurities set to a heady soundtrack and as embodied in vocalist Heather Gabel’s ritualistic performance style. Fortunately, the band’s tour intersected with that of Baltimore industrial/darkwave punk band Curse whose own synth-driven heavy music predates some of the current darkwave renaissance and yet sounds like a future form of the music. Curse recently released a split 7” with noteworthy Austin-based industrial act Street Sects. Also on the bill are local industrial noise phenoms Echo Beds and Jump Scare, which includes Anton Kruger, formerly of experimental electronic dance project Bollywood Life. Brian Castillo will DJ the night with some rare cuts from his extensive vinyl library of underground and not-so-underground darkwave music.

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Yardsss at Treefort Music Fest 2018, Boise, ID. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Flesh Buzzard, Sporehive, Morlox, Nighttimeschoolbus, Mirror Fears, Yardsss, Ghost House, visuals by Clark Nova, DJ sets by JusJo
When: Sunday, 05.06, 6 p.m., show 6:30
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A night of mostly local noise and electronic acts at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Patrick Urn of Morlox has long bridged the worlds of noise and electronic music production and has released a fairly diverse body of work including hip-hop and ambient music beyond the noise and industrial music for which he’s best known. Whether as a member of defunct industrial legends In Ether, as Herpes Hideaway, as Syphilis Sauna or Morlox, Urn’s imaginative compositions are highly worthy of exploring in recorded form and witnessing live if you can. Nighttimeschoolbus is an underground hip-hop duo comprised of Toby Hendricks of Otem Rellik and vocalist extraordinaire Robin Walker. The name tells you a bit about the aesthetic and sense of play involved in the songwriting but it also articulates perfectly the necessary emotional state in which you’re indulging your whimsy as a refuge from the rest of the time in life when you’re dealing with the heavier side of human existence. Mirror Fears will not be short on bringing the feels with her melancholy yet cathartic, beat driven electronic pop songs. Yardsss from Portland, Oregon in this configuration is the three-piece band so the show is more like a post-punk, industrial ritual performance than the inspired, hermetic electronic performance art piece it was when Krist Kruger performed as Yardsss solo in Denver in 2017.

Monday | May 7, 2018

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MGMT, photo by Brad Elterman

Who: MGMT
When: Monday, 05.07, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: MGMT came up a time when many of the big time electronic pop acts of the 2000s were getting going. That LCD Soundsystem, Paramore, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Matt and Kim and MGMT and the like started experiencing the first stirrings of popularity in roughly the same timeframe before chillwave became a thing should be noteworthy to future popular music historians. MGMT, though, started when Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were students at Wesleyan and like many dorm/bedroom projects in the 2000s the early musical ideas were noisier and more experimental than their more developed work. But when MGMT got more accessible it also became more interesting and its weirdo psychedelic pop struck a chord with an increasingly wide audience. The 2007, Dave Fridmann-produced Oracular Spectacular took MGMT out of the underground for good and when the band returned to Denver after the release of that album it wasn’t playing the Hi-Dive, it was much larger venues. The band’s subsequent albums, Congratulations and MGMT, didn’t seem to advance the band’s musical ideas much but 2018’s Little Dark Age finds the group not returning to form so much as a re-embrace of the band’s core idiosyncratic vision of electronic pop and dance music that made it interesting in the beginning.

Who: Curse w/Echo Beds and Ghost House
When: Monday, 05.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Triple Nickel Tavern (Colorado Springs)
Why: This is your second chance to see Curse (see above) in Colorado also with Echo Beds. It’s not too common that these kinds modern darkwave and industrial bands perform in the Springs so don’t sleep on the opportunity if you’re into that kind of music.

Who: Smoking Popes (acoustic) w/The Bigger Empty (feat. Mike Felumlee)
When: Monday, 05.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Smoking Popes were one of the best of the 90s Chicago punk bands. It came out of the same scene that produced Screeching Weasels and Pegboy. But Smoking Popes was a bit more melancholy than than many of their peers even when the pace was high energy and one might even say the Popes were basically an emo band. Combining a punk edge with an emotional vulnerability wasn’t terribly common in the early 90s but the Popes did it in a way that seems more a feature of punk than an anomaly these days. The band flirted with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s but by the end of the decade Josh Caterer found his newfound strong religious convictions didn’t jibe with what the band was about the end group broke up in January 1999. Six years alter, the band played a reunion show in Chicago before which Caterer explained that songs he didn’t think he could perform again weren’t songs the band tended to play live anway. But the reunion would happen without original drummer Mike Felumlee. Over a decade later, Felumlee is back in the fold and playing this current “acoustic” tour as well as playing with opening act The Bigger Empty.

Tuesday | May 8, 2018

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Curse, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Curse, Church Fire, Kill Your Darlings
When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery (Upstairs)
Why: Baltimore darkwave band Curse makes it to Fort Collins for a show with Denver-based electro-industrial-dance band Church Fire and Fort Collins’ industrial band Kill Your Darlings which includes Brett Scheiber of Stella Luce and formerly of dance pop band Pep*Squad and noise project Four Pins Pulled. Sure, darkwave but all of these bands have an emotional intensity on stage that may have an element of the melancholy yet never a downer.

Who: Pseudogod, Hellfire Deathcult, Abysmal Lord, Casket Huffer
When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Perm, Russia-based black metal band Pseudogod converges with like-minded bands Hellfire Deathcult from Chicago, New Orleans’ Abysmal Lord and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne for a show that, if fantastical conceits could be true, open a gate into the dimension where the Great Old Ones are partying to music like this. Pseudogod’s cover for The Pharynxes Of Hell, part humorous, part spooky, visually arresting seems to encompass the spirit of what this show will be like to see.

Wednesday | May 9, 2018

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Tricky, photo by Sebastian Pielles

Who: Tricky w/Young Magic
When: Wednesday, 05.09, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Tricky is one of the artists directly responsible for what came to be called trip-hop in the 90s. As an early collaborator with Massive Attack, and having contributed vocals to that band’s 1991 debut Blue Lines, Tricky demonstrated a versatile talent and when he embarked on a solo career in 1993, he brought with him a gift for borrowing musical ideas and production methods from a variety of musical styles resulting in his debut album, 1995’s Maxinquaye. A hybrid of downtempo, post-punk, dub, hip-hop, Tricky’s music was an antidote to the increasingly conformist and bland alternative rock of that mid-decade. Over twenty years later, Tricky continues to make evocative, deeply atmospheric music. Although, his 2017 album Ununiform, co-engineered by Jay-Z, finds Tricky focusing on spare, uncluttered melodies and strong, minimal beats. It has the feel of Tricky’s least abstract and ethereal record while not sacrificing his ability to set a vibrant mood.

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Brazilian Girls, photo courtesy Six Degrees Records

Who: Brazilian Girls w/Tiger Party (Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits and Josh Fairman of Sunsquabi and Analog Son)
When: Wednesday, 05.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: New York City has been a melting pot of popular musical styles for decades. But in the 2000s a particular brand of mixing Latin, African and non-Western musical ideas in general with dance music, post-punk, pop and noise emerged in various forms including the tropical pop of early High Places and the no-wave funk of bands like These Are Powers. Or, if you prefer, more above-ground acts like Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend who re-popularized polyrhythms and less conventional vocal styles. Brazilian Girls came in on the dance music end of that wave with its always eclectic and lively live show and songs that wove together ghostly, downtempo melodies, pulsing low end, dub-esque percussion, sex positive messaging and singer Sabina Sciubba’s otherworldly jazz vocals and enigmatic, theatrical stage presence – something akin to Björk fronting a lounge band. In April 2018 the band released Let’s Make Love, it’s first in a decade. Not as cool and sonically smooth as its previous efforts, Let’s Make Love, nevertheless, finds Brazilian Girls more thoughtful but musically more urgent, highlighting the band’s talent for reconciling contrasts.

Colorado Bands at Treefort Music Fest 2018

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Rubedo, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Ever since the founding of Treefort Music Fest, Colorado bands have been a staple of the event as Treefort was inspired by The UMS in Denver. This year is, Colorado based bands are on the bill virtually every night of the Fest and what follows is a rundown of those bands and the time and place where you can catch them. Esmé Patterson is being included because, well, she became a significant artist before she moved from Denver. The organizers of Treefort Music Fest have done a great job of providing links and photos so click on the links for each band to find out more information and in most cases give the artists a listen.

Thursday | March 22, 2018

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Bad Licks, photo by Tom Murphy

Dear Rabbit – 6 p.m. – Boise All-ages Movement Project
Kyle Emerson – 10 p.m. – Ha’Penny
Eldren – 10:40 p.m. – The Reef
Bad Licks – 11 p.m. – Ha’Penny

Friday | March 23, 2018

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Kitty Crimes, photo by Lindsey Webb

Tyto Alba – 8:20 p.m. – Ha’Penny
The Still Tide – 10:10 p.m. – The Olympic
Esmé Patterson – 11 p.m. – The District
Edison – 11:15 p.m. – Tom Grainey’s
The Kinky Fingers – 11:20 p.m. – Ha’Penny
ill-esha – 11:30 p.m. – Fatty’s
Kitty Crimes – 11:30 p;m. – Grainey’s Basement
déCollage – 12:40 a.m. – Grainey’s Basement

 

Saturday | March 24, 2018

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

The Raven and The Writing Desk – 4:30 p.m. – El Korah Shrine
Ancient Elk – 8 p.m. – Ha’Penny
Midwife – 9 p.m. – Boise Contemporary Theater
Serpentfoot – 9:30 p.m. – The Olympic

Sunday | March 25, 2018

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Porlolo, photo by Tom Murphy

Porlolo – 4:50 p.m. – Linen Building
Rubedo – 7:30 p.m. – Neurolux

Best Shows in Denver 02/08/18 – 02/14/18

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Emerald Siam at Lost Lake on Friday, February 9, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | February 8, 2018

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lib.eriana, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Who: Musical Mayhem: lib.eriana, Klaus Dafoe and Brian Parton
When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This edition of Musical Mayhem looks like a doozy. Alan Muñiz is probably not someone you think of when you think of Denver’s music scene much less the avant-garde end of it. But he has been part of multiple projects that have been exploring sounds and musical ideas out on the edge of accessibility while rooted in a very organic approach to composition. His current project, lib.eriana is a mix of elegant acoustic-electronic music and abstract dub IDM. The moody, gorgeous pieces he’s shared on his Soundcloud account are just a taste of what you’re in for tonight. Also on the bill is post-punk/Canadian avant guitar aficionado solo artist Klaus Dafoe and Americana pop artist Brian Parton. Eclectic line up as should happen more often.

Who: Telefon Tel Aviv w/Dean Grenier, Bones and Peter Vaughan
When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper started Telefon Tel Aviv in the late 90s composing IDM ambient music with sounds suggesting specific natural environments. The duo’s debut album, 2001’s Fahrenheit Fair Enough, established a sound that later became popular among the post-EDM/deep house set—a new kind of dance music for chillout zones. The project went on to explore various extensions of its root aesthetic across five albums before the untimely death of Cooper shortly after the release of Immolate Yourself, Telefon Tel Aviv’s up to now final album. Since then, Telefon Tel Aviv became a bit of a legendary band in the realm of IDM. Eustis became a touring member of Nine Inch Nails in 2013 as well as Puscifer. But since that year, Eustis has presumably worked on the recent reissues of classic Telefon Tel Aviv material and has apparently been working on new material that you can hopefully catch if you make it out to this show.

Who: Ice Troll, New Standards Men, Transmutation
When: Thursday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Calling this a post-rock show might be a bit misleading because Ice Troll is clearly more in the realm of what one might call a doom orchestra. New Standards Men have more in common with noise sculptor punks and post-punks like Unwound and A Minor Forest than something as calming as Explosions in the Sky. But it’ll be instrumental and not adhering to basic genre formats of any kind.

Friday | February 9, 2018

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Jessica Lea Mayfield, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Who: Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sun Seeker and Porlolo
When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jessica Lea Mayfield’s 2017 album Sorry Is Gone sounds noisier and more conflicted than perhaps her earlier efforts. But having gone through a breakup with an abusive spouse with songwriting as one therapeutic outlet, Mayfield nevertheless expertly writes in a way that comes across emotionally honest and poetic. With her life so disrupted Mayfield would have been excused for sounding angry but the record is more melancholy and expressive of hurt buoyed a bit by a spirit of defiance. Musically, Mayfield combines a soulful Americana with the desert-y atmospheric rock of Rain Parade or bits of Meat Puppets II. Though there is a bit of throwback to Mayfield’s melodies the tone of emotion in her voice is poignantly immediate.

Who: The Velveteers EP release w/Plastic Daggers, Bud Bronson + The Good Timers
When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Velveteers are releasing a new EP with songs informed partially by singer/guitarist Demi Demitro’s love of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with at least some of the material written in a graveyard. The duo has always sounded larger than seems possible with just drums, guitar and vocals. But with the new EP, Demi and her brother John push the envelope of their format further and guitar harmonics in the main riffs give the sound broader dimensions than has ever had. The Velveteers have always been a surprisingly compelling and powerful band with fire and bite in their songwriting and performances. The new EP confirms the promise that The Velveteers have plenty more to offer ahead with imaginative hard rock. To help celebrate the release of the debut EP are fuzz rock punks Plastic Daggers and Bud Bronson + The Good Timers, one of the few straight ahead rock bands that isn’t boring us with leaning on the crutch of a sound established completely by bands from decades past.

Who: Wrinkle album release w/American Grandma, Club Soda, Terremoto
When: Friday, 02.09, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: With its new album, A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies, Wrinkle from Denver has some self-effacing laughs amid its signature melancholic stories of the decaying American culture and its erosion of anything resembling the American dream while trying to survive and make sense of anything that could be worth doing, holding on to the bits of life that bring any joy or relief from the grim reality that faces all of us but specifically anyone under 30 that didn’t learn some technocratic trade, had a leg up in the financial industry or otherwise had advantages in life most of us don’t possess. Wrinkle has articulated the anomy of our times so well in its full catalog of songs but A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies finds the band using a broader palette of sounds and dynamics beyond any band inspired by late 90s emo and melodic hardcore. Wrinkle is more interesting than any throwback could be because its expanding what the music could be rather than merely putting on an individual stamp.

Who: Male Blonding, Plume Varia and Emerald Siam
When: Friday, 02.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This is the show of the year so far when post-punk and dream pop will be well-represented on stage between Male Blonding’s gift for making dynamics really create an architecture for atmosphere without having to make it obvious, Plume Varia’s deeply evocative yet gentle melodies and Emerald Siam’s layered, burning of the midnight lamp tones and dipping into wells of disappointment and gloominess and transforming it into something darkly beautiful. The latter released its most recent single, “Clean Split” on January 31, 2018. emeraldsiam.bandcamp.com/track/clean-split

Sunday | February 11, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sliver, Television Generation, Mr. Atomic and Bad Nostalgia
When: Sunday, 02.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Chris Mercer may have had a bit of a troubled life of struggle like Kurt Cobain. But all of it has fueled his lyrics and the music he makes with Dylan Jammes and Hollis Pierman. Obvious comparisons could be made to Nirvana pre-Nevermind and Tad. But there’s plenty of the DC hardcore Mercer encountered and witnessed firsthand before he moved to Colorado from the East Coast. There’s an edginess to the emotional catharsis the band lays out on stage but also an ear for melody that bands so noisy and unapologetically intense sometimes don’t bother to cultivate. Television Generation is cut from similar cloth except that its fuzzy pop songs, especially on 2017’s excellent Peel, are reminiscent of some amalgam of Love Battery, Love & Rockets and Love. Scratch the latter even if it fits and think more like Green Day or Weezer. And because there’s a clear pop-punk and early 90s alternative rock influence informing the music. But also a touch of early psychedelia and a melancholic, sometimes otherworldly, undertone to the songs. Mr. Atomic sounds like it grew up on the last gasp of the legitimate group of alternative rock bands but in forming decided being essentially a tribute band for an era wasn’t going to work out and its songs reflect a modern sensibility. Boneth Ahaneku’s tuneful vocals coupled with the band’s overall songwriting are reminiscent of Letters to Cleo or Veruca Salt in their ability to sound joyful and even playful while not cheapening essentially thoughtful lyrics. And, really, Amy Heckerling should tap this band for her next soundtrack.

Wednesday | February 14, 2018

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Chella And The Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Bonnie and the Clydes, Chella & The Charm, Ryann & Lee, Jennifer Jane Niceley, Five Mile Woods
When: Wednesday, 02.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sure, Valentine’s Day Special at the Hi-Dive called “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.” And if it were a show in which vapid, soulless “country” musicians told stories that weren’t an amped up attempt to imbue limited life experience with faux gravity it might be worth it. But no, if you choose to attend you will get to see talented people like Bonnie Sims, the singer and main songwriter in Bonnie and the Clydes whose songs about life and love have a flavor that reveal her Texan roots but in doing so also a sensibility that more than suggests she’s been around the block a few times with laying her heart on the line. Also, Chella & The Charm’s songs about love and heartache come from a place of striking self-examination and contemplation of the essence of what it all means without bogging it all down with intellectualizing the experience yet not also having a perverse need to dumb it down for accessibility. A great country and Americana show for people who think they don’t like any of that music.

Who: Mandy Yoches & The Hell Knows
When: Wednesday, 02.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Soul and R&B singer extraordinaire Mandy Yoches and her band The Hell Knows will perform a set of songs for Valentine’s Day. Probably not a cynical take on the subject of love because that’s not Yoches’ style but surely the set list will be interesting with some surprises from Yoches’ diverse repertoire.

Best Shows in Denver 01/19/18 – 01/21/18

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John Maus at The Marquis tonight, Friday, January 19.  Photo by Luke Berhow

Friday | January 19, 2018

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Necropanther, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: John Maus w/LKDLX
When: Friday, 01.19, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: John Maus may be known to some as a former keyboardist in Ariel Pink’s band but his early solo albums, 2006’s Songs and 2007’s Love is Real became a kind of blueprint for the chillwave/hypnogogic pop movement. Using vintage synth sounds and the pop aesthetics of many 80s New Wave bands and a hazy lo-fi production style, likely of necessity given limitations of available equipment as well as a conscious effort in that direction. With 2011’s We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, Maus cleaned up some of his soundscapes without losing a focus on using echoing melodies to convey a sense of a recreation of a memory of a sound and a place while giving it an emotional intimacy and immediacy. With 2017’s Screen Memories injects even greater clarity and stronger musical lines in his production, giving a listening experience not unlike finding an especially clean print of a forgotten, unlikely, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Kenneth Anger collab epic science fiction road film.

Who: Screwtape EP release w/Sysco Yola, Raw Breed and Fat Chance
When: Friday, 01.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Screwtape is a Denver punk band that seems to perfectly balance the explosive aggression of post-hardcore with a driving energy and pointed political commentary. And one of the most impressively visceral live bands out of anywhere right now. For this show the group is releasing a limited run EP in an edition of 25.

Who: Necropanther w/Bodies We’ve Buried and Morgue Whore
When: Friday, 01.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: This is a show featuring what might be described as “extreme” metal bands that didn’t forget that good songwriting makes them more effective. Necropanther is on the more thrash end of that spectrum while Morgue Whore more in the death metal vein.

Saturday | January 20, 2018

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Bluebook, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Second Annual Women’s March Mosh with The Blackouts., R A R E B Y R D $ and Sarah Breanne of Wild Call at The Skylark
When: Saturday, 01.20, 3 p.m.
Where: The Skylark
Why: An early and pretty diverse second edition of the event celebrating female musicians in Denver including rock and roll band The Blackouts, dream-manifesting hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $ and Sarah Breanne, the frontwoman and guitarist in Wild Call a band that somehow combines the kind of raging energy of a Babes in Toyland with a bit of Jesus and Mary Chain’s sculpted feedback as atmosphere.

Who: Bluebook, Porlolo and Whipporwill
When: Saturday, 01.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Leon Gallery
Why: Bluebook has generally been the solo project of Julie Davis (Seven Hats, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats) and a perfect blend of downtempo, jazz and avant-folk with Davis on upright bass and layers of sound. She regularly has collaborators drawn from various ends of the Denver music scene. Porlolo is a showcase for the songwriting of Erin Roberts whose songs, while seemingly playful, have a thoughtfulness and insight and dry humor that can take you by surprise with its intensity in a way you probably need.

Who: Punk Against Trump 2: Anti-Flag, Stray From the Path, The White Noise, Sharptooth, Line Brawl, Over Time, Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, The New Narrative, Rotten Reputation
When: Saturday, 01.20, 3 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Turns out the Trump presidency has so far been an unmitigated disaster of incompetence, corruption and a seemingly endless stream of lies and missteps. A surprise to no one but those in denial. So, unfortunately, a Punk Against Trump 2 was necessary. On the fortunate side of that you get to see some of Colorado’s best punk bands who make no bones about what side of the political spectrum they sit on and whose songs and performances transcend immediate topical appeal.

Sunday | January 21, 2018

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The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Emily Wells w/The Milk Blossoms
When: Sunday, 01.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The concept of the one person band has been done many times well. An Emily Wells performance is like seeing a one person orchestra. The level of planning and logistics involved were probably a product of necessity in not depending on other musicians to provide any of the components of the music and years in the making. But it also doesn’t come off like a gimmick as Wells conveys a sense of being immersed in her own songs. Using cello, viola, drums, synths, samples and her own voice, which cuts through the soundscape so vividly, Wells tells stories imbued with a sense of the mythical and the deeply personal cloaked in an American noir. Her latest album is 2017’s In the Hot. Opening he show is Denver’s The Milk Blossoms, a band that also uses what could be seen as disparate elements inventively to compose heartfelt yet dreamlike songs. Michelle Rocque and Harmony Rose have very different but powerfully complimentary voices that are about to articulate a richness of emotion that enhances the band’s already imaginative lyrics.

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

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

Thursday: November 30, 2017

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Charlie Parr, photo by Nate Ryan

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

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

Friday: December 1, 2017

SPELLS
SPELLS, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday: December 2, 2017

 

Alex Lahey
Alex Lahey, photo by Giulia McGauran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday: December 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday: December 4, 2017

Whitney
Whitney, photo by Sandy Kim

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

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

Tuesday: December 5, 2017

Overcoats
Overcoats, photo by Anna Azarov

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

 

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

Wednesday: December 6, 2017

Sheet Metal Skingraft
Sheet Metal Skingraft, photo by Tom Murphy

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

 

Best Shows in Denver 11/09/17 – 11/15/17

James Murphy of  LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, who play at 1stBank Center on Saturday, November 11, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Thursday: November 9, 2017

Guantanamo Baywatch
Guantanamo Baywatch, photo by Todd Walberg

Who: Guantanamo Baywatch w/Cheap Perfume and Vic ‘n’ The Narwhals
When: Thursday, 11.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: By now surf rock is a style of music that’s been beaten into the ground over the last 7-8 years, all the possibilities of the music beaten out of it, leeched of vitality and iterations of it meditating ad nauseum upon well-worn paths. But it happens. Some band is doing it in a way that brings genuine creativity to a form of music that seems to hold no more surprises. Thus is Guantanamo Beach’s 2017 album Desert Center which has plenty of the usual tricks but even amid those are beautiful leads and melodic turns of phrase that elevate the band’s music beyond tropes and styles into the realm of originality even while employing the sounds and rhythms of an established musical genre. That Guantanamo Baywatch is a compelling live band seals that impression. Opening the show are Cheap Perfume, as thrillingly sassy punk band, and Vic n’ The Narhwals, a psychedelic garage rock band that sounds like it crawled out of Venice Beach in the late 60s, got on a plane that traveled through the Bermuda Triangle and dropped them off in Denver circa 2015. Who knows, really, but they don’t sound like they’re trying to jump on any trendy bandwagons.

Who: PterrorFractyl w/Mirror Fears, Sid Madrid and Terminals
When: Thursday, 11.09, 6 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Mirror Fears’ 2017 album Eaten should be on the Year End Best lists of every music journalist but probably won’t because Kate Warner is from Denver and few journalists outside the Mile High City are aware of her beautifully sculpted, experimental music infused, electro pop songs informed by heightened feelings about so many of the things plaguing our world today. Plus the songs have a depth of atmosphere and a catchiness that’s undeniable. PterrorFractyl is what you might get if an electronic dance outfit got into ambient and the abstract end of dubtechno. Reminiscent of Gonjasufi and maybe showing the influence of Flying Lotus in the mixture of organic sounds and pure electronics in the beats.

Who: Musical Mayhem w/Claudzilla, The Far Stairs as Destination Moon covering TMBG, A Box of Stars and Jacob McKelvie
When: Thursday, 11.09, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: “Mayhem” is the appropriate word for this edition of the event. Okay, not pure mayhem (or pure fucking Armageddon for that matter), but it will be a contrast between Claudzilla’s keytar-driven weirdo pop songs and those of The Far Stairs covering They Might Be Giants and touring Americana bands A Box of Stars from Vermont and Jacob McKelvie from Massachusetts. But at least the touring bands aren’t the usual sort of beards and mandolins variety we get coming to Colorado looking to get their big break following in the path of The Lumineers.

Friday: November 10, 2017

Voight
Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Vase Vide and Had I Known dual album release w/Katey Sleeveless
When: Friday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Zodiac Venue/Bar
Why: The Colorado Springs music scene is probably a bit of a dismissed enigma to anyone outside of that city unless they know a band or two. But the Springs has been home to some of the most interesting musical projects Colorado has yet produced. And if not interesting per se to many, at least respectable. Against Tomorrow’s Sky, Eyes Caught Fire, Dear Rabbit, El Toro De La Muerte, Abracastabya, Blighter, 908, Black Pegasus, Be Thou My Vision, Cocordion, The Mansfields and Nicotine Fits at a minimum. Tonight experimental pop band Vase Vide releases its latest album, Hello Moon, Good Night. Fans of Yo La Tengo and Mercury Rev will appreciate the deep, hazy atmospheres and unfurling whorls of compound time in the rhythms. That latter gives it an open-ended and expansive feeling. A more contemporary comparison could be made with the rock/psychedelia and electronica of The Helio Sequence.

Had I Known is releasing the Pedestrians EP. Singer/guitarist Brian Eastin has been around in bands for years, relatively recently in War Parts. Had I Known is a more spiky, glittery indie rock band than War Parts but with Eastin’s usual sincerity and intensity. Think more like a lo-fi and noisy The Life and Times and you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for.

Katey Sleeveless also has a new EP but it won’t be released at this show. Like Had I Known, Katey Sleeveless is a trio but rather than three men, it’s three women: Kate Perdoni many may know as a singer and guitarist in Eros & The Eschaton; Emily Gould as the drummer in country band Plain As Day; Kellie Palmblad as vocalist/guitarist in Eyes Caught Fire, Waterbear and Constellation of Cars. Among others. Their band together some may want to characterize as dream pop because there is a gritty yet ethereal quality to the guitar sounds but as with the members’ other bands, there is an expressive emotionality to the music that doesn’t release all at once. It doesn’t unfold in one or multiple bursts. It has the rare quality of being cathartic, soothing, nuanced and introspective.

Who: Gone Full Heathen album release w/Married a Dead Man, Teacup Gorilla, Vexing and guests
When: Friday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Gone Full Heathen is release its self-titled album tonight with a show with deathrock band Married to a Dead Man, glam/psych band Teacup Gorilla and Vexing. Gone Full Heathen sounds like a combination of hardcore, transcendental metal and screamo. Meaning it’s heavy, it has moments where singer Ryanne Brooks wails in an unhinged way reminiscent of Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland.

Who: Fathers w/Wild Call, Poolside At The Flamingo and Voight
When: Friday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Heavy music supergroup Fathers (which includes Oscar Ross of Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas of Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe of Cult of the Lost Cause) is releasing its self-titled debut at this show. Calling it metal is a bit of a misnomer because it’s more like the kind of metal and hardcore that came out on Hydra Head—more experimental, usually more extreme. One of these kids is not like the others and industrial post-punkers Voight are opening this show with its second to last show before it goes on an extended period of not playing live. You never know, singer Nick Salmon might break something in a burst of exuberance but that’s long been one of his charms.

Who: Death From Above w/The Beaches
When: Friday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In 2017 Death From Above seems to have been able to go back to using that name without the comma and the “1979” afterward. Combining post-punk’s rhythm driven songwriting, hard rock’s exuberant bombast and electronic dance music, Death From Above quickly became one of the most popular of the “dance punk” bands in the first decade of the 21st century before taking a five year hiatus in 2006. Its latest album, Outrage! Is Now is not the acidic barn burner that is 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine or the sophisticated take on the same as 2014’s The Physical World but it’s a worthwhile listen even if it doesn’t much push the band’s existing envelope and its seemingly meta social commentary can be a tad oblique. The live show, though still seems as exuberant as ever. Opening band The Beaches, also from Toronto, is a pretty straight forward rock and roll band with a harder edge than many of the bands mining the overworked classic rock mold. But there’s more of a power pop melodicism to The Beaches that lifts it from the tired blues based hard rock that’s been pedaled ad infinitum over the past half decade and more.

Saturday: November 11, 2017

LCDSoundsystem's  James Murphy
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Who: LCD Soundsystem w/Traxx
When: Saturday, 11.11, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: Too much pop music is concerned with an adolescent view of love and relationships and the world in general. Which is the appeal for many people who either are there in their lives or who are, somewhere in their heads, trapped in yearning for that time in their lives where they put adolescence and youth on a pedestal as the best time in life. But anyone who gets past 27, and especially into or past your 30s knows the best years of your life are rarely your teens and early 20s. Besides, you can’t go back and a lot of popular art and music isn’t aimed toward you and your life experience and perspectives. Fortunately, when LCD Soundsystem came back, the band gave us a record like American Dream which has all the liveliness and innovation of the band’s earlier records as well as words that speak honestly to concerns, feelings and thoughts that come to you if you’re an especially sensitive, perceptive and introspective younger person and definitely when you’re well into adulthood. No dumbing down or pandering required or given and all sarcasm and sardonic humor hitting exactly where it needs to be.

Who: Franksgiving w/Little Fyodor & Babushka, Ralph Gean and Esmerelda Strange
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This is an annual event thrown by Franklin Bell to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. As usual, the fantastic punk rock band Little Fyodor & Babushka will perform and outweird and frankly outpunk most other bands at the same time with surprisingly catchy songs about anxiety and our strange world. Ralph Gean, Denver’s O.G. still living rock star will perform as well as Esmerelda Strange whose performance moniker is no mere clever stage name.

Who: HorrorHouse Pinball Tournament of Death
When: Saturday, 11.11, 6 p.m.
Where: Vision Comics & Oddities (3958 S. Federal)
Why: This will be a combination haunted house and pinball tournament. It’s $15 to enter with pinball machines provided and maintained by Bloodshed Deathbath’s Ryan Policky who also designed the haunt. His band A Shoreline Dream has been releasing some of the most beautiful shoegaze singles over the past year in preparation for an eventual full length release sometime next year. On this night, however, music will be provided in part by DJ Fernando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

Who: Screwtape tour kickoff w/Remain & Sustain, King Kaleb, Victim Culture, Discount Price, Lovely Gang
When: Saturday, 11.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: If you were to name, oh, the top three best punk bands out of Denver right now, Screwtape would have to be on that list because the hardcore outfit because its shows are an explosion of energy and it has something to say rather than resort to being mere entertainment.

Who: cEvin Key, Djoto, Mudwulf and VJ Dizypixl
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s
Why: cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy and Download fame will do a DJ set this night with some local noise/industrial luminaries including Cozmos Mudwulf. VJ Dizypixl does visuals for all kinds of artists across the country but is based in Denver metro and will provide her usual array of arresting visuals.

Who: Jean-Baptiste Le Cessna
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna (of the Auto Club, of course) doesn’t often perform a solo show so who can say exactly what he’ll perform. But it’ll be with his usual warm yet haunting voice and expressive guitar work.

Tuesday: November 14, 2017

Gift Of Gab
Gift of Gab, photo from officialgiftofgab.com

Who: Porlolo w/Jeff Beam, Turvy Organ and Cocordion
When: Tuesday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Porlolo has various part time members but it’s all the songwriting of Erin Roberts who has kept the project going for more than a decade. In the beginning it might have been described as a side project of her band with Joe Sampson, A Dog Paloma, but the latter has long since gone the way of all things. Is it folk? Maybe grounded there in some senses. Singer-songwriter? What does that even mean when such can be said of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and Greg Laswell? Indie rock? It’s all clumsy labeling for Roberts whose songs combine keen insight into human behavior, poignant observations about everyday experiences and a existential sense of humor that can wax to the absurd and silly. Cocordion is the experimental indie rock band from Colorado Springs that just released its debut full length record, Expectations, also not short on insightful words about the world we live in and our individual navigations of uncertainty, despair and how, yes, expectations (our own, that of others) shape our perceptions. Turvy Organ is the secret great band more people should know about because its orchestral pop songs are dark, moody, expansive and thought-provoking.

Who: Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), Landon Wordswell, Tope, Reason the Citizen, Kruza Kid
When: Tuesday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Gift of Gab (born Timothy Parker) is one of the most talented MCs in all of hip-hop and his fast, literate, profane, profound, pointed delivery is one of the things that made Blackalicious one of the most popular and influential acts in underground hip-hop since the 90s. In 2017, Gab released his latest EP, Rejoice! Rappers are Rapping Again!! And it’s no mere boast because the EP is the rapper in high form.

Wednesday: November 15, 2017

Who: Cut Copy w/Palmbomen II
When: Wednesday, 11.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Cut Copy was one of the few bands that got a good deal of buzz in the 2000s that was better than the buzz would suggest. They early on melded together 80s synth pop sensibilities with shoegaze guitars. And live those guitars were fiery and atmospheric at once. Following 2008’s In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy increasingly experimented with electronic sounds and production techniques for both its records and its live shows. In 2011, Zonoscope probably confused some fans of the band’s early music with its complete adoption of an electronic dance aesthetic which, honestly, was where the band seemed to be going from the beginning. 2013’s Free Your Mind brought the band into a more electrosoul direction that it continued with on 2017’s Haiku from Zero. However, in September 2016, Cut Copy released a limited edition cassette called January Tape. It’s a mostly ambient and minimal synth affair and fans of Popol Vuh, Panabrite and Sinoia Caves will find a lot to like there but it’s a safe bet you won’t see it live. However, Cut Copy won’t skimp on the energy and bright, enveloping atmospheres and dance-worthy rock songs that have made it a noteworthy band from early on.

Who: Samvega w/Medusa’s Disco and Today’s Paramount
When: Wednesday, 11.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Flux Capacitor
Why: Samvega from Napa Valley, California doesn’t fit in a simple box: Its music is heavy, it’s psychedelic, it’s avant-garde and bluesy. Melissa and Mercedes Baker are unconventionally charismatic singers who sound like and come off like they spent a couple of decades touring with Heart and went on to do something weirder. The band’s 2016 album The King is Asleep was one of that year’s most interesting rock albums for its diversity and obvious care for making it a unique from the songwriting to the painting for the cover art. Also on the bill is experimental rock band Today’s Paramount. They look like they might be in a ska band, and maybe on the side some of them are, but their weirdo take on prog, jazz and psych is not like much of anything going on in Denver.