Meet Post-Punk Band Lot Lizard from Sioux Falls

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Lot Lizard, photo by James Dean

Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. If you’ve not been to South Dakota maybe you only think of the Badlands or Mount Rushmore and that scene from North By Northwest and not a place from which interesting music hails but it’s long been a fact that relatively isolated areas is where you find a good deal of spark and originality as creative people there have to be more or less self-inspirational. Also, one of America’s great record stores is located in Sioux Falls: Total Drag. The latter has been the regional stop for touring bands on the underground/DIY circuit since opening its doors around half a decade ago.

Lot Lizard’s sound is haunted, ethereal yet brooding and urgent. Like a goth-y Pere Ubu or resonant with the eclectic roots of newer bands like later period Iceage and Protomartyr. Currently the group is on a tour with Frankie and the Witch Fingers with dates in Colorado listed below before the interview. The band is nearly finished with its debut full length with an anticipated release on vinyl through both Different Folk Records and Total Drag Records. Patrick Nelson, the group’s bassist, recently answered some questions for Queen City Sounds illuminating some of the band’s history and how he got into post-punk.

February 25 | Lot Lizard with Charioteer at Side Door | Colorado Springs

February 26 | Lot Lizard with Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Eye and the Arrow at Hi-Dive | Denver

February 27 | Lot Lizard with Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Its Just Bugs at Surfside 7

Queen City Sounds: Sioux Falls, South Dakota is not the first place people think of when it comes to post-punk. What brought your band together and what kinds of places did you play locally before branching beyond?

Patrick Nelson: It’s true, South Dakota is not a place know for its post-punk (or insert any genre) bands or for its boundary pushing culture in general. This band was brought together essentially by our drummer Brogan who basically reached out to all of us separately about the idea of starting a new band. All of us, at the very least, knew of each other and had seen each other around at shows and/or in other bands. We started playing the typical places available to bands: small clubs/bars, basement shows, and most importantly our local record store that doubles as an all ages DIY space.

How did you get into post-punk and noise rock (referencing Lord Bronc’s mention of Jesus Lizard on your Bandcamp page)?

That’s a good question.. I’m sure the answer would vary greatly per member. Post-punk was a weird one for me as it took me quite a while to “grow into.” An acquired taste if you will. To a 15-year-old me it was just kind of weird boring music that I didn’t get at the time. When you’re that age and full of youthful insanity blasting, I don’t know, classic early punk from NY, LA and the UK or early hardcore stuff like Minor Threat or Black Flag, bands like The Fall or Joy Division are just kind of weird and out there sounding. Not energetic or shocking enough. Of course you grow up a little bit and figure it out and realize you were totally wrong.

Noise rock on the other hand was something that grabbed me right away and was part of my musical experience at a young age. I think that has to do with that it was having a sort of heyday in my formative years. Like that whole Amphetamine Reptile scene or bands like Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth or Jesus Lizard. All super abrasive in their own way but were getting press, major label contracts etc.. I was lucky enough to see Jesus Lizard AND Sonic Youth at Lollapalooza in 1995. It’s always interesting to see what other bands people link your band to. I don’t really see the Jesus Lizard but we’ve gotten it more than once. Although I won’t deny the influence of that rhythm section on my playing and I can see a connection with Ben’s guitar work as well.

Did you play different kinds of music before starting this band? What bands? What kind of music?

Oh yeah. I’ve played in plenty. In addition to this project I’m currently involved in a moody post-hardcore project called Roman Ships. Prior to that I’ve played quite a bit of guitar and a little bass in projects that range from street-punk/power-pop to new-wave/space rock, to even a ska band back in the 90s. I can honestly say I’ve been a fan of at least one band every one of the other guys has been in. Lindy had this killer Goth/death-rock project called Angie Hosh. Ben fronted a cool noisy post-rock band called Talk Rock. Brogan’s been involved in a ton of bands (as drummers in this town, and presumably most towns, are known to do). Most recently a garage project called Weathers Rest and in the early 2000’s a chaotic screamo band called Sinking Steps…Rising Eyes.

What made what you do now more interesting for you initially? I know, it’s not as cut and dry and by the numbers like that. That live video you sent and your demos reminded me a little of another band whose post-punk and other musical roots come from a little different direction as well and that is Protomartyr. Did you start out sounding sort of like that? Did you evolve into that sort of sound?

This has been an interesting ride so far for many reasons including the fact that song writing has been very organic. We didn’t go into this with the idea that we would create something that sounds like band A crossed with band B sprinkled with layers of C and D. Of course we talked a bit about bands we liked and such… but that can be an exhaustive conversation with this crew as we all like a huge variety of music and have a lot of respect for different styles. The Protomartyr connection is interesting to me in the fact that I think most of this first record was created without everyone in the band really knowing about that band and their records…. That being said I can see some similarities particularly the idea that much of the music is rhythmically driven via the bass and drums while the guitar often textures in these tasteful atmospheric licks. I think at this point I can speak for everyone and say we are indeed fans of that band now though. Recently saw them live, they killed.

Is there an active local music world that you connect to right now? What is life like for a band like yours in South Dakota in terms of playing shows and connecting with other artists to share bills? How did you get hooked up with those shows in Colorado?

The Sioux Falls music scene is doing pretty well currently. In terms of venues/spaces hosting live original music I think we’re thriving, the best we’ve been in over a decade! Whether people realize that and get out to support live music as much as they should is certainly up for debate. We’re a small city and so it’s tight knit and for the most part I think we try to support each other. The city is growing fast, and has been for [many] years now, so I’m very interested to see where we end up in 5 or 10 years.

As for connecting with other artists and how we got connected to the Colorado shows, we played a gig with Frankie and the Witch Fingers in Sioux Falls a little over a year ago. They dug our band and on top of that had the next day off so we became friends and were lucky enough to connect with them in Denver and Ft. Collins.

Like-minded or at least adjacently-minded bands we should know about or hear that maybe no one outside of South Dakota or regionally?

There’s plenty of talented musicians here that’s for sure. Two I’m particularly excited about are Bodega Sushi and Velcro Ultrasound (both are in the middle of full length albums). Rifflord and Green Alter are some other friends, both in the heavier realm of things, that are working hard and deserve a shout.

“Lot Lizard” is a term I grew up knowing (as a child of the 70s and 80s), is there a story behind why you chose that name or a significance to the name that has come to fit your band and its music?

Ha, yeah there’s a bit of a story. So I had written this bass line and had an idea in mind for how I wanted the song to sound sonically. I was describing it to the guys at practice and tried to put them into this landscape, this frame of mind. I believe it went, “Like some lot lizard out of gas and stranded in the middle of nowhere on some desert highway.” To which Brogan said, “What did you say? What’s a lot lizard?” And after a laugh and an explanation on my end he responded, “That’s it, that’s the band name.” There was definitely a little apprehension as we weren’t trying to be overtly offensive or whatever. We asked for outside opinions, including those of our girlfriends/wives. It stuck. And I think it fits. It’s also fun to forget about the social term and just use it as more literal in terms of reptiles. And the alliteration. I mean heck, it might just be the perfect band name.

How did you get connected with Total Drag and why is that a significant place for your band and maybe for the local underground music world?

Brogan [Costa], our drummer, actually helped open and is a part owner of Total Drag. On top of that I’ve know Dan and Liz [Nissen] for as long as I can remember. We’ve attended and played a lot of gigs together over the years. Total Drag is an integral part of what is happening in Sioux Falls. Lot Lizard played our first gig there and it continues to be the place we most often play locally.

In any city the importance of a space that hosts all ages shows cannot be stressed enough. At a most primal level, a music scene will have a hard time surviving without it. Music is evolved by the youth. A scene being engaged by youthful energy and ideas will hopefully foster growth and longevity.

Best Shows in Denver 12/6/18 – 12/12/18

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CupcakKe at Summit Music Hall, Saturday, December 8, 2018. Photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | December 6, 2018

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Quits circa Spring 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Red Fang w/Telekinetic Yeti and Quits
When: Thursday, 12.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Red Fang is a “stoner rock” band from Portland, Oregon that started out when that form of music was a big trend in underground metal. But Red Fang’s knack for writing a solid melody and its self-awareness and sense of humor set it apart from early on. After all, who gets über metal nerd comedian Brian Posehn to cameo in your music video (“Wires) unless you’re somewhat legit but don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s been a couple of years since the band’s most recent album but in 2018 it released an interesting choice for a single in Tubeway Army’s “Listen to the Sirens.” Opening the show are two fairly different kinds of bands. Dubuque, Iowa’s Telekinet Yeti makes a sort of groove-oriented doom-sludge, like a more psychedelic Fu Manchu. Quits from Denver is a noise rock juggernaut whose membership includes Luke Fairchild of Git Some fame, Doug Mioducki (formerly of indie pop band Felt Pilotes and noise rock groups Sparkles, Witchdoctor and CP-208) and Darren Kulback (ex-Hot White and Poison Rites). When the band started former Hot White vocalist/bassist Tiana Bernard brought her emotional intensity and charisma to the band but since she moved out of state, Neil Keener has stepped in with his considerable abilities honed in projects like Planes Mistaken For Stars, Git Some and Woven Hand.

Friday | December 7, 2018

 

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Godflesh, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Godflesh w/In The Company of Serpents
When: Friday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Godflesh was oft-cited as an early grindcore band by the national music press in the late 80s when the group’s landmark industrial metal album Streetcleaner was released in 1989. That same year other significant records in the realm of what came to be called alternative music emerged with Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine, Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love and Pixies’ Doolittle. The combination of scorching, grinding, forbidding guitar and bass work backed by beats generated through drum machines was not in line with metal orthodoxy and too abrasive even for most fairly adventurous radio stations. Though in being explicitly against the tough guy stance in its lyrics, Godflesh was certainly articulating an ethos that was in opposition to the hypermasculine rock and roll image and rhetoric of the time.

Fast forward decades and the duo has experimented with atmosphere and dynamics, expanding the palette of Godflesh overall while not dispensing with a style of music that reflects the harshness of the world as a sort of sonic totem against it. Guitarist Justin Broadrick has also explored various musical interests including forays into the realms of electronic music not always present in his work with Godflesh including the projects Techno Animal, Jesu, Pale Sketcher, Final and Scorn, among others. Bassist G.C. Green, who founded Godflesh with Broaderick in the mid-80s when the latter was a teenager whose pioneering guitar work on the first half of the 1987 Napalm Death album Scum was one of the blueprints for extreme metal generally and grindcore in particular, has also contributed more than his fair share to experimental music with his contributions to Final and Main. All the biographical details aside, Godflesh as a live duo is even more beautifully brutal than the records might suggest and as powerfully menacing.

Opening the show is the excellent Denver doom/extreme metal band In the Company of Serpents. The group has evolved quite a bit over the years from an early sort of high contrast death-grind doom sound and now Grant Netzorg’s songwriting has folded in his inspirations from dark Americana, Swans and Earth. It’s still towering riffs and gritty vocals but with a more song-oriented approach rather than what could at times seem conceptual.

Who: The Number 12 Looks Like You, Rolo Tomassi, Arsonists Get All the Girls
When: Friday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Number 12 Looks Like You melded together an instinct for amped emotional expression and math rock and by not sounding like every other screamo and post-hardcore band, established a bit of a cult status for its inventive sound that fans of Hella and Blood Brothers might find incredibly appealing. After breaking up in 2010, the group returned to active status in 2016 with this its first appearance in Denver since reconvening.

Who: Weaponizer w/Rotstrotter and Flight of Sleipnir
When: Friday, 12.7, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Bannock Street Garage
Why: Weaponizer’s blackened thrash has surprisingly keen songwriting as though the guys in the band grew up listening to metal but not getting lost in just the making sounds their parents might hate and actually writing songs that will probably endure past the time it’s no longer active. This show celebrates guitarist Justin Kelly’s fortieth birthday and the band will be joined by deathgrind band Rotstrotter and Flight of Sleipnir who seem to draw some major inspiration from Scandinavian, transcendental metal bands and perhaps people in the band have read Egil’s Saga or Heimskringla or any of the old Viking epics.

Saturday | December 8, 2018

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Calm. circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: CupcakKe
When: Saturday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Maybe CupcakKe is considered a “dirty rap” artist because of the sexual content of her raps. But she’s no more so than many artists who haven’t been similarly dubbed. Her creatively layered beats alone would make her an artist of note but even among the unapologetic, sometimes boastful, stream of words, CupcakKe actually makes some interesting, insightful and poignant truthful commentary about life. Her fourth album, 2018’s Eden, may be a bit moodier on a few tracks than some of her previous releases but it just demonstrates her range as an artist and nowhere on the album is the IDGAF about foolishness attitude in short supply.

Who: Calm. album release w/Extra Kool, Joe Alan and Cosmicam the Cosmos
When: Saturday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Two of Denver’s underground hip-hop greats, Calm. and Extra Kool, perform tonight to raise awareness of the issues facing the homeless by inviting those who show up to donate coats and other warm gear to Denver Homeless Outloud which also dedicates its efforts to stop the city’s misguided and destructive camping ban. Calm. also releases its incendiary new album Things I Learned While Dying in Denver on this night as well.

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Anthony Ruptak, photo by Nick Velharticky

Who: Anthony Ruptak release of A Place That Never Changes w/Los Mocochetes and Kramies
When: Saturday, 12.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Anthony Ruptak’s new album A Place That Never Changes nearly didn’t happen when all his music gear, songbooks and money for recording was stolen from his home. But years of good karma playing in the Mile High City and running one of the best open mic nights in town meant the community came to his aid and helped him to complete the debut LP. The record is never just one flavor. There are bits of freak folk, indie pop, chamber rock and pastoral country but it all comes together as a statement, in the form of vignettes, on a how life and your surroundings change even if you feel as though it never really, in essence, does. Ruptak brilliantly explores the frustrations, the worries, the aspirations, the fantasies and yearnings of a generation and a society that seems to be stalled out and assaulted by forces seemingly beyond our control. All while suggesting we can work around the situation if we open ourselves up to our own imagination and share the angst and struggles with others even if just a little. Fans of Mercury Rev, My Morning Jacket and Iron & Wine will find much to love about A Place That Never Changes.

Monday | December 10, 2018

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Protomartyr, photo by Daniel Topete

Who: Protomartyr and Preoccupations w/Teeth of the Hydra
When: Monday, 12.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: On a short list of the great post-punk/art punk bands of today would have to include Detroit-based noise rock weirdos Protomartyr and Preoccupations from Alberta, Canada and its brooding yet expansive atmospheric guitar rock. So it’s only fitting that the two bands are touring together and releasing a split single on which each band covered the other. Preoccupations’ interpretation of Protomartyr’s “Pontiac 87” from that band’s 2015 album The Agent Intellect is brimming with a moving, haunted sense of resignation. Whereas Protomartyr’s cover of “Forbidden” from Preoccupations’ 2016 self-titled album honors the somber grit that gives way to elevated emotional states that made the original so compelling. Both bands have a gift for using atmosphere with an emotional push and intensity coupled with layered musical textures and dynamics that even when each hits a hypnotic peak of repetition it remains heady until the end. Each band would be worth seeing alone but a bill together makes it potentially one of the great shows in Denver of 2018.

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Middle Kids, photo by Maclay Heriot

Who: Middle Kids w/The Shacks
When: Monday, 12.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Australian rock band Middle Kids released its debut full-length, Lost Kids, in 2018 and did us all a favor by showing how one can be pretty much unabashedly influenced by music that one’s peers made trendy and do something more interesting with it. The songs seem to be rooted in a sort of folk rock songwriting mode, twinges of 70s Laurel Canyon haunting its edges, while incorporating elements of fuzzy 90s rock. But with uncommonly thoughtful and wise lyrics that are nostalgic yet self-conscious of the tendency to romanticize when the bare truth can often be more poetic than a sanitized personal revision of one’s life.

Tuesday | December 11, 2018

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The Helio Sequence (Benjamin Weikel), photo by Ana Pupulin

Who: The Helio Sequence w/Wild Pink
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Helio Sequence were exploring spacious melodies and daydream tones when it wasn’t too widely present in modern music outside of IDM acts like Boards of Canada and Clark. As a duo, the band had to be creative and efficient in their execution of sounds so there is a fairly different sound from other bands that are often placed under the banner of indie rock. Before the latter was a clumsily vague banner term The Helio Sequence was often described as being within the realm of psychedelic rock and shoegaze, which is true enough, but its musical roots also stretch to Pacific Northwest underground rock, drummer Benjamin Weikel even having drummed on the 2004 Modest Mouse record Good News for People Who Love Bad News. In 2008 The Helio Sequence released its second, and breakthrough, album Keep Your Eyes Ahead. It represented a more overtly well-composed pop direction that band would expound upon thereafter—soaring melodies, introspective lyrics and always inventive soundscaping. For this tour the project is celebrating the ten year anniversary of the album that propelled it into a circle of success wider than underground cult status.

Who: Demoncassettecult w/Machu Linea and Mirror Fears
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Beat driven, noise influenced experimental electronic music is the theme for this show. Demoncassettecult combines industrial soul samples (close enough) with R&B vocals for something that shouldn’t exist but completely makes sense live and on the projects recordings. Machu Linea is the latest project from Armando Garibay who was a member of The Circus House, a sort of avant-garde psychedelic pop band that included former Ancient Elk vocalist Anna Smith. Machu Linea is like downtempo deep house reminiscent of Sunday 8PM-period Faithless but updated. Same dusky, beautifully moody, hip-hop-inflected dance music. Machu Linea’s 2018 album GIRL would be in the upper echelons of a best of dance music list for the year if the wider world was aware of it. Mirror Fears, of course, has been pushing the envelope of electronic music in Denver without being an electronic dance artist per se. Not that dance beats and programming aren’t part of her sound because they are but she also comes to the music from the perspective of someone who spent time in a dream pop band as well as being steeped in the local noise and experimental music scenes. Lately her songwriting has delved further into beat-driven electronic composition.

Who: John Grant w/Two Medicine
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: John Grant’s Denver music history is pretty respectable as the keyboard player of an early incarnation of gloom rock legends Twice Wilted and then as the lead singer/pianist of dream pop band The Czars. But upon leaving Denver to pursue his artistic fortunes elsewhere, Grant embarked upon a critically acclaimed career under his own name beginning with 2010’s excellent Queen of Denmark. His command of electronic music composition in the context of artier pop songwriting has made all of his solo albums worth listening to on their own. That his lyrics are thoughtful, even insightful, and relevant to the vagaries of modern life has kept his songs fresh and striking. Currently Grant is touring in support of his 2018 album Love is Magic.

Who: S A D Nois, Lipglo$$, Equine and more
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: S A D Nois and its sound sits somewhere at the intersection of modern classical, noise and textured environment sound composition. Lipglo$$ is sort of like a weird, ambient, noise take on trap and profane and hypnotic. Maybe influenced by video game music and Tim & Eric. Equine is Kevin Richards’ use of his mastery of weird jazz chords and phrases, minimalism and processing both in fascinating directions.

Wednesday | December 12, 2018

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Allout Helter circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: La Armada w/Allout Helter, Targets, No Sign of Remose and others
When: Wednesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: La Armada from Santo Domingo in the Domincan Republic is one of the most popular hardcore bands in the country and it has made an impact throughout the North American underground with its crossover sound and political lyrics. The quintet is in good company for this bill with Denver’s Allout Helter and Targets. The former shares some of the thrash sound of the latter and a bit of the grindcore edge of the latter.

Who: Kid Astronaut w/Kayla Marque, Dylan Streight, Shalom Dubas
When: Wednesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Jon Shockness is moving to London soon to explore what the wider world of music outside of Denver and outside the United States has to offer his eclectic and considerable talent. He was once a member of the late great hip-hop group Air Dubai and a graduate of Denver School of the Arts where he recently told Colorado Public Radio he was able to be taken seriously even as a young artist, providing a solid foundation for his efforts sine. In 2018, as Kid Astronaut, Shockness released the project’s debut full-length, the sultry, powerful and imaginative Full Moon.

Best Shows in Denver 3/15/18 – 3/21/18

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Mint Field performs at Lost Lake on March 21. Photo by Maria Fernanda Molins

 

Who: Protomartyr w/Ned Garthe Explosion
When: Thursday, 03.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Protomartyr apparently didn’t get the memo on what post-punk bands in the current era are supposed to sound like. The vocal delivery hits at weird angles to the fluid rhythms and jagged yet expressive and atmospheric guitar work like Nick Cave singing for a hybrid of The Fall and Sleaford Mods. Its latest record is 2017’s Relatives in Descent. It’s a bit moodier than the group’s earlier albums yet has a headlong quality as though the band is embracing the chaos and disorientation of the world now to see where the broken machine ultimately lands. Ned Garthe Explosion is more of a psychedelic rock band but one of the most gloriously ragged around the edges and one for which you never quite know where the show will go in a way we need to see more often.

Who: Alonerly, R A R E B Y R D $, Claudzilla
When: Thursday, 03.15, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Alonerly is the solo project of Antonia Montoya from Albuquerque. Using upright bass, soulful vocals and beats, Montoya creates the kind of spacious yet intimate music that probably gets lumped, and not unjustifiably so, with jazz and hip-hop but is in the end its own thing, a rarity in a time when many musical artists are trying to tap a little too much into an established musical genre. She won’t be alone in bringing something not quite like anything else with keytar weirdo Claudzilla and hypnotic and highly evocative hip-hop/noise crew R A R E B Y R D $.

Friday | March 16, 2018

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Bad Licks, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Bad Licks 7 inch release w/Vic ‘n’ the Narwhals, The Corner Girls and Soulfax DJs
When: Friday, 03.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bad Licks includes former members of The Blue Rider so there’s plenty of the subtle weirdness to the undertones of its psychedelic garage rock. The group is celebrating the release of its latest seven inch of its excellent Lies EP. Because people in the band are very much into genuinely experimental music, the record is worth listening to beyond obvious genre trappings. Joined this night by pastel/surf punks The Corner Girls and surf/blues punk band Vic ‘n’ the Narwhals. All around a post-garage rock genre-bending extravaganza because all of these bands put on an energetic performance.

Who: Clan of Xymox w/Voicecoil and Radio Scarlet w/DJ Svipal
When: Friday, 03.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox formed in Amsterdam near the height of the first wave of post-punk in 1981. The band’s sound including more extensive use of synths was more in line with groups like Comsat Angels, The Sound, Killing Joke and The Chameleons. Clan of Xymox’s first three albums are considered foundational for what has come to be known as “darkwave” – the blending of early synth pop aesthetics with post-punk. Xymox and contemporaries like Anne Clark, Fad Gadget and Depeche Mode made what might have been considered weird and avant-garde accessible to a broad audience. By the early 90s, however, the band splintered and Ronnie Moorings continued in a direction inspired by the acid house music popular in dance clubs in the late 80s and early 90s. But apparently the project’s fanbase wasn’t into that sound and it didn’t translate well to the rave crowd. And yet Xymox hadn’t completely lost its darkwave cachet and throughout the 90s Moorings experimented with a return to that sort of sound while absorbing the industrial music of bands he had in part influenced. Over the past decade darkwave, industrial and gothic rock has been enjoying the most extensive genuine revival since the first time around and Xymox has enjoyed a little of its own renaissance being invited to festivals catering to the aforementioned genres and with its last eight albums, including 2017’s Days of Black, released or re-issued on Metropolis. Why did the music matter? As someone once said about Joy Division, despite and because of its sometimes gloomy, brooding, emotionally urgent and intense sounds, Xymox and its contemporaries had to come along to articulate complex and sometimes conflicting emotions with a clarity, power and poignancy that wasn’t happening with a lot of rock and roll.

Monday | March 19, 2018

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Yardsss, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Screwtape, Wander, Young Lovers, Ridgeway, Yardsss, Brother Saturn
When: Monday, 03.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: One of the great things about shows at Seventh Circle is that even if it’s all supposed to be all one thing it never really is. Tonight proves that as local hardcore heroes Screwtape are performing alongside mostly post-rock/shoegaze bands. Brother Saturn’s collage of guitar sounds tracing the outsides of daydreams made up of soothingly hypnotic layers of atmosphere is a good fit with California based post-rock bands Wander, Young Lovers and Ridgeway to send them back home from SXSW in a welcoming show halfway through that journey. Yardsss from Portland, Oregon has a diverse sonic palette but broadly speaking, the band’s core sounds are rooted in droning atmospheres, noise and improvisational electronic composition. Fans of more experimental industrial music will find much to like in Yardsss’ darkly evocative aesthetic.

Who: Mimicking Birds, The Raven and the Writing Desk and Haley Heynderickx
When: Monday, 03.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Indie rock band Mimicking Birds are making a stop in Denver on their way to Treefort Music Fest (we’ll be featuring some advance coverage in the next few days as well as post-fest coverage in the following weeks). The group recently released its new album, the gorgeously lush and pastoral Layers of Us. If you’re not making it out to Treefort for the 7:40 p.m. set at El Korah Shrine, catch the Portland, Oregon-based band tonight with the like-minded The Raven and the Writing Desk. The latter is one of Denver’s best kept secrets in music as a band that has really pushed itself to explore new vistas in its own sound and breaking with its own musical past in order to make something interesting and fresh. A rarity.

Tuesday | March 20, 2018

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GGOOLLDD, photo by Kelly Bolter

Who: OMD w/GGOOLLDD
When: Tuesday, 03.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, often referred to as OMD, were, like fellow UK artists Gary Numan and Human League as well as Berlin in the USA, instrumental in establishing what became synth pop. After seeing an mid-70s Kraftwerk concert, bassist and vocalist Andy McCluskey started OMD with some friends and from early on the band separated itself from many other bands of the era in having no guitars and but a visceral live show. OMD enjoyed its share of commercial popularity in the UK and the US at various points in its career but artistically it’s arguably greatest achievement was the 1983 album Dazzle Ships. But the mainstream audience didn’t seem to be much into the truly boundary pushing pop compositions. Today the album is considered by many fans to be its best alongside its 1981 predecessor, Architecture & Morality. Now recognized as innovators as well talented masters of pop songcraft, OMD will be headlining a show at The Ogden Theatre with the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based GGOOLLDD. The latter, fronted by the dynamic and talented Margaret Butler, recently released the TEETH EP in December 2017. Part synth pop, part theatrical glam band, GGOOLLDD has always put on a large theater show in small, even intimate venues, so catch a great, newer band opening for a group in a similar lineage of imaginative yet sincere music.

What: Faster Than Light Fest: Obtuse (1st), Blue Lane Frontier, Old Sport, Granddad (AK/MN), Closer is a Band (Brooklyn), Alien Boy (Portland), Runaway Brother (Cleveland)
When: Tuesday, 03.20, 5 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is a festival put together for bands on their way from SXSW or going through and happening to converge in Denver for one date. It’s also a good cross section of the modern punk/emo/math rock underground in America and naturally it’s at Seventh Circle where a lot of touring if that stripe often plays in Denver these days. Locals Obtuse, Old Sport and Blue Lane Frontier represent a rebirth for the kind of punk that both embraces pop punk, screamo, indie rock and math rock but also advances where that music could have gone had it converged and evolved. Portland’s Alien Boy gets points for naming itself after a Wipers song but also for embodying the kind of moody punk with thoughtful, sometimes wryly humorous, lyrics and the kind of darkness and intensity, not to say anger, that a lot of punk frankly lacks.

Wednesday | March 21, 2018

KellyLeeOwens_KimHiorthøy1
Kelly Lee Owens, photo by Kim Hiorthøy

Who: Kelly Lee Owens
When: Wednesday, 03.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: With her 2017 self-titled full-length, Kelly Lee Owens displayed a keen ear for electronic composition and a knack for translating that into accessible dance tracks. Her mastery of mixing hypnotic and deep low end with melodic drones interweaving with her ethereal vocals across the record was stunning. Fans of IDM, dub techno and deep house, do yourself a favor and at a minimum pick up the album. Also, fans of dream pop/shoegaze acts unafraid of jumping straight into abstract atmospheres such as Slowdive, Seefeel and Sound of Ceres will find much to like with Owens’ output as well. Owens performs tonight at Bar Standard before setting off for Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho where she performs Thursday night 3.22 at 12:30 a.m. at Neurolux

Who: Mint Field w/Neighbor Lady and American Grandma
When: Wednesday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mint Field’s 2018 debut album Pasar De Las Luces is being touted as a great modern shoegaze album. And it is, but it is one that isn’t particularly beholden to an older sound. The minimalist aesthetic of the music bears a stronger resemblance to ambient and downtempo dance music than to rock. At its most “rock” the band comes off as more post-punk and Krautrock like Neu! or Faust than worshippers of Lush or My Bloody Valentine. Although the band is from Tijuana its gauzy layers and swirling melodies are a far cry from that city’s reputation as one of the party capitals of the world. Mint Field also performs at Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho on Saturday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Boise All Ages Movement.

Who: U.S. Girls w/Rubedo and Michael Rault
When: Wednesday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Meghan Remy’s U.S. Girls has thankfully been pretty much impossible to chalk up to a single genre of music since the project’s inception. It’s always pop songs whether those have a leg in noise, punk, garage rock or whatever. Her latest album, 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited, sounds, interestingly enough, like a reinvention of 90s hip-hop as a funk and soul record. It has that lush production with grit and a melancholic undertone. “Pearly Gates” in particular is reminiscent of Warren G’s 1994 hit “Regulate.” Which, considering the themes of the album, is an interesting allusion. But whatever ideas and sounds informed the record, it is a literate and insightful exploration the various manifestations of toxic masculinity, its effects throughout culture and society and what life might be like without it’s wearying, destructive influence.

Who: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat w/Naked Giants and Hairclub
When: Wednesday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you listened to Ed Schrader’s Music Beat’s albums and other recorded releases prior to 2018 and didn’t see live, the appeal can be a bit of a head scratcher. A floor tom, scream-ish vocals and bass? Live it all made sense and the records relatable. But the band put out its most accessible album to date with Riddles. Having worked with Dan Deacon didn’t hurt and as the band’s producer, Deacon helped to shape a sound that took the duo’s avant-garde urban tribal contradictions and into the level of recorded coherence the project has always warranted. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat also performs at Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho at 10:30 p.m. at Boise All-ages Movement Project.