As with all things live music the annual The Underground Music Showcase (UMS to most) can’t happen in the usual manner but the organizers put together a lineup for a virtual music festival, variety show and retro telethon. Partnering with Colorado Music Relief Fund which supports Colorado musicians and music industry professionals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event with run on Saturday, July 25, 2020 from 7 p.m. through 10 p.m. Mountain Time. There will be prize giveaways and party supplies delivered to viewers and while not quite the sprawling marathon of music, local and otherwise, it promises to provide some humor and good times with hosts comedians Christie Buchele and Nathan Lund. The event will broadcast from the Hi-Dive a venue that has been associated with the festival for most its run thus far.
This year’s lineup (in alphabetical order) includes: Down Time Float Like a Buffalo Lily Fangz Los Mocochetes Nathaniel Rateliff Neoma Ramakhandra The Milk Blossoms The Still Tide TheyCallHimAP Turvy Organ Wave Decay Wes Watkins Whitacre Wildermiss YaSi
With additional music provided by DealzMakesBeats.
What:Earth w/Helms Alee When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Earth is as much an influential and pioneering drone metal band as it is an avant-garde blues folk group imbued with mystical overtones. It’s 2019 album Full Upon Her Burning Lips finds the trio channeling more than the usual measure of its crawling, Black Sabbath-esque gloom. Seeing the live show it’s always fascinating to see how Adrienne Davies moves in an orchestrated string of slow sweeping moves and fast, accenting flourishes as Dylan Carlson and their collaborators of the moment drone with a smoky fluidity.
What:Meet the Giant, The Jinjas, Monty O’Blivion and Zealot When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Zealot would be a Mountain Goats cover band but Luke Hunter James-Erickson would find that too rote so he injects his own eclectic tastes into the songwriting. Recently released the “Snake Goddess” single, a typically eccentric, high energy, angular indie rock gem. Meet the Giant, informed by electronic music and hip-hop beat-making, write and perform deeply evocative, brooding rock songs that maybe now would overlap with the whole darkwave thing except that Meet the Giant often crosses over into the realm of hard rock in a way most of those bands don’t.
What:Cholo Goth Night featuring Dave Parley of Prayers When: Thursday, 06.27, 9 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Just like it says, Cholo Goth Night at Streets Denver with Dave Parley of Cholo Goth and spinning Darkwave and Goth for the evening. When this event happens in the Los Angeles area and select other cities Parley brings in other darkwave musicians of note to guest a set but not for tonight.
Friday | June 28
What:The Kinky Fingers w/Vic N’ the Narwhals and Colfax Speed Queen When: Friday, 06.28, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Now that the Denver “party rock” scene has withered away and garage psych/surf is going the way of pop punk in the early 2000s only the strong and more interesting survive. In the case of these three bands it’s partly because their songwriting was always good and their individual sounds not so susceptible to the blowout of trendiness. Each has also evolved.
What:Tyto Alba and Steele Douglas When: Friday, 06.28, 5 p.m. Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver Why: Tyto Alba is always surprisingly evocative with music coming from the tender places of the psyche and coloring the tones in warm, incandescent tones and hypnotic rhythms. Seeing them on a rooftop while a thunderstorm threatens to hover in but never does? Seems symbolic and entirely appropriate.
What:Blue October w/Mona When: Friday, 06.28, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Blue October has been around for nearly a quarter of a century now and its career has crossed over from the old way of major labels and the album release cycle to the modern mess and disarray of the industry now that offers bands to connect directly to an audience more so than ever before but to earn far less for their efforts. That the group has weathered that period is impressive itself. Oddly enough its own style of power pop seemingly inspired by late 80s proto-alternative rock like Icehouse and The Outfield and their dramatic presentation of being a bit on the outs of true emotional fulfillment but yearning for that special connection with another human with music that is a little too triumphant in tone and uplifting to be sad bastard music. But Blue October didn’t stay trapped in a past style and its newer music reflects a diversity of newer influences.
What:Westword Music Showcase When: Saturday, 06.29, 12 p.m. Where: Golden Triangle Neighborhood Why: This is the longest running music festival of its type in Denver. Held on just one day in the Golden Triangle neighborhood near the Westword offices off Tenth Ave and Broadway, it is arguably the most concise way all year to see a broad spectrum of the local scene without having to walk too far. This year’s line-up includes several of the local luminaries. Here is a list of see-if-you-can acts at each of the stages and a given set time. Tastes will vary and I’m certainly no expert on big chunks of the local music world.
Breckenridge Brewery Stage
6:10 Jai Wolf
White Claw Stage
12:50 Techno Allah
2:30 Erin Stereo
12:50 Venus Cruz
6:40 Lady Gang
7:30 RARE BYRD$
12:35 Gora Gora Orkestar
5:35 Wes Watkins
7:15 Roka Hueka
8:05 Los Mocochetes
12:50 Hail Satan
2:30 Ghosts of Glaciers
6:40 Plasma Canvas
7:30 Cheap Perfume
1:40 Brianna Straut
2:30 Bevin Luna
5 Vic n’ the Narwhals
6:40 The Hollow
1:40 Bret Sexton
5:50 Los Dog Ensemble
6:40 The Maybe So’s
7:30 Joshua Trinidad Trio
What:PUP w/Ratboys and Beach Bunny When: Saturday, 06.29, 9 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: PUP started making waves a handful of years ago outside its hometown of Toronto, Ontario among aficionados of pop punk and emo who missed that brashly confessional style of songwriting before the music hit maximum saturation level in the early-to-mid 2000s. When the band began in 2010 a quasi-movement was under way across the North American continent in making fun, melodic punk that was raw and expressive. With PUP and others the key difference was embracing the relatively unrefined side of that songwriting and how that opened possibilities for the music to go where it will rather than fall directly in a worn out style. This has given PUP’s songwriting a freshness that even if at first it seems completely within the realm of standard pop punk. Its new record, 2019’s Morbid Stuff, arguably its best to date, revealed the influence of the more vital garage punk and 2000s lo-fi noise rock on its sound. Like the Reatards and perhaps No Age. Its irreverent spirit and deft local cultural references that are relatable to people who experience similar social phenomena in their own cities makes for a consistently endearing listen.
What:Luxury Hearse, Timelord SFX and blank human When: Saturday, 06.29, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: Luxury Hearse combines the forces of blank human’s ambient/noise sound sculpting and Psychic Secretary’s beat-driven experimental electronic music. What to call it? Some might think industrial because of its sometimes sharp edges but it’s more in the vein of edgier yet dream-like dance music.
What: Blue October w/Mona ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/369899
When: Saturday, 06.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: For Blue October see above for 6.28.
Monday | July 1
What:Culture Abuse w/Tony Molina, Young Guy, Dare, Regional Justice Center and Cadaver Dog When: Monday, 07.01, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Culture Abuse has big melodic hooks for a band that came up through the milieu of garage punk. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream greatly expanded its range as a band both tonally, dynamically and emotionally as it’s informed by a sensitivity to the inevitability of the death of those close to you and a wry sense of humor and irony. After all Culture Abuse has a song called “Dave’s Not Here (I Got The Stuff Man)” referencing the classic Cheech & Chong skit. While there’s plenty of wiry punk energy behind the material, especially live, it’s really more of a great power pop record. Tony Molina got started in music playing in hardcore bands but his solo work is more in line with jangle pop and C86 with a sprinkling of The Byrds. His own 2018 record Kill the Lights wouldn’t have been out of place in the same musical realm as Teenage Fanclub circa 1992. Except with more folk-inflected, introspective songwriting throughout.
What:Muscle Beach, Buildings (MN) and Simulators When: Monday, 07.01, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Buildings form Minneapolis is a vital cross between a math-y noise rock and post-hardcore. Muscle Beach is of similar mind but its own version of post-hardcore is a splintery assault on the senses that drags you down emotional pathways that purge angst and personal darkness – all done with a cathartic sense of joy. Simulators are an angular noise rock duo whose music is both cutting and unhinged yet mathematically precise. It’s always an interesting contrast.
Wednesday | July 3
What:Bud Bronson + the Good Timers, The Right Here, Bad Licks, DJ Sara Splatter When: Wednesday, 07.01, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bud Bronson + The Good Timers are always surprisingly good. Its earnest power pop sounds like it’s of today but has a quality and a vibe that is reminiscent of the stories and sentiments one heard in the music of late 70s/early 80s Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Also on the bill is Bad Licks who somehow do a kind of psychedelic blues rock that is legitimate and high energy because good songwriting transcends pre-conceptions.
What:Weird Wednesdayl: Total Trash, Pretty Loud, Klaus Dafoe When: Wednesday, 07.01, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl Why: Total Trash is a band comprised of luminaries of Denver’s indie rock scene going back nearly two decades and yet it’s not all middle aged people. If you remember Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Lil’ Slugger, it’s people from those bands. It’s psychedelic, shoegaze-y jangle pop is transporting yet relatable and down to earth. Klaus Dafoe is an instrumental band that collides together 2000s math rock, weirdo punk and indie pop for a sound that is familiar yet unusual.
What:Pale Sun, Palehorse/Palerider, Random Temple and Grass When: Wednesday, 07.01, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Palehorse/Palerider’s drummer Nathan Marcy said to bring earplugs. Good idea, because his own group is the kind of doom/shoegaze/dark desert psych band that makes beautifully dark, atmospheric, consciousness expanding music with ritual/tribal flourishes that is, yes, in fact, quite loud. In good company with gritty psych band Grass and Pale Sun. The latter’s dreamy yet dense rock music will take you to a different psychological space than the one with which you walked into the show. Includes former members of Bright Channel, Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.
Who:Starjammer featuring Kuf Knotz When: Thursday, 04.25, 4 p.m. – ? Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Starjammer, the avant-garde dub reggae one-man/device band, will be playing two sets tonight in phases like a rocket launch. The Launch Pad Prep runs from 4-7 and the Late Night Lift Off starts at 9 and runs until the musical equivalent of escape velocity is reached. Or at least until you have to leave whether you want to or not.
Who:Bowshock and El Tigr3 When: Thursday, 04.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Records includes Bowshock, the experimental improv psych jazz reggae band.
Who:The Yawpers release of Human Question w/In the Whale and Fast Eddie When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Yawpers have been writing solid, rough around the edges, southern fried punk rock and roll for years. While earlier releases honestly cataloged singer Nate Cook’s headlong dive into desperation and self-destruction, Human Question, with the image of an immolating figure walking out of the fields into the forest on the cover, is more introspective and taking into consideration a subject as the title suggests—what is the purpose and significance of living in the world as a creature fully capable of being self-aware, reflective and capable of extremes of behavior and of consciously choosing a path other than the most immediate and obvious. The record is a collection of rockers but, especially with the single “Carry Me,” The Yawpers prove that they are capable of more than rocking and that even at the root of that is a raw and nuanced cauldron of emotion and now more an ability to write from a place beyond primal urges with a finely tuned discernment as articulated with fiery displays of musical and poetic catharsis.
Who:Superorganism w/Simpson When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Originating in London, Superorganism is an international, multi-ethnic indie pop band whose members met through various internet channels and mutual friends. Its sound might be described as electronic music pitched to sound like something made using unorthodox, highly tactile instruments. In some ways the group’s 2018 self-titled debut is reminiscent of Kala-period M.I.A. with its fusion of styles and sounds and strong visual element to its performances.
What:PRF BBQ Day 1 When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m. Where: Black Sky Brewery Why: This is a three day music festival featuring some of the better Denver underground bands. On this night you can catch Dead Characters, New Standards Men, Modern Goon and Clutch Plague.
Who:Lotus When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Certainly Lotus’ fan base is largely comprised of those with a love of all things jam band. And Lotus’ free flowing groove and sprawling improvisations fit in that pocket as well. But there’s something more experimental to the band’s music slightly beneath the surface. Its 2018 album Frames Per Second showcases this well with unusual jazz structures and dynamics, moody bass lines, vocal processing, playful and colorful synth work. Like the inevitable musical offspring of Steely Dan and Jean-Michel Jarre, Lotus sounds like a band with chops playing fairly straightforward yet intricate grooves but there is a layer of subversiveness to keep it interesting beyond technical flourishes.
What:Lotus w/Ghostland Observatory, Jade Cicada and Magic Beans When: Saturday, 04.27, 5 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: If Lotus wasn’t responsible for this line-up directly, someone somewhere put together a great bill of bands who share a similar sensibility in adventurous electronic music suited to a large stage format. What:DMX w/DJ Chonz When: Saturday, 04.27, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall
What:Weird Touch When: Saturday, 04.27, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: It’s one of many hip DJ nights probably more focused on indie releases than average that we’re fortunate to have in Denver.
What:The North Ensemble When: Saturday, 04.27, 7:30 p.m. Where: Trident Why: An avant-garde improvisational show in the back room/outdoors area in the back of Trident. Boulder likes to act like it’s weird but stuff like this is the rare occasion when it is in a productive way.
What:PRF BBQ Day 2 When: Saturday, 04.27, 4:30 p.m. Where: The Bakery Why: Simulators will rip your face off with their angular noise rock and when Moon Pussy finishes the process with its cybernetic psychedelic post-punk you will be glad you went unless you’re into safe, boring music. The other bands are probably worth it too. Schedule below.
Who:La Dispute w/Gouge Away and Slow Mass When: Sunday, 04.28, 6:30 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Maybe it’s because Jordan Dreyer was a writer before ever making music. Maybe it’s because La Dispute’s take on post-hardcore and emo isn’t tied to the usual sounds and progressions. Sure you can hear bits of the influence of At The Drive-In and Refused but on another level the band’s music sounds like a heavier Bright Eyes or even Slint—that sense of desolation and desperation. Also on this bill/tour are two other bands within the realm of punk that are a bit different yet share some of the same sensibilities with Gouge Away, a band that combines an atmospheric heaviness with eruptive energy and an unexpectedly forceful frontperson in Christina Michelle. Slow Mass is one of the better bands out there that has fused emotionally taut math rock with fluid post-hardcore.
What:Shibui Denver #2 – Victoria Lundy and Blank Human When: Sunday, 04.28, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Denver avant-garde veteran Victoria Lundy may play some of her classical material on Theremin or some of her spookier faire with the same as well as synth. Blank Human is a drone/ambient project from Dan Coleman also of Luxury Hearse.
What:PRF BBQ Day 3 When: Sunday, 04.28, 4 p.m. Where: The Bakery Why: Final evening of PRF BBQ including a performance from glam/psych post-punk stars Teacup Gorilla.
400 – 430 – Flowlines
445 – 515 – 50 Miles of Elbow Room
530 – 600 – Little Beards
615 – 645 – Falsetto Boy
745 -815 – Church Van
830 – 900 – Teacup Gorilla
915 – 945 – Purple Honey
1000 – The Gary
Who:Beach Fossils w/George Clanton When: Monday, 04.29, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Beach Fossils is from Brooklyn but capture a more West Coast breeziness in its melancholic surf pop confections. Unlike artists mining similar territory, Beach Fossils’ songwriting in its emotional colorings. That Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell contributed to the group’s 2017 album Somersault gives the direction Beach Fossils have been going some cachet by lending some of her low key yet evocatively powerful vocals to the record. George Clanton brings his lush, IDM-esque, deeply atmospheric electronic pop along for this leg of the tour as well.
Tuesday | April 30
Who:Bayonne and Palm Daze When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Roger Sellers as Bayonne uses minimalist layers of texture-as-percussion and simple melodies to craft atmospheric pop that recalls late 2000s chillwave and its capacity to seemingly dispel anxiety and angst. His latest record, 2019’s Drastic Measures, should be on anyone’s short list for summer listening and to save for the winter months when it seems like warmer times are a distant memory.
What:Sage Francis & B. Dolan: Epic Beard Men and Vockah Redu and Wheelchair Sports Camp When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: Sage Francis and B. Dolan, two giants alternative hip-hop and superb lyricists, are touring in their collaborative alternate personas Epic Beard Men. The masterful phrasing won’t be in short supply tonight with Denver’s Wheelchair Sports Camp and its jazz and beats rooted offerings.
Who:Interpol w/Car Seat Headrest, Japanese Breakfast and Sunflower Bean When: Wednesday, 05.01, 5:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Interpol could just tour on the strength of its fan base and pick some weird music industry management openers (and maybe that is part of this booking) but instead the post-punk stars are having three of the best indie rock bands opening the show. Between Car Seat Headrest’s lo-fi, emotionally raw math rock, Sunflower Bean’s driving, brooding post-punk and Japanese Breakfast’s highly imaginative and powerful guitar rock soundscaping the opening sets alone are worth the price of admission but then you get to see Interpol whose back catalog has held up better than that of many of its peers from the late 90s and early 2000s.
What:Lil Pump w/Lil Skies When: Wednesday, 05.01, 6 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Lil Pump turned 18 last August so expecting wisdom and thoughtfulness even on his 2019 album Haverd Dropout might be a bit much. He’s got a long way to go before his mumble trap is in the same league as Migos or his raps and performance in the same realm as Vince Staples or anyone in the A$AP crew or Odd Future. But it’s obvious he’s borrowed a lot from all of them. Nevertheless, Lil Pump is likeable enough despite his deficits and as he grows as an artist and as a human hopefully he’ll grow in more interesting and original directions so that the implicit faith that collaborators like Kanye West, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz put in his sophomore album. It’s clear Pump is a weirdo so with any luck he’ll embrace that side of himself and give us a third album on which he truly lets his freak flag fly.
What:Weird Wednesday: Orbiting Olympia, Elk Minister, Tears to Light When: Wednesday, 05.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Weird Wednesday this month features Orbiting Olympia which is a grand alchemy of Eve Orenstein’s opera training and Sean Faling’s mastery of synthesizers both analog and otherwise. Elk Minister is a multi-instrumentalist, self-styled mystic and songwriter who has been sitting on his material for years. His visual presentation on his social media accounts look like he’s come back from some junkyard holy site with the appropriate twenty-third century raiment.
What:Lizzo w/Tayla Parx When: Wednesday, 05.01, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: The show is sold out but if you can get in you can catch rising hip-hop/pop star Lizzo before she starts playing much larger venues (like her October date in Denver at the Fillmore) from now on. Her 2019 album Cuz I Love You has the kind of frisson that sounds, at times and certainly the “Juice” single, like something that might have come out of a late 70s-period Studio 54 playlist. Except not dated. And across the record Lizzo shows off her chops as a vocalist of great emotional power and a songwriter with a keen ear for dynamics. Fans of Prince are well-advised to give Lizzo’s new album a deep listen because it’s worth it.
Who:RUMTUM mural unveiling w/Nasty Nachos and DJ YOLOLO When: Thursday, 03.07, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: John Hastings who performs ambient/IDM/instrumental pop music as RUMTUM recently received a commission from Meow Wolf to do a mural at The Oriental Theater. Tonight is the unveiling and the evening will incorporate interactive visual installations by WMD and FOREST and performances/DJ sets from Nasty Nachos and DJ YOLOLO.
Who:Rhadoo w/Peter Blick (Below Radar) and Liminal When: Thursday, 03.07, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Rhadoo is known to connoisseurs of electronic music internationally but in his home country of Romania, he’s a star, a legend of his scene, who is all but mainstream. He brings his chill and hypnotic mixture of house and techno to Black Box for a night of music including a set from Peter Blick of Below Radar (a Denver and San Francisco curator of choice underground electronic music events) and the Liminal collective.
Who:Satin Spar, Ruehlen/Seward and TARP When: Thursday, 03.07, 7 p.m. Where: Madelife Why: Experimental music label Shadowtrash Tape Group and the Madelife gallery present this evening of synth and percussion duos.
Friday | May 8
Who:Low w/Rivulets When: Friday, 03.08, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: For going on three decades Low has written some of the most affecting, emotionally raw, tender and thoughtful music in America. Its influential early albums are classics of slowcore which is to say it was music in direct contrast to the louder and more bombastic trend of popular music of the day. It required and deserved your attention and reflection on the songs. Toward the turn of the century the band’s palette of sounds expanded and it embraced dynamics of volume and its ability to make the ambiance and the mood of a song more nuanced yet immediate. For 2018’s Double Negative, the trio basically reinvented its use of sound. Rather than the pastoral grandeur of years past and the emotionally rich and vibrant offerings of its more rock period, Low seems to have inverted those elements to make something that would be more expected in the realm of abstract industrial music, textured ambient and the avant-garde generally. Except all the songs have a pop quality. Maybe it’s the structures, or the way the band is able to make the dark, fractured music accessible. It is arguably the band’s most interesting album in years from a career that isn’t short on arresting and noteworthy material. What might be even more interesting is how this band will pull off such unusual and challenging material live.
Who:The Playground Ensemble perform 8 Songs For a Mad King When: Friday, 03.08, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Where: The Mercury Café Why: Denver’s Playground Ensemble will put on a production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ ambitious, 1969 masterpiece Eight Songs for a Mad King. The work includes unusual vocals, shifting musical styles, pointed depictions of Mad King George III and a theatrical presentation with elaborate stage props. There will be two performances on this night, as indicated above, and it’s guaranteed there won’t be much like this in Denver in 2019.
Who:Judah Friedlander When: Friday, 03.08, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Judah Friedlander is most known for his unusual and brilliant stand-up comedy and for appearing in and writing for some of the most interesting television series of the last twenty years including Wonder Showzen, Spin City, Flight of the Conchords and LateLine. But he is also one of the country’s most sharp and insightful cultural critics and commentators. For this performance there will be plenty of both. Few comedians worth their salt are essentially content free and Friedlander most certainly is not.
Who:And The Kids w/Toth and Corsicana When: Friday, 03.08, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: And The Kids’ When This Life is Over has one of the most fetching album covers of 2019. Fortunately it represents well the reticence and exuberance and sensitivity informing the music within. Musically it’s fuzzy, upbeat rock in the modern indie vein but And The Kids are willing to veer off the mid-tempo, safe path and indulge passages that sound like they could go off the song’s rails. Also, in “Champagne Ladies” we get lyrics like “Life is a bastard, life wants to kill you/Don’t get old/Life is a bastard, it wants to kill you/Don’t let go.” Which about sums up too much of life for people grinding away and struggling to not just survive but create for oneself a life worth living even with seemingly insurmountable challenges in place. Also on the bill is Toth, the side project of Rubblebucket’s Alex Toth whose eclectic instrumentation and gift for utilizing space in his songwriting shines with this project as well. The deeply imaginative and soothing debut full-length from Toth, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary comes out on May 10.
Saturday | March 9
Who:Chimney Choir w/Ramakhandra When: Saturday, 03.09, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Superficially one might describe Chimney Choir as an experimental folk band. But the thought and creativity that goes into the songwriting and especially the always captivating live shows, most of them interactive and often involving elaborate sets and costumes, sets the band apart from most its peers but not competitively, not by setting the bar higher for others to reach but as an example of what’s possible if you’re willing to challenge yourself and put in the time as a creative person to achieve something for yourself that hopefully resonates with others.
Who:Cloud Catcher EP release w/Bleakheart, Cadaver Dog When: Saturday, 03.09, 9 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: Cloud Catcher is supposedly breaking up later this year so this is one of your last chances to catch the great Denver sludge metal act with bands that may not be in its usual wheelhouse like the hardcore outfit Cadaver Dog. Cloud Catcher is also gifting us with one final EP available at the show. Perhaps we’ll also hear what Rory Rummings and company are up to next soon.
Who:Graves w/Hex Cougar and Gangus When: Saturday, 03.09, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Not the post-Misfits band, Graves is DJ and producer Christian Mochizuki, He did production work with Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Big Sean, for example, and his hybrid hip-hop and progressive trance style of bass music has earned him an audience of his own. He’ll probably be doing sets at bigger venues before too long so if this is your thing, catch it at a small club like Larimer Lounge.
Who:Ned Garthe Explosion, The Savage Blush and Palo Santo When: Saturday, 03.09, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: After many of the lesser psychedelic garage rock bands have passed into irrelevance, three of the standouts from Denver are playing on a bill together tonight. Ned Garthe Explosion is clearly the craziest, weirdest and funniest of the bunch. But The Savage Blush makes the most of its minimalist instrumentation and Palo Santo always sounds like it’s from a few decades ago but yet not a throwback.
Sunday | March 10
Who:Tuck Knee w/No Sign of Remorse, Secticide and didaktikos When: Sunday, 03.10, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Tuck Knee is releasing its debut album. Fans of Minor Threat may cry foul at the comparison but Tuck Knee has that kind of energy and conviction and instincts for fairly non-doctrinaire hardcore songwriting. Didaktikos? No slouches in that vein either.
Who:The Sound of Animals Fighting w/Planes Mistaken for Stars and Lorelei K When: Sunday, 03.10, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: The Sound of Animals Fighting was a brilliant amalgamation of math-y post-hardcore and ambient. Comprised of prominent musicians in the post-hardcore world and lead by Rich Balling of Rx Bandits, the group operated between 2004 and 2009. Also on this tour is one of post-hardcore greatest bands, Planes Mistaken for Stars from Denver. That band’s emotionally searing songs were anthems for the pulsing and tortured collective heart of underground punk in the 2000s.
Monday | March 11
What:Freq Boutique 024 When: Monday, 03.11, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: This is the twenty-fourth edition of Freq Boutique, the WMD-sponsored showcase of synthesizer tech and gear as well as a sort of open mic for which one can sign up on the event page.
What:Solos/Duos – Denver Avant-Garde Music Society featuring Animal / object When: Monday, 03.11, 7 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: This is the monthly avant-garde open mic curated by Denver Avant-Garde Music Society. The evening opens with a performance from Animal / object, the spontaneous composition group whose evolving membership includes long-time Denver avant-garde musician Kurt Bauer at the core often with contributions from Paul Mimlitsch, Arnie Swenson, Reed Weimer and Gordon Gano.
Tuesday | March 12
Who:Carlos Medina w/Pink Hawks and The Savage Blush When: Tuesday, 03.12, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Carlos Medina, the “psychedelic Mariachi” has already built a sizeable underground following for his unique brand of music that is rooted in Mariachi but with pop flourishes and a fascinating takes on rhythm and use of tone to set the music outside the realm of pure tradition. His touring circuit has taken him to a wide variety of venues treating audiences (knowing or otherwise) to his corridos psicodélicos. As an artist-in-residence at George RR Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Medina had a direct connection to the Meow Wolf collective who produced and released his debut full-length El Cantador. Perhaps his exquisitely crafted songs don’t scream out “psychedelic” to those that don’t speak Spanish. But check out the darkly beautiful video for “No Le Digan” and you get a taste of the creative context of the music and Medina’s rich vision that sees the imaginative possibilities inherent in his cultural background and his place as an artist within it. Medina gets compared to Tom Waits but probably because he too is an interpreter and re-interpreter of culture par excellence.
Who:Sandy Ewen (NYC) + Ryan Seward, Cash/Westerman, Channel Worker When:Wednesday, 03.13, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Sandy Ewen is, according to the bio on her website, a “sound artist, visual artist and architect who moved to New York City from Houston in 2018. Her sound art incorporates the use of prepared guitar, the use of textures and objects not conventionally associated with music (like railroad spikes, steel wool, bolts and so on) as well as an array of offbeat instruments used as vessels or raw sound to create an environment and experience. If you’re looking for conventional music, this show won’t be that. Rather, how sound can be an artform that doesn’t fit within the confines of song structure in any tradition.
Who:Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.
Who:Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.
Who:Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street) Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.
Friday | August 10, 2018
Who:Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.
Who:Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.
Who:Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.
Who:Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.
Saturday | August 10, 2018
Who:Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.
Who:Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.
Who:Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.
Who:GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.
Who:Goon, faim, Soul Vice When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.
Who:Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.
Tuesday | August 14, 2018
Who:The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.
Who:Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.
Who:Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.
Wednesday | August 8, 2018
Who:Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2 When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.
Who:Beach House w/Sound of Ceres When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.
Who:Father John Misty with TV On the Radio When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.