Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 05/10/18 – 05/16/18

SlimCessnasAutoClub_Dec29_2017_TomMurphy
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | May 10, 2018

AbeasityJones_Jan7_2018_TomMurphy
Abeasity Jones, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Venus Cruz & What Young Men Do, Abeasity Jones
When: Thursday, 05.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Abeasity Jones’ songs sound like maybe he spends part of his day working in some high rise office in downtown Denver and/or in some media tech office nearby where maybe things are comfortable but there’s an element of compromise and alienation. And while working and tending to the demands of his personal and family life he allows his imagination an escape into chill spaces where he can explore and write stories about his struggles, concerns and daydream life. The beats are downtempo and ethereal and the subject matter often delivered with a sense of acceptance like depleted melancholy. Yet, Jones’ sense of humor and thoughtfulness lifts up the music and his live performance has a positive energy giving the songs a dimensionality that some hip-hop seemingly recorded at home lacks.

Also playing this show is one of Denver jazz and hip-hop’s true luminaries: Venus Cruz. But this time out with the band What Young Men Do. Cruz’s versatile talent has found a place singing, producing and performing music in a wide variety of contexts. Her long-running stint with the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO on Wednesday nights is an outlet for fans of jazz and the sensibility of jazz outside the classic format. What Young Men Do is more of a funk, soul and jazz-inflected hip-hop project so it’ll be something pretty different for the Speakeasy Series and Hooked On Colfax both.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Bonnie Weimer and The Pollution
When: Thursday, 05.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Bonnie Weimer released her first single in probably several years, maybe even her first released music since her time in folk-punk-Americana group Potato Farmers, in April 2018 with “Pajama Top Man,” a winsome, humorous, self-effacing story song about an awkward would-be romantic encounter set to a spare, banjo melody. Fans of outsider music will find a lot to like about the song even though that designation doesn’t necessarily fit Weimer’s entire musical output. In an interesting pairing, not unusual for Claudia Woodman’s Musical Mayhem night at the Skylark, is The Pollution. Jay Fox was in one of the early DC punk bands, United Mutation, but the latter was never part of the Dischord scene and didn’t play out often even if its blend of psychedelic rock and punk was becoming a thing as bands like Butthole Surfers and Alice Donut were making waves in the underground. Decades hence, Fox, now living in Denver for several years, has set about trying to make bands for whom the intensity, energy, anti-authoritarian spirit and creative fire of punk and psychedelic seemed completely compatible qualities that needn’t be separated by stylistic sectarianism.

Who: Gold Trash, Violent Vickie, R A R E B Y R D $, Pearls and Perils and EVP
When: Thursday, 05.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Independent Records
Why: Glasss is bringing some of its artists to Colorado Springs tonight. Gold Trash is sort of a samples/live electronics take on the kind of collage, trash sound/culture guitar rock barrage that was Royal Trux. Pearls and Perils is lush downtempo beats and the sultry vocals of Olivia Perez who most won’t remember from her old, experimental rock band Gloam. But with Pearls and Perils she gets to put more of herself into the music undiluted by anyone else’s vision and the result is an emotionally cleansing body of work. Like most Glasss artists, EVP is impossible to tag with one genre designation. Part industrial, part pop, part punk, EVP sounds like the kind of music made by people living in a dystopian near future where kids have overtaken the crumbling, cheap housing units made during Denver’s current fake economic boom (real economic booms benefit everyone pretty equally) but then abandoned—scrappy, often angry and melancholy stuff. R A R E B Y R D $ is probably the Denver band now that will attain the underground mythical status of acts like Fissure Mystic and Hot White by the sheer excellence of its material and live shows except it’s an experimental hip-hop group. Its enveloping, rich beats stir the heart and the imagination and the emotional resonance of its lyrics and KoKo La’s and Key Lady’s singing and rapping has the irresistible power of a Kimya Dawson.

Friday | May 11, 2018

CharlyBliss_JacquelineHarriet
Charly Bliss, photo by Jacqueline Harriet

Who: Punk Is Dad fundraiser featuring MF Ruckus, The Velveteers, Ned Garthe Explosion and Plastic Daggers
When: Friday, 05.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: This show will benefit the Dorian DeLong Arts and Music scholarship fund which gives scholarships to college to students involved in arts programs in the Denver area. And you could hardly ask for a more solid rock lineup with the hard rock band MF Ruckus, psychedelic rock pranksters Ned Garthe Explosion, the edgy melodic hardcore Plastic Daggers and fuzz-garage stars The Velveteers.

Who: Esmé Patterson, Emily Ritz and Eleanor Perry
When: Friday, 05.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Leon Gallery
Why: Most of the time to see Esmé Patterson’s evocative storyteller pop you’d have to go to some kind of bigger bar venue or small theater. But this performance will happen at the much more intimate Leon Gallery. Patterson spent many years honing her craft as a member of the baroque pop group Paper Bird, but since she’s broke out on hr own for the last several years her imaginative songwriting has developed into a vehicle for writing with a warmth and wisdom on uncomfortable subjects.

Who: Charly Bliss w/Skating Polly
When: Friday, 05.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Charly Bliss’s 2017 album Guppy sounds like the band wood shedded its material in a cabin in a remote location far from its Brooklyn homebase with only 90s fuzzy alternative rock/power pop on hand for its listening diet. Obvious touchstones like Liz Phair, Velocity Girl, The Breeders and Veruca Salt. Even the music video for “Ruby” reinforces that impression looking like something that might have been produced for a segment of The Ben Stiller Show. But there’s no mistaking Charly Bliss’s exuberant energy for a pure nostalgia trip. The songs may rock but like many of the bands that likely influenced Charly Bliss, the lyrics have a raw vulnerability that gives it more depth than might otherwise be obvious. The same could be said for Oklahoma City band Skating Polly whose style of music is probably punk by default but so individual it would be problematic to say the trio consciously tried to be punk as a genre. The latter recently released its latest album, The Make It All Show. Skating Polly shows look like they might blow apart from the sheer, wiry energy of the performance and, of course, that’s what makes for great, scrappy punk rock.

Who: Girls Rock Denver: Showcase Series: Gold Trash, RAREBYRD$, EVP and Nighttimeschoolbus
When: Friday, 05.11, 7 – 11 p.m.
Where: Spectra Art Space
Why: Girls Rock Denver will happen in the summer but these events are a showcase to perhaps make being a musician beyond the camp and beyond those likely temporary bands an attainable goal. Which is crucial because a world where most music and art is still being made mostly by males seems bizarre and past its due date at this point in history. This night features some of the best artists in Denver in the realm of electronic, hip-hop, experimental and industrial music. Most of the artists on the bill were written up earlier in this column but all are worth your time.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Echo Beds and Weathered Statues
When: Friday, 05.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, one of Denver’s longest running bands and one of its most lively and entertaining, is doing a mini-residence at the Hi-Dive this weekend. Although the Auto Club is a kind of punk Americana with literary lyrics and a joyful, emotionally charged, theatrical live show, it’s been booking opening bands well outside the expected circles of Gothic Americana. This night, organo-industrial darkwave band Echo Beds will bring the punishing beats and cathartic drones and Weathered Statues will deliver its brand of moody but urgent post-punk.

Saturday | May 12, 2018

GreatAmericanHouseFire_Jun27_2017_TomMurphy
Great American House Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Fem Fest
When: Saturday, 05.12, 8 p.m.
Where: MCA Denver
Why: Fem Fest is an all-ages, all-genders welcome event that includes various workshops, a bazaar, tarot and astrology readings and more but also musical performances in the evening and night. Fem Fest because representation matters in a truly healthy and just society. There are plenty of, in essence, Men Fests because of booking and conception most of the rest of the year so don’t get caught up on the name and miss out on some of Denver’s best bands and the headliner, Red Aunts. Music kicks off at 5 p.m. with a Girls Rock Denver showcase followed by space angel/earth mother energy hip hop group R A R E B Y R D $ at 6. Princess Dewclaw, Denver’s own electro fuzz punks at 7 with “pastel punk” surf rock trio The Corner Girls at 8. The evening tops off at 9 with Red Aunts.

Who: Dirty Junk, Great American House Fire, Married a Dead Man
When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m.
Where: The Curtis Club
Why: Dirty Junk is a duo from Minneapolis on its 2017 album Snot is the kind of messy, noisy, collage-esque punk-inspired music that we haven’t heard much of since Get Hustle was active. Or like a weirder and noiser version of that raw punk Sleater-Kinney was doing on its first two records. Interesting putting the band together with Great American House Fire, a group that combines a melancholic Americana with moody posthardcore and soulful singing. Married a Dead Man is a post-punk band unabashedly influenced by music out of the Goth world.

Who: Sorted #8: Pangaea, Ganesa & Squane, Newnumbertwo
When: Saturday, 05.12, 10 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Kevin McAuley calls London home but tonight he’s performing at the eight edition of sorted, the underground electronic music event that Veronica Lamaak and company put together periodically to showcase some of the most interesting house, techno and more experimental dance music in general happening now. Also on the bill are Jelly Bean Farm artists Ganesa & Squane. Ganesa is the label head of Jelly Bean Farm and her DJ sets tend to be eclectic and futuristic-sounding. Squane’s sound tends to be more low end heavy with thick, dubby bass beats but he and Ganesa share a seeming love of bright, mid-to-upper register melodically ethereal melodies. Newnumbertwo is a resident artist with Sorted whose deep house/dubstep sound mixes in elements of a gentle kind of breakcore.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Palehorse/Palerider
When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The second night of the Auto Club residency at the Hi-Dive this weekend but this time with Palehorse/Palerider, a band who are superficially an alchemical mixture of doom/drone and shoegaze but with an industrial/tribal element they bring in for a song or two in the set. Which doesn’t mean much when your sets have three or four songs but nevertheless gives a set of otherwise densely beautiful and crushing songs an expansive sensibility.

Sunday | May 13, 2018

ModestMouse-BenMoon-1
Modest Mouse, photo by Ben Moon

Who: Modest Mouse w/Mimicking Birds
When: Sunday, 05.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For a band that is one of the definitive incarnations of the too-broad-too-vague-yet-fittingly-umbrella quasi-genre of indie rock, Modest Mouse sure put in a lot of time developing its sound and songwriting style before becoming one of the style’s most iconic groups. Modest Mouse began when its founders were still in high school, it released its first seven inch on K Records, its first two full-lengths on Seattle indie imprint Up Records including its 1997 “breakthrough” album Lonesome Crowded West and every album since through major label Epic Records. Quite an arc for a band whose work remained fairly idiosyncratic, emotionally raw and imaginative even up to its most recent album, 2015’s Strangers to Ourselves. In its first decade or so of its existence, Modest Mouse was a notoriously inconsistent live band. But since then the act has seemingly harnessed the chaos and unpredictability of its youth when maybe there seemed to be less and stake and less to lose if it did all fall apart and channeled that spirit into music more coherent and accessible to a wider audience without having to sacrifice its uniqueness.

Monday | May 14, 2018

Rotstrotter_May13_2017_TomMurphy
Rotstrotter, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Petrification w/Rotstrotter, Alone and Noctambulist
When: Monday, 05.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Petrification is a death metal/grind band from Portland, Oregon on its way to Maryland Death Fest and making a stop in Denver to play with some of the local heavy hitters in that realm of music. The band called its 2017 cassette Summon Horrendous Destruction with a rotting zombie face rendered in black and white as the cover. At times the guitar riffs wander into the realm of The New Order-esque period Testament. But that is no bad thing. Rotstrotter have been one the longest-running, and frankly best, D-Beat bands in Denver. Sounding somewhere between SSD and early Discharge, Rotstrotter looks and sounds like they live it and that it’s not a simply a shallow lifestyle choice.

Who: Farrell Lowe Group, Latex Cupcake, Seward / Sexton, Gil Selinger
When: Monday, 05.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is a rare opportunity to see some of Colorado’s avant-garde improvisation legends at a DIY space. Farrell Lowe Group includes, of course, Farrell Lowe, Mark Raynes, Dave Willey and Mark Harris. The latter two are members of internationally renowned avant-prog band Thinking Plague. Latex Cupcake is Jennifer Bobola, John T. Nething, Bret Kuyper and Mark Emmons, all of whom have been around Denver playing in various capacities but this is the project’s first show and its, one might say, mutant version of experimental jazz/modern classical will be a great fit on this lineup including a solo cello performance with Gil Selinger and Seward / Sexton, which will be accessible and in the vein of lounge jazz but inspired more by Captain Beefheart and The Fugs than a standard jazz group.

Tuesday | May 15, 2018

CullenOmori-AlexaLopez_2015
Cullen Omori, photo by Alexa Lopez

Who: Cullen Omori w/The Gloomies and Rowboat
When: Tuesday, 05.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Cullen Omori’s 2016 album New Misery at least lets you know what you’re in for. As in imagine you were in one of the most buzzed about indie rock bands of the first half of the 2010s and then your band breaks up and you didn’t regroup with any of the other members. You’re left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out a way to keep doing the only thing that gave your life any real resonance. Perhaps a bit of a stretch but one can only imagine it’s something like the scene in Apocalypse Now where Willard discusses why he stayed in Vietnam and how it beat working in a factory in Ohio. To go from Smith Westerns and, in Denver anyway, playing the Ogden to playing small clubs. Willard dealt with it through self-harm and self-medication. Maybe Omori did some of that too, who’s to say? But what we do know is that despite its flaws and shortcomings, New Misery is the product of Omori’s tangling with the fallout, personal and creative, of going from being in a band on the verge of mainstream success to having to find a place for oneself doing the thing you love but which is also the source of some of your pain. That quality gives the record a bit of an uneven and at times cringeworthily honest quality but you don’t often get to hear that on what is essentially a pop record. For this show, you can see some of that music live but also, with any luck, a good deal of what Omori has been cooking up since then.

Who: Film On the Rocks: The Last Jedi feat. Church Fire
When: Tuesday, 05.15, 6 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Church Fire’s music sounds like it’s from some future, way-past-post-apocalypse-to-civilizational-rebirth dance club scene. Like synth pop delivered with a fiery intensity and noisy abandon. Sure, a lot of people are going to see a movie during the rainy season for some reason at a place where the wind will doppler the sound and the storms will make watching a movie borderline miserable. Or not. It is Colorado after all. But seeing Church Fire in that environment will make sense as the sun is setting and the diminishing rainclouds provide the perfect backdrop.

Wednesday | May 16, 2018

TVGirlLogo4
TV Girl log, image courtesy TV Girl

Who: TV Girl w/Wished Bone and Hairclub
When: Wednesday, 05.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The enigmatic pop band TV Girl makes a stop at the Hi-Dive this night. Its sound is like a hyper/surreal, tropicalia-inflected lounge pop. Like a Los Angeles sister band to Sweden’s Death And Vanilla. If someone could make music for a TV show about an America where the 80s never ended and we somehow had Ike back as the president. If Mad Men was a cyberpunk show but took place at a resort with none of the usual dystopian trappings, just life with everyday dramas set in a dreamlike place, an almost too clean place as exists in 60s 70s British science fiction shows. The band’s new album, Death of a Party Girl (read the statement on why the vinyl isn’t yet out because it’s dead on and witty) is an indie pop album that sounds like something that could only really come out of Southern California – hazy atmospheres, downtempo, wistful and soothing – but without any of the creeping insipidity that happens when too much industry input leeches music of any of its inherent character.

Best Shows in Denver 12/14/17 – 12/20/17

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo Joseph Nienstedt

Thursday: December 14, 2017

f-ether
f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether
When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.

 

Who: Prayers
When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.

Friday: December 15, 2017

The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro
When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.

Who: Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway
When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Deerpile
Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.

Saturday: December 16, 2017

Night Grinder
Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder
When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.

Who: Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.

2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.

Who: Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres
When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.

Sunday: December 17, 2017

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time
When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.

Monday: December 18, 2017

Gary Numan
Gary Numan, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1
When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.

Tuesday: December 19, 2017

Agnostic Front
Agnostic Front, photo by Todd Huber

Who: Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.

Who: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.

Wednesday: December 20, 2017

Mandy Yoches
Mandy Yoches circa December 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.

Who: Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.

Best Shows In Denver 10/19/17 – 10/25/17

Bell Witch
Bell Witch, photo by David Choe

 

October continues to be the busiest live music month for Denver but one with few if any festivals, thank goodness. As usual here are several offerings worthy of your attention.

Thursday: October 19, 2017

Who: Din Virulent & MGNLP w/Rasmussen and Juice Up 
When: Thursday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: This is basically a harsh noise show but one thing lost on people that either actively despise it or don’t get it at all is that most noise artists are completely unlike every other noise artist. Juice Up has some disorienting arrangements of samples and sounds that’s something like a completely unconventional rhythm but there is a humorous playfulness there. Rasmussen is John Rasmussen of Denver noise legends Page 27. Rasmussen’s solo output is so diverse in texture and tone that even his “harsh” noise sets tend to have a subtlety and nuance that suggests the serious composition and planning that undergirds sounds that aren’t trying to fit at all into a pop song format. Din Virulent sounds like what happens when you chain a few delay pedals together and have them feed back off each other while manipulating the signal for an effect like watching white noise on TV if that image was sound and occasionally felt like it was aggressively charging out at you.

Friday: October 20, 2017

Who: Tera Melos w/Speedy Ortiz, Holophrase and Meet Me In Montauk
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Tera Melos might be one of the more misunderstood bands of the last several years because it sounds like its member spent some time playing in one of Trey Spruance’s projects: lots of unusual rhythms and dynamics requiring a precise musicianship while not sounding too in the pocket; heavy guitars, disorienting tones and an alternating driving and and hanging melodies. Its 2017 album, Trash Generator, is like a math rock shoegaze album with a touch of brutal psychedelia. In that way Tera Melos could be said to be a bit of a musical cousin to noise rock phenoms Deerhoof. Speedy Ortiz sounds like it picked up where The Breeders and Throwing Muses left off in the mid-to-late 90s with captivating, fuzzy melodic songs that take a walk out of every day mundane life while commenting on that life with with and sensitivity. Holophrase is a Denver band that has come out of being a guitar-based indie rock band (albeit one that didn’t sound much like anything contemporary and only slightly like Magazine) into being a mostly electronics-based band with deep atmospheres and Malgorzata Stacha’s layered vocal melodies serving as an emotional and sonic locus for the group’s hypnotic, chilly soundscapes.

Who: Thurston Moore w/The Diary of Ic Explura
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: It is indeed Thurston Moore of influential No-Wave-and-punk-inflected rock band Sonic Youth. His new album, Rock and Roll Consciousness, showcases Moore’s gift for writing moody pop songs bolstered by dynamic and complex yet tasteful guitar work. It’s melancholy stuff but much of Moore’s best material is yet he also manages to lend his songwriting a thoughtfulness not mired by despair. He can create a gritty image and imbue it with some future hopefulness not yet obvious in the moment he documents in his words—being in the moment but knowing that you can never fully get stuck there unless you try really hard. The Diary of Ic Explura is Toni Oswald’s ambient, sound collage experiments that she sculpts into coherent songs by adding instrumentation to elements that aren’t necessarily inherently musical. Like musique concrète with a soundtrack. Which is nothing new in the world of avant-garde music but Oswald’s vibrant and transporting music demonstrates well how noise and composition can work together.

Who: The Juan MacLean
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Deep Club 3rd Fridays brings The Juan MacLean to a relatively small venue. John MacLean’s first chapter in influential music came with his tenure as a guitarist for Providence, Rhode Island-based, experimental post-hardcore band Six Finger Satellite. The band was an early practitioner of fusing electronic elements with the usual punk rock instrumentation and operating in the same musical realm as bands like Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer—though predating them all. When SFS split near the turn of the century, MacLean left music for a few years before Six Finger Satellite’s sound engineer, James Murphy (who some may know as starting DFA Records and as a member of LCD Soundsystem) helped convince him to make music again. But instead of doing the noisy punk stuff he’d been doing, MacLean focused instead on forward thinking electronic music and a mutant form of modern disco. And that’s what you can more or less expect at this event.

Who: Don Strasburg, Cuckoo, Ashley Koett
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Cafe
Why: Don Strasburg isn’t just a clever name for a band. The Boulder-based outfit doesn’t bother to trace any lines on the punk rock spectrum but fans of modern, mathy emo will find something to like but so will anyone that is into the most genre-bending, noisy post-hardcore. Cuckoo is lo-fi dream pop that would have fit in well on the Siltbreeze imprint or so it’s 2016 album Mermaid’s Don’t Exist would suggest. For fans of stuff like early Sebadoh, Eat Skull, Times New Viking, No Age and Microphones. — update, Don Strasburg no longer on the bill, now Terremoto.

Who: Allout Helter & Black Dots FEST sendoff w/faim, The Larimers, Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Fest has been happening in Gainesville every year since 2002. It’s a mostly punk festival and this year’s festival includes the likes of Against Me!, Pegboy, Hot Water Music, Beach Slang, City of Caterpillar, Hum, Snapcase, Atom and His Package and Rainer Maria. But it will also feature Denver political punk thrashers Allout Helter and melodic hardcore band Black Dots. Sure, both bands play Denver regularly but here they are on one bill to send them on their way to one of punk’s most prestigious festivals.

Saturday: October 21, 2017

Who: Afghan Whigs w/Har Mar Superstar
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Afghan Whigs both predated and embodied what was great about the alternative rock era. The group started as a kind of garage rock band but infusing that sound with soul and R&B, with lyrics revealing a keen insight into human psychology, yielded some of the best records of the 90s. 1993’s Gentlemen was the band’s major label debut, after an independently released 1988 debut and two fine records for Sub Pop, and the record that was a departure from the fuzzy psychedelia of its earlier efforts. As “alternative rock” was running out of steam by the middle of the decade, Afghan Whigs continued to write and record vital music for 1996’s Black Love and 1998’s 1965 before the band amicably split in 2001. Singer Greg Dulli kept on battling his personal demons in other projects throughout the 2000s but in 2011 Afghan Whigs announced it was reuniting. A lot of bands from the alternative rock world have reunited and most of them have had respectable tours and the Whigs were no different. Dulli was and is an electrifying frontman and the band’s performance startlingly powerful overall. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2017 release In Spades. Har Mar Superstar has stylistically been all over the map from silly hip-hop early in the life of the project (Sean Tillman is also in pop band Sean Na Na) to a more Motown-esque soul and R&B sound while often performing all but nude and making an oddly compelling spectacle of himself. But the music is legit and if it’s tongue in cheek it is in the way that only someone with a deep respect for the musical style could pull off.

Who: Sound of Ceres album release of The Twin, Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms
When: Saturday, 10.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: When Ryan and Karen Hover started Sound of Ceres in 2015, setting aside their dreamy indie pop band Candy Claws for the time being, they seemed to be tapping into a daydream realm of freely associating ideas and sounds and something about the purity, honesty and transcendent beauty of the music translated well onto the recording of 2016’s Nostalgia for Infinity. On the 2017 follow-up, The Twin, the band is spending less time drifting through shimmering gossamer and luminous fog. The minimalist songwriting approach this time leaves enough space for greater clarity of tone and distinctness of sounds working in conjunction with each other. It is not a better record but it sounds very focused. Denver dream pop greats Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms open the show potentially opening a vortex into some realm Lord Dunsany would have written about. At least emotionally speaking. Vampires and werewolves aren’t real either, kids.

Who: Torres w/The Dove & The Wolf 
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Torres is an artist like PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, EMA or John Vanderslice who are difficult to pigeonhole, whose high imaginative and powerful work cannot be reduced to a simple genre. Mackenzie Scott, the person behind Torres, doesn’t limit her songwriting to a single instrument so her sound has a layered cohesion even as it sounds like she’s going off the rails. There is an honesty, power and vulnerability to her music that comes across perhaps most vividly on her new record, Three Futures. Interestingly enough, Mackenzie got Rob Ellis, a longtime collaborator with PJ Harvey, as well as Portishead’s Adrian Utley.

Who: The Rotten Blue Menace reunion show w/Short Bus Rejects, The Beat Seekers, The Beeves and Sentry Dogs
When: Saturday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: The Rotten Blue Menace spent a few years being one of the most entertaining and active ska bands in Denver so it’s only appropriate that it would have its reunion show sharing the stage with a band it likely influenced, Short Bus Rejects, who are playing their final show this night. It won’t all be ska or ska punk because street punkers Sentry Dogs and melodic grunge wonders The Beeves will fill out the bill.

Who: Kitty Crimes (DJ set), Snubluck, DJ Polyphoni and Just, Kevin
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: Kitty Crimes is normally a fast rapper with some explicit content in her lyrics and always pretty entertaining. For the DJ set who knows what might be in the mix because Maria Kohler, aka Kitty Crimes, has fairly diverse taste in music and the rest of the night will be some form of electronic dance music including experimental beatmaker and soundscaper, Snubluck.

Sunday: October 22, 2017

Who: Daikaiju w/TripLip, Kenaima and Chaff
When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Since 1999, surf rock band Daikaiju from Huntsville, Alabama, has been performing shows that are the stuff of legend. Fire, acrobatics, the kind of exuberant energy that’s impossible to not be swept up in at the show. They play in costume so you might think of them being, overall, something like Peelander Z and Crash Worship, lucha libre and kabuki. People often use the word “chaotic” to describe the show and fair enough but more like an explosion of fun. Also playing the show is TripLip, which is comprised of people who used to live at the late, great Five Points Denver DIY venue Mouth House. TripLip is more psych and prog but very much in the same spirit as Daikaiju, a band that somehow hosted Daikaiju’s wild live show more than once in a residential neighborhood.

Who: A Giant Dog w/SPELLS and Class President
When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s odd that Austin’s A Giant Dog hasn’t broken to a much larger audience. But for now count yourself lucky you’re getting to see the band in smaller venues in Denver for now. Its rowdy, tuneful mélange of early glam rock, punk and power pop is celebratory without coming off insincere. That’s probably because the songs are about things that anyone that isn’t living a glamorous or pampered life can relate to and delivered with an unlikely combination of vulnerability and conviction. In 2017, A Giant Dog released Toy, its most fully-realized album to date, through Merge Records. Denver’s SPELLS is cut from a similar cloth as a brash, minimalist punk band not short on melody in its own right.

Monday: October 23, 2017

Who: Daikaiju, TripLip and Today’s Paramount
When: Monday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: For Daikaiju and TripLip see above. Today’s Paramount is sort of a psychedelic jazz rock band with touches of carnival music and ska. But it works and Today’s Paramount doesn’t sound much like anything else in Denver except for maybe a band where the chops, songwriting and humor are blended together well and developed to a high degree like The Inactivists.

Who: Shadows Tranquil, Voight, Equine
When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Shadows Tranquil is a band including longtime music fan, often threatening to be musician, finally is, Doran Robischon, and this is the band’s EP release show. Knowing Robischon’s taste for noise, witchouse, dark atmospheric music and stuff on the moody spectrum of all of that, his band will probably be interesting. Voight is the post-punk band that has interwoven strong strains of noisy shoegaze and industrial. Equine is the solo project of Kevin Richards and it’s guitar soundscaping stuff that comes off like a sculpted version of ambient and musique concrète.

Who: Hissing w/SUTEKH HEXEN, Of Feather and Bone, Worm Ouroboros, Vermin Womb and Casket Huffer
When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Hissing and Sutekh Hexen recently released a split record, fitting since both are more on the brooding end of death grind. Disorienting, hypnotic pummeling through sound and rhythm. Minimalistic yet loud and aggressive. Both are in good company with the rest of this bill. Of Feather and Bone is certainly the more in-your-face style of deathgrind that is thankfully too alienating for casual fans of metal. Vermin Womb is similarly-minded but has more hanging dynamics and sounds closer to the roiling chaos bordering on nasty atmospherics in some black metal. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Casket Huffer has a flavor that still has some connection to thrash, at least in the guitar work. Oakland’s Worm Ouroboros, however, will be a bit of an anomaly with its beautifully expansive, minimalistic and melodic, ethereal metal rooted in themes of nature and humankind’s relationship with the environment. If you’re fans of SubRosa, Dreadnought and Wolvserpent you’ll probably find something to like about Worm Ouroboros. Update: Worm Ouroboros no longer on the bill, instead Un, the “Aetherical Doom” band from Seattle. Also, it appears Sutekh Hexen dropped out of the show too.

Tuesday: October 24, 2017

Who: Hans-Joachim Roedelius w/Xambuca and Dream Hike
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 10 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Hans-Joachim Roedelius is one of the true pioneers of krautrock and synthesizer-based music generally. His diverse body of work influenced the development of the aforementioned as well as new age music, psychedelic rock, ambient and electronic music generally. He was one of the co-founders of Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin in 1968, one of the most important spots for experimental music and the avant-garde of its time. Along with Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius he formed Kluster (later Cluster after Schnitzler left the group), a band for which any idea seemed a go and its’ mixture of standard rock band instrumentation (albeit used toward unorthodox ends), cello, synths, feedback manipulation and unusual devices to use in music like car batteries and signal generators. Kluster didn’t exactly hit the charts but its legacy of experimentation and recontextualizing sounds continues to this day.

Roedelius has since then been a prolific artist whose projects (solo and otherwise) and collaborations have pushed the boundaries and horizons of experimental music and synthesizers. With Cluster and Harmonia, Roedelius took truly unusual and groundbreaking musical ideas and made them accessible. Cluster collaborated with Brian Eno on 1978’s ambient music classic After the Heat. In the next decade Roedelius’ work helped to refine and further define the aesthetic of techno. But, interestingly enough, Roedelius’ most prolific years came in his mid-sixties around the turn of the century. This is a rare opportunity to witness one of the founders of modern music and especially at a small and intimate venue like The Mercury Café.

Who: Ariel Pink w/Bite Marx
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ariel Pink as much as Animal Collective and Deerhunter can be said to have been responsible for inspiring a whole generation of musicians to use reverb on their vocals and guitars in an attempt to create a dreamlike soundscape that pre-dated the full-on psychedelic rock revival by half a decade. Except that those three acts did that and pushed the aesthetic further than most of the people they influenced. AC released a few of Ariel Pink’s earlier records before he was a touring act or one that played live much at all. To his credit, like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, every one of Ariel Pink’s albums pushes his own envelope and his new record, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, is a fitting homage to the late, great cult songwriter of transporting psych folk.

Who: Dinosaur Jr w/Easy Action
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the clear draw for this show and rightfully so. The band has inspired more great guitar music to have come along since the early 80s out of proportion to their level of fame than most other bands you could name. Certain an influence on shoegaze, noise rock, alternative rock in general and any kind of left field music that dares to use guitar sounds with a nod to classic rock virtuosity and punk rock’s willingness to repurpose and deconstruct rock tropes. But get there early and catch one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock music in John Brannon of Easy Action. One, the band is like a psychedelic version of Black Flag with that kind of forcefulness and ability to write guitar riffs that also disorient the senses. Brannon first came to the attention of most people in the know with his hardcore band Negative Approach. But in the mid 80s, Brannon formed legendary noise rock band Laughing Hyenas with the late Larissa Stolarchuk, Jim Kimball and Kevin Munro. For a decade the band set a high bar for intense live performances and songs that really articulated the harrowing struggle between desperation, inspiration and dreams of a more meaninful existence. Easy Action formed near the turn of the century and alongside a re-formed version of Negative Approach it has been Brannon’s outlet for his unique vocal style that is as terrifying as it is riveting.

Who: Tei Shi w/Twelve’len
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Valerie Teicher was born in Buenos Aires and spent part of her childhood in Bogotá and Vancouver, BC. So maybe somewhere along the line her knack for gently but vibrantly soulful vocals started to develop. However it happened, her early singles as Tei Shi found an audience among fans in her then adopted home city of New York, where she moved after attending Berklee. After a string of acclaimed EPs, Teicher released her 2017 full-length Crawl Space. It is an expansive gem of a downtempo, R&B-inflected synth pop album named after a place Teicher used to go to confront her fears of darkness. An apt metaphor for the various situations (emotional, social, professional, personal and so forth) Teicher discusses with nuance and insight across the album’s fifteen tracks.

Who: Dayglo Abortions w/Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: With a name like Dayglo Abortions the Canadian punk band was never going to have to worry about being co-opted by mainstream music outlets. During its existence, Dayglo Abortions have been punk, hardcore and crossover but its messaging has been the same—a big middle finger of irreverence for mainstream normalcy. Read the track list to the 1986 classic Feed Us a Fetus and you might even wonder where this band is coming from except for a healthy and vitriolically humorous disdain for right wing politics and racism and other aspects of Western culture that make it a bummer for anyone trying to live an authentic life. This is also the band that named its 1991 album Two Dogs Fucking. That level of surrealistic humor and pointed political statements didn’t exactly end, thank goodness. Opening the show are Denver’s Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service, all great punk bands that aren’t just irreverently funny but who have some fairly pointed commentary on the ills of American society.

Who: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/Ritual Aesthetic and DJ Ritual
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is celebrating its 30 year anniversary with this tour so they’ll be playing a whole lot of early albums Confessions of a Knife (1990) and I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits (1988) so you’ll get to see some vintage material. The show is the best kind of spectacle and it perfectly blends B-movie horror kitsch, a carnival, trash culture and industrial dance music into an inspired whole. Chances are it will be one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year even if you’re not necessarily into industrial music. DJ Ritual will spin his relatively eclectic set at the show and between bands. Ritual Aesthetic is an industrial rock band from Denver in the vein of stuff like Electric Hellfire Club and Stabbing Westward when that band is more industrial than metal.

Wednesday: October 25, 2017

Who: Arcade Fire w/Bomba Estereo
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Arcade Fire quickly became one of the most popular of early 2000s indie rock bands following the release of its 2004 debut album Funeral. On that tour the band played in Denver at Hi-Dive and Larimer Lounge. By the time Neon Bible came out in 2007, Arcade Fire had become too commercially successful to play small clubs. And that’s where it cold have ended with all the pressures of the music industry guiding the band into tried and true territory. But Arcade Fire actually risked alienating fans with 2013’s Reflektor and its emphasis on the electronic side of the band’s soundscapes. For 2017’s Everything Now, the band recruited Pulp’s Steve Mackey, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Geoff Barrow of Portishead to come in and do production work and the resulting set of songs is lush and has a warm, sweeping quality that one might expect out of a 70s glam rock record. As such the live show is sure to not skimp on a visual component to aid in the elevated tone of the songwriting. It’s kind of a past time of music critics and older fans to trash Arcade Fire today but it’s arguable the band is writing the most interesting music of its career by being willing to push forward instead of sticking to what some people think is what they do best. Bomba Estéreo is an alternative Cumbia band from Colombia.

Who: KMFDM w/OhGr and DJ Ritual at Summit Music Hall
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Kein Merheit Für Die Mitleid does not in fact mean “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,” per the long-running joke. The industrial band was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1984 and has undergone numerous incarnations and stylistic shifts from its early performance art-oriented shows to its full embrace of bombastic kitsch, sardonic humor and thoughtful social critique. You can probably start anywhere to get an idea of what the band’s music is about but for beginners give 1997’s Symbols a listen. Which is appropriate enough because Ogre from Skinny Puppy will perform his solo material as OhGr as a kind of co-headliner for this show. His set lists have included a good deal of material from Welt and SunnyPsyOp. And it’s Ogre so his set will have plenty of the inspired weirdness that has made him one of industrial music’s most interesting performers and artists. And who knows, maybe he’ll join KMFDM on stage for “Torture” as he did during KMFDM’s tour for that album in the 90s.

Who: Guided by Voices
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Robert Pollard is by now both a godfather of modern lo-fi rock and one of its most accomplished and prolific artists. Had he ended Guided By Voices after 1994’s epochal Bee Thousand he would still be a legend. But 18 albums later, Pollard is still going strong with two 2017 albums: August By Cake (Pollard’s 100th recorded album) and How Do You Spell Heaven. Not every song is a winner but even Bob’s “lesser” material is worth a spin. The live show is an unabashed flood of splintery rock and roll in an era when there’s too much emphasis on being smooth and polished or faking grit. There’s no fake grit with Guided by Voices except maybe as an inside joke with fans and the audience.

Who: Glasss Records presents The Artists of Glasss and Friends: Princess Dewclaw, RAREBYRD$, Bianca Mikahn, Gold Trash, Juniordeer, EVP, Abeasity Jones, Pearls and Perils, Super Macho and Chromadrift as well as Adam Selene and Nighttimeschoolbus
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Alamo Drafthouse – Sloans Lake
Why: This is a big showcase for Denver experimental music imprint Glasss Records and it includes some of the Mile High City’s most interesting bands and guests like alternative hip-hop group Nighttimeschoolbus.This show is a great opportunity to get a taste of a lot of what the artists on the label have to offer as they won’t be playing full sets.

Who: Bell Witch w/Primitive Man, Urn and Oryx
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Seattle-based doom band Bell Witch released one of the genre’s most haunting and crushing albums of 2017 with Mirror Reaper. The duo manage to conjure spectral horror and primal energies crying out in drawn out triumph with processed bass, drums and vocals. A perfect pairing with tourmates Primitive Man from Denver whose own 2017 album Caustic not only beyond lives up to and embodies the album title, it is an evocation of sustained despair, desperation and frustrated rage transmogrified into colossal and punishing songs that somehow also serve as a catharsis and a channel into an inner peace that are the opposite of the songs themselves. Opener Oryx is a sort of doom grind duo and the other opening act, Urn, injects some psychedelic elements into its own brand of doom. Probably the loudest show of the week outside of that Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action show on October 24 but also easily one of the best lineups of heavy music all month.

Best Shows in Denver 9/15 – 9/20

Widowspeak
Widowspeak, photo by Kyle Jacques

Now that Trump and the Democrats have struck a bargain about the budget and DACA, maybe we can all take a break and check out a great show happening in Denver (or beyond as some of the acts listed below are on tour).

P.S.: “Goddamn-dipshit-Rodriguez-gypsy-dildo-punks. I’ll get your ass.” — RIP Harry Dean Stanton

Who: Church Fire, Giardia, Deer Creek and The Pollution 
When: Friday, 9.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: The Pollution is essentially a psychedelic punk band done by people who are punks who like Hawkwind. Bassist Jay Fox was (sometimes still is) in DC hardcore band United Mutation. But given his having spent a great deal of time in the Southern hemisphere including New Zealand, Fox’s musical tastes are eclectic and there’s plenty of that Kiwi rock influence in his music today. Meaning The Pollution could never be a standard punk act. Church Fire makes synth-beat-driven pop music with a passionate intensity worthy of any the heavier rock bands on this bill. And yet, somehow, singer Shannon Webber amidst her ritualistic performances, manages to inject just a twinge of humor—a quality welcome in music that, while immediately danceable, addresses serious social and political issues with an unblinking ferocity. Okay, maybe some blinking.

Who: Speakeasy Series: Rare Byrd$, Abeasity Jones
When: Friday, 9.15, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Experimental hip-hop show in a basement of a coffee shop? Not the first time but in this case you’ll get a chance to see one of the most promising acts in Denver or anywhere with Rare Byrd$. The group has incredibly soulful flow and its beatmaking combines the finely sculpted low end of 90s gangsta rap and ambient and psychedelic music in that it’s as hypnotic as it is mind-expanding. Easy to compare to cLOUDDEAD, Deep Puddle Dynamics and early Atmosphere but only in the sense that all are rooted in imaginative soundscaping and poignantly truthful poetry.

Who: Post-Punk Piano/Vocal Covers Night w/Todd Loomis of The Twilight Garden and The Siren Project
When: Friday, 9.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Todd Loomis of Goth/dark dream pop band The Twilight Garden along with like-minded Denver-based act The Siren Project will perform songs by the likes of INXS, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Switchblade Symphony, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, Morrissey, Bauhaus, Ladytron, Garbage and more. Loomis will also play some songs you wouldn’t expect by artists like Roy Orbison, Elvis, Otis Redding, John McLaughlin, Metallica and Sinead O’Connor. What makes this different from cover bands playing the usual sort of gig is that neither set of artists generally does covers and the interpretations are likely to be interesting.

Who: Blanket Empire w/Silver Face and Quantum Creep 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Blanket Empire is releasing its latest album, Hymn For the Heartless at this show. Superficially Blanket Empire sounds like its members recently ditched that wave of music miming classic rock in favor more unusual influences and embraced modern sensibilities as much as those classic. Maybe these guys listened to a lot of T. Rex, Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin for big, warping sounds. But the lo-fi charm of its album is reminiscent of Jay Reatard’s masterful blend of raw rock and roll and a sophisticated sense of melody and songwriting has been a massive influence on underground music even before his untimely passing in 2010.

Who: Vic N’ the Gnarwhals, Surf Mom and Monocle Stache
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Vic N’ The Gnarwhals do that rare thing where the music has a familiar vibe, one might dub it psychedelic surf rock for the blend of styles, and thus very tangible. But there’s a mysterious undertone to its songs suggestive of noir cinema even when its songs get a little out there. Surf Mom used to be kind of a surf rock band, sort of still is, but the band has evolved greatly since it debuted a couple of years go. How many surf rock bands cover Christian Death? But the influences with this duo are broad ranging and since its members are still in high school you have to think they’re going to outgrow what inspires them now or at least take the music in new directions.

Who: Lotus w/Com Truise and Nosaj Thing
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Lotus is basically an EDM jam band. For some people this sounds like the combination of two terrible things. And Lotus may not be for you. Lots of jazz overtones like an electro version of Galactic. But what would you expect of a jam band? Nevertheless, Lotus is respectable live band. But if you want to catch some of the more interesting electronic acts playing more mainstream venues these days, check out Nosaj Thing and Com Truise. The former is a hip-hop artist who has done production work for Kendrick Lamar, Busdriver and Chance the Rapper. His own albums, though tend to be more like ambient dance music with deep low end coursing over and under drifting, vivid melodies. On his 2013 album Home, he featured Blonde Redhead singer Kazu Makino on the song “Eclipse/Blue.” So his musical range and interests are not limited to just a single genre of music. Com Truise came to prominence in the underground through fans of analog synth-based dance music several years back. But his science fiction themed albums caught on with a wider audience not just because Seth Haley is a talented songwriter but he was able to take what could have been simply a lo-fi aesthetic best experienced in a small venue with small sound system and render it suitable for a much larger format of presentation.

Who: Stiff Little Fingers w/Death By Unga Bunga 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast, Ireland, were an anecdote in the film High Fidelity for a reason. It’s scrappy, melodic outbursts, as found on its classic, aptly titled, 1979 album Inflammable Material, found an immediate influence but its enduring impact was on the early pop punk scene in America. Although the band broke up in 1982, it reconvened in 1987 and have been actively releasing albums and touring since. Plus, if recent shows are any indication, these guys still play like the world could end tomorrow.

Who: Sonic Vomit, Condor & Jaybird (IA), Harikiri (MN) and Kwantsu Dudes 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Pueblo’s Sonic Vomit probably gets broad brushed as a death metal or grindcore band. But it’s avant-garde and jazz side aren’t exactly subtle or hidden. It just makes the band’s music more unsettling and, frankly, more interesting than something straight ahead couched in a heavy metal subgenre. Which makes its pairing with Condor & Jaybird, a psychedelic band from Iowa rooted in that kind of psych that could have come out of a cult like The Source Family with folk song structure but one using non-Western instrumentation and sounds.

Who: TOPS w/She-Devils 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Superficially, TOPS is a Canadian band that makes the kind of light pop music reminiscent of the kind that did well on record charts in the mid-to-late 70s through the 80s. But the secret of many of the songs from that timeframe too is that, yes, discussed the usual everyday life struggles, but in a way that commented on the emptiness and dissatisfaction that is at the core of every society in which the best most people can hope for is a job that doesn’t suck too bad, spending the rest of one’s life with someone you get along with okay even after the rush of early love has long since passed and resign oneself to a beige reality knowing deep down it never needed to be that way. TOPS’ music sounds like the sinking realization of that sort of thing but with more than a shade of the knowledge of what could make life be more fulfilling. That aside, the band’s songs are true gems of indie pop songcraft with words that dig more than a little deeply at the quiet desperation of 21st century urban living.

Who: Micah Schnabel, Sour Boy Bitter Girl and The Swindlin’ Hearts 
When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: It’s difficult to say whether, at this point, Micah Schnabel is better known for his solo career or for his band Two Cow Garage. Either way, Schnabel’s take on alt-country is self-critical and he has a real gift for puncturing his own pretensions of years past and foolish notions he might entertain in the present. In that way one might compare him to comedians like Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford who are keenly aware of their own shortcomings and turn them into their best work. Sour Boy Bitter Girl couldn’t be a more well-named band considering the music. Benjamin Buttice seems to have few qualms in laying out his twitchy psyche out for the audience. Every neurosis, fear and flaw is mixed in with his honest and poetic portrayal of life as its experienced, the only filter seeming to be to make it relatable to other people. The band probably gets labeled alt-country or the like as well but like Schnabel’s, Buttice’s songwriting transcends simple genre designation. It just feels vitally authentic in a format of music tends to hold few surprises.

Who: Witchtrap (Colombia), Nekrofilth, Weaponizer and Skeid 
When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Colombian thrash band Witchtrap makes an appearance at the Hi-Dive. Also on the bill are death grind band Nekrofilth, black metal thrashers Weaponizer and “Barbarian black metal” band Skeid. What is that whole Barbarian business about? Listen to their 2017 split release with Morgue Whore and it makes sense because it sounds like the kind of pulsing, low-end heavy stuff Conan would listen to if he could.

 

Who: GGOOLLDD w/Time Scale 
When: Tuesday, 9.19 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Before starting GGOOLLDD with her bandmates in 2014, Margaret Butler was someone who got out of high school and got out of her home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After a stint of subsistence living in Portland, Oregon, she was invited by friends to spend some time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but it was there that things came together for Butler when she heard the right music that made he want to sing along and soon enough GGOOLLDD became a bit of a local phenomenon before taking its synth pop, crafted to cinematic proportions to stages far and wide. The band isn’t yet playing large theaters regularly but its music is written to that scale. In December the band will release its latest EP, Teeth on Roll Call Records.

Who: Widowspeak w/Death Valley Girls and Clearance
When: Tuesday, 9.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death Valley Girls have done a magic trick in turning campy musical and performance elements into a powerful live band that has the kind of bombast and raw power of L7 or Bikini Kill complimented by an elegant atmospheric side that recalls Cocteau Twins. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work but it just makes DVG more interesting than any surface level assessment of the band could convey outside the live setting even though the band’s records capture some of this essence nicely. Headlining the bill is Widowspeak, a band also known to upset expectations in the best way. Its’ ethereal melodies have an introspective shimmer reminiscent of Mojave 3, The Sundays and Mazzy Star. Its latest record, 2017’s Expect the Best out on Captured Tracks, finds the band exploring a broader palette of sounds seemingly emphasizing texture and rhythm as much as tone and its signature sweeping vistas of dreamy melodies.

Who: Ride w/Lo Moon and DJ Paul Italiano 
When: Wednesday, 9.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: In June 2017, British shoegaze legends Ride released Weather Diaries, its first album in twenty-one years. This in the wake of a successful reunion tour in 2015. And like its contemporaries, Slowdive, the new record is a worthy entry in its already respectable extant catalog. The term “shoegaze” is known to have been an insult to bands operating pedals in order to execute their mindbending sounds. What is missed in such a nickname, now minus the negative connotations, is that many of those bands, Ride in particular, did more rocking than shoegazing. As several bands in the 2000s embraced the visceral sound sculpting of 90s shoegazers, the old guard has enjoyed a renaissance and to the credit of most, they came back with new musical ideas that didn’t sound like a tired second act. Those fortunate enough to have caught Ride since it’s been back got to see a band that re-established its reputation as one of the great live bands of its era. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based dream pop phenoms, Lo Moon. The band has released a few singles that hint at the kind of band that has the sophisticated songcraft and soulfulness of a band like Talk Talk and the knack for crafting evocative atmospheres that have made Perfume Genius one of the most interesting modern artists. But Lo Moon isn’t standing in anyone’s stylistic shadow and its beautifully brooding songs may yet be released on a full length album before the year is out. Get to the show early and catch one of the most promising new bands of the last several years.