Who:I Heart Monkey Mania: Mr. Pacman, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Cyclo-Sonic and Moon Pussy, visuals by Chris Bagley When: Thursday, 07.26, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Mr. Pacman is not a band that should be dismissed as mere gimmick. Yes, the band dresses up like characters from a cosplay of some weird, ancient Japanese video game. But it’s live drums, keytar, electronic drums and other instrumentation with, indeed, fairly silly songs but performed with a disorienting intensity and earnestness. At times it’s fun but moderately scary. Which is what any good band should be at least once in a while. Mr. Pacman is that pretty much every time. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is a more out downtempo band and Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of Denver punk legends The Rok Tots, Choosey Mothers and The Frantix. Chris Bagley, one of the filmmakers of the 2008 documentary Wesley Willis’ Joyrides, will provide visuals and make it even more of a trip.
Who:Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series Season 2 Finale w/Brother Saturn, Equine, VAHCO, MYTHirst, Bowshock When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This is the final show of the second season of Glasss Records’ The Speakeasy Series. It’ll be more of an ambient show with Brother Saturn’s soothing and abstract guitar and synth collages, Equine’s avant-guitar drone and beats, VAHCO’s beat-driven soul,. MYTHirst’s bright soundscapes and ukulele and whatever it is one might call Bowshock’s mixture of influences from space rock, reggae and improvisational composition.
Who:Har Mar Superstar sings Sam Cooke When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Har Mar Superstar cleaned up but good for this series of shows in which he dresses up in a suit and tie (which may or may not come off before the set is over in the weather Denver has been experiencing as of late). Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar) and his band will perform several of Sam Cooke’s classic R&B hits and maybe even some deep cuts. Seeing as Har Mar’s usual schtick is singing R&B and soul and making a spectacle of himself but pulling off the singing like he was born to it, this is not a huge leap for the performer. And at this time, the socially conscious end of Cooke’s music seems more relevant than ever.
Friday | July 27, 2018
Who:Red Baraat When: Friday, 07.27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Where: Clyfford Still Museum Why: Red Baraat’s syncretic pop spans South Asian musical styles, Western funk, Afrobeat and Caribbean pop to create something that’s celebratory, immediately accessible and deep. The sprawling band is playing this free concert at Clyfford Still Museum in central Denver in the wake of the release of its latest record, 2018’s Sound The People. With its cultural scope and implicit message of human unity, Red Baraat’s music is an international call of all people to come together to resist the rising wave of aggressive authoritarianism plaguing the world today. Beyond the heady messaging, Red Baraat is a reminder that sprawling, seemingly improvisational compositions needn’t be the pure realm of jam bands and that it is a component of popular musical styles across the world.
Who:SUPER PARTY Day 1: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Friday, 07.27,7 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: This parallel event to the UMS amidst the dense and varied offerings there is out on by the boutique Remixed Gifts and the Denver culture-centered comic ‘zine Hot Sauce the Dog written and drawn by the gifted singer-songwriter Rachael Pollard whose new band DEN |V|OTHER will kick off the event at 7 p.m. followed by Joe Sampson at 8 and R A R E B Y R D $ at 9. Simply some of the best people from Denver you can see at any time. The event runs two days picking up again on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. with Bonnie Weimer.
Who:Larians, Real Gongs, Jumanjuhad When: Friday, 07.27, 8:30 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall Why: Larians is Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons’ IDM/experimental electronic project and Real Gongs is that of Male Blonding guitarist Bryce Navin. If the UMS is too much or not of interest for whatever reason or if you have some time Friday night, highly recommended. Who: Denver Broncos UK, Echo Beds, Simulators and Shadows Tranquil When: Friday, 07.27, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Denver Broncos UK is sort of a post-punk side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club so a good fit with math-y post punk duo Simulators (think like Shellac but stripped down to even more of the bare essentials) and Echo Beds whose forthcoming album Buried Language (due out August 18 on The Flenser) pushes their harsh organic-industrial soundscape further than previous boundaries.
Saturday | July 28, 2018
Who:SUPER PARTY Day 2: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog When: Saturday, 07.28, 2 p.m. Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway Why: Day 2 of SUPER PARTY, a free event amidst the UMS. The following is today’s schedule: 2 – Bonnie Weimer, 3 – Jen Korte, 3:45 Ted Thacker of The Red Tack, 4:30 Andy Thomas solo, 5:30 Kissing Party, 6:30 Teacup Gorilla
Who:Car Seat Headrest w/Naked Giants When: Saturday, 07.28, 8 p.m. Where:The Gothic Theatre Why: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest is one of the most prolific and interesting songwriters of his generation. Having put out nine albums independently before signing to Matador in 2015, Toledo clearly didn’t need a label but the distribution and marketing arm of one helped to get his music to a wider audience. The new Car Seat Headrest album, 2018’s Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), is brimming with what has made the band impossible to dismiss with lazy genre designations. Vocals that sometimes soar with an upsweep of deeply felt emotion, sometimes speak quietly about the concerns of the moment that flood your mind and won’t let go. Lo-fi guitar composition in the vein of maybe a Pavement or Sebadoh but informed more by underground rock of the 2000s like Jay Reatard’s more sublimely ethereal moments and more modern lo-fi stars like No Age, Times New Viking and artists from the Siltbreeze imprint. Beyond just the sonics, though, the new record is an exploration of the concerns, anxieties and self-image of a young person in an era when destructive, and self-destructive messages, have been repackaged and made to seem like a viable option. Car Seat Headrest’s new album is a compassionte and vibrant rejection of much of that as well as a suggestion of a path of discovery/rediscovery of what’s truly important in one’s life.
Tuesday | July 31, 2018
Who:Weezer and the Pixies w/Sleigh Bells When: Tuesday, 07.31, 5 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Weezer got to be in on the tail end of the legitimate wave of alternative rock in the early 90s. Its 1994 self-titled album, “The Blue Album,” yielded a couple of hits with “Buddy Holly” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The crunchy melodies and quiet-loud dynamics pioneered by groups like Mission of Burma and Pixies, who had then recently split, continued the tradition of nerdy punk rockers making music that took that spirit of punk to different places. Weezer could have been another fuzzy, alternative rock/pop punk band with that kind of sunny Southern California flavor. But Weezer’s songs, even when it’s indulging in some fun-loving goofiness, had at its core an impulse to resist being pigeonholed or musically fitting into a specific trend.
After its first record, singer Rivers Cuomo wanted to change gears dramatically and nearly made a science fiction-themed concept album but what came out instead is what could be argued is the band’s most artistically interesting record to date, 1996’s Pinkerton and its darkly conflicted lyrics. Cuomo has since all but disavowed the album as a reminder of a painful time. And to Weezer’s credit, the group has not spent its time as a band trying to recapture past glory. Its most recent full-length album, 2017’s Pacific Daydream, reflects not only Cuomo’s personal alienation but the anomy of our time when many people feel a disconnect with the lives they might want, however modest the aspiration, and the reality we face with diminished expectations. A melancholy set of songs? Maybe not obviously so but despite the title, a song like “Beach Boys” sounds like something that, psychologically speaking, was written in a vast room lit only by small windows on a cloudy day reminiscing about what once brought one joy. Like a less dire but no less impactful musical version of William Friedkin’s depiction of life in the City of Angels.
That Weezer is co-headlining with Pixies seems fitting. Both bands find themselves perhaps having to reinvent themselves for the current era even as their back catalog speaks for itself. Pixies are obviously the influential alternative rock band from Boston, darlings of college radio in the late 80s and early 90s and breaking up with its legacy intact. The band’s humor, unhinged energy, idiosyncratic songwriting filled with seething emotion, delicacy of feeling, have kept its music fresh decades onward. Like any band worth its salt, Pixies also produced new music post 2003 reunion once its internal dynamics leveled out. The group’s first album with former touring, now permanent, bassist Paz Lenchantin, 2016’s Head Carrier, isn’t generally as immediately cathartic and as vital as the group’s 80s and 90s output, it proved Pixies can still write material worth a listen and highlights the band’s ability to clue in to unusual sounds and rhythm and texture ideas that other established artists often don’t.
Who:Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks w/Soccer Mommy When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Stephen Malkmus is obviously the singer and one of the guitarists in lo-fi slacker psyche legends Pavement. But his songs under his own name and with The Jicks are as worthy as anything he did with Pavement. Free to explore unusual melodies, self-indulge a wide range of guitar styles and fusing noise, jangle rock, improvisational instincts, 70s rock, psychedelia and prog, Stephen Malkmus with the Jicks is capable of coming up with refreshingly unusual songs even if they all have the stamp of eccentricity and imagination that Malkmus has brought to all his projects. The group’s 2018 record Sparkle Hard reflects Malkmus examination of the modern world and his place in it as a white man, and father, in his fifties who is still engaged in doing the thing he’s best at—writing unusual rock music—when the world seems to be falling apart and changing at a rapid pace. In typical fashion, Malkmus has a worthwhile and interesting take on all of it.
Opener for this tour, Soccer Mommy, is an interesting pairing because Sophie Allison’s songs have a layered and emotionally rich, compositional style with a sound collage quality that isn’t at first obvious. Her 2018 debut studio album Clean is a solid 10-song collection of sophisticated pop. Unlike many young songwriters, Allison, now 21, doesn’t sound like she’s tapping into a particular era of the 90s or the 2000s except for maybe Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. But, really, those are exceptionally respectable touchstones. What is also noteworthy is Allison’s range of dynamics, command of what, in a film score, might be called sound design, materfully orchestrating textural and atmospheric elements to augment her storytelling. With a debut so strong, one can only hope we’ve not yet seen Allison at her peak.
Who:ModPods w/R A R E B Y R D $ When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: ModPods from Los Angeles with its mixture of electronic post-punk and dance music sounds more like some kind of band from Baltimore in the 2000s or the kind of band that would have played The Smell in its heyday with an eclectic spirit not trapped in adherence to a stylistic subgenre. Either way its beat-driven songs have an edge and an 8-bit melodic fringe on its minimal synth melodies. Fronted by Myriad Slits, the trio, including Mindee Jorgensen and Daniel Guzman who switch up instruments regularly so that the musical duties never really become rote, is like an intentionally lo-fi synth pop/dance band.
Also on this bill is R A R E B Y R D $, the hip-hop trio that keeps pushing boundaries, including its own, in terms of beatmaking and Key Lady’s and KoKo La’s alchemical vocal interplay. The way some guitarists create interesting shapes for chords, the members of this group creates interesting synergy of sounds between vocals, beats and Michael Blomquist’s organic percussion. It’s a deeply emotional experience that you share with the band. It’s like alternative hip-hop if made by people who take great joy in seeing exactly what you can do with a synthesizer and a sampler to make something entrancing and meaningful. Hypnagogic post-disco, endorphin releasing, gangsta dub.
Wednesday | August 1, 2018
Who:Shocker Mom, Spargob and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Wednesday, 08.1, 8-11 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: It’s a free show and you get to see some of Denver’s best producers of electronic music in the underground. For R A R E B Y R D $, see above. Shocker Mom is Robin Walker who to the big wide world outside of Colorado is not known at all. But for those that have been able to witness her talents as a solo artist, member of lo-fi pop phenoms Cougarpants or one half of the hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus, Walker is a singular talent. As Shocker Mom, Walker taps into her broad musical experience to produce tracks that blur the line between hip-hop, trap, IDM, ambient, dubtechno and indie pop. Aleeya Wilson is perhaps most well-known for her avant-garde guitar/noise project Death In Space. But now the Girls Rock Denver alumn is writing music as Spargob, her production project so expect something refreshingly weird and imaginative.
Who: Weird Wednesday: Universal Devils, Limber Wolf, The Far Stairs facebook.com/events/509245982828786
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday, Claudia Woodman’s monthly at 3 Kings Tavern, will include Rick Layton’s solo experimental metal project Universal Devils. Layton is a talented multi-instrumentalist who spent several years as the drummer for weirdo punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band. The Far Stairs is fronted by former Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Imagine a manic New Wave/New Romantics/power pop band influenced by They Might Be Giants. But not just good, but great.
Who:Charlie Parr w/Them Coulee Boys When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Charlie’s stage banter is pretty much worth the price of admission. But his take on country and blues is so personal and individual that he leaps over expectations of the genre performed by modern musicians. You can start anywhere in his discography and it’ll be worth a listen. His latest record, 2017’s Dog, seems to capture this moment in American history where a lot of people are experiencing depression and despair and a need to catch a break from that wearying state of mind. In articulating that mood so well, Dog is actually a therapeutic record that actually finds a way to explore dark places without getting stuck in them.
Who:To Be Astronauts album release w/The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Flahoola When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: To Be Astronauts is a psychedelic hard rock band that sounds like the main songwriter might listen to a whole lot of the Misfits and Clutch. Fortunately, on the band’s new album, indifferentstates, these tendencies are morphed into something more original and the songs seem to be about something substantive as in the songs “This Is Not Normal” and “Discontent.” The Patient Zeros are the kind of blues rock band that there should be more of instead those more easy to mock. Probably because CJ Kjolhede, younger brother of former Cutthroat Drifters frontman Nicolas Kjolhede, and Joe Schramm and Michael Raymond aren’t trying to be the next Dead Weather or whatever. Their songs sound more like they’re rooted in some kind of folk and country sensibility with a spooky edge. Add some grit, fuzzy melodies and excellent use of space and that’s a bit of what you get with The Patient Zeros.
Friday: December 1, 2017
Who:Maria Bamford When: Friday, 12.01, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Maria Bamford spent the 90s honing her comedic craft and flew almost completely under the radar of everyone but fans of underground comedy. She got her start in stand-up in the late 80s at age 19 and by the mid-90s she had spots on various television comedy showcases getting a few minutes on screen here and there. But those sports were memorable and you could tell there was more going on with her comedy than the usual faire. During that time Bamford obviously made connections with other comedians and be her 30s she started to become known for her surreal, intelligent, thoughtful, brilliant comedy to wider audiences. Bamford has voiced various animated TV shows and films such as Stuart Little 2 and Barnyard because of her sheer versatility as a voice actor, her gift for tone, inflection and vocal texture, all features of her stand-up, a real asset for character acting. Her appearances on Arrested Development, Louie, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Kroll Show and numerous others have been standouts, taking all of those shows in more temporarily unusual direction than was already the case.
The Bammer now has her own comedy skit show called Lady Dynamite. As funny as the show might be, like George Carlin, who had a short-lived comedy series on Fox from 1993-1995, Bamford shines brightest in her stand-up where she can exercise her genius for free association storytelling, her illumination of ridiculous moments in all our lives, her sensitivity to the vicissitudes of the traumatized psyche and some of the most incisive social and political commentary of our time. Many don’t “get” Bamford but one might suggest these people take too much too seriously and handle all situations in the world with a shocking lack of nuance and subtlety. Bamford expertly treats subjects with the right stresses, the right pressures, the proper intensity, the appropriate tone and with a true appreciation for the humor inherent to almost every experience without unduly diminishing what really is important by, even in joking about it, not trivializing the truly weighty on the social and especially the personal level.
Who:SPELLS, Colfax Speed Queen, Cheap Perfume and Simulators When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: All four bands on this bill could be considered punk but also a step or more in a different realm of music from that. Cheap Perfume is a raw yet melodic punk band that minces no words about sexism, Nazis and El Presidente Cheeto. Stephanie Antillon is an electrifying and commanding front person and that is something not common enough in music. SPELLS has a motto. Something about “80% is good enough.” And sure they live up to that on average in that sometimes you see an unhinged show because Ben Roy is a madman singer and everyone else in the band doesn’t exactly hold back even in hook-driven, pop-oriented punk (though not pop punk, per se). Other times, it’s just a fun, energetic show. Sometimes you don’t need unhinged and thus, yes, 80% is indeed good enough. Stop going for broke all the time or telling yourself you need to do that with all things in life, America. It burns you out. SPELLS teaches us by example that something can be good even if you’re not giving it your all. Colfax Speed Queen didn’t get that memo, apparently, because the psyche garage act seems to play like they’re trying to set a new bar for what that music can sound and look like on stage. Simulators is a noise-punk duo that came about, in part, from wanting to get away from the ideas and sounds of the bands Bryon Parker and Brian Polk are in and have been in. But it still reminds one of Shellac as did Parker’s old band Accordion Crimes—truly no bad thing.
Who:Kacy & Clayton w/Many Mountains and Patrick Dethlefs When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Kacy & Clayton are kind of a vocal and acoustic guitar duo and while that can be one of the most boring things in the world, Kacy & Clayton are drawing upon the great British folk-rock tradition embodied by the likes of Fairport Convention. Resonant tones, spare arrangements that feel full. The duo’s latest record is 2017’s Siren’s Song, for which it is touring in support. Opening the show is Patrick Dethlefs whose own folk music is so richly developed, mastetrfully written and emotionally powerful yet finely nuanced that when you see him you kind of assume he should be the headliner.
What:Rubedo Album Release Popup Shop and Local Music Record Store Debut When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Understudy (890 C 14th Street) Why: Rubedo’s full blown album release show for Vaca is scheduled for January 6 at The Bluebird Theater with iZCALLi, Wes Watkins and El Cro. But you can pick up the band’s latest record, a tribute to and meditation on the impact of friends and community on our lives. Over the weekend there will be a showcase celebrating the opening of a popup local record store at Understudy. Friday will celebrate the release of the record, Saturday there will be performances from Rubedo, Holophrase, Entrancer and many others. Sunday will continue live music performances with artists to be announced. For more information and more up-to-date schedules, please visit the link above or here.
Saturday: December 2, 2017
Who:Pink Hawks When: Saturday, 12.02, 11 a.m. Where: Children’s Library at Denver Public Library Central Branch Why: The sprawling afrobeat band from Denver finds a way to mix humanistic radical politics with high energy performances. And this time you’ll be able to catch the band in the Children’s Library at the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library in the morning. Yes, the content doesn’t mince words but it’s also safe for kids because Yuzo Nieto and his bandmates are brilliant that way in making accessible music with deep content designed to bring you in rather than alienate you.
Who:Alex Lahey w/Dude York and Porlolo When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Alex Lahey hails from Melbourne, Australia and over the last couple of years she’s garnered some attention for her spirited, fuzzy, pop songs. Lahey’s lyrics are tender, self-deprecating, often humorous tales of desire, angst, seemingly thwarted aspirations, and everyday struggle and misfortune. Lahey’s songs are usually upbeat but she seems to honor the downbeat emotions even as she transforms the experience into something with real fire and energy behind the delivery. Her debut full-length, 2017’s I Love You Like a Brother is brash yet sensitive and bluntly yet somehow thoughtfully honest.
Who:Rocky Mountain Low 2: United Mutation, Vile Gash, Cadaver Dog, The Pollution and Combat Force When: Saturday, 12.02, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The second edition of Rocky Mountain Low, a mini-festival put together by Reed Bruemmer of Poison Rites and Heavy Dose Records head Brian Castillo. This time it’s mostly punk and hardcore including a rare appearance from United Mutation from Washington D.C.–a band that existed in the 80s alongside the bands on the Dischord imprint of that day. U.M. had incorporated psychedelic rock sounds into its songwriting so that it still has the bite and energy of hardcore while seeming to have learned a thing or two from Chrome and Hawkwind. Similar ethos, different side of the D.C. punk scene of the 80s. Jay Fox of United Mutation has lived in Denver for several years and his more overtly psychedelic punk band The Pollution will perform as well.
Who:Jed Kopp’s Birthday Bash: Pretty Mouth and The Sleep Escape When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: Gary Lee’s Why: Jed Kopp has been lending his drumming talents to several bands in Denver over the years and his clear musical talent plus his affable nature has made him a real fixture in Denver underground music. One band he plays with these days is the alt-country/punk band Pretty Mouth whose singer Marie Litton has an otherworldly presence as a front person, giving the songs and the performances an elevated and elegant quality.
Who:Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Savage Blush, Modern Leisure and Down Time When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Must be the top notch all local bill weekend in Denver. For this show Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, formerly from Fort Collins, will bring its literate yet gritty folk rock. The Savage Blush’s deeply reverby psychedelic pop will illuminate the stage. Modern Leisure’s superbly crafted pop songs graced with Casey Banker’s insightful lyrics and ability to truly capture a moment in time and tell a story will be on display. And Down Time is an indie rock band but it will demonstrate, as it always does, how you can work with familiar sounds and tools and by being willing to experiment with all elements make something incredibly compelling and original. The band’s use of percussion in a way that is very tied to the vocals and the use of synths in the mix brightens the sound and augments all the melodies in a way you don’t often hear.
Who:The Lollygags, Hot Apostles, Jonny Barber and The Ghost-Towners When: Saturday, 12.02, 8:30 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original BBQ Englewood Why: Very mixed bill but no filler. The Lollygags is a power pop band that sounds like it’s listened to a lot of The Wedding Present and Elvis Costello. Hot Apostles is a hard rock band that sounds like its members worked all the obvious influences out of its sound. Like maybe the members were into 70s classic rock and glam rock of the 80s but ditched the gross trappings and held onto the solid songwriting and passion. The Ghost-Towners describe themselves as an outlaw country band, which could be more retro-mundane rip-off of better material but the band includes Dario Rosa formerly of Cabaret Diosa, his former Cabaret Diosa bandmate Kimmy Franco, Zack Littlefield who spent time playing with Supercollider, Greyhounds and Sonnenblume, Bobby Genser and Chuck Cuthill both of Slakjaw and Mark Aubie of The Jaguars. Not a supergroup, per se but the outlaw country claim is no idle boast because of that lineage.
Who:Blackcell with Solypsis, The Psybrid, DJ Hepster Pat When: Saturday, 12.02, 9 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: This will be a bit of a different show with Denver’s longest-running industrial/experimental electronic band Blackcell as the duo collaborates with ambient and industrial artist Solypsis. Whatever the exact nature of the set it’ll be an entrancing, enveloping sonic experience.
Sunday: December 3, 2017
Who:Chella and The Charm, Bryan McPherson and Sputnik Slovenia When: Sunday, 12.03, 5 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Two of Denver’s great storytellers will be playing this show. Michelle Caponigro of Chella and The Charm, can write a song about situations and experiences pretty much anyone can relate to but in the telling take aim at larger issues and while thoughtfully unpacking what are often complicated subjects. Anyone can write a trite song about relationships for the gendered fist bump of solidarity. Caponigro gives us something much more profound and anything but rote. Jim Yelenick will perform his more or less solo material as Sputnik Slovenia but you may remember him for being the frontman of Nuns of Brixton, Pitch Invasion and Jet Black Joy. Among others. There’s a very self-conscious and irreverent humor in his show and in many of his songs. Amid that, and because of that, there’s an unexpected sincerity that you get when a natural born smartass gets real even using irony as an element in the art.
Who:Punk For Positive Change—Benefit for Northern Colorado AIDS Project: Discount Price, Equine, Smashy Claw, Plasma Canvas, Teacup Gorilla, Sinister Pig When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m. Where: Surfside 7 Why: Obviously a benefit show for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, not so obvious is how, thank goodness, broad the sense of punk might be for this show. Kevin Richards, who is Equine, was once in experimental post-hardcore band Motheater even though his current project is more like an avant-garde guitar solo project that wends toward the realm of ambient. Teacup Gorilla is more like a post-punk-oriented glam band that doesn’t seem to be looking to any era or scene for inspiration and what’s more punk than that, really. If you mixed Weird Al with Dead Milkmen you might get something like Smashy Claw. Who knows what instruments they’ll use in the songs? Live, the band is probably more stripped down and will still probably confuse people who don’t get bands that don’t fit into a narrow genre. The irreverent, fuzz-fueled melodies of Plasma Canvas’s post-sludge-doom garage punk has more in common with Kyuss and Mudhoney than King Tuff. Not that this duo isn’t into King Tuff.
Who:Whitney w/Julie Byrne When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchel’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.
Monday: December 4, 2017
Who:Whitney w/Julie Byrne When: Monday, 12.04, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchell’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.
Who:Grizzly Bear w/serpentwithfeet When: Monday, 12.02, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Grizzly Bear’s 2017 album Painted Ruins sounds like it’s tapping into the same emotional states of fantasy, yearning, uncertainty, nostalgia and self-examination that Joe Walsh expressed in his 1978 album But Seriously, Folks… and the wistful, deeply atmospheric soundscaping conjured by Supertramp for the songs on 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments and 1979’s Breakfast in America. The melody is there, even the pretense of upbeat tempos and gestures of hope. But all are about anxiety in an age of fake plenty expressed with a sublime irony and compassion for all of us living through this moment. All those albums were written by relatively successful artists who may have fully indulged in the “good life,” to varying degrees, that music made possible for them but all of whom also saw the limitations of the hubris that commercial success and the privilege it provides engenders in many people and wrote existential songs to that effect. That’s not to say Grizzly Bear is “important” or that Painted Ruins is a masterpiece, certainly the other three records mentioned aren’t necessarily so for those respective artists, it’s just refreshing to hear a solid, thoughtful album that doesn’t give the impression that nothing’s wrong but also doesn’t try to offer shallow, pat advice.
Tuesday: December 5, 2017
Who:Overcoats w/Sarah Jaffe When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Electronic pop duo Overcoats released its debut full-length YOUNG in 2017. It has the kind of sonically rich production you would hope for from a band of its kind but where Overcoats truly distinguishes itself is in its willingness to incorporate fairly unconventional sounds and rhythms in its songs and the subject matter of the lyrics sound more like a worthwhile country or folk artist. The vulnerability and startling frankness may not be obvious amid ghostly atmospheres and lushly smooth low end pulses but if you take some time with the songs it’s striking. And who better to tour with Overcoats than Sarah Jaffe’s whose own 2017 album Bad Baby swims in bright yet melancholic synth tones and sweeping rhythms as well as thought-provoking words that unwind some of the complexity of mixed emotions everyone seems to navigate in modern life these days. Definitely for fans of St. Vincent and EMA.
Who:Supersuckers, The Bellrays, Bombpops When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Supersuckers have tried on various sounds over the course of the last thirty or so years. But initially the band was kind of a garage punk band with an irreverent and ironic sense of humor. Probably too many people took their song “I Say Fuck” too much at face value, totally missing the significance of Daniel Clowes having done the artwork to The Smoke of Hell and Clowes’ own views on the lunkheads of the world. Whatever your takeaway from the band, its shows are energetic and celebratory even after it wisely progressed away from its roots a bit and became more of a gritty country rock band in recent years. Bellrays are a soulful revolution rock band fronted by the incomparable Lisa Kekaula. For its 1998 album Let It Blast, the band wrote a song called “Blues For Godzilla” and actually lived up to the title. That image should give you some idea about the live show.
Wednesday: December 6, 2017
Who:Weird Wednesday: Sheet Metal Skingraft, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Universal Devils When: Wednesday, 12.06, 9p.m. Where: 3 Kings Why: For this edition of Weird Wednesday you get to witness the noise-driven beatmaking of Sheet Metal Skingraft, the sinister one-man band folk-metal of Universal Devils as performed by Tricky Dick Wickett of Little Fyodor and Babushka Band and Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars which answers the question “What do you get when a noisy, experimental funk band makes music that J. Dilla might have wanted to sample while making a song that sounds like a lo-fi version of J. Dilla’s more out there beats?” Very meta. Thus, Weird Wednesday delivers another night of some of the most interesting and unusual music in Denver.
Who:The Black Angels w/Ron Gallo When: Thursday, 10.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: The cover of The Black Angels’ new record, Death Song, itself is a commentary on what’s going on in American culture now and its ripple effect beyond the nation’s borders. Red, white and blue in repeating, circles within larger circles, hypnotic and disorienting, an image suggesting chaos but one that also hints at the possibility of a return to some semblance of coherence and peace. The image, designed by guitarist Christian Bland, is part graphic design style and part minimalist art, much like his work on previous Black Angels albums, but one that suggests movement and confused stasis.
The album’s music bears out those qualities with some of the group’s heaviest and most politically pointed, but never preachy, material to date. The Black Angels were one of the bands that pre-dated the relatively recent wave of psychedelic rock having begun life in 2004 and its own career helped to influence and shape the sound of modern psych with its own music and direct advocacy through Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and The Reverberation Appreciaion Society. While one of the bigger acts out of psychedelic rock today, The Black Angels and other psych acts make the kind of music that resists full commercial co-optation.
As a live act The Black Angels has always been one that integrates the visual presentation of the music with the sounds so that the experience of the show is one that reflects the experience intended with the creation of the music. This time out the urgency, the heaviness, the fear, anxiety and the catharsis that we all hope comes about on the other end of the current national and international nightmare unfolding as we speak.
Who:Me Me Monster, Gort Vs. Goom and Television Generation When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Your Mom’s House Why: Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums duo who perform a kind of eccentric punk and jazz hybrid that may remind some listeners of Primus but it’s weirdness has as much to do with one of that band’s influences, The Residents, as with any post-Mr. Bungle art rock band. GvG (for MMO nerds even if not fully intentional on the part of the band) also often perform in costume or some sort of get-up. And Me Me Monster and its commitment to theater and spectacle is a good fit but its own warped hard rock sounds like what might happen if Neil Young got into making psychedelic prog but went through a weirdo jazz phase teaming up with Robin Trower. Television Generation isn’t overtly weird. It’s brand of fuzzy punk, psychedelic garage rock and pop bears some comparison to Love Battery but there is even more of a sardonic sense of humor informing its songwriting and presentation.
Who:Perry Weissman 3, Roger Green and Andy Monley When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Perry Weissman 3 is a long-running avant-garde jazz and rock band that was perhaps most active in the 90s and earl 2000s. Roger Green is the genius guitarist and avant-garde composer who may be best known for his stint in local slowcore band The Czars, which included experimental pop songwriter John Grant. And hey, while we’re talking about former members of The Czars, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist, Andy Monley, is on this bill as well. Monley, however, has plenty of respectable music outside The Czars including his still going tenure with alternative rock band/country punk weirdos, Jux County and his exquisitely written and thoughtful solo material.
Who:Jerkagram, The Uglys, Chromadrift, Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh When: Thursday, 10.26, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café) Why: Jerkagram from Los Angeles is one of those bands that didn’t really fit in a single genre of music so its styles can be all over the place and all at once. But loosely more on the heavier and math-y end of things. In some ways the band is reminiscent of former Denver art rock weirdoes Action Friend who now live and play in L.A.. The Uglys get dubbed this and that and probably haven’t fully decided what they are themselves. How a band can remind you of both Mudhoney, At the Drive-In and Fu Manchu all at once I don’t know but that’s The Uglys for you. Some screamy stoner rock, if you will. Chromadrift? As in Drew Miller? The IDM/ambient artist whose music is so ethereally beautiful it immediately transports you to a better place? Indeed. Filling out the bill are Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh, progressive metal bands from Georgia.
Friday: October 27, 2017
Who:Brujeria w/Powerflo and Piñata Protest When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Brujeria is almost pure schtick as a North Mexico drug cartel/national liberation group/band. Death metal, grindcore, unabashed takedowns of questionable politicians like Donald Trump (pre/post-presidency) and lots of cartoonishly dark humor. But the music to some extent transcends the joke because the musicians are members of other well-known heavy acts like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cradle of Filth, Criminal and others. Opening act Piñata Protest is a highly entertaining hybrid of ska punk and Norteño.
Who:Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Chelsea Wolfe has spent her career writing in a variety of musical styles but all of it has been a vehicle for her stark rendering of emotional turmoil and channeling that into challenging yet entrancing works of art. Wolfe’s last few records have brought forth in explicable form the subconscious ghosts that have long haunted the songwriter. Her latest, 2017’s Hiss Spun, is the heaviest set of songs Wolfe has yet released. Heavy but also heady and sonically expansive. If some of Wolfe’s previous records could feel and sound claustrophobic as a reflection of an insular creative vision, Hiss Spun is that vision opened up and shared more fully with anyone who might want to share in that experience as someone well-acquainted with personal demons and/or as someone that appreciates an authentic emotional experience so intensely realized.
Youth Code while a different animal musically, is a great fit for this tour because Sarah Taylor’s own unrelenting emotional intensity on stage is something to witness. The band’s dark, industrial bursts of tones and rhythm have evolved considerably since its earliest recordings and 2016’s Commitment to Complications revealed a band that is more than a thrilling jackhammer of aggressive music. There is a moody underbelly and a catharsis of internalized melancholy alongside the desperation you’d expect.
Who:Church Fire and Motion Trap When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: Black Shirt Brewery Why: It could be argued that both of the bands on the bill are electronic dance bands of the highest order because they are. Motion Trap, though, is tends toward bright tones and more keyed into the kind of aesthetic for dance clubs because it is very upbeat. But its music is way too steeped in strong pop songwriting to fully fit in that world. One of the few bands it does seem to fit in with is Church Fire whose dark undertones, politically-charged, noisy synth pop is one of the most exciting bands in Denver or anywhere right now. It’s own unabashed embrace of hip-hop beat production and industrial and dance music isn’t necessarily obvious. This will be an outdoor show starting at 8 p.m. so bring warm clothing.
Who:Mux Mool, atruc, RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kind of a more leftfield live dance music/hip-hop night with progressive beat maker Mux Mool, alternative hip-hop duo Curta playing as atruc, electro-guitar-based ambient solo act RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines. The latter’s combination of ambient, IDM and dubtechno-flavored beats is always very different from many of the acts in whose company he finds himself. The 2016 album III Pillars was a triptych of hypnotic noise and textured atmospheres that established a sense of place. Except that place wasn’t in normal reality.
Who:Rot Congress Night 1: Loanword, Boat Drinks, Jobless, The Far Stairs, Fake Awake When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Hot Congress, the long-running indie rock collective, has been hosting this Halloween-themed event for years with some of the best bands out of that corner of the Denver music scene. This first night includes ambient project Loanword is on tap as is lo-fi band Jobless and former Hindershot keyboardist Jesse Livingston’s experimental synth pop band The Far Stairs.
Saturday: October 28, 2017
Who:Cults w/Cullen Omori and Hideout When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Cults made a bit of a splash with its debut EP and “Go Outside” single in 2010. Its evocation of upbeat, breezy 60s pop mixed with a sense of the otherworldly. Like an alternative history science fiction story born out of heartbreak, personal trauma or simply plain wanting to recast a drab and depressing present with something more romantic and meaningful without the cheese factor that often accompanies such impulses and creative work that comes out of them. Cults latest record, 2017’s Offering, finds the band maintaining that Julee Cruise-esque, dreamlike, nostalgic tone but this time with a broader palette of sounds and rhythms. Where some of the earlier music sounded like it was tapping into some of Phil Spector’s Gold Star Studios years’ vibe, Offering sounds more present and immediate. Opener Cullen Omori was once a member of up-and-coming pop/rock band Smith Westerns. When that band split in 2014, Omori continued writing and performing under his own name. The music wasn’t radically different but the tone seemed to shift. Smith Westerns was very rooted in 70s rock. Omori’s solo output is more reminiscent of a modern version of a New Wave band with a gently psychedelic overtone. More synth, more lush sounds overall. His 2016 album, New Misery, sounded like an artist who wasn’t creatively cutting all ties with his old band so much as reinventing it and, um, culling the elements that didn’t work for him the first time around.
Who:TR/ST When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Robert Alfons doesn’t yet have a new record out but TR/ST released a new single, “Bicep,” over the summer. The new track sounds like Alfons is wending more in the direction of EBM than the synth/dance pop of his first two records. TR/ST was one of the few bands that Goth DJs in Denver would play out of the wave of dark electro music that has been very much part of the indie underground since the second half of the 2000s. No, it didn’t sound like Depeche Mode or even Erasure but Alfons’ songs were as dark and moody as anything the former has ever released and as celebratory yet thoughtful as the latter’s best material. When TR/ST recently played Denver it was a well-attended show at The Bluebird so here’s a chance to see the project at a much smaller venue.
Who:Mehvana (as Nirvana), Denver Meatpacking Company (as Hüsker Dü) and Lawsuit Models (as Jimmy Eat World) When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Bands performing covers sets for Halloween isn’t the most original thing in the world but all the bands on the bill for this show are at least trying out something different with grunge-esque band Denver Meatpacking Company doing a set of Hüsker Dü songs probably focusing on the middle era. It’s not a huge leap for pop punk band Lawsuit Models to a Jimmy Eat World set but putting yourself in someone else’s creative head space even if you’re influenced by their work takes some effort when you’re not some session musician or someone that generally plays in cover bands.
Who:Sharone & The Wind (“Night of Terror”) w/Black July, 21 Taras and Married a Dead Man When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que Why: It’s a Halloween show that Sharone & The Wind is advertizing as their “Night of Terror” so expect some theatrical shenanigans from the Denver hard rock band. In recent months the band has reinvented itself in a direction more like a cross between a proto-death rock band and a blues-inflected emo group. Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does. Married a Dead Man is a Goth/death rock band that came out of people who played in the punk and hardcore scene beforehand. Sonically, sort of reminiscent of Sunshine Blind but rougher around the edges at the moment—you know, that ethereal synth with some metallic guitar with a female vocalist who sounds like she is no stranger to belting it a little.
Who:Bob Log III w/Colfax Speed Queen When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bob Log III used to freak people out as the confrontational frontman of Doo Rag. The Crash Worship crowds for whom the duo played probably got it but the Lollapalooza crowd probably wasn’t used to seeing weirdo blues quite that raw and primal. As a solo artist, Bob Log III has only pushed the theatrical side of his act further with strange costumes like a carnie, blues punk Dex Romweber. Denver’s Colfax Speed Queen won’t be quite as stripped down but it’s own psychedelic garage rock is surprisingly forceful and disorienting in its own way.
Who:Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System w/Gracie Bassie, TNERTLE (solo) When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the architects of modern music as we know it. As the producer at the now defunct Black Ark in Jamaica, Perry was one of the pioneers of dub, which is a radical remixing and reproduction of existing music and represents one of the earliest forms of electronic music and a creative use of an early version of sampling. Directly or indirectly, as an engineer, producer or musician, Perry shaped the sound of much of reggae music and through that of punk, hip-hop and electronic music from the 70s forward. In recent years, Perry has collaborated with house/experimental electronic band The Orb on original material. His live show is a masterful delivery of his imaginative soundscaping and hypnotic rhythms.
Sunday: October 29, 2017
Who:Ministry w/Death Grips When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Ministry somehow made the crossover from synth pop (With Sympathy) to EBM (Twitch and to some extent The Land of Rape and Honey) to industrial rock (by the time of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste) in the course of seven years. It’s a remarkable transformation and at each stage Ministry was one of the very best bands in those respective genres. Since then Ministry’s newer material has been on the heavier end of music though arguably more difficult to neatly classify. The current touring incarnation of Ministry is focusing on material post-1988. If you’ve been switched off for 30 years and are expecting tracks from the EBM era and would be disappointed not to see it live, don’t go. But if you appreciate Al Jourgensen’s mutant heavy music from The Mind forward, it’ll be a worthy selection of material. Death Grips is an industrial hip-hop band with a charismatic frontman in MC Ride and one of modern popular music’s greatest drummers in Zach Hill. Even if you’re not into hip-hop for some reason Death Grips is really more of an experimental band that doesn’t really bother with splitting hairs between the aesthetics of hip-hop, noise, industrial music or whatever its own style might be that comes out of that.
Who:Haunted Sound Laboratory, Unbridled Sonic Anarchy, Chris Sessions, Jonathan Cash When: Sunday, 10.29, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Textures is an ambient showcase that happens at Mutiny the final Sunday of every month. This time, host Wesley Davis’ own Unbridled Sonic Anarchy will be performing alongside Jonathan Cash who some may know more for his noise project Break Dancing Ronald Reagan.
Who:Vanilla Milkshakes, Denver Meatpacking Company and Uncle Bad Touch When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This is another Halloween-themed show and apparently grunge/punk band Vanilla Milkshakes will treat those in attendance with its take on The Ramones and DMC will reprise its Hüsker Dü cover set from the night before.
Who:2Mex, Onry Ozzborn, Early Adopted and Curta When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: 2Mex may not be a household name but in the alternative hip-hop scene of the 1990s (and now for that matter) he has long been a star. His witty and imaginative wordplay was honed at the open mic nights at Good Life Café in South Central Los Angeles and he has been willing to couch it in beats that reflect popular music of the time. More importantly his raps criticize his own music culture, American culture in general and himself with humorously poetic sensibility. Onry Ozzborn is a respected alternative hip-hop artist in his own right whose music seems to favor darker tones and downtempo beats. As a member of Grayskul and Dark Time Sunshine Ozzborn’s gritty stories were reminiscent of Aesop Rock’s literary output, and of course the two rappers have collaborated. Opening act, Denver’s Curta, incorporates a more industrial and psychedelic/experimental electronic flavor into its beats. Apparently this will be the last show with founding keyboardist/guitarist Brent Larsen, aka 4Digit who is moving out of town.
Who:Governor Mortimer Leech (Widow’s Bane) undead and unplugged When: Sunday, 10.29, 6 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: Widow’s Bane is the undead pirate band from Boulder. They do interviews in character and perform in character. Is it “character”? Anyway, Governor Mortimer Leech will be performing a rare acoustic show early at Ophelia’s and it’s free.
Monday: October 30, 2017
Who:Cobalt, Worry and Fathers When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Greeley-based black metal band Cobalt didn’t play much in the first decade or so of its existence and nevertheless garnered a bit of an international following. Founding member Phil McSorley left the project in 2014 but Erik Wunder (who also plays in one of Jarboe’s bands) and Charlie Fell (formerly of Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium and Abigail Williams) have kept the band going and completed its best album to day, 2016’s Slow Forever. The band’s previous records were boundary pushing in what can be an insular musical style and Slow Forever‘s expansive dynamism sacrificing none of the bleakness and brutality was something of a new chapter for the band. Colorado Springs-based deathgrind band Worry and Denver’s heavy band super group (with members of Native Daughters, Cult of the Lost Cause and Lords of Fuzz) round out the bill.
Who:Ghoulfriend, Corner Girls, Page 27, art by Katherine Louise, Jesse Nickell and poetry by Kelsey Carolyn Bowe When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ghouloween 2017 will be held in the basement of Syntax for extra spookiness. It’ll be a night of art, music and poetry. Chances are you won’t see the bands on the same bill again any time soon. Ghoulfriend is weirdo guitar project of Trey Tafoya of Ancient Elk and déCollage. Some bands play psychedelic rock, Ghoulfriend takes the concept of using guitar to expand sound palettes to a higher and more original level while still making it accessible. Page 27 is one of Denver’s, and the world’s, longest-running noise bands. Now, P27’s soundscape has included harsh noise and sometimes still does but it’s more like a hypnotic, modulated drone that pulls in sounds that one does not often associate with the genre called drone. Corner Girls is an excellent surf rock/punk band whose lyrics are often enough an irreverent take-down of patriarchal cultural features that should have been weeded out of our collective unconscious decades ago but somehow still linger and affect people’s everyday lives. Addressing it with music is simply a peaceful and creative way to discuss the issues.
Tuesday: October 31, 2017
Who: Alvvays w/Jay Som bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/337225 When: Tuesday, 10.31, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Alvvays’ self-deprecating pop songs could be glum but Molly Rankin and company seem to realize that wallowing in despair rather than finding the humor in life’s downstrokes is more boring than transforming those moments of intense emotions into something creative. The Toronto band’s promising 2014 debut sounded like a band fully formed and tapping a bit into the pop music that came out of the C86 era in its sophisticated simplicity and unabashed embrace of bright and breezy, catchy melodies. The 2017 album, Antisocialites is highlighted with neon-sounding synths like someone in the band has started listening more closely to Missing Persons including the flourishes of tastefully intricate micro guitar solos. The subtle details make it a consistently rewarding listen. Along for this leg of the Alvvays tour is Jay Som whose lo-fi anthems about identity, self-discovery, self-definition and personal liberation seem very relevant in a time when the boorish, hateful and oppressive side of modern American culture has reared its ugly head in a big way. 2017’s Everybody Works is a bracing antidote to all of that even if it may sound like a gentle indie rock record to many.
Who:Itchy-O w/Altas When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: For the uninitiated, Itchy-O is a roughly 32 member avant-garde music performance troupe that plays its shows entirely in costume like mariachi mystics. The band has a full drum corps and other percussion, a taiko section, bass, guitar, synths, processed vocals and other noises and “dancers” that creep about the crowd during the show. It’s a real spectacle and really unlike other bands in every way. That it can release albums that could be worthy of the live show seems implausible but the band recently released its second full-length album, From the Overflowing, on Alternative Tentacles. The records are no replacement for the experience of the band but fascinating listening nevertheless. Instrumental rock band Altas opens the show with its dynamic, cinematic compositions.
Who: Space In Time, Keef Duster, Colfax Speed Queen and Wild Call When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Space in Time is a hard rock band whose sound harkens to a time when early metal and psychedelic rock were not at all far apart. Obvious touchstones for Space in Time would be Deep Purple, Captain Beyond (which included ex-members of Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly) and Uriah Heep with both bands’ gift for writing melodic heavy rock with a fluidly trippy groove. Keef Duster’s music draws on similar inspirations but wends more toward the doom end of the heavy spectrum. Fronted by Kim Phat, who some may know from garage rock punks Dirty Few, Keef Duster is more than a clever name even though it recently released a song called “Hash Hive.” The latter was mixed and produced by Matt Loui of psychedelic garage rock band Colfax Speed Queen, also on the bill.
Who:Captured! By Robots w/908, Bewitcher and Night of the Living Shred When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Captured! By Robots at this point is a great metal band, bordering on death metal and industrial. Most of the band is comprised of robots constructed by JBOT but a lot of the kitsch factor of the earlier part of the project’s life are gone and the performance is much more focused on doing something that isn’t a complete gimmick. Internationally known deathgrind band 908, from Colorado Springs, shares the bill as does skate thrash band Night of the Living Shred. So basically Bryan Ostrow will be doing throat destroying vocals for two bands this night because he’s the Nivek Ogre of extreme metal.
Who: Bronze, Terminals, Master Ferocious, The Pollution and The Stunning Cuntz When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Three of the handful of good sludge metal bands from Denver at Mutiny? We’ll have to assume some books will fall off shelves at some point. Bronze is named in reference to Mad Max and its heavy music is more tied to bands from the 70s and early 80s with strong songwriting and good vocals rather than the 90s and 2000s stoner rock bands it may sound like. When there seemed to be way too many stoner rock bands in Denver from roughly 2000-2010, Bronze stood out. Members of Master Ferocious came out of some of the better bands of that era too like The Angry Hand of God. Out of the latter, guitarist Mark Pilloud and bassist Brian Kennedy were involved in the founding of Master Ferocious in 2014 and the newer band still seems to write dystopian songs about the present with guitar work that demonstrates an interesting co-influence from, of course, Black Sabbath and late 70s Judas Priest.
Wednesday: November 1, 2017
Who:Slowdive w/Cherry Glazerr When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Of all the shoegaze bands of the late 80s and early 90s, Slowdive was an early adopter of an ambient and electronic music aesthetic. When the group started as a kind of indie pop band called Pumpkin Fairies, its songwriting, inspired in part by atmospheric post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees (the song of whom the fledgling band borrowed its then new name), The Cure and Cocteau Twins. For the 1991 debut full-length, Just For A Day, the ethereal vocals that one now associates with the shoegaze genre was very much in place and so were the expansive, towering guitar drones that the band had developed on its previous EPs.
By the time of the 1993 follow-up, Souvlaki, Slowdive was working with ambient music godfather Brian Eno and had all but abandoned conventional rhythm structure in favor of more organic rhythms giving songs like “Sing” and “Souvlaki Space Station” a quality that melds the tone and the atmosphere into what might later be described as a beat-driven approach to the songwriting. Those musical instincts reached their peak with Slowdive on what might have been its final, and in some ways most daring and interesting album, 1995’s Pygmalion. The latter came out at a time when the alternative music world had long gone down the rockist path with a set of songs based in what seemed like a sonic recreation of pure emotion cast in minimalist textures. It was like a post-rock album seemingly inspired by and synthesizing IDM, abstract dub and ambient house music. The innovative record lost the band their label contract with Creation records and the members of Slowdive went on to other musical concerns over the years including Mojave 3, Monster Movie and The Sight Below.
Perhaps inevitably, Slowdive reunited in 2014 but under its own terms and with the aim of recreating its heart and imagination-stirring music authentically. And its subsequent tours have borne that goal out. Making no promises until the possibility was a bit of a concrete reality, the band didn’t announce new material until Spring 2016. The forthcoming self-titled album, released in May 2017, was not a rehash of the band’s past. It was not an attempt to outdo the sheer experimentalism of Pygmalion. Rather, it was a strong set of songs worthy of all of its earlier music. The music doesn’t feel like nostalgia, it feels like the band knew it had to do something that wouldn’t reject the past but also not be yoked to expectations of any lack of artistic growth on the part of the musicians over the previous twenty-two years. So if you go to the show, and you should if you’re a fan of highly emotionally stimulating music that is an unexpectedly visceral experience, no need to dread any newer, inferior material because the most recent Slowdive songs are far from subpar.
Who: Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Ice Troll, Dear Rabbit and Open to the Hound When: Wednesday, 11.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This might be the deluxe edition of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday series for the first half of the month. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is “Electronica Glam Rock” that includes contributions from Never Kenezzard’s Ryan Peru. Ice Troll is a sort of doom rock orchestra. Dear Rabbit is lo-fi avant-garde folk. Open to the Hound is what might happen if Lloyd Cole formed a band that took some cues from The The and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s just that weird but grounded in classic songwriting sensibilities.
Who:Chicano Batman w/Khruangbin and The Shacks When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: To say Chicano Batman is sort of a psychedelic soul band doesn’t quite do it justice because its music comes out of tropicalia, old timey rock and roll and funk without sounding like it’s trying too hard to please everyone. Live, the group presents a unified visual image with matching outfits as one might expect from 60s and 70s Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters and Sunny & The Sunglows. Early on championed by the late, great, Ikey Owens, Chicano Batman got a leg up reaching a wider audience through a 2015 tour with Jack White, with whom Owens had been playing before his untimely death in October 2014. The group’s 2017 album, Freedom is Free, is a bracing antidote to the climate of chaos, desperation and despair that many people have been experiencing with the Trump administration by offering an alternative vision for a better America and a world.
Houston’s Khruangbin is a Thai surf-funk-soul band so it and Chicano Batman are a perfect compliment to one another as Kruangbin’s music isn’t grounded in the same influences even if the music it’s music is also not inspired by music from just one place and one time. Inspired initially by Thai funk cassettes from the 60s and 70s, Khruangbin has found fuel for its creativity in the music that influenced those bands and the music that resulted from those roots that manifested in various ways. Dub, Afrobeat, reggae and hip-hop, among others.