What:Built to Spill – Keep It Like a Secret tour w/Orua and Dirt Russell When: Friday, 07.26, 6 p.m. Where: Mishawaka Amphitheater, Bellevue, CO Why: Built To Spill bridged the gap between free improvisational rock, psychedelia and post-punk at a time in the 90s when so much of that was, barring Neil Young, was considered quaint unless you were a fan of wack, mid-90s alternative rock. Built to Spill was very different from some of that more mundane music because when it had album titles like Ultimate Alternative Wavers and songs called “Randy Described Eternity” and “I Would Hurt a Fly” the language of an underground, alternative culture with irreverent humor and an unabashed embrace of the weird and unconventional and out of step with mainstream normality was mincing no words but also not trying to alienate any potential comers. This year the group is touring for the twentieth anniversary of its monumental fourth album Keep It Like a Secret.
What:The Psychedelic Furs w/James and Dear Boy When: Friday, 07.26, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: The Psychedelic Furs are apparently on the verge of giving us their first new album in nearly thirty years sometime in the next year or two. While the group did take a hiatus in the 90s its iconic 80s albums aged well because while the band had hits it never really made concessions to trends and Richard Butler’s scrappy yet soulful voice and thought-provoking lyrics and the band’s brooding melodies and expansively energetic live show reconciled the thoughts and emotions everyone has into memorable songs. Since the Furs reconvened in 2000 it may have been skating on its back catalog but its shows felt like they were channeling from a time when they first wrote the music and they didn’t waste our time by trotting out material unworthy of its earlier music. The career of Mancunian rock band James was almost in direct parallel with The Psychedelic Furs with its own history of high emotive and idiosyncratic rock songwriting that evolved considerably across time and recent performances displaying the verve and power of its early days as well.
What: Anne Waldman (w/Adam Baumeister and Roger Green), Wymond Miles, Jeff Suthers and Max & Toni When: Friday, 07.26, 8-10:30 p.m. Where: Pon Pon Why: Anne Waldman is one of the surviving leading lights of the Beat Generation who is also currently involved with running the Naropa Institute (also Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics) of which she was a founder in 1974. Her poetry has a force and consciousness resonant with the rhythms of music and on this evening she will be joined by Meep Records head Adam Baumeister and experimental guitar composer Roger Green formerly of Idle Mind and The Czars. Also on the bill are Wymond Miles of The Fresh & Onlys in San Francisco and prior to that various Denver bands including Pinkku, and Jeff Suthers, the iconic guitarist of Pale Sun, Bright Channel, Volplane, Moonspeed, Pteranodon and other projects.
What:MDC/Verbal Abuse and Round Eye When: Friday, 07.26, 9 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: When you call your band Millions of Dead Cops in 1979 you’re already courting trouble. But MDC has also been taking it on the nose and writing hardcore classics with a righteously political edge from the beginning having penned songs about animal rights, LBGTQ issues, racial issues and invective against capitalism with humor and conviction. Lead singer Dave Dictor is proudly a weirdo who is confrontational with his anti-establishment stance in a creative and engaging and often humorous fashion.
What:Amon Tobin presents Two Fingers DJ Set w/Tsuruda, Keota, Seied and GTillDawn When: Friday, 07.26, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Amon Tobin is a versatile composer whose electronic music runs the gamut of dance, jazz and the avant-garde. Tonight he is performing a DJ set so it’s hard to say exactly what he’ll throw into the mix but given his proclivity for imaginative production it won’t be entirely predictable yet a display of great taste.
Saturday | July 27
What:Black Pistol Fire w/Thunderpussy When: Saturday, 07.27, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Black Pistol Fire is a likable enough bluesy garage rock band. But the reason to go is to see opening act Thunderpussy who may in some ways share Black Pistol Fire’s affection for driving, blues-based punk riffs but its deft songwriting is a bit like if The Dead Weather took more than a few cues from T. Rex and the mirrored sides of Zeppelin’s hard rocking and contemplative, introspective songwriting. The Seattle-based group’s 2018 self-titled debut is more than a cut above the relatively recent spate of bands that are tapping into inspiration from hard rock’s 70s heyday by not merely trying to rock but not being willing to push the songwriting beyond the clichés. Thunderpussy is willing to get weird and take you into outer space with its music the way Heart, Cheap Trick and David Bowie were more than able to as well.
What:Anklepants and Electrocado When: Saturday, 07.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Anklepants is what happens when a guy working in the special effects industry makes an outfit in which a phallus attached as the nose of an alien is a controller for the music which is very sophisticated and experimental dance music in the vein of more adventurous house or techno with elements borrowed from the full spectrum of modern dance styles. If you want to see something you’ll never forget this is the show to go and see because while the visual side of the project is entertaining and unusual enough the music stands on its own with no need for gimmicks—the costume is just a bonus over seeing some guy holding headphones on and waving one hand above his head to hype the crowd.
What:The Appleseed Cast w/Young Jesus and Weathered Statues When: Saturday, 07.27, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: The Appleseed Cast might be the most well-known band out of the under celebrated Lawrence, Kansas music scene. Its own contribution to the development of 90s emo and beyond has been its exquisite, borderline dream pop that bridged the gap between midwestern emo and post-rock. Its luminous melodies and richly expressive and nuanced vocals have given the band a cross genre appeal. In 2019 The Appleseed Cast released its most recent album The Fleeting Light of Impermanence.
Monday | July 29
What:Frank Iero and the Future Violents w/Geoff Rickly When: Monday, 07.29, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Frank Iero is probably known to most as the guitarist in My Chemical Romance. But seven years hence from that group’s dissolution Iero and his band the Future Violents released their album Barriers produced by Steve Albini. Iero sounds like he dug deep to reinvent himself a little for this new music as it feels raw and heartfelt and even confessional in a way that wasn’t as obvious as his work with MCR. When the songs aren’t brimming with effusive energy there is an introspective mood with music that demonstrate Iero’s keen ear for crafting rock songs with emotional and sonic nuance.
Tuesday | July 30
What:Bad Cop / Bad Cop w/Dog Party and Pity Party When: Tuesday, 07.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Los Angeles-based punk band Band Cop/Bad Cop have a clever name but one that also reflects its politically and socially subversive lyrics. Its massive hooks and pop punk sound is a perfect vehicle for laying out ideas and concepts in a personal and accessible way without coming off preachy. With any luck the band will have a new album soon but its most recent record is 2017’s Warriors put on Fat Wreck Chords.
Wednesday | July 31
What:Suzanne Vega w/Siobhan Wilson When: Wednesday, 07.31, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Suzanne Vega is perhaps best known by most people for her 80s singles “Luka” (an unabashed song about child abuse that made the Top 40) and “Left of Center” but her eclectic and varied career has included collaborating with Philip Glass for his weirdo jazz record Songs from Liquid Days and her own impressively broad range as a songwriter with a knack for writing thoughtful, literate songs that have long found a place in college radio and “modern rock” playlists and occupies a similar place in popular music as people like Robyn Hitchcock and Jane Siberry.
Who:Black Rebel Motorcycle Club w/Night Beats When: Thursday, 02.15, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: B.R.M.C. has tried out different sounds and ideas across its career. From its 2001 post-punk/shoegaze debut album, to the bluesy 2005 record Howl and now the refined, gritty depth of sound field of 2018’s Wrong Creatures. What is most noteworthy with the album is that the band has managed to make a rock and roll record without obviously ripping off some worn out classic rock tropes. The trio also incorporated industrial soundscaping and noise without ever sounding like one of those forgettable 90s industrial rock bands. An achievement in itself. Opening is Seattle’s mutant psychedelic rock quartet Night Beats. On its latest album, 2016’s Who Sold My Generation, it sounded like the band had shed the garage rock elements of its earlier sound in favor of noisier, stranger music like guys had gone on a spiritual journey into the wilds of the Cascades accompanied by the music of Chrome, Spacemen 3 and Silver Apples and come back into the welcoming arms of 13th Floor Elevators before writing their new material. When a lot of modern rock bands are playing it safe at least it seems as though B.R.M.C. And Night Beats don’t want to bore themselves or us.
Who:Eventually It Will Kill You Vol. III: Many Blessings cassette release w/Natural Violence, Prison Glue and Law of the Night When: Thursday, 02.15, 9 p.m. Where: The Meadowlark Bar Why: If you’re just dropping into the Meadowlark after your rigorous parkour and yoga workout tonight, just go elsewhere. This is a noise show and a celebration of the release of the latest Many Blessings tape, Ripe Earth. The album, released on Brian Castillo’s new Kill You Club imprint, is nearly seventy minutes of deep cavern soundscapes that sometimes come off like the decayed transmissions of a broken broadcasting A.I. of the future that generates otherworldly true crime style fiction, the likes of which regular humans would never come up with on our own. Prison Glue is Kevin Wesley, formerly of local noise rock legends Hot White, and every set is different but always some interesting noise experiment and never quite in the same format. Also on the bill is Natural Violence, a project of Homebody’s Michael Stein. Not really noise per se and more like a synth-driven soundtrack to a crime drama written by Paul Reubens. The 2017 EP Synthetic Peace was one of the more interesting releases of last year.
Who:Voight, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, Anime Love Hotel and Dream Hike When: Thursday, 02.15, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: A different kind of noise show tonight at Syntax. Voight isn’t a noise band though both Nick Salmon and Adam Rojo both more than merely dabble in their solo npose projects, Stye and Diffuser respectively. Its own noisy post-punk songs are somehow both moody and confrontational, haunting yet visceral. Breakdancing Ronald Reagan put out the Harsh Noise cassette on Self Sabotage Records at the end of January, a collection of pieces that live up to the name of the album but also proof that even harsh noise can have nuance, composition and musicality even if it’s put together to push buttons, assault the ears and otherwise transform expectations of experience for something coming out of a P.A. anywhere. Dream, Hike is more in the world of experimental, electronic dance music but Dean Inman is no stranger to his chosen format of expression with sound to challenge what purpose the music serves as something to experience by making beats that aren’t purely for people to chill out and passively dance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just that Dream Hike is more than the times when he makes music designed for that sort of thing as well.
Friday | February 16, 2018
Who:Atomga Aga EP release w/The Dendrites and Jericho Son of None When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: Atomga is one of a few Afrobeat artists in Denver with the sprawling lineup to manifest the mixture of jazz, funk, Ghanaian highlight the polyrhythmic music of West Africa that was pioneered by composer/musician and political figure Fela Kuti in the 60s and 70s. The band’s new EP Aga is four songs and it sounds like the band has delved into more Middle Eastern musical ideas. In the live setting, Atomga has a forceful and celebratory presence. Also on the bill, one of the few great Denver ska bands, The Dendrites. Great because they don’t sound third wave or overly two-tone revival or trying to be some other band. There’s a lot of imitation in ska but The Dendrites are originals.
Who:Hands of Midnight, Roger Green and Church Fire When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: Hands of Midnight is an electronic project that seems to be operating at the intersection of dub, psychedelia and deep house. Half of the group is Bill Murphy, former guitarist with the late, great Denver post-punk band The Swayback. Roger Green has been all over the place musically having perhaps first come to prominence in Denver with space rock/pop band Idle Mind. Though likely more well-known for having been a member of dream pop band The Czars, Roger Green’s avant-garde and experimental music like his typewriter orchestra is some of the most interesting sonic art the guy has been up to. He has also written some fine singer-songwriter music and a long-time lecturer on the psychedelic experience and the associated music. For this bill, who knows? Maybe Green has a secret electronic dance music set up his sleeve. Whatever it is, it’ll be worth witnessing. To call Church Fire an intense electronic dance/dream pop band would be like saying Alejandro Jodorowsky made the original midnight movie.
Who:Murs w/Stay Tuned, ItsEvi and ROOKE5 When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: Murs more or less got his big break, if such can be said without overstating the point, as a member of influential underground hip-hop collective Living Legends. But since then he has more than made a name for himself as a solo artist for his literate, perceptive and vibrantly emotional lyrics. These days, as back in his early days, Murs’ voice is refreshingly out of step with hip-hop trends. He raps and speaks his words while rendering his vocals musical without singing. It’s a bit of an older approach but one that Murs has successfully creatively evolved across his long career. His new album, A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable on March 16, 2018. One of the opening acts for this bill is Stay Tuned which includes one of Denver’s best producers, DJ Awhat, and two of its most charismatic MCs, Ichiban and Mane Rok. Their shows are an audio-visual experience that puts a clever and incisive spin on personal experiences as well as some of the most on point social commentary out of Denver.
Who:Zavala, Mux Mool, Big J. Beats When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Zavala is a Chicago-based artist whose beats and modular synths puts him in league with the better IDM and dub techno artists. His latest album is Fantasmas. Mux Mool is originally from Minneapolis but he’s been working with Michael Menert of Pretty Lights on Club Scout and has relocated to Denver. His brand of IDM is a kind of brighter and more playful hip-hop beat making. Big J. Beats may be known locally as a hip-hop artist but his beats are in the realm of 90s and 2000s alternative hip-hop with his creative use of noise, sounds and atmosphere, like he’s crafting soundtracks to chill, fantastical realms you’d really want to visit.
Who:Judge w/faim, Screwtape and Fortune’s Fool When: Friday, 02.16, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Judge formed in 1987 as hardcore was well on its way to splintering as a subculture. But in presenting a more militant than ever straight edge image and adopting a harder sound, Judge had the kind of desperation, immediacy and pointedly political messaging of the newly grindcore Napalm Death whose own 1987 album created a blueprint for a different style of extreme music. So it only seems fitting that local heavy hitters in the hardcore realm, faim and Screwtape, are two of the opening bands because both bands are pushing hardcore into interesting directions at a time when that music could really use some innovation that doesn’t water down its essential appeal.
Saturday | February 17, 2008
Who:The Hits album release show w/Love Stallion, Hot Apostles, Sharone & The Wind When: Saturday, 02.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Denver’s The Hits is releasing its second full-length album BreakThrough tonight. The album is fourteen tracks of gritty, melodic rock songs that balance energetic drive with an unpretentious poetic sensibility. Yes, the songs are about love, life’s frustrations and conflicted emotions. But the latter is what gives the band’s songs a subtle complexity that far too many rock bands either try to avoid or are incapable of in the first place. Hot Apostles is a like-minded band but with more of a bluesy, hard rock flavor. And, again, Hot Apostles bring to the songwriting not just the passion but a mature person’s perspective on relationships and life in general. Likely opening the show is Sharone & The Wind. Since the band’s inception in the Spring and Summer of 2016 it has quickly evolved from a piano-centered hard rock band to a darker, more metallic without being metal, project with a surprising level of emotional intensity coursing through the music. The band has gone through a significant lineup change since the release of 2017’s excellent Storm and apparently we’ll see another record from the band this year.
Who:Real Estate w/Bedouine When: Sunday, 02.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: The first three Real Estate albums garnered a sizeable fan base and critical acclaim for its tasty jangle rock riffs and spare but evocative lyrics. But something about it felt a bit one dimensional and, well, tame yet promising. Seven years after forming, in 2016, long time friend of the band Julian Lynch steps in to replace Matthew Mondanile. Rather than merely stepping in as a lead guitarist to play like Mondanile, Lynch was encouraged to bring his innovative, much more experimental, guitar style to the next record, 2017’s In Mind. The well composed songwriting is still in place but there’s an added dimension to the songs that give space for experiments in atmosphere and texture. It’s rarely overt and obvious, which makes it all the more interesting an intentional choice than if the band had scrapped it’s older sound completely. At times the songs are reminiscent of Paracosm-period Washed Out or The War on Drugs, but the intersection of gently rippling rhythm and Courtney’s sparkly, melodic guitar and Lynch’s expansive sensibilities instantly made Real Estate an interesting band rather than one merely noteworthy because it touched many people’s nostalgia centers.
Monday | February 19, 2018
Who:Bahamas and The Weather Station When: Monday, 02.19, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Afie Jurvanen is the main force behind Toronto’s Bahamas. Though designated as folk, if you listen to Jurvanen’s records his compositions may have that kind of simple, immediately accessible structure and his presentation of the music has the feel of being included in an intimate performance, but his layering of sounds combines a full sound like a chamber pop band with a stripped down quality. It’s not for everyone but it does set him apart from many other indie folksters. The Weather Station got started around the same time as Bahamas, also in and around Toronto, with similar roots in folk music. But Tamara Lindeman’s vibrant voice is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde. A similar cadence and tonality. Lindeman’s guitar style is composed almost as sketches of the scenes and experiences she describes in her vivid lyrics. The nuanced thinking and penetrating observational quality of Lindeman’s words matched with her moody and warm compositions, smoothly yet evocatively dynamic, make for some compelling listening. The latest release from The Weather Station is the band’s self-titled 2017 album.
Tuesday | February 20, 2018
Who:Walk the Moon w/Company of Thieves When: Tuesday, 02.20, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: If you look at Company of Thieves’ discography it’s not sprawling with artifacts of their development as a band. If you got to see the band come up in its hometown of Chicago maybe you got a hold of some tracks, homemade CDs and cassettes. As many bands have done since Company of Thieves got going in 2007. With, according to singer Genevieve Schatz, eight line-up changes (all including band co-founder Marc Walloch) that one might expect in a band that has been around that long without breakthrough commercial success. And Company of Thieves itself went on hiatus for a for a few years during which Schatz released a solo EP and Walloch played bass in AWOLNATION. But in 2017 the band announced it was back together with a short batch of songs ready to release in the new year with lead single, “Treasure.” Though obviously a pop band, with “Treasure,” COT includes political samples as one might expect to hear in an industrial or hip-hop song and uses the sample as a jumping off point to say something when it would be easier to just have written an incredibly catchy song.
Who:Mac Sabbath w/Galactic Empire When: Tuesday, 02.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Yes, it is indeed that terrifying, McDonald’s-themed heavy metal band. The show is surreal and yet disturbing as only truly committed performance artists can be while putting on a show that can still be appropriate for an all-ages audience.
Wednesday | February 21, 2018
Who:Snarky Puppy w/Sirintip When: Wednesday, 02.21, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Snarky Puppy managed to bring together jazz fusion, funk, jam band free flowing, spontaneous songwriting and non-Western music without it coming off like they’re trying too hard. There is a clarity to its maximalist compositions and Bernie Worrell-esque keyboard work that suggest more than one person in the band studied pop music without being chained to its sometimes limiting conventions. Jazz may be the root but Snarky Puppy has thankfully abandoned the ossified instincts of much modern jazz as well. The band is sprawling in membership, totally coincidentally perhaps with it being from Denton from which hail The Polyphonic Spree, but the music has a coherence and focus that you’d expect from a chamber orchestra. The project’s latest record is 2016’s Grammy winning Culcha Vulcha but it looks like there’s a new record in the works with a tentative 2018 release.
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.