What:Kyle Emerson w/Turvy Organ, Panther Martin and Crystal Seth When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. Tonight he shares the bill with stars of the local indie rock milieu in Turvy Organ and Panther Martin.
What:Stonefield w/Pink Fuzz, SSIIGGHH When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Amy, Hannah, Holly and Sarah Findlay are four sisters that formed the hard psychedelic rock band Stonefiled in 2006 in Darraweit Guim in Victoria, Australia. Its early offerings (for example Through the Clover) were in the realm of 70s boogie rock with hints of the psychedelia that would characterize their later songwriting. By the time of 2019’s Bent, the group hasn’t shed its infectious tunefulness but its overall sound is much heavier, brimming with expertly sculpted melodic fuzz and at times bordering on a fusion of Krautrock and early 2000s stoner rock. Fans of Stereolab, Trans Am and Hawkwind will find a lot to like about this latest incarnation of the band’s evolution.
What:Ezra Furman w/Kelley Stoltz When: Saturday, 2.22, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Ezra Furman’s 2019 album Twelve Nudes is a lush yet somehow lo-fi collection of songs filled with raw emotion and experiences presented with a startling honesty couched in the sound of some 1960s girl group sound fused with fuzzy garage rock production. It’s a fascinating and bracing listen that gets past your filters before the impact of what you’re hearing hits you and the experience awakens you to the playful weightiness of Furman’s songwriting.
What:Shadows Tranquil, Emerald Siam, Midwife and Ophelia Drowning When: Saturday, 2.22, 9 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Dark, shoegaze-y post-punk band Shadows Tranquil performs this night with the brooding yet transcendent Emerald Siam, Midwife’s riveting, ethereal, tender, intimate soundscapes and Danish dungeon synth project Ophelia Drowning.
What:Kendra & The Bunnies When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Kendra & The Bunnies brings an unconventional and disarming creativity and sensitivity to a folk psychedelia that seems out of place and out of time. When so many modern indie bands are still mining Laurel Canyon, Kendra & The Bunnies tapped slightly into the vibe of Northern California hippies and made it their own.
What:Cyclo-Sonic, Joy Subtraction and The Pollution When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m. Where: 1010 Workshop Why: Cyclo-Sonic is comprised of veterans of Denver’s great second era of punk in the 80s with former members of The Fluid, The Frantix, Rok Tots and The Choosey Mothers. Which would mean not much if the band wasn’t any good but it turns out that the band’s leftfield reinterpretation of melodic proto-punk and garage is shockingly vital and compelling. Joy Subtraction came out of the more arty end of punk inspired by the likes of Alice Donut and Nomeansno. The Pollution is an unlikely merging of psychedelic prog and punk.
What:Shibui Denver #10: Fern Roberts and Red Wing Black Bird When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This edition of Shibui Denver will feature darkwave project Red Wing Black Bird and the latest band from former Emerald Siam and Light Travels Faster bassist Todd Spriggs, Fern Roberts.
What:Chastity Belt w/Nanami Ozone and Hugh F When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Chastity Belt has been on a great run of seeming to reinvent its aesthetic over the past two or three records. Its 2019 self-titled record has seemingly shed whatever influences informed its earlier work in favor of a more introspective, dream pop-esque, borderline post-punk aesthetic but rooted in a sophisticated expression of emotional complexity, the kind that only comes with processing loss whether personally, or of one’s place in the world or of one’s community or feeling lost in a world where things seem upended and your place in it seems tentative. Who can say is the reason for this change but it is the group’s finest offering to date in its ability to evoke feelings that a more straight ahead rock and roll songwriting style struggles to articulate.
What:Kendra & The Bunnies When: Sunday, 2.23, 4-6 p.m. Where: The Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland 4-6 p.m.
What:Hannibal Buress w/Al Jackson and Tony Trimm When: Monday, 2.24, 10”:15 p.m. Where: Denver Comedy Works Why: This is a free pop up comedy event featuring Hannibal Buress whose sharp, surreal comedy takes aim at the ridiculousness of modern life and odd ideas we all take for granted. He has also appeared in film and numerous television shows including brilliant turns on the Eric Andre Show and Broad City. For tickets signup/rsvp @ www.hannibalburess.com also text 312-584-5839 for a chance at tickets.
Tuesday | February 25
What:American Nightmare w/Ceremony When: Tuesday, 2.25, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: American Nightmare is a legit hardcore band in the modern mold. Ceremony was right there with them, though having formed in 2006 during American Nightmare’s hiatus from 2004-2011. But around the time of Ceremony’s 2012 album Zoo its sound if not its raw, confrontational energy as a live band was changing. Hints of a shift from hardcore into something more experimental was all over that record and by the time of The L-Shaped Man from 2015, Ceremony was a post-punk band. Its latest album, In the Spirit World Now has expanded the use of synths in the band’s overall sound has morphed even further in the direction of dance-y darkwave like Devo if that band had somehow emerged following the post-punk revival of the late 90s and early 2000s.
Who:The Crystal Method w/Yoko b2b iAM_Jacko and Skeena When: Friday, 01.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: The Fox Theatre Why: In the 90s The Crystal Method blurred any boundaries that may have existed between various subgenres of electronic music of the time. Rather than specialists, The Crystal Method freely experimented with forms, styles and genres yet crafted a sound of their own with an emphasis on strong beats and a grittily otherworldly, moody atmospherics. The duo’s 2018 record The Trip Home is proof that it hasn’t spent the past two decades insisting its initial vision should dictate the rest of its music while also borrowing heavily from methods and sounds from the past and during the intervening years. If a big beat industrial synth pop album was a thing, The Crystal Method made one.
Who:Hot Rize & Friends w/Michael Cleveland, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers When: Friday, 01.18, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Hot Rize, the Colorado-based bluegrass band, is celebrating four decades together with a pair of shows at The Boulder Theater. Its members were hanging out and working at the Denver Folklore Center in the 1970s and learning the craft and methods of that music before essentially popularizing bluegrass to an ever widening audience from the 1980s onward. Depending on your perspective, for better or worse, Hot Rize’s aesthetic of what Nick Forster called “human sized music” impacted the aesthetic of the music on A Prairie Home Companion—old timey music for an era where bigger, louder, better, less elegant seemed to be the order of the day beyond even music. Even if bluegrass isn’t your thing, Hot Rize is an especially compelling live band whose good humor and sheer charisma always makes for an enjoyable performance.
Who:Cursive w/Summer Cannibals and Campdogzz When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Cursive is one of the bands that put Omaha, Nebraska on the musical map as a place from which noteworthy music was being made. By the time the group garnered more than underground and regional prominence it had evolved its sound out of its early post-hardcore roots and incorporated a diverse set of musical ideas and sounds that proved influential on 2000s indie rock with raw emotions placed in the context of vibrant, atmospheric sounds and textures to give the band’s songs an immersive, even cinematic feel. The quartet’s latest, Vitriola, is vintage Cursive in all its haunted, orchestral, emotionally heightened glory. Summer Cannibals from Portland, Oregon is one of the few newer bands making rock music that’s difficult to pigeonhole to a specific subgenre bandwagoned in the past five to seven years as its not garage rock, not surf rock, not neo-grunge and not psychedelia. And all the better for it. Fuzzy, lively pop songs.
Who:Magic City Hippies w/Future Generations When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Magic City Hippies at least have a name that gives a clue what you’re in for. Its posi-hip-hop-inflected funk and downtempo pop is what you would hope New Age-esque hippies might glom onto after getting tired of de-fanged EDM and jamtronica. Opening act, Future Generations, came to their lush and layered songwriting through the production angle early on when singer/programmer Eddie Gore was making beats for friends and his own early experiments in music. As the band came together and brought in ideas and instruments the fledgling band was able to build and learn together without the overt influence of previous bands. Thus its pop songcraft while accessible is clearly coming from a direction where the band is consistently absorbing new sounds and methods so that the band’s creative evolution is part of its act of writing songs. The Future Generations 2018 album Landscape may sound like a solid, buoyant pop album, because it is, but there are plenty of sonic Easter eggs in there for discerning listeners.
Who:City Hunter release of Deep Blood w/Death Scenes and DJ Dead Body and Yung Sherm When: Saturday, 01.19, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Horror-themed, costumed hardcore band City Hunter will play one of its rare shows in support of the release of its 2018 LP Deep Blood on Youth Attack Records. Expect some serious hijinks on the performance side with what will also be a short set because the band’s longest songs are under three minutes with many under a minute. Fitting for a band whose lead singer looks like the masked killer from an early 80s slasher film. Opening is Death Scenes which is Scream Screen’s Theresa Mercado who will show morgue slides accompanied by music from Kevin Wesley of noise project Prison Glue.
Who:Ball of Light, Toboggan, Quits and Landgrabbers When: Wednesday, 01.23, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Cincinnati’s Ball of Light just released its new album Flux on January 10, 2019. It’s ten tracks of urgent, feral, noisy post-hardcore sounds like what a hybrid of Neurosis and Season To Risk might sound like. Toboggan, not the Spanish band, is a bit like late 90s emo with hooks and coherent lyrics but not short on raw emotion. Quits is the noise rock band from Denver starring Doug “Fucking” Mioducki who used to be in early indie pop band Felt Pilotes before going on to way less melodic but no less emotionally charged bands like Koala, Sparkles, Witch Doctor and CP-208. His bandmates are also noteworthy musicians from other great Denver bands but you can do some homework if you feel like it.
Who:Sliver, afd, Tuck Knee, Sick World, Wheels When: Thursday, 11.29, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: In the early days, Sliver always wanted to be a Limp Bizkit cover band but singer/guitarist Chris Mercer kept being told he looked like Kurt Cobain on April 6, 1994 and he looked into Nirvana’s music and its roots and got inspired to make a sort of rock music with the raw and somewhat unpredictable quality of punk and the tuneful sensibility of Cobain’s own accessible yet often startlingly honest songwriting. In spite of Mercer’s early influences, Sliver has evolved into one of the better bands out of Denver and sharing the room tonight with like-minded artists operating outside of the trad punk straight jacket.
Who:Gamelan Tunas Mekar When: Thursday, 11.29, 7 p.m. Where: Dazzle Why: Denver-based Gamelan Tunas Mekar is an orchestra of practitioners of the percussive/tonal instrument the gamelan. Lead by Balinese composer and Artist-in-Residence Made Lasmawan, this is probably the most legit performance of traditional Balinese music you’re likely to get to see anytime soon.
Friday | November 30, 2018
Who:Thou, Lingua Ignota, MJ Guider and Blood Incantation When: Friday, 11.30, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Thou has built a body of work over the course of the past decade and more that transcends a convenient genre designation for the uninitiated like doom, sludge crust and experimental black metal. Its music fits all of those and more but mostly it’s just a sonically accurate embodiment of human struggle and our collective agony at having to bear the crushing weight of societies and cultures that aren’t geared toward cultivating and nurturing us. But not that abstract. Thou’s music feels deeply personal and coming from a place in the heart that has all but given up hope. Thou is also one of the most prolific bands in heavy music with five releases in 2018 alone. In August the group released Magus on Sacred Bones Records, a typically somber yet colossal collection of anthems suggesting a spiritual purge and awakening a sense of mission in surrendering to an intuition guided by forces larger than the self. Hey, one song is called “Transcending Dualities” and another “The Kingdom of Meaning.”
Lingua Ignota is the name for the language that the twelfth century Christian mystic St. Hildegard of Bingen used in her mystical practice. It was a secret language in which Bingen may have expressed her experiences outside that of typical mortal ken. That association certainly fits the music of Kristin Hayter for the project of the same name. Seemingly tapping into the nightmares of the collective unconscious for her compositions and recordings, Hayter inevitably gets compared to the similarly elemental Diamanda Galas who also employs piano to great dramatic effect alongside disorienting, noisy drones. Fans of Pharmakon and Jarboe will also find a great deal to love in Hayter’s oevre. 2018’s All Bitches Die evokes a kind of modern day experience of the mythological and mystical with both claustrophobic intensity and sublimely spacious compositions that at times are reminiscent of the more transcendent passages of Patti Smith’s misunderstood, experimental 1976 record Radio Ethiopia. All comparison’s aside, Hayter’s music pulls you along and challenges you, it is both uncompromising yet accessible.
MJ Guider is Melissa Guion of New Orleans and her composed environment music is enveloping and otherworldly Her 2016 album Precious Systems is like a visionary post-Snow Crash science fiction album written in music.
Blood Incantation doesn’t do many Colorado shows as the weirdo death metal band has been touring internationally for a few years at this point and can preserve some of its mystique locally.
Who:Glasss Presents: Princess Dewclaw, Rat Bites, Bert Olsen When: Friday, 11.30, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Princess Dewclaw somehow sounds like a great, angsty southern California deathrock band from the early 80s with New Wave-y synthesizers mixed with the electrifyingly raw quality of early Babes in Toyland. All without sounded beholden to any of that. Rat Bites is a four-piece punk band that seems to have come out of 90s era garage punk—a little rough around the edges but with an unerring songwriting sense. Like The Dead Boys or Murder City Devils. Bert Olsen is to garage rock what post-punk was, for the most part, to punk: Moodier, sadder, artier and, well, more sensitive and nuanced.
Who:Slapshot w/Line Brawl and Cadaver Dog When: Friday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Slapshot is the legendary Boston hardcore band. Good thing the group didn’t get the memo that hardcore was pretty much over by the time it released its ferocious 1986 album Back On The Map. Across its lifespan the group included members of other classic hardcore groups including people from Negative FX, DYS and SS Decontrol. It’s sound had already absorbed a bit of that crossover sound by the time it was releasing recordings but Slapshot’s songwriting remained tight and vicious even up to and including its 2018 album Make America Hate Again. Joining the veteran band on this bill are two of Denver’s best bands, hardcore or otherwise, with Line Brawl and Cadaver Dogs, both of whom are clearly from that Boston lineage of loud, sharp, stark punk.
Saturday | December 1, 2018
Who:Nova Fest 6: Fathers, The Burial Plot, Under Auburn Skies, It’s Just Bugs and Saving Verona When: Saturday, 12.1, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This festival basically showcases some of the harder-edged bands that some might call metal or hardcore or post-hardcore but none of which truly fit into a single heavy music genre slot. Especially It’s Just Bugs, which is a confrontational hip-hop group that utilizes industrial beats and noise in evoking the challenges of the modern urban experience and the tension of trying to eke out an existence in a time when the economic and political climate makes it so being working class is harder than it’s been since the Great Depression. Fathers is the post-hardcore super group includes, among others, former members of Lords of Fuzz and Cult of the Lost Cause. Years ago The Burial Plot was a heavy band that was breaking to the national scene when it split but it’s now back and actively performing around the Denver area.
Who:Boys Noize w/Sergio Santana and T-Rx When: Saturday, 12.1, 9 p.m. Where: Beta Nightclub Why: Alexander Ridha has been DJing as Boys Noize for nearly a decade and a half at this point. His upbeat remixes of a broad range of artists from Snoop Dog to Depeche Mode and David Lynch are noteworthy for the same reason his DJ sets are worth a listen or, in the case tonight with Beta and its Funktion-One—Ridha’s ability to weave together multiple genres in a set that sound like genres of their own. And it’s not just the tired EDM clichés that started killing off that world of music. He’s not afraid to bring in some menacing and distorted sounds and beats that one might more rightfully hear in a darkwave band or party bangers that aren’t eyeroll-worthy. Ridha is a versatile artist who seems to seek to expand his own musical vocabulary and methods regularly and it has resulted in a freshness to his sets and his recorded output.
Sunday | December 2, 2018
Who:Rotten Reputation w/Viqueen, Claudzilla and Rat Bites When: Sunday, 12.2, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: San Francisco’s Viqueen (pronounced like Viking but not “king”) makes a stop in Denver with its metallic punk reminiscent of L7, Tribe 8 and maybe a less chaotic Blatz. Also on the bill is the political expressed as the personal (and vice versa) poppy punk quartet Rotten Reputation. With its sarcasm and sharp humor game strong, Rotten Reputation has treated us to two full-length albums’ worth of creative vitriol with its 2017 album Nancy and 2018’s Castration Station. Claudzilla may not be punk in the traditional sense of the sound but in spirit, anyone that irreverent and, not to put too fine a point on it, weird is in the realm of punk and her keytar rock/pop songs will probably alienate the right people but the rest of us can revel in its strangeness. Rat Bites, as mentioned earlier in this column, is a noisy punk band that fans of Murder City Devils, New Bomb Turks and Jawbreaker might enjoy.
Who:Black Marlin w/Hail Satan, Dead Characters and Totochtin When: Sunday, 12.2, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Black Marlin is a Denver band with a proclivity for blending the technical musical sensibility of prog and math rock with thrash. Hail Satan is an out and out, no bones about it thrash band but one that could only come out of a certain degree of self-awareness but without any irony in its love for the music. Totochtin is a sludgy but not doomy noisy metal band. It might be a safe bet the guys in the group listened to a few Unsane, Yob and Thou records but you never know. With names like Little Foot, Grease Trap and Big Trash, instrumental metal band Dead Characters bridge the gap between surf rock and sludge metal.
Tuesday | December 4, 2018
Who:VNV Nation w/Holygram and The Rain Within When: Tuesday, 12.4, 6 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: VNV Nation is a group that has been a bit polarizing in the community of industrial music fans. Its particular EBM aesthetic has certainly influenced the sound and style of the futurepop and EBM music of the late 90s and 2000s—that samey, fake dark and intense post-industrial music with emo-esque vocals and fairly uninspired production. Nevertheless, VNV Nation’s records have had a creative cohesive vision that can be found in the music of its mid-era EBM peers like Covenant, Apoptygma Berzerk and Aseemblage 23 and not so much in many of the bands they all inspired. The project has been driven by Ronan Harris’ songwriting and composition since the beginning and his fusion of synth pop with the hard-edged beats of German industrial acts is is not for everyone. But, especially with the 2018 album Noire, Harris demonstrates his command of the underpinnings of the music that influenced him and informs his own work where an instinct for connecting classical music structure, classic pop songcraft and experiments in electronic sounds can yield interesting results.
Cologne, Germany’s Holygram masterful matching of post-punk moodiness and driving bass lines with industrial beats and synth work has been compared to The Cure from the arc of albums from Seventeen Seconds to Pornography. Brooding but bright and urgent. The outfit’s 2018 album Modern Cults has that hazy headlong quality coupled with haunted vocals and a taut emotional flavor that is part of what makes The Soft Moon so appealing as well.
Who:Minus the Bear farewell tour w/Tera Melos When: Tuesday, 12.4, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Minus the Bear is calling it quits after seventeen years and several records. Formed in Seattle in 2001 the group’s membership has included then current and former members of prominent post-hardcore bands in America including Botch, Kill Sadie, Circa Survive and These Arms Are Snakes. Minus the Bear’s music required a different kind of technical precision with its idiosyncratic take on math rock – sparkling melodies, intricate guitar work employed with a sort of minimalist approach. That Tera Melos is on the tour is only fitting as that group’s own imaginative math rock is also more focused on songwriting than pure technique.
Who:Childish Gambino w/Vince Staples When: Tuesday, 12.4, 6:30 p.m. Where: Pepsi Center Why: Childish Gambino caused quite a stir with the spring 2018 release of the video for the song “This Is America.” Often poorly, sometimes cringe-worthily so, imitated by several people, the song and video is a brilliant commentary on racism in America today. Donald Glover’s accomplishments as a comedian are better written about elsewhere but his musical output has been equally as interesting and respectable. His 2016 album Awaken, My Love! is one of the better psychedelic soul and funk albums of the past few years. But his promotion of the album with the app that took uses to space with a view back to earth before crash landing in Joshua Tree followed by a list of tour dates and links to get tickets was, to put it mildly, unconventional. But it’s just Glover keeping with his usual attempts to keep things fresh and interesting for him and anyone who wants to be along for the ride. Also on this bill is Vince Staples whose own music may be hip-hop but his musical interests are far broader and you can hear it in his extensive use of synths, samples, production and vocal delivery. Staples’ incisive and evocative words bring attention to a neglected America that isn’t much talked about by politicians and their lapdogs trying to put a good face on the fake economic boom that is really only benefiting the upper one percent before it crashes hard in the next decade. At least that’s what his 2018 opus FM! seems to discuss among other issues.
Wednesday | December 5, 2018
Who:Chief White Lightning w/The Corner Girls and …And The Black Feathers When: Wednesday, 12.5, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Even though that wave of bands trying to mine classic rock glory and songwriting has crashed and dissolved (whether they know it or not) as has the umpteenth psychedelic rock revival, some artists will survive the trend on strong songwriting and having something else to offer than a nostalgia trip appeal. One of those is Josh Logan who is Chief White Lightning. Yeah, boogie rock, blues rock, honky tonk and pop. But Logan brings a great deal of personality to his performances and songwriting and that makes all the difference. …And the Black Feathers from Denver are coming from a similar place but its own songs have an expansive quality that gives its songwriting a broad emotional range even when the songs seem to draw on familiar rock and roll themes. It would be weird if The Corner Girls went more in a blues punk direction or whatever after honing its whole “pastel punk” and surf rock thing but you’ll have to go to see.
Who:Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.
Who:Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.
Who:Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street) Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.
Friday | August 10, 2018
Who:Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.
Who:Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.
Who:Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.
Who:Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.
Saturday | August 10, 2018
Who:Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.
Who:Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.
Who:Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.
Who:GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.
Who:Goon, faim, Soul Vice When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.
Who:Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.
Tuesday | August 14, 2018
Who:The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.
Who:Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.
Who:Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.
Wednesday | August 8, 2018
Who:Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2 When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.
Who:Beach House w/Sound of Ceres When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.
Who:Father John Misty with TV On the Radio When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.
Who:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Equine, Death In Space, Shawn Mlekush and JAMF When: Thursday, 06.14, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This edition of the series focused on more experimental artists mostly from the Denver area includes Equine, the guitar and sometimes beats and other refinements project of former Epileptinomicon and Moth Eater musician Kevin Richards. Death In Space is Aleeya Wilson’s guitar and electronics project. Her December 2017 release Demo EP2 basically combined lo-fi slowcore with minimal synth techno but you never really know exactly what you’re in for at one of Wilson’s shows, which is no knock. Shawn Mlekush is one of the minds behind experimental synth band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory and his solo work has a similar quality of meditative, melancholy ambient guitar, synth and loops like you’re getting a peek into someone’s solitary but restful vacation in the subtropics in early Spring when pretty much no one takes time off to get away. It gives the music a quality that is truly out of step with the hurried pace of modern life in post-industrial America.
Who:Reuben and the Dark w/Florea and Bright Silence (solo) When: Thursday, 06.14, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Reuben and the Dark is certainly operating in the realm of indie folk with its soaring melodies and uplifting song dynamics. But the Canadian band’s lyrics are brimming with a sweeping emotionalism that work in perfect sync with an inventive and fluid rhythm scheme working underneath the foreground of frontman Reuben Bullock’s expressive vocal delivery. The band’s 2018 album Arms of a Dream has a refreshing array of songwriting styles and its music video and lyrics for “All Or Nothing” challenges culturally entrenched ideas of gender roles and how we relate to one another.
Saturday | June 16, 2018
Who:Bacon Brothers When: Saturday, 6.16, 8 p.m. Where: Stanley Hotel Why: Michael and Kevin Bacon are rightfully better known for their work in cinema and television. Michael, the older brother, for his scoring countless TV and movie soundtracks and Kevin as an iconic actor whose distinguished career spans the past four decades beginning with his role as Chip Diller in 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House. The brothers have played music together from a young age but their band didn’t take on a formal existence until 1995. The band’s country rock and folk songs has more than its fair share of soul in part due to Kevin’s resonant voice which has just enough grit to give it some character. Of course live there will be plenty of banter and humor and an ease of connection between the Bacon Brothers so that the band never comes across as some vanity act in the way we’ve seen with some other people from the acting world who try their hands at music.
Who:Speedy Ortiz w/Anna Burch and Xetas When: Saturday, 06.16, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Since starting Speedy Ortiz as a solo project in 2011, Sadie Dupuis has established herself as one of modern indie rock’s most interesting voices. She was drawing upon the fuzz pop sound of the 90s late alternative rock era before it became a feature of a not small stripe of underground American rock in recent years before it was even remotely trendy. But Dupuis is a multidimensional artist whose work reflects various creative interests that influenced her art including comic, collage and tarot art and their associated signifiers/symbolism. Speedy Ortiz was on the edge of releasing its new album in 2016 or early 2017, a collection of songs about the usual, everyday concerns given poetic and creative life through the lens of Dupuis’ imagination. But the results of the election gave the band pause because, according to a February 2018 interview with Dupuis with Consequence of Sound, the more personal aspect of the songs seemed to lose meaning given the seriousness of the moment. So the group scrapped the album. 2018’s Twerp Verse is a fairly different record from all previous Speedy Ortiz releases in tone and overall subject matter. The songwriting chops and keen ear for evocative melodies are there but the lyrics are so vividly incisive it makes you appreciate even more how articulate Dupuis has been all along in her music career. Read the words to any song from the album and you have to be in awe at Dupuis’ ability to write fairly pointed words that tell it like it is without reeling back in an attempt to let certain people feel okay with their abuse and creepiness—all of course written into well-crafted pop songs. Bravo.
Who:Mike Huckaby (Detroit), Mark Hosler, Normal Ones and Sassmouth
When: Saturday, 06.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Mike Huckaby is one of the great modern practioners of techno and seeing one of his sets along would make this show worthy of attendance especially at the Mercury which has a great sound system but doesn’t host as many live music shows as it once did. But also on this bill is Mark Hosler of Negativland who will bring something unique and unusual to perform.
Who:Scrunchies (MN), Surf Mom, Rat Bites, Bad Year When: Saturday, 06.16, 6-10 p.m. Where: Broadway Bar & Bites Why: Scrunchies are an all female punk band from Minneapolis that just released its new album Stunner. Fans of Seven Year Bitch, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and early Sleater-Kinney would do well to check this band out. But if you show up you’ll also get to see Surf Mom, arguably Denver’s best fuzz rock/punk duo as well as Rat Bites, the latest project to include former Rainbow Sugar, Sin Desires Marie and Old Time Relijun drummer Germaine Baca.
Sunday | June 17, 2018
Who:Iceage w/Mary Lattimore When: Sunday, 06.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Why: Iceage has never fit fully into any specific musical subgenre despite the best attempts to do so. New Brigade had too much atmosphere to be a hardcore record but enough edge and intensity to appeal to fans of hardcore. You’re Nothing was refreshingly like a melodic, raging noise rock album. With Plowing Into the Field of Love, though, began a change toward expanded musicality and songs that recalled the ragged punk and decadence sound of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Beyondless, Iceage’s 2018 album, finds the band pushing more into that realm and the expressive range of the music has been enhanced with expansive, drifty dynamics that might draw comparisons with psychedelic rock bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre except that the BJM is likely not an influence. Rather an attempt to express and navigate contorted and conflicting emotions and sense of being at ease with uncertainty even as it floods and crashes into your world.
Monday | June 18, 2018
Who:CHRCH w/Body Void, Boar Worship, Terminus and Matriarch When: Monday, 06.18, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: CHRCH’s cavernous soundscapes are reminiscent of those of SunnO))) but it has a more organic, feral quality to its sonic palette. Eva’s vocals pierce the lingering, pummeling flood of cthonic drone of the band as though carving an incantation on rapidly cooling lava with sheer power of her words. Meaning there’s something magical, dark and powerful about the band’s music and its new album Light Will Consume Us All captures that as well as it can outside of the live setting. Fortunately, you’ll have a chance to see CHRCH for yourself tonight at the Hi-Dive with some of extreme music’s heaviest.
Who:Quiet Slang w/Abi Reimold When: Monday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: James Alex is best known in recent years as the exuberant frontman of punk/pop band Beach Slang. Although a punk veteran going back to 1990 with his old band Weston, Alex struck a chord with the utter sincerity and emotional glow of Beach Slang. Probably some people thought it was overcompensating positivity but the band’s songs deal with the deep heartbreak and disappointment and other struggles of life, it’s just that the presentation is that of an amplified enthusiasm. With Quiet Slang, Alex tries on a more subdued presentation and it might be said it’s sort of an acoustic take on Beach Slang with the usual thoughtful lyrics and heartfelt delivery. Alex’s music is clearly one meant to reach out for connection to other people who want something real in a cynical world where we’re encouraged to hide genuine feelings in order to avoid hurt. Alex encourages himself and others to risk that hurt because the alternative is a soul dead world where everyone plays it safe and never really gets to experience a vibrantly full life.
Tuesday | June 19, 2018
Who:Belle & Sebastian w/Japanese Breakfast When: Tuesday, 06.19, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Belle and Sebastian is practically the template for bedroom pop if written by especially imaginative and thoughtful people. Belle and Sebastian’s body of work sometimes sounds like Stuart Murdoch spent a lot of time creating the back stories of the people he encountered in the street or at the grocery store during his seven years recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome prior to starting the band. But the level of detail and psychological insight is what has long made the band’s music relevant past any connection to any trend. Early in 2018 the group released its latest set of songs on three EPs called How to Solve Our Human Problems Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Sharing the bill with Belle and Sebastian is Japanese Breakfast. The band based out of Eugene, Oregon is a bit different from singer/guitarist Michelle Zauner’s previous rock band Little Big League. With Japanese Breakfast Zauner used pop songcraft to address issues of exoticism, sexism and talking about heavy life issues with a refreshing honesty and poignancy. The group’s second album, 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet shed any creative artifice further while also bringing to the songwriting a focus and musical inventiveness that made it one of the most interesting guitar pop records of recent years. Zauner and company take the musical ideas further than you would expect, giving its music a timeless quality that many of its trendier peers won’t enjoy. But all informed by Zauner’s native compassion and wry, but never distancing, sense of humor.
Who:JJUUJJUU w/déCollage and King Eddie When: Tuesday, 06.19, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Phil Pirrone of JJUUJJUU is the mastermind behind the psychedelic music festival Desert Daze and its wandering offshoot Desert Daze Caravan. His band, rather than a prime example of the tamed, watered down “psych rock” of recent trendiness, is more experimental and more genuinely aimed at taking the listener on a mind-altering journey through the use of drones, raw noise, evolving melodies and hypnotic rhythms. It’s still rock but refreshingly weird and fans of New Fumes’ and Black Angels’ gift for pushing their own envelope by going outside conventional uses of sound will find much to appreciate here. Local support from local psych music visionaries should set the stage perfectly with experimental pop band déCollage and its freeflowing, freeassociating visuals and sound and King Eddie’s cosmic rock excursions.
Who:Snail Mail w/Bonny Doon and Down Time When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Lindsey Jordan has made quite a name for herself at age 19 for crafting winsome, noisy pop songs of uncommon emotional complexity. Her debut full-length Lush came out in early June 2018 to great critical acclaim. Many of Jordan’s songs have a simply melody throughout but she’s capable of expanding the sonic range on a dime with her guitar work as can be heard clearly in her single “Heat Wave.” Drawing obvious comparisons to Liz Phair and other talented 90s songwriters that got their start in the 90s articulating inner space so vividly, Jordan’s project Snail Mail has plenty of room to build on an already strong creative foundation.
Who:Gomez w/Eldren When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Gomez hit it big with its 1997 debut album Bring It On. At a time when it might have been easy to try to ride the late Britpop wave, Gomez sounded more like a twangy American alternative rock band. But with more creativity than many of its States-side contemporaries. While the band’s sound has evolved over the years, gaining an almost orchestral quality as of its latest album, 2011’s Whatever’s On Your Mind, its core gift for making music that has a distinctly Americana flavor but made by guys from England has remained. For this tour the band will perform Bring It On in its entirety as well as choice cuts from across its long career.
Who:Karl Blau w/Patrick Dethlefs and Evan Holm When: Wednesday, 06.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Karl Blau’s contribution to American pop music probably won’t be fully appreciated any time soon as the prolific artist always seems to be on to a new experiment in songwriting and soundscaping. Pick up any record across his career and you’ll find something worthwhile and inventive even if it’s well within the realm of accessible pop music. His Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society series was a brilliant example of artist-driven releases as a subscription service to Blau’s diverse musical imagination. A master of the loop pedal and rhythm generally, Karl Blau’s songwriting knows few bounds and his performances always containing something ahead of the curve. A frequent collaborator with Phil Elverum (The Microphones and Mount Eerie) and Laura Veirs, Blau pushes pop music in interesting directions whether the rest of the pop music world has yet to catch on.
Who:Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Left Handed Electronics, Grrrl, Bianca Mikahn When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Bianca Mikahn’s combination of almost free verse poetry and beats should be well within the canon of hip-hop and ultimately is. But her delivery and her crafting of her songs has as much in common with the kind of hippie-ish, open mic, slam poetry world as it does with any hip-hop context. Mikahn’s ability to critique society at large while speaking to those issues with a compassion and positive spirit minus any note of insincerity sets her apart from most other artists. That her beats contains elements of noise and melodic ambient music makes her immediately accessible music an otherworldly dimension even as the songs are grounded in fairly earthbound experiences.
Who:High Plains Honky 7” release w/Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels Band and Danny Dodge & The Dodge Gang When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: If Ronnie Milsap had gone a little more honky tonk with a grittier voice, the results might sound a bit like High Plains Honky. The group is releasing its latest seven inch record tonight at the Hi-Dive joined by a couple of other bands who are no slouches in the local country scene. Maybe comparing a Denver band to a best selling artist like Milsap seems like a bit much to some but what made him such a compelling songwriter beyond the masterful combination of musicianship and an ear for catchy and evocative melodies is the vivid storytelling. High Plains Honky have both qualities as well as no holding up of the nose at pop conventions used in a country context. “Goin’ All The Way” and “I Know Where You Go,” the two sides of the record, seem so relatable even if country music isn’t your thing. A tastefully tiny hint of psychedelia haunts the edges of the music and the aspirational, anthemic quality of the stories suggest a deep knowledge of personal reality but needing to write the songs to escape being too bogged down by current circumstances to go after what you really want while also honoring the emotions subsequent to the potential disappointment, pain and lack of resolution that is a part of everyday life. High Plains Honky invites its listeners to dream just a little bit and to embrace their heartsickness.
Who:DOA and MDC When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: In the annals of hardcore outside of American coastal cities, DOA and MDC have to be considered two of the most important acts out of that movement. DOA from Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of the hardest touring bands for years, spreading the gospel of hardcore across the continent and whose album Hardcore ’81 is, perhaps apocryphally, is often cited as the first use of the term in connection to the musical movement. DOA’s political songs struck personal tones in Joe Keithley’s deft songwriting allowing the band’s music to have an appeal beyond agreeing with every iota of the band’s politics. MDC started in Austin, Texas as The Stains with similarly political punk songs that were more left than most of its peers at the time. It didn’t hurt that singer Dave Dictor seemed to havea personal agenda to push the envelope with fans in his stage persona as the ultimate freak and always with the aim of challenging reductive notions of animal and human rights. Listen to that first MDC album and it’s clear that Dictor was an unabashed critic of police brutality and creeping fascism in a way that makes those songs and their specific anti-authoritarian tone even more relevant now.
Who:The Blackouts w/Adrian Conner (Hell’s Belles) and We Are Invisible and Wild Call When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: The Blackouts are an all female rock band that really shows how you can have a fairly straightforward hard rock band and not fall to the boring tropes that happen with too many bands with roots in punk and metal. Adrian Conner from the great all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Bells is also playing this show as well as Wild Call, a band whose forthcoming album is reminiscent of White Hills and Medicine.
Who: Amy Shark and Tomi globehall.com/event/1663566-amy-shark-denver When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Amy Shark is a pop songwriter from Australia whose 2016 single “Adore” caught the attention of tastemakers in Australia and the song was reissued by Sony Music Australia. That Shark was either in her late 20s or 30 when the song came out explains a bit how her voice and the perspective present in the song had a bit of depth and more of the weight of experience than would be the case of a pop artist a decade or more younger. Shark’s debut full-length, Love Monster, will drop in July 2018 so you can catch her live tonight at Globe Hall before everyone has heard of her.
Friday | May 25, 2018
Who:Amber Mark w/Demo Taped and Adiel Mitchell When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater Why: Amber Mark seemed to come out of nowhere when she uploaded her song “S P A C E” to Soundcloud in February 2016. Her voice strong and assured, drawing immediate comparisons to Sade for those qualities and a soulfulness one rarely hears in someone just twenty-two years old. But Mark had something to say and in subsequent singles like “Monsoon,” Mark revealed herself to be a brilliantly poetic songwriter. The 3:33 a.m. EP followed in 2017 and in 2018 Mark released the EP Conexão. Joining her on the Denver date of the tour is Adam Alexander, aka Demo Taped. His electronic pop songs are bright and upbeat but the subject matter of his songs run a broad range of subjects including struggles with anxiety and insecurity. His nuanced and layered songwriting manifested especially strongly on his 2018 EP Momentary.
Who:Orbit Service, Church Fire, The Drood and DJ Mudwulf When: Friday, 05.25, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Denver ambient/space rock legends Orbit Service don’t play many shows these days and even less often at a dive bar like Lion’s Lair. The project’s primary figure, Randall Frazier, has been responsible for maintaining and putting together some of the best live sound in Denver rooms like Walnut Room and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox as well as championing experimental music in the local scene and collaborating with Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots fame. And that would be reason enough to go to this show but also on the bill are Church Fire, a band one might describe as industrial synth pop but its inspired and emotionally fiery performances elevates what could be considered excellent dance music to a higher level. Also, The Drood, a dark, psychedelic, avant-garde prog band.
Who:How To Measure the Weather: Tobias Fike, Ryan Wade Ruehlen, Kari Treadwell, Scott Ferguson When: Friday, 05.25, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Where: Emmanuel Gallery Why: This show has been described as a “migratory sound installation” meaning the performers, members of the Flinching Eye Collective, will move their respective sound-making rigs to take advantage of the Emmanuel Gallery on Auraria campus, one of the oldest buildings in Denver, and its architecture to provide a truly unique, one-off environmental sonic experience.
Who:Muscle Beach w/Colfax Speed Queen, Kenaima and Voight When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Confrontational, arty hardcore. Furious post-psych garage punk. Crushing, post-hardcore noise rock. Emotionally-charged, industrial post-punk. Also, four of Denver’s best, most interesting and always compelling and entertaining live bands.
Who:Super Bummer album release w/Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Super Bummer may be both one of the most ironic and yet accurate names in Denver underground music. The band’s melancholy compositions sure do articulate life’s downbeats with sincerity and self-deprecating humor—a rare combination. Its new album, Big Ambition, out on GROUPHUG, comes out tonight at Syntax where the band will share the stage with the broodingly melodic Americana band Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie, whose 2017 album Holographic Universe is a rabbit hole of beautifully enigmatic sounds and ideas to get lost in across its nine tracks.
Who:La Luz w/Savila and The Kinky Fingers When: Friday, 05.25, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: La Luz may have originally been (and continue to be) inspired by 60s surf rock giants and the great girl groups of the era. But the Los Angeles-based group have long since made their own mark in music, especially with its 2018 album Floating Features, out on Hardly Art. Spooky and soulful, La Luz have mastered the art of nuanced emotional textures and mood so that its songs can be urgent and spend passages of sound swirling in the sweeping heat of a memory that unexpectedly rushes back into your consciousness triggered some moment or detail you encounter in the present. Denver’s The Kinky Fingers possess similar powers of evoking vivid emotions and imagery with their own surf-rooted rock songs.
Saturday | May 26, 2018
Who:Victoria Lundy, Snails and Oysters, Sporehive, Denizens of the Deep and Floating Cave, DJ sets by Franklin Bell and visuals by Orchidz3ro When: Saturday, 05.26, 2:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: An entire afternoon of some of Denver’s most interesting experimental and avant-garde bands. For instance, Snails and Oysters used to be just Joe Mills but is now a duo creating organic ambient music using rock instruments in unconventional ways. A project that cites psych folk legend Sandy Bull, the artist that did an arrangement of Carl Orff’s symphonic opera masterpiece “Carmina Burana” for five-string banjo and released it on a debut album in 1963, is definitely not coming from predictable places. While every act on the bill is worth checking out and nothing really much like each other, the star of the show is Victoria Lundy who at one time people might have said is better known for being the Theremin player in The Inactivists. But by now she has established herself locally as a gifted composer of electronic and ambient music with the Theremin and synth. One thing that sets Lundy apart is that her music tends to be free of transient, modern culture reference tropes and is rooted in 20th century classical and the first wave electronic music avant-garde. And yet, Lundy makes her music accessible and emotionally engaging. There is plenty of intellect going into the making of the music and the craft and technology but the art comes from the heart.
Who:102 Wires When: Saturday, 05.26, 5 p.m. Where: Bar Max Why: This is a celebration of the possibilities of guitar in music beyond the typical use of the instrument in popular or even experimental music. Read our interview with organizer Kevin Richards here.
Sunday | May 27, 2018
What:A Life Celebration For Steve Gordon When: Sunday, 05.27, 1 – 4 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: This will be an event honoring the late, great, Steve Gordon. Steve was a visual artist, sculptor and musician who contributed greatly to the local avant-garde improvisational and ambient music scenes in Denver. Steve passed away in early May following a prolonged battle with cancer but as a widely admired figure, his legacy of excellence, originality, humanity and humor will continue to have an impact in the Denver art world for years to come. For the event friends and collaborators will share stories, music, poetry, food and drink. Read Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s excellent piece on Steve for Westword here and our own interview with the artist from November 2017 here.
Who:Textures featuring Tunica Externa, paperbark, Lepidoptera When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be John Mulville’s last show in Denver for a while as he’s moving back to Minneapolis for the duration. His ambient project paperbark has brought some of the most compelling, textured to grace Denver spaces in recent years. Generating sounds with treated modular synth tones, Mulville’s compositions suggest natural spaces with a physicality suggested by the earlier reference to texture. It’s like you experience a tactile sensation through a creative crafting of atmosphere. Though Mulville will be back through town, we won’t have the luxury of catching any of his soothingly hypnotic sets regularly.
Who:ManifestiV, Bloodied, eHpH and Keldari Station When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: ManifestiV from Vallejo, California sounds like it came out of the intersection of the burner community that embraces both industrial music, electronic dance and New Age concepts in the use of sound. But it works though at times you expect it to be the soundtrack to some kind of hippie-esque cyberpunk video game. But who wouldn’t want to play that game? Denver’s Keldari Station sounds like it’s coming from a similar place but its own music is more pop, has more elements of dub and old school glam rock. eHpH, like the other bands on this bill, is a duo with a penchant for dark, atmospheric music. Except this duo has managed to combine EBM with industrial rock without sounding like they’re trying to fit in with the tired old Goth scene sound of the 90s and 2000s. The band’s music is more experimental, more nuanced in its emotional expressions, than bands who really want to be a new version of Suicide Commando.
Tuesday | May 29, 2018
Who:King Tuff w/Cut Worms and Sasami When: Tuesday, 05.29, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: At the end of his last tour, Kyle Thomas was sick of the party monster persona he had cultivated for years as King Tuff. The pressure to live up to something you’re not because it benefits you professionally and to some extent artistically erodes you more than a little on the inside and Thomas was feeling it. “I was a lost soul,” Thomas posted on his website regarding the release of his 2018 album The Other. “I didn’t know who I was anymore.” The new record is certainly a bit of a departure for Thomas. Any trace of the garage rock that informed his earlier releases is pretty much gone. There is a soulfulness and an overt spirit of experimentation running through all the songs for the release. In moments its tinge of futuristic funk and glam prog are reminiscent of I Robot period The Alan Parsons Project.
Also playing this show is Cut Worms. The band’s main creative force is Max Clarke who seems tapped into a mid-60s pop sort of sound and aesthetic. There is a simplicity and clarity of melody and songwriting that we’ve heard plenty of, likely, in this era of mining past decades for artistic inspiration. But especially on Clarke’s 2018 album Hollow Ground the subject matter isn’t so clean and tidy and his songs, like the era it perhaps sonically echoes, reflect a self-aware sense of social anxiety, a painful yearning but struggling with real or endlessly imagined inability to not fuck things up somehow and a willingness to stumble and scrape through even if life doesn’t always, or never does, turn out as planned or hoped. The brilliance comes in striking that balance—being real alongside the sounds of a time many romanticize in spite of the dark and grisly underbelly of people’s lives and the culture itself.
Who:Broncho w/The Paranoyds and Valen When: Tuesday, 05.29, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Broncho formed in 2010 in the wake of the dissolution of indie pop weirdos Starlight Mints. Ryan Lindsey of the latter, went on to play guitars, keys and perform lead vocal duties in Broncho. The four-piece has always been kind of an outsider in the music world in that it never really fit in with any emerging trend and was probably too weird to hit it big time in the mainstream. But Lindsey knows he doesn’t belong there. At this point, Lindsay has already done his time deconstructing pop in Starlight Mints and it’s obvious that subverting the tropes of indie, garage and psych rock this past decade isn’t as interesting as it might have been a few years ago. 2016’s Double Vanity found Broncho excavating and exploring some of the sonic ideas that Phil Elverum was onto on those final two The Microphones records, 2001’s The Glow Pt. 2 and 2003’s Mount Eerie. But without imitating Elverum’s richly imaginative and innovative soundscaping. With any luck, this version of Broncho will represent the band’s next phase of its injecting the pop format with expansive ideas and sounds.
Wednesday | May 30, 2018
Who:Gang of Youths w/Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Gang of Youths’ 2017 sophomore album Go Farther in Lightness garnered near universal acclaim in the band’s home country of Australia. Rightfully so. It has the poetic insight and depth of early Bruce Springsteen and more recent from Titus Andronicus. Like both of those artists, Gang of Youths has a gift for taking the mythical/universal aspect of everyday experiences and giving it a poignantly personal expression. There’s a song called “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?” that goes beyond that whole rediscovering your bliss and your passion nonsense. But it’s a whole record of songs that might seem like a collection of trite platitudes but in the end are the exact opposite. It’s highly energetic indie rock but the emotional and intellectual content run a lot deeper with Gang of Youths.
Who:Nunofyrbeeswax w/Open to the Hound, Claudzilla and Rat Bites When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Berlin’s Nunofyrbeeswax brings together aspects of indie pop, naïve lo-fi rock and outsider pop in its music. Good thing its on a bill with local weirdos in keytar punk Claudzilla, gritty indie pop outfit Open to the Hound and Germs-esque noise punkers Rat Bites.
Who:Ufomammut w/White Hills and Tjutjuna When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Saying Ufomammut is a doom metal band from Italy is a bit like saying that Neurosis is a post-hardcore band from the Bay Area. Clearly Neurosis found some kinship with the trio from Tortona, Italy because Neurot Recordings issued the group’s most recent four records in the USA. Ufomammut’s music has elements of doom and sludge metal but its psychedelic drones and industrial sounds have more in common with the other bands on the bill than a straightforward doom band.
New York City’s White Hills has been exploring past settled territories of modern psychedelic rock since its 2003 inception. The duo of Dave W and Ego Sensation use drum machins and sampled rhythms to set a frame in which each can weave a mind-altering and hypnotic soundscape of vivid tones and dark atmospheres. The band’s storytelling and Dave’s vocals are reminiscent of what one might hear on a Legendary Pink Dots or Skinny Puppy album in which there’s no rockist self-aggrandizement or empty calories rhetoric. Dave has something to say, observations to make and narratives to give in his songs that are frankly worth listening to in themselves but couched in an immersive experience in the listening and especially so in the live setting. The group’s 2017 album Stop Mute Defeat, out on Thrill Jockey, is a major leap forward in terms of capturing the band’s masterful use of mood, texture and atmosphere to craft psychological experiences in the form of song.
Denver’s Tjutjuna rarely plays live shows these days, but the band and its talent for krautrock-inspired mind-expanding drones and percussion was always ahead of the curve of so-called “psychedelic rock” bands in the Mile High City. Like White Hills, Tjutjuna is no stranger to employing motorik beats except with a live drummer and the clear melding of the aesthetics of psych, noise and the avant-garde sets the group galaxies ahead of indie rockers who recently discovered how to maybe use reverb pedals with chorus. Quaint. Tjutjuna? Not so much.
Who:John Maus w/LKDLX When: Friday, 01.19, 8 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: John Maus may be known to some as a former keyboardist in Ariel Pink’s band but his early solo albums, 2006’s Songs and 2007’s Love is Real became a kind of blueprint for the chillwave/hypnogogic pop movement. Using vintage synth sounds and the pop aesthetics of many 80s New Wave bands and a hazy lo-fi production style, likely of necessity given limitations of available equipment as well as a conscious effort in that direction. With 2011’s We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, Maus cleaned up some of his soundscapes without losing a focus on using echoing melodies to convey a sense of a recreation of a memory of a sound and a place while giving it an emotional intimacy and immediacy. With 2017’s Screen Memories injects even greater clarity and stronger musical lines in his production, giving a listening experience not unlike finding an especially clean print of a forgotten, unlikely, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Kenneth Anger collab epic science fiction road film.
Who:Screwtape EP release w/Sysco Yola, Raw Breed and Fat Chance When: Friday, 01.19, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Screwtape is a Denver punk band that seems to perfectly balance the explosive aggression of post-hardcore with a driving energy and pointed political commentary. And one of the most impressively visceral live bands out of anywhere right now. For this show the group is releasing a limited run EP in an edition of 25.
Who:Necropanther w/Bodies We’ve Buried and Morgue Whore When: Friday, 01.19, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: This is a show featuring what might be described as “extreme” metal bands that didn’t forget that good songwriting makes them more effective. Necropanther is on the more thrash end of that spectrum while Morgue Whore more in the death metal vein.
Who: Bluebook, Porlolo and Whipporwill When: Saturday, 01.20, 7 p.m. Where: Leon Gallery Why: Bluebook has generally been the solo project of Julie Davis (Seven Hats, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats) and a perfect blend of downtempo, jazz and avant-folk with Davis on upright bass and layers of sound. She regularly has collaborators drawn from various ends of the Denver music scene. Porlolo is a showcase for the songwriting of Erin Roberts whose songs, while seemingly playful, have a thoughtfulness and insight and dry humor that can take you by surprise with its intensity in a way you probably need.
Who:Emily Wells w/The Milk Blossoms When: Sunday, 01.21, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The concept of the one person band has been done many times well. An Emily Wells performance is like seeing a one person orchestra. The level of planning and logistics involved were probably a product of necessity in not depending on other musicians to provide any of the components of the music and years in the making. But it also doesn’t come off like a gimmick as Wells conveys a sense of being immersed in her own songs. Using cello, viola, drums, synths, samples and her own voice, which cuts through the soundscape so vividly, Wells tells stories imbued with a sense of the mythical and the deeply personal cloaked in an American noir. Her latest album is 2017’s In the Hot. Opening he show is Denver’s The Milk Blossoms, a band that also uses what could be seen as disparate elements inventively to compose heartfelt yet dreamlike songs. Michelle Rocque and Harmony Rose have very different but powerfully complimentary voices that are about to articulate a richness of emotion that enhances the band’s already imaginative lyrics.
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