Best Shows in Denver 5/23/19 – 5/29/19

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Spirit of the Beehive performs at Larimer Lounge on Saturday, May 25. Photo by Emily Burtner.

Thursday | May 23

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Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Onkilter 1 release: Church Fire, Data Rainbow, Felix Ayodele, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Offthesky, Otem Rellik & Patrick Lee followed by DJ Ilind
When: Thursday, 05.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Multidim is a Denver-based experimental electronic record label that recently released its debut compilation of some of the Mile High City’s most interesting and inventive projects. The compilation, as well as this showcase, will donate all proceeds to the non-profit Youth On Record, an organization whose mission is to provide at risk youth with music education from performance, composition, production and the business end of things as well.

What: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 3: Equine and Julien Miller
When: Thursday, 05.23, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This latest edition of the Speakeasy Series features guitar wizard Kevin Richards’ project Equine. By introducing left field methods, chord structures, signal manipulation and unconventional composition methods in general, Richards is pushing the frontier of the styles and sonics of guitar-base sound art.

What: Necromantic
When: Thursday, 05.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge
Why: Necromantic is an old school Goth DJ night with plenty of the best of the newer darkwave and industrial music mixed in. Each second and fourth Thursdays of every month you can partake of the evening’s main DJs as well as select guests to bring a little bit of that old Denver flavor back into downtown.

Friday | May 24

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Refused circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: The Hives and Refused w/Bleached
When: Friday, 05.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Two power houses of punk and garage rock, Refused and The Hives respective, will make this a memorable night where you will probably be not just pleasantly surprised but inspired by the sheer energy and charisma of both bands. Refused in particular pioneered multiple genres of punk on its 1998 masterpiece The Shape of Punk to Come. Bleached includes former members of irreverent noise punks extraordinaire Mika Miko. And the group went through a phase of exploring various sounds before fully developing its knack for intimate pop songs with some bite, attitude and punk energy.

What: Tommy Wright III
When: Friday, 05.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Tommy Wright III must be considered one of the early progenitors for the style of underground hip-hop that one hears echoing in the work of the various members and associates of A$AP, Odd Future and Migos. The creatively profane lyrics and subject matter of his songs, the lo-fi-but-deep production style with the finely treated loops as heard in so much modern trap is present in one form or another in Wright’s 90s output through today. This is a rare chance to see the legendary producer live in Denver and witness his mastery of outsider gangster rap up close and personal.

What: Cloud Rat, Gadget, Immortal Bird and 908
When: Friday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sort of a deathgrind show given Gadget from Sweden and Cloud Rat from Michigan are on the bill. 908 from Colorado Springs definitely fits into what will be a night of short, furious sets.

Saturday | May 25

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Rowboat, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Slugger and Michael Thompson
When: Saturday, 05.25, 2-4 p.m.
Where: Wax Trax – Sidewalk outside
Why: Slugger is basically showing where psychedelic rock can go when the musicians focus on the songwriting over adhering to some style. Michael Thompson of Arc Sol will also perform a solo set of his songs informed by a broad range of unusual music.
What: LUTHI at Denver Day of Rock
When: Saturday, 05.25, 6-7 p.m.
Where: 16th Street Mall
Why: The Denver Day of Rock will have plenty of bands, local and otherwise, to see throughout the day and evening all along the 16th Street Mall. In the early evening you can catch LUTHI from Nashville, Tennessee. The seven-piece band perform music that’s a compelling blending of funk, downtempo pop and what might be called post-Daft Punk psychedelia. There’s some unusual X-factor about the band that keeps it well apart from “party” bands in general while also providing suitable music for a dance party.

What: Jello Biafra’s Incredibly Strange Dance Party
When: Saturday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Jello Biafra needs no introduction and this is an edition of his Incredibly Strange Dance Party where he’ll bring some of the most bizarre dance tracks to DJ at the Lion’s Lair and knowing Biafra he may even join in on the dancing, adding to the strangeness.

What: Spirit of the Beehive w/Strange Ranger, Cuckoo and Rowboat
When: Saturday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Spirit of the Beehive could be something like a light psych indie rock band but its aesthetic has a bit of a collage element and its songs sound out of phase with the contemporary world and its sometimes ennervating cultural climate. It’s music is a side step into spaces more dreamlike and mysterious. The rock instruments integrating perfectly with the warping and wefting electronic compositions is beautifully disorienting. In 2018 the band released Hypnic Jerks, a title and songs suggesting the band is coming at the world from a different angle than a lot of people. Like Unknown Mortal Orchestra but more grounded in American 90s weirdo indie pop.

What: Lav Andula, Asymptote, I Hate It Here, Causer and Tepid
When: Saturday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A night of experimental techno and noise including the debut of Tepid, the solo project of Voight’s Nick Salmon.

Sunday | May 26

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Shocker Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shibui Denver #3; Shocker Mom, Space Geist and DJ Vahco
When: Sunday, 05.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Shibui Denver is a monthly event last Sundays of the month at Mutiny Information Café. It’s designed to start and end early and aims to showcase some of the best Denver underground acts and the occasional touring band that fits the format of being a little different. Tonight’s featured guests are Shocker Mom, Robin Walker’s ambient beat driven pop act whose album >^^< will be included in our much belated Favorite Albums of 2018 listing. Walker has been a prolific songwriter and collaborator in Denver as a solo artist under her given name, while a member of indie pop duo Cougar Pants, in hip-hop outfit Nighttimeschoolbus, sitting in with rapper Time and folk pop artist Jason Horodyski. Vahco Before Horses heads Glasss Records through which he boosts, produces and finds spaces to showcase the music of some of Denver’s most forward thinking underground artists. This night he will DJ Denver bands and several from the Glasss Roster. Space Geist is a solo guitar band in which riffs will be looped and manipulated in post to produce, with any luck, disorienting tones and rhythms.

What: Alien Weaponry w/Dreadnought and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Sunday, 05.26, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Alien Weaponry is a band from Waipu, New Zealand. While operating somewhat in the realm of melodic thrash its lyrics are often in Maori because its three members are of that extraction and it suits the music in a way for which English sometimes seems inadequate. Opening the show are psychedelic doom folk band Dreadnought and heavy ambient noise/industrial dark psychedelic band Palehorse/Palerider also from the Mile High City.

Tuesday | May 28

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Sebadoh, photo by Justin Pizzoferrato

What: Sebadoh w/Flower and Race to Neptune
When: Tuesday, 05.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Sebadoh didn’t invent lo-fi rock but in the early 90s it helped to chart the direction much of that style of music would go by incorporating field recordings alongside off the cuff recording and an emphasis on feeling over precise capture of “professional” fidelity in the studio. Naturally the band went on to take that aesthetic into actual recording studios but the spirit of play and fidelity to emotional honesty and spontaneous energy remained. Currently Sebadoh is touring in support of its newly released record Act Surprised. Flower was and is now again from New York City that in the 80s reflected the city of legend and its mixture of evolving Bohemian subcultures, melting pot ethnicity, gritty urban decay, a sense of possibilities and the avant-garde alongside emerging popular culture. Musically that meant Flower was well within the realm of post-punk at the time. It wasn’t so far in the past that The Ramones, Patti Smith Group, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Suicide and countless others had built the foundation of what punk could be and even less far back since the bands that emerged out of that milieu, directly inspired by it in various ways like the No Wave groups, Sonic Youth, SWANS, Live Skull, Bush Tetras, Arthur Russel, Liquid Liquid, ESG, The Lounge Lizards and other unfortunately less-well-known bands that made up the ecosystem of the New York underground. Flower formed in 1986 while Richard Balulyut was still in college and its sound fit into the rich diversity of the then NYC scene. The group split in 1990 soon after which Balulyut and two of his brothers formed indie/alternative rock band Versus which went on to some acclaim in the 90s. The latter band reconvened in 2017 and it dawned on Balulyut that he could write new music in the more post-punk, some might now say darkwave, style of Flower and now the band is on tour in support of its new material and there’s a better than half a chance you’ll get to see some of its older material live as well.

What: Closet Witch, Law of the Night and Bi-Proxy
When: Tuesday, 05.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Kind of a grind-y hardcore night including a set from Closet Witch from southeast Iowa. Molly Piatetsky’s feral vocals are something to witness.

Update: This show was combined with another at Syntax Physic Opera at 8 p.m. with a line up that is now Full of Hell, Primitive Man, Genocide Pact, In The Company of Serpents and Closet Witch.

Wednesday | May 29

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Skeletonwitch, photo by Nico Poalillo

What: Sleep w/Big Business
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Sleep is one of the most influential bands out of the world of doom metal. Though its sound was lumped in with “stoner rock,” which seems apt seeing as it’s until recently latest album was called Dopesmoker comprised of a single track over an hour long. Its psychedelic, towering drones live up to the hype as do the more concise songs, like those on the 1992’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain. Sleep is almost as heavy as it gets and its high volume show as engulfing as you would hope for. Big Business is a sludge rock band well suited to the bill. The members of the band were part of The Melvins for around a decade and recently released a new record. The Beast You Are is a collection of dynamic, triumphant songs with unconventional melodies and an elevated updraft of tone. Big Business has always been, if nothing else, heavy but buoyant. On The Beast You Are, Big Business experiments further in the songwriting with its use of space and pacing. There’s still the headlong rush you’d expect from the band but also an imaginative application of its palette of sound that has kept the band from being predictable, an uncommon quality in heavy music. For Big Business it is not enough to pummel with its colossal sound but to have emotional and thoughtful intentionality behind it.

What: Skeletonwitch w/Soft Kill and Wiegedood
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Skeletonwitch has been perfecting and then evolving its technical melodic death metal sound since its inception in 2003. Its latest record, 2018’s Devouring Radiant Light finds the band bringing in even more unconventionally atmospheric elements into its brutal and unrelenting soundscape. All while maintaining the dark imagery and animalistic, distorted vocals like they are telling stories of a mythical past in our current impending, post-apocalypse after climate change has cleansed the earth of much of human civilization.

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

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Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | May 10, 2018

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Abeasity Jones, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

Friday | May 11, 2018

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Charly Bliss, photo by Jacqueline Harriet

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday | May 12, 2018

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Great American House Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

Sunday | May 13, 2018

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Modest Mouse, photo by Ben Moon

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

Monday | May 14, 2018

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Rotstrotter, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Tuesday | May 15, 2018

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Cullen Omori, photo by Alexa Lopez

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

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

Wednesday | May 16, 2018

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TV Girl log, image courtesy TV Girl

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

Best Shows in Denver 11/02/17 – 11/08/17

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A$APMOB performs at 1stBank Center on Friday, November 3. Photo by Alexander Bortz

 

Thursday: November 2, 2017

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Bison Bone, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Surfacing: Seal Eggs, Bluebook and Pearls and Perils
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Europa Coffeehouse
Why: This is the latest edition of Surfacing, the music showcase put on by the Titwrench Collective which, of course, throws the Titwrench Festival in late summer in Denver. The festival focuses on women and LGBTQIA makers of music, generally in an experimental vein. This night is certainly well within that realm with Seal Eggs from Colorado Springs who performs a kind of ambient/experimental electronic music with operatic vocals. Bluebook is Julie Davis and her commanding use of cello, loops and her powerful voice. Pearls and Perils is sort of an experimental hip-hop/downtempo project from Olivia Perez whose dark, cool vibe is a departure from her old band Gloam, which was more in the vein of an noisy alterna-prog band. Perez has been a member of Key Lady & The Frontstrangers, which mostly evolved into RAREBYRD$ and some of that mysterious production quality is present in the soundscapes of Pearls and Perils.

Who: Bison Bone w/The Reals and Larry Nix
When: Thursday, 11.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Bison Bone masterfully blends alt-country with experimental guitar rock with thoughtful, evocative storytelling. One is struck by how Courtney Whitehead and the rest of the band make their take on country and rock very much their own thing. You hear nods to Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and others who connected the rootsy warmth of country with an otherworldly energy except that Bison Bone is connected to another realm of the cosmos and the songs transform intense, potentially soul crushing pain into inspiration and catharsis.

Who: Ultra Metal Pre-Show
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Johnathan Cash aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan moved to Denver in 2017 after having performed at Denver noise events and Denver Noise Fest several times over the years. Now he has put together the sort of event he used to put on while living in Austin with Ultra Metal. It’ll include legendary noise/industrial acts like The Haters, Page 27 and Anime Love Hotel as well as noteworthy local staples of the noise world like Morlox, Solypsis, Blarney Mumble and Acidbat. Tonight’s opening ceremonies of the festival also includes Scammers from Kansas City. Phil Diamond of Scammers usually performs solo with his signature crooning voice sounding like he could have been a studio singer for Motown. But he also generally aims for whatever creative music strikes him and has toured on a Harry Potter-inspired electro pop album. Best believe that said album is as interesting and sonically adventurous as anything else Diamond has done. 2017’s Love is a Rough Cut Stone is Diamond’s take on modern R&B-inflected synth pop. Think in the vein of Purity Ring if they collaborated with Drake. Anyone interested in attending any of the three nights of Ultra Metal, or has other questions about the events, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Friday: November 3, 2017

Cocordion
Cocordion, photo by Cocordion

 

Who: A$AP Mob w/Key! and Cozy Boys
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: A$AP Mob is the New York City-based hip-hop collective that, along with Odd Future from Los Angeles, have taken a more commercial hip-hop sound and aesthetic and injected it with innovative musical ideas, adopting sounds and styles of music that were before only really embraced by “alternative” hip-hop groups. The result has been, whether among individual artists like A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Twelvy, or as a collective, a more sonically interesting listening to go along with the usual, clever wordplay commenting on the vagaries of various kinds of relationships, life in urban America and popular culture and where all of those intersect and inform one another. The collective’s latest release, 2017’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, is not as strong as albums released by individual members of A$AP (including Twelvy’s debut solo effort, 12) and it’s still steeped in trap production but still worth a listen and certainly the live show will be visually dynamic and include material from across the collective’s career.

 

Who: Cocordion album release w/Copyleft and Ancient Elk 
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Expectations is the first full-length album from Cocordion, a self-proclaimed lo-fi indie rock band based in Colorado Springs. Though the second release from the band, it is the product of a great deal of creative exploration and honing and refining musical instincts and chops playing in other bands—most notably, perhaps, is Mitchell Macura’s playing keyboards in Eros and the Eschaton. Expectations is an fitting title for an album whose themes include the various demands, welcome and very much otherwise, placed on us by society, the people in our lives and by our own psyches. It also references the concept of creative collaboration and what everyone brings to a project and expects of each other and themselves in that potentially precarious relationship and how such experiments can yield something greater than can an individual effort that depends on the dreams, energy and drive of an individual.

According to a recent interview we conducted with Mitchell (his brother Mason is also in the band) he believes that great creative work can come out of an individual vision that is strong and guides the work. Certainly the history of music bears this out and as a musician he has certainly contributed to realizing someone else’s creative vision. But for this new album, Macura decided to further push the project out of being a solo project, where it started, and allow the music to cohere between the three musicians (the Macura brothers and Thom Spano). For a lo-fi band the record is beautifully detailed with tones, flowing/intersecting atmospheres and textural percussion. Also on the bill is folk-inflected, experimental psychedelic rock band Ancient Elk.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 1
When: Friday, 11.03, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: This is the official first night of Ultra Metal, the noise festival being thrown by Johnathan Cash of Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. Cash recently relocated to Denver from Austin but he’s no stranger to Denver or the Mile High City’s noise scene as he’s performed locally regularly for years including sets at various editions of Denver Noise Fest. Tonight you can see the infamous noise project The Haters who have roots in Denver but affiliation with noiseniks and performance art legends Survival Research Laboratories. Also, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan will do a collaboration set with Chicago’s The Rita, hip-hop beatmaker/breakbeat phenom Morlox will play in the late hours and ambient maestro Solypsis will perform earlier in the evening. Plus much more. Those interested in attending or anyone with any questions of the festival should contact the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: The Hollow “Sleep Talkin” video release w/Silver & Gold and Post Paradise
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: The Hollow is a rarity in Denver. The group is almost as straightforward rock as you can get without being boring. They’e absorbed what works for a lot of modern rock bands that aren’t tapping into a classic rock vibe. Its hard-edged yet melodic songs are atmospheric enough to escape being mundane and they don’t run from writing hooks. The group is celebrating the release of its video for “Sleep Talkin’”. The band’s music isn’t for everyone and its message of positive mental attitude may strike some as odd but at least it’s not phony and neither are the sentiments in its songwriting.

Who: The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Cold Cave
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Jesus and Mary Chain is basically the foundational band for the shoegaze genre. Okay, JAMC, Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3. But JAMC is the band that pushed the use of fuzz in a popular music context to newer extremes than before but wedding those massive sounds to classic pop songwriting. When the JAMC were coming together, they rejected the musical tropes of the day, choosing instead to embrace 60s pop music as produced by Wall of Noise pioneer Phil Spector, much as did the Ramones. But JAMC needed to do something that would be purely easily absorbed and co-opted by music even from the underground. Because of that, the band’s music has aged well and doesn’t sound dated. By carving out their own classic sound, steeped in an older classic sound, the Mary Chain has retained its mystique and its cool well past what might be predicted to be its sell-by date. Opening is Cold Cave, the project of Wesley Eisold who has explored a variety of musical ideas in his career including his former musical life playing in hardcore bands. Cold Cave is more in the darkwave vein of synth-driven post-punk reminiscent of pre-Technique New Order but with a modern flavor revealing Eisold’s deep familiarity with 21st century electronic music production.

Saturday: November 4, 2017

Novasak
Novasak circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rowboat, The Raritans and Jukebox Spiders
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Denver’s Rowboat doesn’t play many shows these days. Its primary songwriter, Sam McNitt, played in space rock/indie rock band Blue Million Miles for several years in the late 2000s through the early 2010s. Rowboat was initially McNitt’s outlet for continuing to write his more directly folk-influenced music. Not the usual folk sort of thing because McNitt’s highly emotional, introspective songs have a haunted intensity that gives his music a force a lot of folk simply doesn’t have.

Who: The Corner Girls, Surf Mom, Gamma Death Wave and Phallic Meditation 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: The Corner Girls play a social critically informed surf rock with punk attitude. And, unlike way too many bands in the last two decades, it’s not a “clever” name as it’s an all female band. Maybe it’s been done before but one noteworthy thing about The Corner Girls is that the band isn’t trying to come off tough and aggo but doesn’t mince words either. It’s like a reinvention of punk for many of us that get bored with the hypermasculine model of a style of music that had in its heart in the beginning the detournement of outmoded social conventions. Plus the songs are good, catchy, well-crafted pop music that doesn’t bother with dumbing down. Similar things could be said about Surf Mom except Surf Mom sounds nothing like The Corner Girls. Molly McGrath’s guitar work is more abrasive at times and her expressions of anger have a thoughtfulness and sensitivity to them without blunting the sometimes pointed rhetoric.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 2
When: Saturday, 11.04, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Second and final night of noise festival Ultra Metal. Tonight you can catch 8-bit grindcore band Rainbowdragoneyes, the mighty Novasak and what one might hope is his amp setup aimed at realigning the molecules of your body back to the proper place through sheer low end sculpting, Sheet Metal Skingraft’s industrialized, ambient harsh noise and an early set from the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27. For more information on and questions about the event, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: Brother Sister Hex (EP release), Jane Doe and Granny Tweed 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Brother Sister Hex is releasing its third, and latest, EP End Times tonight at Lion’s Lair. The band combines elements of bluesy sludge rock with a touch of moody, perhaps brooding, atmospheres. Difficult to compare the band with anyone else without getting a little clumsy like Dead Weather, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age. Heavy but without sounding beholden to the classic rock era like a lot of modern rock and roll bands seem to be. Also on the bill is Jane Doe, the noisy, experimental rock band fronted by Becca Mhalek who has played saxophone with avant-jazz dub noiseniks Nightshark, a bit with Nels Cline and in Denver’s free jazz weirdo combo Aenka. In Jane Doe she doesn’t play any instruments, instead demonstrating singing and poetry chops as a cathartic frontwoman.

Sunday: November 5, 2017

Vic Mensa
Vic Mensa, photo by Frank Ockenfels III

Who: Jay Z and Vic Mensa
When: Sunday, 11.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Why: Before becoming one of the most commercially successful hip-hop artists in the history of the artform, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter paid a lot of dues playing support to Big Daddy Kane, working with DMX and Ja Rule in their respective careers and before that getting by however he could growing up in a single parent household in pre-gentrification in Brooklyn. But out of all of that came his 1996 debut full-length album Reasonable Doubt, which included contributions from Biggie, Mary J. Blige, DJ Premier and other hip-hop luminaries. Since that time Carter has worked with most of the big names in the world of hip-hop and has had plenty of beef with various artists, but up to and including his 2017 album 4:44, Jay Z, like most great songwriters, uses the medium of music to use autobiography as a vehicle for commenting on culture and social issues from a deeply personal perspective. In his case, despite his wealth, it is a perspective that distills common experiences from a broad spectrum of the urban American experience into something in the grand tradition of creative social commentators like Mark Twain.

Vic Mensa dropped his debut full-length album The Autobiography this past summer. The title could be seen as a bit premature for an artist who turned 24 in June. But Mensa has been on a steep and ambitious trajectory in his career. Which would mean nothing if his energy and talent weren’t there as well as taste and imagination. All of that is evident on The Autobiography. Mensa’s songs combine beats seamlessly with what sound like either instrumental sections or samples that don’t try to transform the source material into having a different sonic quality. In that way there is an organic, human quality to the record that plays to the opposite instincts of the boastful end of hip-hop. The album has a large sound and Mensa’s confidence contagious but it sounds like you’re hearing the stories of people you know with all the grounding details that renders the mundane mythical.

 

Tuesday: November 7, 2017

Beach Slang
Beach Slang, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Beach Slang – Drunk of Lust tour w/Dave Hause and The Mermaid and Hannah Racecar 
When: Tuesday, 11.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis
Why: James Alex sure doesn’t play the shows in Beach Slang like he’s two going on three decades in music. As a member of post-hardcore band Weston from 1990 to 2011, Alex had to sustain a level of enthusiasm that would burn out most people two or three years in. But he seems to have brought that energy into Beach Slang when that band got going in 2013. Alex’s schtick probably strikes some as forced or phony but the thoughtful and emotionally stirring words whether in lyrics or its various shared words seem poignantly sincere. Part lo-fi indie rock, part unabashed power pop-flavored punk, Beach Slang has always had a vibe like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Clash without sounding like either. The group’s latest release is the Here I Made This For You: Volume 2 EP.

Wednesday: November 8, 2017

Tyler The Creator
Tyler the Creator, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Night Shapes, Body Meat and Natural Violence 
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Night Shapes is a gritty post-punk band from Oakland. Its latest cassette, Wake Up, is being released on Denver’s Heavy Dose Records imprint. It’s sound is more like the noisy, warped, serpentine rhythm type that you hear in bands like Pop. 1280 and Protomartyr rather than the bands that are clearly tapping into Joy Division and the Cocteau Twins (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That the band is sharing the bill with the math-rock-esque Body Meat and the dark synthwave Natural Violence from Denver is only fitting, especially considering Heavy Dose also released the latter’s excellent 2017 release, Synthetic Peace.

Who: Tyler the Creator w/Taco
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: As one of the co-founders of the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator has been involved in making some of the most innovative hip-hop of the past decade. His wordplay is genuinely clever if perhaps the language isn’t for everyone (throwing f-bombs and not as in “fuck” and the n-bombs are understandably tricky to defend). But the beats and his willingness to draw on some truly unexpected corners of music and sampling from musicians other hip-hop artists generally don’t are what make Tyler’s albums so consistently interesting. For example, 2017’s deeply and colorfully atmospheric, jazz-inflected Flower Boy includes elements of “Spoon” by psychedelic prog band Can.

Who: Shigeto w/Ela Minus and Lemon Future
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Zachary Shigeto Saginaw writes the beat-driven, melodic kind of abstract hip-hop that synthesizes the aesthetics of that form of music, techno, house, jazz and ambient. More so on the house end with his most recent record, 2017’s The New Monday. But Shigeto uses live percussion to craft samples in the live setting and on recordings that give his beats an organic feel that would be difficult to fully execute with pure electronics. Thus his music is more suited for an intimate, small venue environment rather than stadium EDM like some artists who are mining similar, if not as fascinating, sonic landscapes.