Who:RUMTUM mural unveiling w/Nasty Nachos and DJ YOLOLO When: Thursday, 03.07, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: John Hastings who performs ambient/IDM/instrumental pop music as RUMTUM recently received a commission from Meow Wolf to do a mural at The Oriental Theater. Tonight is the unveiling and the evening will incorporate interactive visual installations by WMD and FOREST and performances/DJ sets from Nasty Nachos and DJ YOLOLO.
Who:Rhadoo w/Peter Blick (Below Radar) and Liminal When: Thursday, 03.07, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Rhadoo is known to connoisseurs of electronic music internationally but in his home country of Romania, he’s a star, a legend of his scene, who is all but mainstream. He brings his chill and hypnotic mixture of house and techno to Black Box for a night of music including a set from Peter Blick of Below Radar (a Denver and San Francisco curator of choice underground electronic music events) and the Liminal collective.
Who:Satin Spar, Ruehlen/Seward and TARP When: Thursday, 03.07, 7 p.m. Where: Madelife Why: Experimental music label Shadowtrash Tape Group and the Madelife gallery present this evening of synth and percussion duos.
Friday | May 8
Who:Low w/Rivulets When: Friday, 03.08, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: For going on three decades Low has written some of the most affecting, emotionally raw, tender and thoughtful music in America. Its influential early albums are classics of slowcore which is to say it was music in direct contrast to the louder and more bombastic trend of popular music of the day. It required and deserved your attention and reflection on the songs. Toward the turn of the century the band’s palette of sounds expanded and it embraced dynamics of volume and its ability to make the ambiance and the mood of a song more nuanced yet immediate. For 2018’s Double Negative, the trio basically reinvented its use of sound. Rather than the pastoral grandeur of years past and the emotionally rich and vibrant offerings of its more rock period, Low seems to have inverted those elements to make something that would be more expected in the realm of abstract industrial music, textured ambient and the avant-garde generally. Except all the songs have a pop quality. Maybe it’s the structures, or the way the band is able to make the dark, fractured music accessible. It is arguably the band’s most interesting album in years from a career that isn’t short on arresting and noteworthy material. What might be even more interesting is how this band will pull off such unusual and challenging material live.
Who:The Playground Ensemble perform 8 Songs For a Mad King When: Friday, 03.08, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Where: The Mercury Café Why: Denver’s Playground Ensemble will put on a production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ ambitious, 1969 masterpiece Eight Songs for a Mad King. The work includes unusual vocals, shifting musical styles, pointed depictions of Mad King George III and a theatrical presentation with elaborate stage props. There will be two performances on this night, as indicated above, and it’s guaranteed there won’t be much like this in Denver in 2019.
Who:Judah Friedlander When: Friday, 03.08, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Judah Friedlander is most known for his unusual and brilliant stand-up comedy and for appearing in and writing for some of the most interesting television series of the last twenty years including Wonder Showzen, Spin City, Flight of the Conchords and LateLine. But he is also one of the country’s most sharp and insightful cultural critics and commentators. For this performance there will be plenty of both. Few comedians worth their salt are essentially content free and Friedlander most certainly is not.
Who:And The Kids w/Toth and Corsicana When: Friday, 03.08, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: And The Kids’ When This Life is Over has one of the most fetching album covers of 2019. Fortunately it represents well the reticence and exuberance and sensitivity informing the music within. Musically it’s fuzzy, upbeat rock in the modern indie vein but And The Kids are willing to veer off the mid-tempo, safe path and indulge passages that sound like they could go off the song’s rails. Also, in “Champagne Ladies” we get lyrics like “Life is a bastard, life wants to kill you/Don’t get old/Life is a bastard, it wants to kill you/Don’t let go.” Which about sums up too much of life for people grinding away and struggling to not just survive but create for oneself a life worth living even with seemingly insurmountable challenges in place. Also on the bill is Toth, the side project of Rubblebucket’s Alex Toth whose eclectic instrumentation and gift for utilizing space in his songwriting shines with this project as well. The deeply imaginative and soothing debut full-length from Toth, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary comes out on May 10.
Saturday | March 9
Who:Chimney Choir w/Ramakhandra When: Saturday, 03.09, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Superficially one might describe Chimney Choir as an experimental folk band. But the thought and creativity that goes into the songwriting and especially the always captivating live shows, most of them interactive and often involving elaborate sets and costumes, sets the band apart from most its peers but not competitively, not by setting the bar higher for others to reach but as an example of what’s possible if you’re willing to challenge yourself and put in the time as a creative person to achieve something for yourself that hopefully resonates with others.
Who:Cloud Catcher EP release w/Bleakheart, Cadaver Dog When: Saturday, 03.09, 9 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: Cloud Catcher is supposedly breaking up later this year so this is one of your last chances to catch the great Denver sludge metal act with bands that may not be in its usual wheelhouse like the hardcore outfit Cadaver Dog. Cloud Catcher is also gifting us with one final EP available at the show. Perhaps we’ll also hear what Rory Rummings and company are up to next soon.
Who:Graves w/Hex Cougar and Gangus When: Saturday, 03.09, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Not the post-Misfits band, Graves is DJ and producer Christian Mochizuki, He did production work with Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Big Sean, for example, and his hybrid hip-hop and progressive trance style of bass music has earned him an audience of his own. He’ll probably be doing sets at bigger venues before too long so if this is your thing, catch it at a small club like Larimer Lounge.
Who:Ned Garthe Explosion, The Savage Blush and Palo Santo When: Saturday, 03.09, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: After many of the lesser psychedelic garage rock bands have passed into irrelevance, three of the standouts from Denver are playing on a bill together tonight. Ned Garthe Explosion is clearly the craziest, weirdest and funniest of the bunch. But The Savage Blush makes the most of its minimalist instrumentation and Palo Santo always sounds like it’s from a few decades ago but yet not a throwback.
Sunday | March 10
Who:Tuck Knee w/No Sign of Remorse, Secticide and didaktikos When: Sunday, 03.10, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Tuck Knee is releasing its debut album. Fans of Minor Threat may cry foul at the comparison but Tuck Knee has that kind of energy and conviction and instincts for fairly non-doctrinaire hardcore songwriting. Didaktikos? No slouches in that vein either.
Who:The Sound of Animals Fighting w/Planes Mistaken for Stars and Lorelei K When: Sunday, 03.10, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: The Sound of Animals Fighting was a brilliant amalgamation of math-y post-hardcore and ambient. Comprised of prominent musicians in the post-hardcore world and lead by Rich Balling of Rx Bandits, the group operated between 2004 and 2009. Also on this tour is one of post-hardcore greatest bands, Planes Mistaken for Stars from Denver. That band’s emotionally searing songs were anthems for the pulsing and tortured collective heart of underground punk in the 2000s.
Monday | March 11
What:Freq Boutique 024 When: Monday, 03.11, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: This is the twenty-fourth edition of Freq Boutique, the WMD-sponsored showcase of synthesizer tech and gear as well as a sort of open mic for which one can sign up on the event page.
What:Solos/Duos – Denver Avant-Garde Music Society featuring Animal / object When: Monday, 03.11, 7 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: This is the monthly avant-garde open mic curated by Denver Avant-Garde Music Society. The evening opens with a performance from Animal / object, the spontaneous composition group whose evolving membership includes long-time Denver avant-garde musician Kurt Bauer at the core often with contributions from Paul Mimlitsch, Arnie Swenson, Reed Weimer and Gordon Gano.
Tuesday | March 12
Who:Carlos Medina w/Pink Hawks and The Savage Blush When: Tuesday, 03.12, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Carlos Medina, the “psychedelic Mariachi” has already built a sizeable underground following for his unique brand of music that is rooted in Mariachi but with pop flourishes and a fascinating takes on rhythm and use of tone to set the music outside the realm of pure tradition. His touring circuit has taken him to a wide variety of venues treating audiences (knowing or otherwise) to his corridos psicodélicos. As an artist-in-residence at George RR Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Medina had a direct connection to the Meow Wolf collective who produced and released his debut full-length El Cantador. Perhaps his exquisitely crafted songs don’t scream out “psychedelic” to those that don’t speak Spanish. But check out the darkly beautiful video for “No Le Digan” and you get a taste of the creative context of the music and Medina’s rich vision that sees the imaginative possibilities inherent in his cultural background and his place as an artist within it. Medina gets compared to Tom Waits but probably because he too is an interpreter and re-interpreter of culture par excellence.
Who:Sandy Ewen (NYC) + Ryan Seward, Cash/Westerman, Channel Worker When:Wednesday, 03.13, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Sandy Ewen is, according to the bio on her website, a “sound artist, visual artist and architect who moved to New York City from Houston in 2018. Her sound art incorporates the use of prepared guitar, the use of textures and objects not conventionally associated with music (like railroad spikes, steel wool, bolts and so on) as well as an array of offbeat instruments used as vessels or raw sound to create an environment and experience. If you’re looking for conventional music, this show won’t be that. Rather, how sound can be an artform that doesn’t fit within the confines of song structure in any tradition.
Who:The Milk Blossoms (album release) w/Joseph Lamar, Princess Dewclaw and Midwife When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why:The Milk Blossoms release Dry Heave the Heavenly this night at Lost Lake. The trio basically found a way to take fairly idiosyncratic musical tastes and skill sets and a blend of natural talents to make imaginative, cathartic pop music that couldn’t really be made by anyone else. The bands songs are accessible yet demanding your taking it on its own terms. Calling the group “experimental pop” doesn’t quite do justice to the power of the live band and its recordings. Two talented singers whose styles are quite different but complementary, soul and hip-hop undertones without the hackneyed quality one often finds in artists that are trying too hard to appeal to too many people. The members of The Milk Blossoms are definitely not trying to appeal to people in that way, but, rather, expressing poignant life moments in an achingly resonant way making their music poetic and heartbreaking yet comforting. Naturally for the occasion of the album release, The Milk Blossoms brought together a few of the best Denver bands to round out the bill. Joseph Lamar isn’t trying to put his music in hip-hop, soul, indie rock, electronic pop boxes but there’s bits of all of that and more in his songwriting. Princess Dewclaw combines synth pop and a seething socially critical punk sensibility that seems elemental in the live setting. With her almost abstract and ethereal vocals and spidery guitar work, Midwife channels the ghost of the soul level pain that lingers in the hearts of most people that have lived life enough to know the regret and melancholy that bring loss into stark focus.
Who:DRUNE, Equine, Tyler Jared Cantrell When: Thursday, 03.29, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This is the second edition of Musical Mayhem at The Skylark for March. DRUNE describes itself as “Denver Desert Doom Metal.” Probably means these guys listened to a lot of Kyuss and/or Queens of the Stone Age, maybe Dopesmoker-era Sleep above the rest of that band’s catalog and Ennio Morricone’s movie soundtrack discography. If their practice space recordings are any indication anyway. Equine is the latest project from Kevin Richards who some may know from his time bringing weird jazz chords into the mix with post-hardcore band Motheater and ambient noise project Epileptinomicon or even his own post-rock-esque solo effort Temples (before some okay psych band made the name famous-ish). At any rate, Equine picks up where Temples left off in experimenting with the structure and format of even experimental guitar based music and adding in electronic elements to create a truly hypnotic and immersive soundscape.
Who:Matt and Kim w/CRUISR and Twinkids When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and became a couple who were encouraged to take up music by the guys in Japanther. Neither had any real training but plenty of creativity and, it turns out, a knack for writing hook-laden pop songs that were upbeat and positivistic without seeming hokey. As the duo’s songwriting developed, its audience quickly outpaced the capacity of the DIY spaces it played early in its career. Matt and Kim have played many of the big festivals and had experiences most bands would love to have and yet their presentation of the music never seems jaded—it seems as exuberant as it was a decade ago.2018’s Almost Everyday, written while Schifino was recovering from an injury strikes an unusually melancholy note now and then suggesting an acknowledgement of mortality to go along with the shift from the exuberant punk attitude of earlier releases to a focus on the electronic side of the band’s sound. Honestly, a welcome change of pace but even if you’re not a fan of the band’s newer sound it’s not like they’re going to only play from the new record and you can go expecting the hijinks that have made Matt and Kim shows more fun than those of most other bands.
Friday | March 30, 2018
Who:Monocle Band & The Dress Downs When: Friday, 03.30, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show Where: Absolute Vinyl, Boulder Why: Absolute Vinyl ends its more than 9-year run as an institution that offered friendly service, fair prices on vinyl and a place to see a wide variety of live music from the avant-garde improvisational stylings of Animal / object to folk/Americana acts like Monocle Band and The Dress Downs, the two bands that will likely be the last live acts to be hosted by the store. Advocates for the local tape label showcase and other events focused on local culture, Absolute Vinyl was more than just a record store. Absolute Vinyl closes its doors for good tomorrow, Saturday, March 31 so if you’re so inclined pay it one last visit.
Who:Fathers vinyl release w/SPELLS, It’s Just Bugs, Cheap Perfume When: Friday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: At this show you can pick up the vinyl version of the self-titled Fathers album, which came out digitally in October 2017. The group is a bit of an all-star lineup of local heavy music including Oscar Ross and Ryan DeWitt from Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas from Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe from Cult of the Lost Cause. Fathers is more akin to metallic post-hardcore acts like Converge, Coalesce and Cave-In (whose singer/bassist Caleb Scofield died in a car accident earlier this week). Including the amplified intensity, the clear influence (directly or otherwise) of grindcore and gritty-screamy vocals. Fortunately the group thought to bring in likeminded but sonically quite different bands to round out the bill. SPELLS’ motto is 80% is good enough. But you can’t really tell anyone’s holding back on the energy and performance in the show. Sorta like pop-punk but more refined yet still simple and straight forward. Maybe frontman Ben Roy will do something transgressive but not abusive at the show and it’ll all be worth that beyond Chuck Coffey’s elegant and thoughtful songwriting disguised as dumb-but-fun punk. It’s Just Bugs is the perfect, even inevitable, blend of noise, electro-industrial music and hip-hop. Cheap Perfume writes catchy, fun songs but doesn’t dumb down or dulls its sharp takedown of patriarchal culture to comfort people who think art and politics should be separate.
Who:Strange Goo – KGNU presents An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm: Mux Mool and RUMTUM collaborative set, Ea$$side Lupita, CURTA and Norty When: Friday, 03.30, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Bar Why: For fifth Fridays for the rest of the year, KGNU is presenting An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm, seems to be a showcase for forward thinking hip-hop and electronic music. This edition includes: Mux Mool and RUMTUM doing a set together likely combining their gifts for electronic dance music production and RUMTUM’s use of guitar loops and soundscapes – Ea$$side Lupita, the solo project of the incomparable KoKo La of R A R E B Y R D $ fame and if her production and lushly evocative and emotionally articulate vocals in the latter is any indication, this will be worth paying attention to as well – and CURTA, Denver’s premiere noise rap/experimental hip-hop group who recently released the excellent End of Future Park, a unique and almost surreal take on how the current state of late capitalist economic systems and the pervasiveness of technology in culture is impacting our daily lives in ways we tend not to examine closely enough.
Who:Suppression w/Herse, Berated and Flesh Buzzard When: Monday, 04.02, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Suppression are an early noisegrind band from Virginia. When the band began in Roanoke in 1992 it probably seemed pretty extreme and brutal to most people that weren’t already into grindcore. The beyond-screamed vocals, savage sonic gyrations and doomy soundscaping of its 1993, self-titled debut likely didn’t endear itself to purist grind fans either. But 26 years hence and Suppression, now a two-piece, are considered legends of extreme music even though that means they’re probably playing the same kind of underground, DIY and otherwise unglamourous types of venues they did back near the beginning. That said, it would be so odd and not appropriate to witness this music at a theater or even a big club. Fortunately, Mutiny is a perfect place to catch Suppression as well as like-minded locals like the two-piece Herse whose own brand of grind waxes into the realm of experimental music with its own subverting grindcore tropes of song dynamics and tone.
Tuesday | April 3, 2018
Who:Pale Waves w/Inheaven When: Tuesday, 04.03, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pale Waves released All The Things I Never Said, its debut EP, in February 2018. While the band began in 2014, it’s obvious from the songwriting that the Manchester, UK-based group took some time incubating as a band before releasing a song much less a small body of work like a four-song EP. The band’s sound and image is an interesting mix of ideas and creative impulses. Overtly the music is modern synth pop but the band looks like they might be giving us a vintage post-punk/Goth sound as lead singer/guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran look like they wouldn’t have been out of place in Siouxsie & The Banshees or Switchblade Symphony. Which makes the contrast interesting because the band sets you up to be surprised and not expect a particular style. Sure, an early single, “There’s Honey,” comes off like late-era Cocteau Twins meets Chvrches but later singles like “Heavenly” mix bright vintage dream pop guitar work with melodic hooks reminiscent of Alvvays. Whatever ingredients went into Pale Waves’ music, what it is now is one of the better pop groups to have come across the Atlantic in a few years.
Who:A Deer A Horse w/Quits and Product Lust When: Tuesday, 04.03, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse sounds like a cathartic blend of Carla Bozulich circa Evangelista and early Live Skull. That spooky and intense energy of Bozulich and a willingness to let cutting, noisy guitar find its place in jagged rhythms without being limited by them nor vice versa. All while somehow writing accessible songs with hooks. Also on the bill are Product Lust, the post-punk band that blasts through conventional notions of what that has to sound like. There is the spirit of hardcore in the songwriting and presentation partly because Kat Salvaggio is a confrontational frontwoman but the souunds and rhythms sonically color outside hardcore’s tendency for stark contrasts. Quits could loosely be called noise rock because the members of the band have all been in some of the most interesting groups of that ilk for a couple of decades. Doug Mioducki and Luke Fairchild were both in the sometimes shockingly forceful and unhinged noisy post-hardcore band Sparkles. Mioducki went on to play in art-noise-punk-jazz band Witch Doctor and, more recently, CP-208. Fairchild has been in several noteworthy sludgy, noisy punk/metal bands over the years but maybe you’re familiar with Git Some and Kingdom of Magic. Drummer Darren Kulback and bassist Tiana Bernard were also both in CP-208 but before that they were in noise rock trio Hot White who made some waves in the underground before splitting in 2011. And thus Quits brings together a bit of Denver noise rock history in one band. But is it any good? If its 2017 EP is any indication, that’s affirmative, Captain.
Wednesday | April 4, 2018
Who:The Soft Moon w/Boy Harsher and Voight When: Wednesday, 04.04, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: When The Soft Moon released its 2010 debut album its harsh yet hypnotic industrial post-punk sound didn’t seem connected to much else going on at the time. Unless you were listening to dark noise rockers like Pop. 1280 and Yoga. As stark and as urgent as Suicide, as bass driven with cutting guitar tone reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon likely also had some roots in Chrome’s blend of mind-altering guitar sound and experiments in electronic soundscaping. On the project’s 2018 record, Criminal, Luis Vasquez has made the dance element stronger while pushing his songwriter in stranger directions and thus escaped a potential trajectory of merely reinventing the sound of his earlier records. Whereas 2012’s Zeros sounded like a transitional record, Criminal sounds like a new chapter in Vasquez’s evolution as an artist. Sharing the bill is Denver’-based industrial post-punk duo Voight who are in the process of transforming their sound in a more electronic direction so you may get to see more than a hint of that for this show. Also, Boy Harsher, originally from Savannah, Georgia, will bring an immersive darkwave dance sound that doesn’t draw easy comparison to much unless you’ve been able to catch New Order or Adult in the last decade. Brilliantly sculpted, driving low end and ghostly vocals that suggest large spaces even when the blanket of fog obscures one’s sense of place at the show. Disorienting yet comforting. Boy Harsher releases Pain IIon May 11 but you may be able to pick up a copy at this show.
Who:The Black Angels w/Ron Gallo When: Thursday, 10.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: The cover of The Black Angels’ new record, Death Song, itself is a commentary on what’s going on in American culture now and its ripple effect beyond the nation’s borders. Red, white and blue in repeating, circles within larger circles, hypnotic and disorienting, an image suggesting chaos but one that also hints at the possibility of a return to some semblance of coherence and peace. The image, designed by guitarist Christian Bland, is part graphic design style and part minimalist art, much like his work on previous Black Angels albums, but one that suggests movement and confused stasis.
The album’s music bears out those qualities with some of the group’s heaviest and most politically pointed, but never preachy, material to date. The Black Angels were one of the bands that pre-dated the relatively recent wave of psychedelic rock having begun life in 2004 and its own career helped to influence and shape the sound of modern psych with its own music and direct advocacy through Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and The Reverberation Appreciaion Society. While one of the bigger acts out of psychedelic rock today, The Black Angels and other psych acts make the kind of music that resists full commercial co-optation.
As a live act The Black Angels has always been one that integrates the visual presentation of the music with the sounds so that the experience of the show is one that reflects the experience intended with the creation of the music. This time out the urgency, the heaviness, the fear, anxiety and the catharsis that we all hope comes about on the other end of the current national and international nightmare unfolding as we speak.
Who:Me Me Monster, Gort Vs. Goom and Television Generation When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Your Mom’s House Why: Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums duo who perform a kind of eccentric punk and jazz hybrid that may remind some listeners of Primus but it’s weirdness has as much to do with one of that band’s influences, The Residents, as with any post-Mr. Bungle art rock band. GvG (for MMO nerds even if not fully intentional on the part of the band) also often perform in costume or some sort of get-up. And Me Me Monster and its commitment to theater and spectacle is a good fit but its own warped hard rock sounds like what might happen if Neil Young got into making psychedelic prog but went through a weirdo jazz phase teaming up with Robin Trower. Television Generation isn’t overtly weird. It’s brand of fuzzy punk, psychedelic garage rock and pop bears some comparison to Love Battery but there is even more of a sardonic sense of humor informing its songwriting and presentation.
Who:Perry Weissman 3, Roger Green and Andy Monley When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Perry Weissman 3 is a long-running avant-garde jazz and rock band that was perhaps most active in the 90s and earl 2000s. Roger Green is the genius guitarist and avant-garde composer who may be best known for his stint in local slowcore band The Czars, which included experimental pop songwriter John Grant. And hey, while we’re talking about former members of The Czars, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist, Andy Monley, is on this bill as well. Monley, however, has plenty of respectable music outside The Czars including his still going tenure with alternative rock band/country punk weirdos, Jux County and his exquisitely written and thoughtful solo material.
Who:Jerkagram, The Uglys, Chromadrift, Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh When: Thursday, 10.26, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café) Why: Jerkagram from Los Angeles is one of those bands that didn’t really fit in a single genre of music so its styles can be all over the place and all at once. But loosely more on the heavier and math-y end of things. In some ways the band is reminiscent of former Denver art rock weirdoes Action Friend who now live and play in L.A.. The Uglys get dubbed this and that and probably haven’t fully decided what they are themselves. How a band can remind you of both Mudhoney, At the Drive-In and Fu Manchu all at once I don’t know but that’s The Uglys for you. Some screamy stoner rock, if you will. Chromadrift? As in Drew Miller? The IDM/ambient artist whose music is so ethereally beautiful it immediately transports you to a better place? Indeed. Filling out the bill are Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh, progressive metal bands from Georgia.
Friday: October 27, 2017
Who:Brujeria w/Powerflo and Piñata Protest When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Brujeria is almost pure schtick as a North Mexico drug cartel/national liberation group/band. Death metal, grindcore, unabashed takedowns of questionable politicians like Donald Trump (pre/post-presidency) and lots of cartoonishly dark humor. But the music to some extent transcends the joke because the musicians are members of other well-known heavy acts like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cradle of Filth, Criminal and others. Opening act Piñata Protest is a highly entertaining hybrid of ska punk and Norteño.
Who:Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Chelsea Wolfe has spent her career writing in a variety of musical styles but all of it has been a vehicle for her stark rendering of emotional turmoil and channeling that into challenging yet entrancing works of art. Wolfe’s last few records have brought forth in explicable form the subconscious ghosts that have long haunted the songwriter. Her latest, 2017’s Hiss Spun, is the heaviest set of songs Wolfe has yet released. Heavy but also heady and sonically expansive. If some of Wolfe’s previous records could feel and sound claustrophobic as a reflection of an insular creative vision, Hiss Spun is that vision opened up and shared more fully with anyone who might want to share in that experience as someone well-acquainted with personal demons and/or as someone that appreciates an authentic emotional experience so intensely realized.
Youth Code while a different animal musically, is a great fit for this tour because Sarah Taylor’s own unrelenting emotional intensity on stage is something to witness. The band’s dark, industrial bursts of tones and rhythm have evolved considerably since its earliest recordings and 2016’s Commitment to Complications revealed a band that is more than a thrilling jackhammer of aggressive music. There is a moody underbelly and a catharsis of internalized melancholy alongside the desperation you’d expect.
Who:Church Fire and Motion Trap When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: Black Shirt Brewery Why: It could be argued that both of the bands on the bill are electronic dance bands of the highest order because they are. Motion Trap, though, is tends toward bright tones and more keyed into the kind of aesthetic for dance clubs because it is very upbeat. But its music is way too steeped in strong pop songwriting to fully fit in that world. One of the few bands it does seem to fit in with is Church Fire whose dark undertones, politically-charged, noisy synth pop is one of the most exciting bands in Denver or anywhere right now. It’s own unabashed embrace of hip-hop beat production and industrial and dance music isn’t necessarily obvious. This will be an outdoor show starting at 8 p.m. so bring warm clothing.
Who:Mux Mool, atruc, RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kind of a more leftfield live dance music/hip-hop night with progressive beat maker Mux Mool, alternative hip-hop duo Curta playing as atruc, electro-guitar-based ambient solo act RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines. The latter’s combination of ambient, IDM and dubtechno-flavored beats is always very different from many of the acts in whose company he finds himself. The 2016 album III Pillars was a triptych of hypnotic noise and textured atmospheres that established a sense of place. Except that place wasn’t in normal reality.
Who:Rot Congress Night 1: Loanword, Boat Drinks, Jobless, The Far Stairs, Fake Awake When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Hot Congress, the long-running indie rock collective, has been hosting this Halloween-themed event for years with some of the best bands out of that corner of the Denver music scene. This first night includes ambient project Loanword is on tap as is lo-fi band Jobless and former Hindershot keyboardist Jesse Livingston’s experimental synth pop band The Far Stairs.
Saturday: October 28, 2017
Who:Cults w/Cullen Omori and Hideout When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Cults made a bit of a splash with its debut EP and “Go Outside” single in 2010. Its evocation of upbeat, breezy 60s pop mixed with a sense of the otherworldly. Like an alternative history science fiction story born out of heartbreak, personal trauma or simply plain wanting to recast a drab and depressing present with something more romantic and meaningful without the cheese factor that often accompanies such impulses and creative work that comes out of them. Cults latest record, 2017’s Offering, finds the band maintaining that Julee Cruise-esque, dreamlike, nostalgic tone but this time with a broader palette of sounds and rhythms. Where some of the earlier music sounded like it was tapping into some of Phil Spector’s Gold Star Studios years’ vibe, Offering sounds more present and immediate. Opener Cullen Omori was once a member of up-and-coming pop/rock band Smith Westerns. When that band split in 2014, Omori continued writing and performing under his own name. The music wasn’t radically different but the tone seemed to shift. Smith Westerns was very rooted in 70s rock. Omori’s solo output is more reminiscent of a modern version of a New Wave band with a gently psychedelic overtone. More synth, more lush sounds overall. His 2016 album, New Misery, sounded like an artist who wasn’t creatively cutting all ties with his old band so much as reinventing it and, um, culling the elements that didn’t work for him the first time around.
Who:TR/ST When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Robert Alfons doesn’t yet have a new record out but TR/ST released a new single, “Bicep,” over the summer. The new track sounds like Alfons is wending more in the direction of EBM than the synth/dance pop of his first two records. TR/ST was one of the few bands that Goth DJs in Denver would play out of the wave of dark electro music that has been very much part of the indie underground since the second half of the 2000s. No, it didn’t sound like Depeche Mode or even Erasure but Alfons’ songs were as dark and moody as anything the former has ever released and as celebratory yet thoughtful as the latter’s best material. When TR/ST recently played Denver it was a well-attended show at The Bluebird so here’s a chance to see the project at a much smaller venue.
Who:Mehvana (as Nirvana), Denver Meatpacking Company (as Hüsker Dü) and Lawsuit Models (as Jimmy Eat World) When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Bands performing covers sets for Halloween isn’t the most original thing in the world but all the bands on the bill for this show are at least trying out something different with grunge-esque band Denver Meatpacking Company doing a set of Hüsker Dü songs probably focusing on the middle era. It’s not a huge leap for pop punk band Lawsuit Models to a Jimmy Eat World set but putting yourself in someone else’s creative head space even if you’re influenced by their work takes some effort when you’re not some session musician or someone that generally plays in cover bands.
Who:Sharone & The Wind (“Night of Terror”) w/Black July, 21 Taras and Married a Dead Man When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que Why: It’s a Halloween show that Sharone & The Wind is advertizing as their “Night of Terror” so expect some theatrical shenanigans from the Denver hard rock band. In recent months the band has reinvented itself in a direction more like a cross between a proto-death rock band and a blues-inflected emo group. Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does. Married a Dead Man is a Goth/death rock band that came out of people who played in the punk and hardcore scene beforehand. Sonically, sort of reminiscent of Sunshine Blind but rougher around the edges at the moment—you know, that ethereal synth with some metallic guitar with a female vocalist who sounds like she is no stranger to belting it a little.
Who:Bob Log III w/Colfax Speed Queen When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bob Log III used to freak people out as the confrontational frontman of Doo Rag. The Crash Worship crowds for whom the duo played probably got it but the Lollapalooza crowd probably wasn’t used to seeing weirdo blues quite that raw and primal. As a solo artist, Bob Log III has only pushed the theatrical side of his act further with strange costumes like a carnie, blues punk Dex Romweber. Denver’s Colfax Speed Queen won’t be quite as stripped down but it’s own psychedelic garage rock is surprisingly forceful and disorienting in its own way.
Who:Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System w/Gracie Bassie, TNERTLE (solo) When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the architects of modern music as we know it. As the producer at the now defunct Black Ark in Jamaica, Perry was one of the pioneers of dub, which is a radical remixing and reproduction of existing music and represents one of the earliest forms of electronic music and a creative use of an early version of sampling. Directly or indirectly, as an engineer, producer or musician, Perry shaped the sound of much of reggae music and through that of punk, hip-hop and electronic music from the 70s forward. In recent years, Perry has collaborated with house/experimental electronic band The Orb on original material. His live show is a masterful delivery of his imaginative soundscaping and hypnotic rhythms.
Sunday: October 29, 2017
Who:Ministry w/Death Grips When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Ministry somehow made the crossover from synth pop (With Sympathy) to EBM (Twitch and to some extent The Land of Rape and Honey) to industrial rock (by the time of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste) in the course of seven years. It’s a remarkable transformation and at each stage Ministry was one of the very best bands in those respective genres. Since then Ministry’s newer material has been on the heavier end of music though arguably more difficult to neatly classify. The current touring incarnation of Ministry is focusing on material post-1988. If you’ve been switched off for 30 years and are expecting tracks from the EBM era and would be disappointed not to see it live, don’t go. But if you appreciate Al Jourgensen’s mutant heavy music from The Mind forward, it’ll be a worthy selection of material. Death Grips is an industrial hip-hop band with a charismatic frontman in MC Ride and one of modern popular music’s greatest drummers in Zach Hill. Even if you’re not into hip-hop for some reason Death Grips is really more of an experimental band that doesn’t really bother with splitting hairs between the aesthetics of hip-hop, noise, industrial music or whatever its own style might be that comes out of that.
Who:Haunted Sound Laboratory, Unbridled Sonic Anarchy, Chris Sessions, Jonathan Cash When: Sunday, 10.29, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Textures is an ambient showcase that happens at Mutiny the final Sunday of every month. This time, host Wesley Davis’ own Unbridled Sonic Anarchy will be performing alongside Jonathan Cash who some may know more for his noise project Break Dancing Ronald Reagan.
Who:Vanilla Milkshakes, Denver Meatpacking Company and Uncle Bad Touch When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This is another Halloween-themed show and apparently grunge/punk band Vanilla Milkshakes will treat those in attendance with its take on The Ramones and DMC will reprise its Hüsker Dü cover set from the night before.
Who:2Mex, Onry Ozzborn, Early Adopted and Curta When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: 2Mex may not be a household name but in the alternative hip-hop scene of the 1990s (and now for that matter) he has long been a star. His witty and imaginative wordplay was honed at the open mic nights at Good Life Café in South Central Los Angeles and he has been willing to couch it in beats that reflect popular music of the time. More importantly his raps criticize his own music culture, American culture in general and himself with humorously poetic sensibility. Onry Ozzborn is a respected alternative hip-hop artist in his own right whose music seems to favor darker tones and downtempo beats. As a member of Grayskul and Dark Time Sunshine Ozzborn’s gritty stories were reminiscent of Aesop Rock’s literary output, and of course the two rappers have collaborated. Opening act, Denver’s Curta, incorporates a more industrial and psychedelic/experimental electronic flavor into its beats. Apparently this will be the last show with founding keyboardist/guitarist Brent Larsen, aka 4Digit who is moving out of town.
Who:Governor Mortimer Leech (Widow’s Bane) undead and unplugged When: Sunday, 10.29, 6 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: Widow’s Bane is the undead pirate band from Boulder. They do interviews in character and perform in character. Is it “character”? Anyway, Governor Mortimer Leech will be performing a rare acoustic show early at Ophelia’s and it’s free.
Monday: October 30, 2017
Who:Cobalt, Worry and Fathers When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Greeley-based black metal band Cobalt didn’t play much in the first decade or so of its existence and nevertheless garnered a bit of an international following. Founding member Phil McSorley left the project in 2014 but Erik Wunder (who also plays in one of Jarboe’s bands) and Charlie Fell (formerly of Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium and Abigail Williams) have kept the band going and completed its best album to day, 2016’s Slow Forever. The band’s previous records were boundary pushing in what can be an insular musical style and Slow Forever‘s expansive dynamism sacrificing none of the bleakness and brutality was something of a new chapter for the band. Colorado Springs-based deathgrind band Worry and Denver’s heavy band super group (with members of Native Daughters, Cult of the Lost Cause and Lords of Fuzz) round out the bill.
Who:Ghoulfriend, Corner Girls, Page 27, art by Katherine Louise, Jesse Nickell and poetry by Kelsey Carolyn Bowe When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ghouloween 2017 will be held in the basement of Syntax for extra spookiness. It’ll be a night of art, music and poetry. Chances are you won’t see the bands on the same bill again any time soon. Ghoulfriend is weirdo guitar project of Trey Tafoya of Ancient Elk and déCollage. Some bands play psychedelic rock, Ghoulfriend takes the concept of using guitar to expand sound palettes to a higher and more original level while still making it accessible. Page 27 is one of Denver’s, and the world’s, longest-running noise bands. Now, P27’s soundscape has included harsh noise and sometimes still does but it’s more like a hypnotic, modulated drone that pulls in sounds that one does not often associate with the genre called drone. Corner Girls is an excellent surf rock/punk band whose lyrics are often enough an irreverent take-down of patriarchal cultural features that should have been weeded out of our collective unconscious decades ago but somehow still linger and affect people’s everyday lives. Addressing it with music is simply a peaceful and creative way to discuss the issues.
Tuesday: October 31, 2017
Who: Alvvays w/Jay Som bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/337225 When: Tuesday, 10.31, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Alvvays’ self-deprecating pop songs could be glum but Molly Rankin and company seem to realize that wallowing in despair rather than finding the humor in life’s downstrokes is more boring than transforming those moments of intense emotions into something creative. The Toronto band’s promising 2014 debut sounded like a band fully formed and tapping a bit into the pop music that came out of the C86 era in its sophisticated simplicity and unabashed embrace of bright and breezy, catchy melodies. The 2017 album, Antisocialites is highlighted with neon-sounding synths like someone in the band has started listening more closely to Missing Persons including the flourishes of tastefully intricate micro guitar solos. The subtle details make it a consistently rewarding listen. Along for this leg of the Alvvays tour is Jay Som whose lo-fi anthems about identity, self-discovery, self-definition and personal liberation seem very relevant in a time when the boorish, hateful and oppressive side of modern American culture has reared its ugly head in a big way. 2017’s Everybody Works is a bracing antidote to all of that even if it may sound like a gentle indie rock record to many.
Who:Itchy-O w/Altas When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: For the uninitiated, Itchy-O is a roughly 32 member avant-garde music performance troupe that plays its shows entirely in costume like mariachi mystics. The band has a full drum corps and other percussion, a taiko section, bass, guitar, synths, processed vocals and other noises and “dancers” that creep about the crowd during the show. It’s a real spectacle and really unlike other bands in every way. That it can release albums that could be worthy of the live show seems implausible but the band recently released its second full-length album, From the Overflowing, on Alternative Tentacles. The records are no replacement for the experience of the band but fascinating listening nevertheless. Instrumental rock band Altas opens the show with its dynamic, cinematic compositions.
Who: Space In Time, Keef Duster, Colfax Speed Queen and Wild Call When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Space in Time is a hard rock band whose sound harkens to a time when early metal and psychedelic rock were not at all far apart. Obvious touchstones for Space in Time would be Deep Purple, Captain Beyond (which included ex-members of Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly) and Uriah Heep with both bands’ gift for writing melodic heavy rock with a fluidly trippy groove. Keef Duster’s music draws on similar inspirations but wends more toward the doom end of the heavy spectrum. Fronted by Kim Phat, who some may know from garage rock punks Dirty Few, Keef Duster is more than a clever name even though it recently released a song called “Hash Hive.” The latter was mixed and produced by Matt Loui of psychedelic garage rock band Colfax Speed Queen, also on the bill.
Who:Captured! By Robots w/908, Bewitcher and Night of the Living Shred When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Captured! By Robots at this point is a great metal band, bordering on death metal and industrial. Most of the band is comprised of robots constructed by JBOT but a lot of the kitsch factor of the earlier part of the project’s life are gone and the performance is much more focused on doing something that isn’t a complete gimmick. Internationally known deathgrind band 908, from Colorado Springs, shares the bill as does skate thrash band Night of the Living Shred. So basically Bryan Ostrow will be doing throat destroying vocals for two bands this night because he’s the Nivek Ogre of extreme metal.
Who: Bronze, Terminals, Master Ferocious, The Pollution and The Stunning Cuntz When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Three of the handful of good sludge metal bands from Denver at Mutiny? We’ll have to assume some books will fall off shelves at some point. Bronze is named in reference to Mad Max and its heavy music is more tied to bands from the 70s and early 80s with strong songwriting and good vocals rather than the 90s and 2000s stoner rock bands it may sound like. When there seemed to be way too many stoner rock bands in Denver from roughly 2000-2010, Bronze stood out. Members of Master Ferocious came out of some of the better bands of that era too like The Angry Hand of God. Out of the latter, guitarist Mark Pilloud and bassist Brian Kennedy were involved in the founding of Master Ferocious in 2014 and the newer band still seems to write dystopian songs about the present with guitar work that demonstrates an interesting co-influence from, of course, Black Sabbath and late 70s Judas Priest.
Wednesday: November 1, 2017
Who:Slowdive w/Cherry Glazerr When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Of all the shoegaze bands of the late 80s and early 90s, Slowdive was an early adopter of an ambient and electronic music aesthetic. When the group started as a kind of indie pop band called Pumpkin Fairies, its songwriting, inspired in part by atmospheric post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees (the song of whom the fledgling band borrowed its then new name), The Cure and Cocteau Twins. For the 1991 debut full-length, Just For A Day, the ethereal vocals that one now associates with the shoegaze genre was very much in place and so were the expansive, towering guitar drones that the band had developed on its previous EPs.
By the time of the 1993 follow-up, Souvlaki, Slowdive was working with ambient music godfather Brian Eno and had all but abandoned conventional rhythm structure in favor of more organic rhythms giving songs like “Sing” and “Souvlaki Space Station” a quality that melds the tone and the atmosphere into what might later be described as a beat-driven approach to the songwriting. Those musical instincts reached their peak with Slowdive on what might have been its final, and in some ways most daring and interesting album, 1995’s Pygmalion. The latter came out at a time when the alternative music world had long gone down the rockist path with a set of songs based in what seemed like a sonic recreation of pure emotion cast in minimalist textures. It was like a post-rock album seemingly inspired by and synthesizing IDM, abstract dub and ambient house music. The innovative record lost the band their label contract with Creation records and the members of Slowdive went on to other musical concerns over the years including Mojave 3, Monster Movie and The Sight Below.
Perhaps inevitably, Slowdive reunited in 2014 but under its own terms and with the aim of recreating its heart and imagination-stirring music authentically. And its subsequent tours have borne that goal out. Making no promises until the possibility was a bit of a concrete reality, the band didn’t announce new material until Spring 2016. The forthcoming self-titled album, released in May 2017, was not a rehash of the band’s past. It was not an attempt to outdo the sheer experimentalism of Pygmalion. Rather, it was a strong set of songs worthy of all of its earlier music. The music doesn’t feel like nostalgia, it feels like the band knew it had to do something that wouldn’t reject the past but also not be yoked to expectations of any lack of artistic growth on the part of the musicians over the previous twenty-two years. So if you go to the show, and you should if you’re a fan of highly emotionally stimulating music that is an unexpectedly visceral experience, no need to dread any newer, inferior material because the most recent Slowdive songs are far from subpar.
Who: Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Ice Troll, Dear Rabbit and Open to the Hound When: Wednesday, 11.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This might be the deluxe edition of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday series for the first half of the month. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is “Electronica Glam Rock” that includes contributions from Never Kenezzard’s Ryan Peru. Ice Troll is a sort of doom rock orchestra. Dear Rabbit is lo-fi avant-garde folk. Open to the Hound is what might happen if Lloyd Cole formed a band that took some cues from The The and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s just that weird but grounded in classic songwriting sensibilities.
Who:Chicano Batman w/Khruangbin and The Shacks When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: To say Chicano Batman is sort of a psychedelic soul band doesn’t quite do it justice because its music comes out of tropicalia, old timey rock and roll and funk without sounding like it’s trying too hard to please everyone. Live, the group presents a unified visual image with matching outfits as one might expect from 60s and 70s Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters and Sunny & The Sunglows. Early on championed by the late, great, Ikey Owens, Chicano Batman got a leg up reaching a wider audience through a 2015 tour with Jack White, with whom Owens had been playing before his untimely death in October 2014. The group’s 2017 album, Freedom is Free, is a bracing antidote to the climate of chaos, desperation and despair that many people have been experiencing with the Trump administration by offering an alternative vision for a better America and a world.
Houston’s Khruangbin is a Thai surf-funk-soul band so it and Chicano Batman are a perfect compliment to one another as Kruangbin’s music isn’t grounded in the same influences even if the music it’s music is also not inspired by music from just one place and one time. Inspired initially by Thai funk cassettes from the 60s and 70s, Khruangbin has found fuel for its creativity in the music that influenced those bands and the music that resulted from those roots that manifested in various ways. Dub, Afrobeat, reggae and hip-hop, among others.