What:Day of Jubilee: Sliver and Marcus Church When: Friday, 2.07, 5-9 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: Marcus Church is a Denver-based power pop trio. Its gently jangle-y and fuzzy melodies sound like singer/guitarist Dustin Habel spent a whole lot of time obsessively listening to only records produced by Mitch Easter and the complete discographies of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star. That also means there’s a tender earnestness to the songwriting imbued with an uncommon tenderness and humanity. Sliver bypassed the 90s grunge nostalgia wave of recent years by making no bones about its musical roots in its hard driving, explosively emotional guitar rock. Mudhoney influence aside, its aesthetic is most informed by both the self-effacing, sensitive, introspective side of Pacific Northwest noise punk and the wiry, politically conscious end of DC hardcore.
What:Mainland Break w/Panther Martin, Mystic Wool and The New Creep When: Friday, 2.07, 9 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Denver power pop band Mainland Break is releasing its video for “Gun Without Hire” at this show. The five piece band sounds like it listened to a whole lot of bands on the Flying Nun imprint in the 80s, some Swell Maps and The Feelies while forming and distilled that influence into upbeat pop songs.
What: Wolf Parade w/Land of Talk gothictheatre.com/events/detail/386833 When: Saturday, 2.08, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: CanadianWolf Parade returns touring in support of its new record Thin Mind. Its blend of post-punk and power pop has helped define the aesthetic of modern indie rock as sonically eclectic with thoughtful lyrics.
What:Courtney Barnett When: Saturday, 2.08, 7:30 p.m. Where: The Stanley Hotel Why: Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett has written some of the most personally insightful lyrics of the past two decades paired with emotionally vibrant guitar work and songwriting. She will perform solo for this rare, intimate show at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.
What:Miniature Tigers w/Katzú Oso When: Sunday, 2.09, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Miniature Tigers’ 2019 album Vampires of Daylight is an exploration of singer/songwriter Charlie Brand’s painful breakup and his return to writing and performing music after going through agonizing experiences that had him over the edge and art therapy through painting instead of music. The result is a raw yet tender album of deeply emotional songs about loss and the confused and tortured feelings that run you through the wringer.
What:The Paranoyds w/Spendtime Palace and Princess Dewclaw When: Wednesday, 2.12, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Paranoyds’ psychedelic fuzz pop is a spirited and surreal take on noisy post-punk. Like The Raincoats having come up in Southern California on pop punk and American pop music with a similarly splintery aesthetic and exuberant live performances. Currently touring again in support of its excellent 2019 album Carnage Bargain.
What:Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.
What:Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.
What:Angel Olsen w/Vagabon When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.
What:Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.
What:Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.
What:Empath w/American Culture and Reposer When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.
What:Curse w/Echo Beds, Church Fire and Gruesome Relics When: Thursday, 10.03, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Baltimore’s Curse has been touring the US for the past eight years playing its alchemical mix of doom, darkwave analog synth pop, electro-acoustic industrial beats and hardcore. Its commanding and spirited performances and DIY ethos has earned the band a fanbase in the American underground where its gritty, emotionally charged and dream-like music needn’t appeal to a narrow spectrum of musical tastes. Also on the bill are like-minded Denver locals. Echo Beds and Church Fire both bridge the worlds of hardcore, industrial and darkwave with both groups incorporating live drums and physical sound generation with an electronic music aesthetic.
What:Bleached w/Dude York and Pout House When: Thursday, 10.03, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Seattle’s Dude York recently released its new album Falling out on Hardly Art. The band’s been writing fun, thoughtful music since its inception but on the new record the songwriting seems somehow fuller and the tone nostalgic like the members of the band have reached a point in their life that everyone gets to where you can embrace the music of your youth that maybe in your late teens or twenties you rejected a bit because you outgrew it. Except that you can appreciate it on your terms as someone who has some life experience and has more insight as to why you you can either still love that music or aspects of it or appreciate how it made you feel even if that music doesn’t have that level of impact on you now. The problem with a lot of rock music is that it gets emotionally stuck in a rut of stunted adolescence. Falling sounds like a band that acknowledges the importance on a deeply personal level of not letting your heart fully harden to weather the blows of life with a shield of knowing jadedness when some sensitivity and openness would be a better way to navigate the world with curiosity and humanity intact. Bleached not so long ago went through its own transformation after some years of exploring what it wanted to sound like, even as the songwriting was always strong, to get into a groove of gritty, atmospheric pop that grew out of the Clavin sisters’ past in noise punk band Mika Miko and the garage surf sound of the early 2010s.
What:Half Moon Run w/Tim Baker (former Hey Rosetta!) When: Friday, 10.04, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Tim Baker the charismatic singer for Hey Rosetta! released his debut solo album Forever Overhead. When the band went on indefinite hiatus in October 2017 Baker went on tour as a solo artist playing the unconventional types of venues he had probably when he was coming with the songs that were the backbone of the early era of his Hey Rosetta!. The songs are the warm, introspective but yearning, anthemic pieces that garnered the band a wide audience from early on. The album seems to sketch a journey of personal rediscovery and reconnecting with the everyday experiences and epiphanies that make for vivid lyrics that resonate with feelings we’ve all had.
What:Ride w/The Spirit of the Beehive and One Flew West When: Friday, 10.04, 7:30 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Ride was one of the earliest of the UK shoegaze bands. Its sound was aswirl with elements of a colossal neo-psychedelia but rocked with a momentous drive. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2019 album This is Not a Safe Place.
What:Pythian Whispers album release w/RAREBYRD$, SOMNILOQUIST and nervesandgel When: Saturday, 10.05, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: SOMNILOQUIST is an ambient/drone artist from Albuquerque whose 2019 album Perpetual Fall is a collection of vivid sonic sketches of a scene, a sensation, a mood captured by the song titles including the humorously titled “How Long Are You Going to Leave Those Jack-o-Lanterns on Your Porch?” Majestic, enigmatic, impressionistic, introspective but always conveying the emotional experiences behind them eloquently. Nervesandgel hasn’t performed a show in over six years but the Denver-based experimental electronic artist has a vast back catalog that explores depths of experimenting with the form of ambient music and psychedelia beyond the tropes implied by the latter designation. He, Johnny Wohlfahrt, has releases on various imprints including a record out on indie pop label Best Friends Records but most of his work is self-released including the darkly moving Cometcrash and the more than three hour long epic 333. He may make ambient music but his performances are always richly emotional. R A R E B Y R D $ took the root of underground hip-hop and imbued it with personal mythology and a willingness to push the weird end of electronic beat-making to craft some of the most entrancing and evocative, sometimes inspirationally brash, sometimes cathartically heartbreaking happening in the world right now. Pythian Whispers is a Denver-based ambient band that Queen City Sounds and Art editor and writer Tom Murphy started as a solo project in 2009 but which became a band in 2011 when David Britton joined followed by various other long term and short term collaborators including renowned photographer/film-maker Charles DeGraaf, Titwrench MC Piper Rose, former Dangerous Nonsense bassist and current Umbras Animas member Harmony Fredere, Brad Schumacher of Night Grinder, Melissa Bell formerly of Rasputina and Howling Hex, Victoria Lundy of The Inactivists, Darren Kulback formerly of Hot White now Quits and The Lifers, former Action Friend drummer Paul Alexander, Misun Oh formerly of French Chemists, Tripp Wallin of The Lifers, comic artist Sara Century, photographer Joel Dallenbach and likely more. The band’s new album Lullabies For the Way of St. James is its first full length album since 2012’s The Dark Edge of Hippie Life. The band will have enamel band logo pins for sale for $12 that come with a download or a bundle with a forthcoming cassette with extra tracks for maybe $20.
What:Franksgiving: Church Fire, Little Fyodor, Ralph Gean and Gort Vs. Goom When: Saturday, 10.05, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Franklin Bell is a local character and weird music afficionado who DJs many events featuring gloriously odd music. This is his yearly benefit for the Crohn’s Foundation of America. It features some of Denver’s best including tribal industrial dance phenoms Church Fire, punker than your average fashion victim punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band, Denver’s OG rock and roll hero Ralph Gean and irreverent bass thrash post-punkers Gort Vs. Goom.
What:Sam Fender w/Noel Wells When: Sunday, 10.06, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: You may not know who Sam Fender is now but the singer/songwriter from the UK has had his musical star on the ascent for several years now and his new album Hypersonic Missiles hit the number one sport on the UK Albums Chart last month. His earnest songwriting and candid portraits of working class life, the struggles, the aspirations, the frustrations and the triumphs, elevate his upbeat and anthemic songwriting to something more ambitious and meaningful than much of what is passing for pop and rock music in the mainstream these days.
What:Dave Bixby w/Midwife and Scott Seskind — canceled When: Sunday, 10.06, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: In 1969 Dave Bixby released his debut Ode to Quetzalcoatl, inspired by a spiritual revelation after wrecking his mind with drugs and transcending that experience. His second album, Second Coming, commissioned by a cult called The Movement, was released in 1970 and he subsequently disappeared from the world of music until 2011. This is a rare chance to catch this legend of psychedelic folk. [This show was canceled due to Dave’s gear being stolen. Possible reschedule at some point]
What:Emotional Oranges w/Chiiild When: Monday, 10.07, 7:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Chiiild is the kind of R&B we need now that is identifiable as such but which has absorbed modern music and while maintaining an appreciation for the eccentric sound and musical ideas from yesteryear with no prejudice toward where it belongs in conventional notion of genre. The group’s songs sound like they were written without notions of musical tradition weighing it down, only the pressure of writing meaningful and transporting music the way its obvious influences weren’t aiming to borrow so heavily from an earlier era either.
What:Tame Impala w/Altin Gün When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Tame Impala could have done fine for itself basically soundtracking modern yacht rock for young people and had a commercially successful music career. But Kevin Parker’s songwriting reveals some more imaginative combinations of sounds and moods layered into the music so that even if sometimes a song will remind those in the know of a later era Supertramp track with more luxuriant synth work it’s an example of Parker’s penchant for weaving together modern sensibilities and pop songcraft from previous or current times with equal aplomb.
What:Stereolab w/Wand When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Stereolab took French pop, Krautrock, avant-garde synth music, dub and psychedelia and infused it with the radical left politics to make some of the most compelling yet accessible music of the 1990s and 2000s. Reunited after a decade apart “The Groop” will not fail to dazzle.
What:Tyler, The Creator w/Blood Orange and Goldlink When: Monday, 10.07, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Tyler the Creator made a name for himself crafting experimental hip-hop as a member of Odd Future and under his own creative moniker. But in recent years, particularly with his 2019 album Igor, he’s been writing works that explore themes of identity and a deep examination of what drives our desires. While nothing new per se, for this record Tyler has dispensed with the aggressive character that was a manifestation of his anxieties and insecurities writ larger than life in favor of a compelling vulnerability with production that complements that unmasked sensitivity perfectly. Also on the tour is Blood Orange whose own experimental beat-crafting and creative approaches to cultural narratives reached a peak thus far with 2018’s Negro Swan with its lush jazz and downtempo sound and lyrics that took an honest yet nuanced look into the way society and conventional mores impact racial, gender and sexual identity. Heavy stuff for a show at Red Rocks and yet both artists make these subjects accessible and fun without downplaying their seriousness.
What:Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin performs Deep Red for movie screening When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Claudio Simonetti is a founding member of Italian progressive rock band Goblin and for this show he and his band will perform a live soundtrack to the 1975 Dario Argento splatter horror thrill Deep Red.
What:Jakob Ogawa w/Niña When: Wednesday, 10.09, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Swedish singer-songwriter Jakob Ogawa’s songwriting seems steeped in jazz-inflected pop but there’s something unusual about the angle with which he approaches the music. Almost like it incorporates elements of childhood music and fairy tales into the mix. For instance the music video for his single “April” features a sasquatch type figure who wakes up one morning and has some adventures including trying out surfing and night driving. Some fishing, visiting the graves of pets. Hanging out in a hammock. It’s subtle but it really does tell you Ogawa’s gift for chill synth pop and his own idiosyncratic vocals is coming from a place of individual imagination that immediately sets him apart from the rest of the modern crop of indie pop artists.
What:The Alarm, Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel When: Friday, 08.09, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: In the 1980s all three of these bands embodied the kind of highly melodic post-punk that articulated both the bleakness of an era and the hope that they and the rest of humanity would endure writing songs celebrating life and love and honoring the uncertainty, tentativeness and sometimes, yes, even gloominess that cast a pall over society with the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. Over thirty years hence we’re all in another period of doom hanging over the planet from, once again, the threat of nuclear war but also the collapse of our ecosystem and the rise of another wave of aggressive fascism throughout the world. Since these three bands have reconvened each has also been writing some of the best music of their careers and commenting on the times with songs that aren’t trying to capture past glory so much as writing music worthy of their legacy of not getting stuck in a rut. Modern English’s 2016 album Take Me to the Trees, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel’s 2017 record Dance Underwater and The Alarm’s 2019 offering Sigma reflect not just the strength of the respective band’s original creative vision but also their growth as artists valid in the modern era.
What:Martin Atkins DJ sets and spoken word When: Friday, 08.09, 9 p.m. Where: Tracks Why: Martin Atkins who has been a major figure in post-punk and industrial music going back four decades (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Ministry, Public Image Limited) will do a DJ set tonight and perform some spoken word, possibly reading from his own body of work.
Saturday | August 10
What:This Will Destroy You w/Brin When: Saturday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: This Will Destroy You is one of the better ambient post-rock bands. Mainly because its dynamics aren’t limited to the predictable builds and then inevitable catharsis like Sigur Ros without all the alien light and energy that imbues that band’s music. This Will Destroy You’s 2018 albums New Others Part One and Part Two finds the band further developing its textural elements giving its new set of soundscapes a depth of low end it didn’t lack but one that highlights the more ethereal melodies with a a evocative contrast in tone.
What:Rolling Stones: 2019 No Filter Tour When: Friday, 08.10, 6:30 p.m. Where: Mile High Stadium Why: Anyone not know who the Rolling Stones are? Use your search engine and learn about the iconic rock and roll band that fused a gritty, heavily blues influenced rock music and evolved it in various and fascinating ways for years with lyrics that often indulged in unusual, offbeat subjects and really a broad spectrum of human experience making their songs long term engaging and influential. Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is one of a handful of essential books written by a musician.
What:GYES: Arc Sol, Mainland Break, Slugger When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: This edition of Get Your Ears Swoll brings to Northwest Aurora, Colorado experimental rock bands with a psychedelic loose edges.
What:Glasss Fest Day 1 When: Friday, 08.10, 12 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: This two day event spanning roughly twelve hours each day brings together some of the most interesting of underground bands that often do not get much play at the clubs or more commercial venues. Which makes it an event worth attending to catch a slice of what you’re missing out on if you only go to venues that don’t book experimental music. Most of this stuff isn’t particularly challenging unless your idea of genius is mainstream pop music that is bland but has the veneer of quality or if you’re mainly only into one genre of music not represented. It’s an eclectic booking in a way that needs to happen in Denver and elsewhere more often. Schedule below. All times p.m. as if you needed to be told.
12:30 – DJ Zombie
3 – Grrrl
3:30 Kah Li
4 – Nothing is Everything
4:30 – MYTHirst
5 – Adam Selene
5:30 – Bios+a+ic
6 – Elle Green
6:30 – Sliver
7 – Bianca Mikahn
7:30 – Denizens of the Deep
8 – House N Complex
8:30 – Pearls & Perils
9 – Princess Dewclaw
9:30 – Abeasity Jones
10 – R A R E B Y R D $
10:30 – Catdog
11 – Techno Allah
11:30 – Savage Bass Goat
Sunday | August 11
What:Glasss Fest Day 2 When: Sunday, 08.11, 12 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: See above for Glasss Fest.
1 – Sobremarcha/Hepster Pat DJ Sets
3 – Umbras Animus
4 – Galleries
5 – Disposal Notice
5:30 – Sumguy
6 – Bowshock
6:30 John Gross
7 – Venus305 / DCC
7:30 – Lady of Sorrows
8 – Pythian Whispers
8:30 – Dead Characters
9 – Soulless Maneater
10 – Joohsup
10:30 – $addy
11 – Hepster Pat DJ set
Tuesday | August 13
What:Quits, Multicult (MD), Sliver and Equine When: Tuesday, 08.13, 12 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Basically a noise rock show except for Equine who is probably doing a noisy guitarscaping sort of set. And Sliver who are basically a grunge color-by-numbers act. At least when it comes to their Layne Staley wannabe singer/guitarist. But they’re pretty alright in spite of all of that. Multicult is a Baltimore-based noise rock band in the vein of Shellac and The Unsane. Quits is a Denver band with a similar aesthetic and one that doesn’t skimp on the raw emotional outbursts.
What:Pure Bathing Culture w/Plume Varia When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pure Bathing Culture started with Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman who are also members of experimental folk band Vetiver. PBC is more in the realm of dream pop but with a more organic base with vibrant and sparkling guitar work amid lush synths as well as Versprille’s warm vocals. The group’s 2019 album Night Pass is its first since being dropped from Partisan Records. And rather than a darker than usual album to reflect the process of the experience, Night Pass sounds like a band that kept going its previous creative trajectory of introspective, upbeat yet downtempo pop songs. Opening the show is Plume Varia who share a similar sensibility but whose sound palette is a little more dusky and with singer Cheri Cobbs’ vocals soulful and deeply evocative.
What:Matt Weston (Albany), Ryan Mcryhew and Ryan Seward When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7:30 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: This will be something of an experimental improvisational show including locals Ryan Mcryhew better known for his work as modular synth and beats composer Entrance and avant-garde percussionist Ryan Seward. Both will join Matt Weston whose own left field percussion and electronics has brought him into collaborative spheres with the likes of Roger Miller (of Mission of Burma), Jim O’Rourke, drone legend Kevin Drumm, free jazz saxophone player Charles Gayle and Jack Wright, another master sax improviser.
Wednesday | August 14
What:Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington When: Wednesday, 08.14, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Herbie Hancock probably needs no introduction as one of the most important artists in modern jazz as a composer, pianist and band leader. He played in Miles Davis Quarter, he was a pioneer of jazz fusion and funk, he has composed soundtracks, he had a 1983 pop hit with “Rockit” which fused jazz and hip-hop. His accomplishments are, frankly, to massive to list. Also on this bill is Kamasi Washington whose own role as a master saxophonist (he’s played on records by Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, St. Vincent and others, no big deal), composer, band leader and producer parallels Hancock’s own. As a live performer Washington orchestrates the show with a subtle mastery that feels relaxed and informal due to the songwriting and the years of work already put in but which feels like watching a grandmaster at work. So go early to catch Washington and stay for one of the few living legends of jazz demonstrate his own musical magic.