What:The Shivas w/The Savage Blush and Slynger When: Thursday, 2.27, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Shivas were pushing the modern garage psych aesthetic forward before it became a played out quantity in the 2010s. But because the band was always weirder and willing to explore the noisier, more extreme ends of the style its music has remained refreshingly different and genre bend-y up to and including its 2019 album Dark Thoughts.
What:Susto w/Whitacre and Molly Parden When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Susto’s 2019 album Ever Since I Lost My Mind finds the indie rock band branching into more urgent and gritty songwriting territory without losing the thoughtfulness. Maybe the tenor of the times has seeped into the drive behind the new material but the band’s gorgeously languid vibes seem ticked more than a bit toward a focused intentionality with the music. Not that it lacked intensity at moments before, it’s just palpable this time out. Also on the bill is Denver-based band Whitacre. Paul Whitacre has made a name for himself since moving to the Mile High City in 2016 for his introspective yet brightly upsweeping songs. The group’s new album Seasons, out on April 17, finds its songs, produced by Joe Richmond (who has worked with Tennis and Churchill), polished and shining with a warmth and sincere optimism.
What:Modern Leisure w/Ashley Koett and Big Dopes When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Modern Leisure’s Casey Banker’s keen ear for dynamic and entrancing pop melodies is matched only by his similar gift for sharply observed turns of phrase. Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude is brimming with vivid portraits of life in a generation whose future has been compromised but trying to maintain a sense of hope for better times ahead without succumbing to nihilistic despair.
What:Chuck Prophet When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall Why: Chuck Prophet was one of the pioneers of alt-country as a member of Green On Red from its genre-defining 1985 album Gas Food Lodging through the early 90s. During his career as a solo artist his knack for crafting poetic imagery and dusty power pop has seemed endless. His most recent record, 2017’s Bobby Fully Died for Your Sins is a meditation on the passing of musical giants and maintaining a vision for hope in dark times.
What:Howard Jones acoustic Trio performance w/Rachael Sage When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Synth pop pioneer Howard Jones will perform as part of an acoustic trio for this show interpreting his iconic hits of the 80s in a format that will likely surprise. Anyone that has witnessed Jones in the more electronic incarnation of the music knows that his songwriting is at the heart of the appeal of his songs. Opening the show is Rachael Sage. The New York City-based artist has been releasing music on her own MPress Records for two decades including fourteen of her own albums distinguished by an eclectic range of sounds and styles that have informed her imaginative pop songs. He latest album Character, out March 6, came out of her time recovering from endometrial cancer throughout 2018. The record is informed by a sense of humility, realistic yet poetic assessments of life’s possibilities and horizons when facing your own mortality. Sage discards the bravado we hear too much in American music in the face of adversity, it acknowledges the frailty and fragility of the situations we may find ourselves when you can’t just magically snap back and be okay. It wisely takes a sensitive and deeply compassionate yet honest approach to every subject and reveals itself to be a deep record about life’s challenges in general whatever your situation.
What:SPELLS (record release) w/Drakülas and People Corrupting People When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Denver’s SPELLS is releasing its new record Stimulants & Sedatives on Chuck Coffey’s Snappy Little Numbers imprint. In the past one might have described SPELLS as essentially a pop punk band. But on this album there’s more dissonance and grit to the music to go along with the rambunctious tunefulness that has been the hallmark of the band’s sound from the beginning. The lyrics are a sharp mix of self-awareness and self-deprecation with stories of realistic expectations rather than bullish bravado, a very adult approach that contrasts well with the raw energy of the performances.
What:Ceschi and David Ramos w/Gregory Pepper, Midwife, Damn Selene and CFX Project When: Tuesday, 3.3, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Ceschi Ramos is the co-founder of Fake Four, a label putting out some of the most forward thinking hip-hop of the past decade and a half. The confessional intensity of his rapidfire vocal delivery wrapped in atmospheric beats is reminiscent of Sole, with whom he has worked, and his vivid, personal storytelling issues forth in almost pointillistic couplets like a mosaic establishing an informal, organic narrative. On the bill also is experimental hip-hop artist Damn Selene and ambient folk phenom Midwife who is set to tour the US in March and April as well an appearance at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands.
Wednesday | March 4
What:Weird Wednesday: DA’AN, Corey Daggers and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Wednesday, 3.4, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: This typically eclectic line-up for Weird Wednesday includes a mix of electronic dance music, punk Americana and soulful hip-hop. DA’ANS is a new project that brings together the luminous vocals of Glynnis Braan of Lady of Sorrows and the electronic production and beat-making genius of Lawrence Snell, drummer of Meet the Giant, with songs and a theatrical performance that is a true synthesis of rave and darkwave. Corey Daggers often performs by himself with a guitar and on occasion with a full band. But either incarnation is a vital flavor of what might be described as dark carnival emo Americana. R A R E B Y R D $ bring a swagger, sensuality and emotional warmth to ambient beats and lyrics that are at turns playful, earthy and deeply, transformatively vulnerable.
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
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
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
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
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
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.