Best Shows in Denver and Beyond May 2022

ADULT., photo courtesy the artists
Dehd, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Monday | 05.02
What: Dehd w/Pixel Grip
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Chicago’s Dehd amalgamated and stripped to their essence strands of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelic garage rock that might have informed the trio’s bands prior to forming this group in around 2015. The result has been a body of work including what tracks have been released for listening of its fourth album Blue Skies (due out May 27 via Fat Possum Recordings) that consistently deconstructs recent trends in indie rock to create something somehow familiar yet decidedly different. Its inventive rhythms seemingly counter to the R&B flavor of some of its songwriting yet works well in spite of fusing styles so otherwise incongruous and as a live band there is a wash of atmospherics and moods that nonetheless comes across as focused and energetic. Sometimes its early records can when listened to in small samples don’t seem to convey this quality of the band but a deep dive on their records seems rewarding for the attentive listener. Pixel Grip is also from Chicago but its mutant blend of industrial disco synth pop would sound like a noise version of commercial pop if not for its eccentric streak in processing sounds and disregard for convention. Like a more accessible Atari Teenage Riot.

Mudhoney, photo by Niffer Calderwood

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Mudhoney w/Cyclo Sonic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Mudhoney is arguably the pioneering grunge band that cohered an aesthetic and attitude beyond the earlier explorations of Green River. Its wild dynamics and ramshackle rock and roll is almost like the early Replacements but more rooted in garage rock and punk. Mudhoney is also a charismatic and highly entertaining live band whose music isn’t inherently silly but despite the immense talent of its membership this group doesn’t take itself too seriously. Opening is Cyclo Sonic which includes members of various important Denver punk bands including Choosey Mothers, Rok Tots and of course Matt Bischoff of influential garage punk legends The Fluid who may have been an influence on Mudhoney and countless other bands of that era.

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Interpol w/Matthew Dear
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Most people who haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years, unless they’re also too young for it to have mattered, have heard of Interpol. More than most other bands of its time and of the so-called “post-punk revival” in the late 90s and early 2000s its brooding and widely dynamic post-punk reached the widest audience. Its 2002 album Turn On the Bright Lights was probably among the most played record in college dorms, hip bars and indie dance nights of that time outside of The Strokes’ 2001 classic Is This It. Paul Banks’ controlled yet highly emotional vocals jibed so well with Daniel Kessler’s nuanced and expressive guitar atmospherics and Sam Fogarino’s ear for subtle detail in percussion alongside Carlos Dengler’s duskily melodic bass lines. Dengler hasn’t been with the band since 2010 but Interpol continues to make evocative and beautifully moody music including its forthcoming 2022 album The Other Side of Make Believe. Brilliant experimental pop artist Matthew Dear could probably have a headlining tour of his though hard to say it would be at Mission Ballroom but you get to see his scintillating songwriting and performance on the same bill with Interpol so treat yourself and don’t skip the opener this time. It’s been 4 years since the release of Bunny so maybe Dear will treat us to new material.

Moodlighting in April 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 05.05
What: Moodlighting album release w/Mainland Break and Style Animal
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver dream/twee pop band Moodlighting is released its debut album Boy Wonder at the beginning of April and is now celebrating the occasion on this night. Musically the group sounds like it came out of the more recent bedroom pop aesthetic with strong melodic lines and evocatively vulnerable vocals. The album seems to be an assessment of what it’s been like living your post-college years trying to establish your adult life during a global pandemic on top of the usual struggles and the things that make it all endurable from small joys to creative and personal aspirations that you know won’t manifest now but serve as a beacon to get you through the roughest stretches. Mainland Break is a power pop band with a fuzzy and urgent edge that sounds sometimes like it was influenced by the more psychedelic end of Jay Reatard and of course Ty Segall without being weighted down by the now faded psych garage aesthetic of the 2010s.

Thursday | 05.05
What: Drune w/Only Echoes, New Standards Men and Nightwalker
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Remember when there was this active organization called the Denver Art Rock Collective that put on shows featuring bands that were either inspired by or by default fit in with bands inspired by experimental rock of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Stuff like New Ancient Astronauts, The Skivies, Action Friend, Mourning Sickness and such? Maybe not. Well these bands would have fit in that milieu nicely. Drune might have had some origins in doom metal but has long since expanded into more progressive, noise and psychedelic territory as it has developed and a more interesting and original group because of it. Only Echoes is a post-metal/post-rock band that includes Austin Minney who has engineered the releases of more underground Denver bands in the DIY scene than most other people you could name as well as Alex Goldsmith who has spent more than his fair share of time in a broad range of music from hard rock band Sharone to the late, great experimental noise pop group Roommates. Only Echos releases its own album Sunsickness at Seventh Circle Music Collective on May 13, 2022 with Endless Nameless, Abandons and Old Soul Dies Young on that bill. But of course one of the current also outstanding and unusual bands out of Denver now is the art rock/prog/post-rock/space jazz group New Standards Men.

BleakHeart November 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.06
What: BleakHeart tour kickoff w/Matriarch and No Gossip In Braille
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver shoegaze/darkwave metal band BleakHeart is ready to go on a tour with Blackwater Holylight and marking that occasion with a hometown show with the colossal, doom-drone soundscapes of Matriarch and the elegantly haunted post-punk of No Gossip In Braille.

Friday | 05.06
What: The Cult w/King Woman and DES ROCS
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Cult were pioneers of post-punk and death rock in an earlier incarnation but by the late 80s were making the kind of bombastic yet moody hard rock that strode the line between heavy metal, alternative rock and the music of its early days. With charismatic frontman Ian Astbury and the surprisingly consistently inventive guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult remain a forceful live band worth your time to witness. But then there’s also the dark and dramatic metal/folk/psychedelic stylings of King Woman whose 2021 album Celestial Blues was one of the best albums of that year placing her in company with great songwriters who don’t feel the need to fit into a narrow genre yet embraced by fans of experimental music, metal and folk like Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler.

Friday and Sunday | 05.06, 05.07 and 05.08
What: Henry Rollins
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre on 05.06, Stargazers Theatre on 05.07 and Boulder Theater on 05.08
Why: Henry Rollins is of course the legendary frontman of the final incarnation of Black Flag in the 80s. And he had his own group Rollins Band from the 80s through the 2000s. But for much of that time Rollins was writing intense poems and observations about life and tales from the road that he published in various books across a prolific career as a writer and parallel to that he also did spoken word shows and arguably it is that work that is his greatest legacy as a cultural figure with insightful commentary on what it means to be a human trying to navigate an often perilous social and political landscape and try to pursue a life exploring what interests you and bring it back to inform and hopefully entertain others. His spoken word shows have always been highly entertaining and he’s usually very generous with his time. The most recent tour found Rollins sharing photographs from his extensive travels in parts of the world most of us will never go as a way to hopefully expand the perspective of people who show up. This time around who can say other than it will be well worth the time and resources invested in making it to the gig. You have three chances in Colorado over this particular weekend.

Dorothy, photo by Courtney Dellafiora

Sunday | 05.08
What: Dorothy w/Joyous Wolf and Classless Act
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Dorothy is a hard blues rock band fronted by the charismatic Dorothy Martin. A lot of bands have been tapping into classic rock and the blues in recent years with mixed and often cringeworthy, laughable results. But there’s some genuine gusto behind what Dororthy brings to the music. Could be an unusual comparison to make but imagine some 80s glam metal band with better songwriting minus the questionable lyrical content but with the bombast and larger than life energy that those bands aimed to put across and you get some of the vibe of Dorothy.

Sunday and Monday | 05.08 and 05.09
What: The Church
When: 6:30 p.m. (05.08) and 7 p.m. (05.09)
Where: Washington’s (05.08) and Fox Theatre (05.09)
Why: The Church may still mostly be known for their 1988 hit “Under the Milky Way” by most people who only pay attention to a band’s Top 40 charting. But The Church has been releasing extraordinary records consistently from its 1981 debut Of Skins and Heart through its most recent record Man Woman Life Death Infinity (2017) and the forthcoming, tentatively titled, In the Wake of the Zeitgeist is likely to not be short of thoughtful, emotionally stirring material as well. And as a live band The Church has a mystique about them that is also relatable like you want to be a part of it and they make you a part of the experience. Their music is hard to pin down for genre but the psychedelic rock is there, the post-punk, the folk roots and one has to assume most shoegaze bands since the 80s has had more than a brush of influence by The Church. Two Colorado shows this tour and maybe you’ll get to hear some of the new material before it finds official release.

Monday | 05.09
What: Fontaines D.C.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Fontaines D.C. from Dublin has garnered an international cult following since the 2019 release of its debut album Dogrel. A couple of the members of the band met at college and bonded over a shared love of poetry and inspired in part by both the Beats and classice modern Irish poets like James Joyce and Yeats. And that sensibility can be heard in its narrative songs depicting the way the slow moving wrecking ball of late capitalism is crushing the life out of life for most people and their communities. Yet the music isn’t a bummer, just honest and unpretentious. Its fiery live performances early have evolved into something more nuanced and intense without losing that power and emotional resonance.

Monday | 05.09
What: Christian Death w/Luna 13 and Plague Garden
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Christian Death was the foundational band of the death rock side of early eighties post-punk and its 1981 debut album Only Theatre of Pain a classic of the genre. Valor Kand wasn’t part of the band at that time but for the group’s 1984 follow up Catastrophe Ballet Kand was the band’s guitarist and only constant member since 1983 including beyond band founder Rozz Williams departing and then doing his other projects and establishing a different version of Christian Death before his death in 1998. Under Kand’s leadership the group has explored a variety of styles and in recent years the sound has been more like a fusion of metallic blues punk and deathrock including its 2022 album Evil Becomes Rule. Luna 13 is sort of a blackened industrial metal band from Los Angeles. Plague Garden is a post-punk group from Denver that in the interests of transparency the author of this piece writes but figures people are really coming out to this show to see Christian Death.

Slow Crush, photo by Kat De Laet

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Slow Crush w/SOM
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SOM’s new album The Shape of Everything (2022) picks up where its previous releases have drifted with a colossal yet deeply melodic sound. Like a slow moving fusion of a classic shoegaze group and a doom band. Post-metal and post-rock doesn’t quite cover it because it has hooks like you’d expect out of one of the better emo and post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s except translated to something with exquisite and epic soundscaping. Fitting that SOM is sharing this bill with Slow Crush from Belgium whose 2021 album Hush is a flood of luminous sounds and grainy textures like SubRosa gone full shoegaze or Tamaryn collaborating with members of Kylesa. Clearly the transcendental metal/shoegaze crossover show of the month and likely the whole year.

Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Metz w/Moon Pussy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Canadian post-punk/noise rock trio Metz has been evolving its beautifully discordant sound since 2008. But its 2020 album Atlas Vending though a bit of a grower showcases the band at its most dynamic, frantic and raw yet fully realized. And in many ways its most overtly political in a general rather than topical sense. Obviously Metz wasn’t able to tour in support of the record so this is your chance to catch the wiry power of the group showcasing its recent work. Opening the show is probably the perfect Denver band for the slot in Moon Pussy. The sheer eruption of sounds and nearly unhinged musical dynamics and scorching yet angular sonic assault always seems like something that could go off the rails at any moment but never does. Fans of Touch and Go noise rock weirdness or that of Amphetamine Reptile should definitely make the effort to see Moon Pussy but your appetite for that kind of sonic savagery will get filled aplenty by this show.

MXMTOON, photo by Lissyelle Laricchia

Tuesday | 05.10
What: MXMTOON w/Chloe Moriondo
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: MXMTOON garnered a cult following as a bedroom pop YouTuber but her songwriting chops were clear from early on and her thoughtful lyrics expressing the yearnings of a young, sensitive person examining her own insecurities and the intricacies of her own psychology and observations on life resonate much more broadly than one might expect. Employing mostly a ukulele and her own resonant voice, MXMTOON’s performances are confident yet introspective and imbued with a fresh and spontaneous energy. Her sophomore album Rising is due on May 20, 2022.

Wednesday and Thursday | 05.11 and 05.12
What: Nox Novacula (w/WitchHands and Plague Garden on 05.11 and w/Radio Scarlet and Witch Hands on 05.12)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Fritzy’s (05.11) and HQ (05.12)
Why: Seattle’s Nox Novacula is a brash and energetic post-punk band whose fast-paced songs are more akin to a classic deathrock group with widely dynamic, propulsive rhythms and passionate vocals. Its 2021 album Ascension is a combination of grit and fire with vividly macabre and inspired lyrics that are dark and dramatic yet never cartoonish.

Thursday | 05.12
What: Front Line Assembly w/Rein, Choke Chain, DJs Paul and Eli
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Bill Leeb the vocalist of Front Line Assembly got his start as a member of an early incarnation of Skinny Puppy but by the late 80s he had branched off with his own with long time bandmate and collaborator Rhys Fulber called Front Line Assembly in 1986. A pioneering band of the EBM movement and then electro-industrial, Front Line Assembly built on the political consciousness of the music with its often dystopian depictions of the effects of commercialized technology and industry on human lives and civilization. But even if you weren’t into that content as much its soundscapes and mix of menacing sounds and hard, danceable rhythms has been a consistent feature of its music from the beginning up to and including its 2021 album Mechanical Soul. Swedish electro-industrial pop artist Rein is also on the bill with her soulful vocals and well-orchestrated synths and textures. Choke Chain’s distorted, ominous songs are reminiscent of early Nitzer Ebb and his 2021 EP Invoking Shadows has an uncommon edge even for the genre with Mark Trueman sounding a little like William Faith at his most unhinged.

Friday | 05.13
What: William Basinksi w/Tripp Nasty
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Outside of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and a few others, William Basinski is likely the most famous avant-garde composer in America and certainly one whose work has been most celebrated in recent years including his now classic 2001 electronic masterpiece The Disintegration Loops. His career has been greatly varied and includes work in modern classical and ambient music and styles that are unique to him though informed by process music and tape collage. He rarely comes to Colorado and not often playing a small club. Opening is Tripp Nasty who is no stranger to classical avant-garde, noise, experimental pop music, noise rock and analog synthesizer composition. You never quite know what to expect from Tripp except that it’ll be interesting and of quality.

Fozzy, photo by Adrienne Beacco

Friday | 05.13
What: Fozzy w/GFM and Krash Karma
When: 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Fozzy is the hard rock/melodic metal band fronted by Chris Jericho. The latter most probably know from his professional wrestling career throughout the 90s and on into the 2010s and his outsized persona like he was auditioning to be the lead singer of a rock band. The early Fozzy records were mainly covers albeit pretty solid as far as that goes but more recent offerings reveal the group’s knack for anthemic hard rock as evidenced on its 2022 album Boombox. The single “I Still Burn” has all the aggression and bombast you’d want from a band like this but its lyrics are also introspective and vulnerable and lacking in the bravado that helped make Jericho a celebrity and yet that’s why it’s definitely a cut above a lot of other hard rock that might get compared to 80s glam metal which this is not yet has a similar appeal I its uplifting dynamics and willingness to indulge a tasty and tasteful guitar solo.

ADULT. circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.14
What: ADULT. w/Kontravoid and Spike Hellis
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers (mostly if not entirely designed by Kuperus) and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux. Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Bluebird Theater, March 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.15
What: OMD w/In The Valley Below
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were early pioneers of synth pop in the 1970s and turning the style of music into a mainstream phenomenon throughout the 1980s. Turned off by what today might be called toxic masculinity of too much guitar driven rock in the 70s, singer and bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Humphries arrived at their own style of music inspire by Kraftwerk as solidified by their having witnessed the foundational electronic band live (McCluskey has the seat number memorized and mentions it now and then in various interviews, such was the enduring impact). The electronic post-punk of OMD quickly caught attention early on and their 1979 debut single “Electricty” was was released on Factory Records, the imprint started by Tony Wilson to release Joy Division’s records. Following a tour with Gary Numan OMD’s self-titled debut failed to chart commercially but the group had built their own studio and had a place to refine recording and composition. And with the release of their second album Organisation (1980) and the hit, anti-war single “Enola Gay” (named after one of the airplanes that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to great horror and bringing to a swifter end World War II though at what cost, thus the point of the song), OMD garnered international popularity. Through ups and downs of popularity including the lack of love for its arguably most experimental and interesting album Dazzle Ships (1983), OMD persevered until splitting in 1989. But By 2006 interest in synth pop was starting to become more pronounced than it had in decades and OMD re-convened as chillwave, vaporwave and related musical forms gained popularity in the indie music world and then well into mainstream music. Don’t go OMD expecting to see a sedate band performing some of the most gorgeous, most heartfelt electronic-driven pop of all time. OMD plays it like they’re a punk band but with grace and humor.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Cut Copy w/Suzanne Kraft
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Unfortunately Australian band Cut Copy is playing opposite a clear influence in OMD not far from the Paramount at The Ogden. The quartet has made finely sculpted pop songs informed by not just synth pop but modern dance music and shoegaze soundscaping and guitar work since 2001 with a string of albums that seem to have pushed the band into new territory even if in what can sometimes come across as subtle ways but all are beyond a surface level massively different. Freeze, Melt, the 2020 and most recent record, hit a tonal yet highly evocative plateau that sounded like an attempt to reach a place of emotional tranquility and put that across in a set of songs for a time of great turmoil. Also, a consistently surprisingly passionate live band in spite of its ethereal melodies.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Eve 6:The Extreme Wealth Tour w/Field Medic and Jake Flores
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Eve 6 had a bunch of hit singles in the 90s and did well for itself with songs like “Inside Out” and “Leech.” Nevertheless, Eve 6 was one of those mid-to-late alternative rock acts that weren’t so bad but nothing as exciting and as innovative as what came much earlier in the decade. And yet, nothing cringey which can’t be said about all the later-era alternative music. So probably the show will be good. The band also named itself after the titular character in the “Eve” episode of X-Files (S1E11). But one thing that is indisputable is that singer Max Collins’ Twitter account is one of the most real and amusing things you’ll read from any musician in social media and that must be honored.

Collen Green, photo by Jason MacDonald

Monday | 05.16
What: Juan Wauters w/Colleen Green
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Juan Wauters was once a member of psychedelic, indie garage band The Beets who garnered some critical acclaim and popularity during its heyday of the early 2010s. His albums under his own name show a broad spectrum of musical interests. His 2021 album Real Life Situations is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson crossed with Devendra Banhart. Except that Wauters has his own sound wherein he freely goes off the conventional map. Colleen Green made a solid career out of fuzz pop songs across a handful of releases with songs that seemed like a vivid portrait of personal insecurities discussed with a poetic honesty and sardonic humor. Her 2021 album Cool found Green using her songs as a vehicle for shedding outmoded lifestyles and frames of mind that might have seemed critical to one’s identity at an earlier point in life. Her career got going at the height of the indie/surf punk explosion of the 2010s and the influence of pop punk is obvious in Green’s work but her songwriting has always been more interesting than the prevailing trends and her lyrics consistently more sharply observed.

Tuesday | 05.17
What: Nilüfer Yanya w/Tasha and Ada Lea
When: 8:30 doors 9 show
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Nilüfer Yanya is a UK-based singer-songwriter whose music is a hybrid of various styles and modes somewhere between what some might call indie folk, synth pop, jazz and trip hop. Her subtly expressive vocals alongside lush arrangements and layered textures give her songs a gentle presence with great nuance of emotional resonance. The artist is now touring in support of her 2022 album Painless.

Author & Punisher, photo by Becky DiGiglio

Wednesday | 05.18
What: Author & Punisher w/MVTANT
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tristan Shone has refined his Author & Punisher project from its early days of using his mechanical engineering skills to modify mechanical and electrical devices as controllers for sound generators and other instruments into a sort of industrial noise project. His latest album Krüller (2021) found Shone pulling back from the colossal wall of sound that characterized a good deal of his previous body of work and the melodic side of his songwriting is more obvious and enhanced as is his expert use of space and overlapping rhythms this time used with even more atmospheric effect so that one might get lost in the gorgeous soundscapes rather than be thrillingly overwhelmed by them. But don’t worry, A&P hasn’t lost its visceral edge and sense that you’re seeing a musical project from an actual cyberpunk future and not the second rate, B-movie version.

Thursday | 05.19
What: Testament w/The Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste and Meshiaak
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Testament is one of the second wave of bands to have emerged foundational to Bay Area thrash metal. Its aggressive precision was rooted partly in progressive/technical metal and jazz fusion except Testament utilized those ideas to make imaginative, thoughtful, politically charged music. With Chuck Billy’s commanding bark and Eric Peterson’s and Alex Skolnick’s intricately interweaving guitar work these days buoyed by Steve Di Giorgio’s bass and now Dave Lombardo’s (formerly of Slayer) paradoxically tastefully bombastic drums, Testament remains one of the greats of the genre.

Molchat Doma, photo courtesy Sacred Bones Records

Friday | 05.20
What: Molchat Doma w/Pompeya
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Considering world events it’s fortunate that Belarusian post-punk band Molchat Doma (“Houses Are Silent”) is touring North America at the moment. Formed in Minsk in 2017, the trio’s sound fuses synth pop, New Wave and the sort of post-punk informed by both as perhaps most notably embodied by classic Russian post-punk band Kino. There is a melancholic and resigned tenor to much of the music as though there is a spirit of not wanting to get your hopes up too much only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control. Which makes it a solid soundtrack not just for a band living in Belarus and in the sphere of Russia but life under this particularly crushing version of late capitalism where you’re encouraged to grind yourself to death just don’t cause any major trouble for the powerful and wealthy. The group’s latest album Monument (2020) was to have come out the same year the band was to undertake its first tour of North America with a May 2020 date at the Hi-Dive. But the pandemic hit and the band’s cachet grew dramatically beyond the appeal of a few dozen connoisseurs of post-punk in every city of size in America and beyond. The track titles on the new record spell out a bleak present and future and despite the sound of the music it also points to an ability to resist the inevitable despair which is always key in the toughest times. This show is sold out and has been for weeks but you never know. Maybe it’ll get moved to a bigger venue or will should there be a future tour.

Elder Island, photo by Nick Kane

Friday and Saturday | 05.20 and 05.21
What: Elder Island w/JORDANN
When: 8 p.m. (05.20) and 8:30/9 p.m. (05.21)
Where: Bluebird Theater (05/20) and Fox Theatre (05.21)
Why: Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK. Starting life as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even experimental folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.

Kurt Vile, photo by Adam Willacavage

Monday | 05.23
What: Kurt Vile and the Violators
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Kurt Vile has more than proven himself as one of the foremost songwriters to have emerged from the American indie underground with a thoughtful and evocative body of work that traverses and transcends simple categories like psych, Americana and garage rock. His new album (watch my moves) (2022) isn’t too much of a surprise to long time fans of his songwriting and its homespun charm. But where it perhaps departs a bit from expectation is in the subtle sonic details. None of Vile’s albums seem overproduced but this one, granted recorded in his home studio OKV Central, really feels like Vile was honing in on a sound like his own version of what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska—relatively stripped down production, spare arrangements, a sense that this could have been done on a four track with few overdubs. Which is saying something considering multiple collaborators worked on the album including Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Cate Le Bon, Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt), Farmer Dave Scher (Beachwood Sparks), Annie Truscott and Lydia Lund (both also from Chastity Belt) among others. It’s a deeply introspective and layered album that sounds disarmingly intimate so it should be interesting to see how it translates to a big stage.

Monday | 05.23
What: Weedeater w/High Tone Son of a Bitch and J.D. Pinkus
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A lot of sonic brutality for the small stage at the Hi-Dive this night with Wilmington, North Carolina’s kings of stoner rock Weedeater. Its doomy, grindy music is like a flood of caustic sonic tar like Thrones but even more metal. J.D. Pinkus will probably bring his heavier solo material rather than his excellent country tunes to this show but you just never know and either way the Butthole Surfers/Honky bassist will be entertaining and fit in somehow. Veteran, Bay Area psychedelic doom band High Tone Son of a Bitch rounds out the lineup.

Spoon, photo by Oliver Halfin

Tuesday | 05.24
What: Spoon w/Geese
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022) is Spoon’s latest album and its most arduous in terms of production and release mostly because of the whole pandemic thing that’s still going on. But, as with every other Spoon album, it finds the group exploring new songwriting and stylistic territory. Its previous album 2017’s Hot Thoughts at times sounded like an old synth pop album but with modern sensibilities informing the songwriting architecture. The new record has an immediacy that was always part of the group’s sound but the production makes the music seem very up close and its blend of soul and Americana in the more raw rock and roll songwriting with touches of the unusual around the edges and at times what seems like a sound design approach to arrangements gives the song a different dimension and aural depth than most of its previous output. Of course live Spoon has always been a lively and charismatic group of performers all around. The inclusion of Brooklynite post-punk band Geese on the bill may be a label or management arrangement but it’s also an inspired selection of an opening act as its soul, funk and psychedelia-infused post-punk is reminiscent of something Factory records would have signed in the late 80s. That or a band that would have fit in at 99 Records because its sound is so richly eclectic and its 2021 album Projector a refreshingly different entry in the post-punk canon. Fans of Parquet Courts will indubitably appreciate what Geese is offering.

Bauhaus, photo by Gary Bandfield

Wednesday | 05.25
What: Bauhaus w/Automatic and Vinsantos — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Bauhaus is one of the most influential albums in post-punk and like the best of that first wave of bands they borrowed heavily from dub, early glam rock, psychedelia and the avant-garde. Its gloomy and often hypnotically otherworldly music immediately set itself apart from other bands from a similar background with not just the art school influence and conceptual soundscaping but also the theatrical aspect of its performances as manifested in the songwriting. Its use of melodrama never seemed corny and only enhanced its mysteriousness. Of course it got boosted into a wider circle of fame by basically opening the 1983 vampire film classic The Hunger with its own enduring classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But Bauhaus never rested on its creative laurels with its albums and each one expanded what not just post-punk could be but was essentially an art rock band without the progressive rock baggage. Nearly four decades hence Peter Murphy’s haunting and dramatic warble can still give you chills, David J and Kevin Haskins’ unconventional and fluid rhythms expand the brain with compound time experiments and Daniel Ash’s guitar-as-soundscape approach to the instrument hits like few other guitarists of the era. One of the most imaginative bands of the post-punk era, Bauhaus could just be going for a cash grab, nostalgia tour but it’s not that rote a thing and its new song “Drink The New Wine” (2022) is vintage Bauhaus weirdness and inspired dreamlike moodiness. New wave-esque, minimal post-punk band Automatic, which includes Kevin Haskins’ daughter Lola Dompé on drums and vocals, is also on the bill. Their turn opening for IDLES in April 2022 revealed a band more visceral than its excellent new album Excess might immediately suggest.

A Place To Bury Strangers, photo by Heather Bickford

Thursday | 05.26
What: A Place to Bury Strangers w/Glove and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: A Place to Bury Strangers is often lumped in with the resurgence of shoegaze around the turn of the 2010s and the exquisite sound sculpting with noisy, atmospheric guitar shaped into evocative melodies definitely fit in that loose realm of music. But the knack for employing raw, nearly uncontrolled or not always reigned in noise in the mix made the music have an edginess closer to some kind of old noise rock band like Big Black or even the most unhinged guitar wall of noise that The Jesus and Mary Chain perpetrated so brilliantly on Psychocandy. This group could have skated on those core ideas but its body of work has evolved without compromising an individual vision for how music can occupy psychological spaces with not just organized tones and sonic textures but with the sheer physicality of that sound. Its most recent record See Through You (2022) on initial listen seems more pop oriented in some ways than the more avant-garde Pinned or even earlier records but with it definitely goes off into realms of experimentation that has more in common with some 2000s band that might have not decided to choose between styles and influenced by the most anti-music No Wave, the lowest of lo-fi psychedelic garage rock/punk you might find on the Siltbreeze imprint and menacing, scuzzy post-punk but with lyrics that give glimpses into a head space where a person is trying to pull themselves back together after having their heart stretched thin and feeling like they’ve hit the point of no return and finding some shred of meaning and truth in that low place as a thread to crawl back to something resembling normalcy. It’s both vintage APTBS and the next step in its sonic evolution. Glove is a post-punk band from Tampa that apparently didn’t get the memo that you can’t combine disco with synthpop, glam rock and post-punk and its music all the more interesting for it since the style side of its performance isn’t lacking either. Polly Urethane is a darkwave/industrial artist from Denver whose music has an enveloping vulnerability that feels like a memory of a dream at times even when evoking painful memories while transforming those strong emotions into catharsis. Think The Knife or Jenny Hval but perhaps inspired by the likes of SRSQ.

Thursday | 05.26
What: Faster Pussycat w/Love Stallion and Grind Cat Grind
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: In the bloated haze of Los Angeles and international glam metal in the 80s a few bands stood apart from the rest of the Aquanet-teased hair fashion victims wishing they were Led Zeppelin but couldn’t even pull off Aerosmith or Hanoi Rocks with any integrity. One of those was Faster Pussycat whose hedonistic, sleazy glam rock had a core of good songwriting and strong stage presence. It didn’t hurt that lead singer Taime Downe is one of the few people in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) to not look silly and whose band in retrospect isn’t incredibly cringe. After the band split in 1993 Downe formed an industrial band called The Newlydeads but reformed Faster Pussycat in 2001.

Built to Spill, illustration by Alex Graham

Friday and Saturday | 05.27 and 05.28
What: Build to Spill w/Sunbathe and Distant Family
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre (05.27) and Boulder Theater (05.28)
Why: Built to Spill like contemporaries Pavement established that jammy, psychedelic guitar was not antithetical to authentic alternative rock rooted in punk and the 80s underground beyond punk. Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch had been in the more overtly psychedelic post-punk band Treepeople at the same time Built to Spill was forming but the latter became Martsch’s going concern after 1994. The singer’s unconventional yet melodious voice served as a consistently interesting and elegant contrast to the sometimes amped ocean of sound that the band could unleash during the climax of a song and as the embodiment of the music’s more tender moments. BTS’s 1997 album Perfect from Now On was a masterpiece of late era alternative rock with a wide-ranging style of songs that unabashedly indulged in thought-provoking, heartbreaking epics like “Randy Described Eternity” and the bombastically celebratory “Stop the Show.” The band has consistently provided a soundtrack to introspective exploration and contemplation on the meaning of life up to and including its 2022 album When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Most live albums are not as good as the studio albums but BTS’s 2000 Live might as well be a greatest hits album performed at the near peak of its powers surpassed perhaps only by witnessing the band in the flesh.

Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Friday | 05.27
What: The Antlers w/Wild Pink (solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: When Brooklyn-based indie folk project The Antlers released its first full band offering with 2009’s Hospice it immediately established itself as a band that could make powerful emotional statements with great delicacy and simplicity. The concept album is about a hospice worker and his relationship with a patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. After a hiatus of five years until 2019 due to primary songwriter and singer Peter Silberman experiencing hearing loss. While in recovery Silberman discovered he could still write music and following the 2017 release of the solo album Impermanence The Antlers returned with 2021’s Green to Gold. Opening the show is John Ross of Wild Pink performing solo. His band’s 2021 album A Billion Little Lights is one of the most affecting albums out of the indie rock milieu to be written from the adult perspective with adult concerns without waxing into self-parody or “dad rock” territory.

Animal Collective circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.27
What: Animal Collective w/The Spirit of the Beehive — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Animal Collective is one of the most influential bands of the past 20 years. Its amalgam of psychedelia, folk, electronica, ambient and the avant-garde has yielded a rich and prolific body of work across several albums that has been oft imitated but rarely in a way equal to the group’s truly idiosyncratic songwriting and eccentric methods of composing and performing music with an almost live orchestration/remixing live during performances. It’s truly transporting music, an otherworldly pop. Its new album Time Skiffs (2022) marks the return of Deakin and a robust organic tonal element in the group’s signature, unconventional percussion and what appears to be its most sonically interesting record since Strawberry Jam with its arrangements sounding like weather events coming together to make songs through a purely intuitive process that likely involved a great deal of work to make sound effortless. The Spirit of the Beehive has been making pop music that sounds like something from another dimension like Black Moth Super Rainbow turned into more of a rock band but with a live show that sounds like it’s been orchestrated like a set of medleys and remixes performed in real time.

Friday | 05.27
What: Fiddlehead w/Flower Language, Destiny Bond and Public Opinion
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Boston’s Fiddlehead is an anthemic, melodic post-hardcore band that for the uninitiated sounds akin to an emo band that was more influenced by Fugazi and Jawbreaker than what you might expect. Destiny Bond and Public Opinion are both post-hardcore bands from Denver whose songwriting stretches beyond the too often self-imposed limitations of hardcore.

Ezra Furman, photo by Tonja Thilesen

Saturday | 05.28
What: Ezra Furman w/Grace Cummings
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ezra Furman and the Harpoons was an excellent band in the more indie folk vein but Furman herself had more to say in music than that loose format. And since writing and releasing music under her own name as a solo artist she’s seemed to have slowly shed obvious stylistic influences like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed among others across several albums since the literary, haunted Americana of 2012’s The Year of No Returning. With the new album All of Us Flames Furman takes into the consideration the concept of the end of the world, certainly the world as we know it, and examination the assumptions and hopes and dubious freedom from thinking the world is over and even finding proof of that with the pandemic and the failure of all political parties in America to deal adequately with the crisis even to this day nevermind the ecological disaster slow crashing through human civilization, the perils of right wing extremism entering into governments worldwide posing a threat on its own and compounding all others as fascism is completely unprepared to actually deal with the crises we face and establish a sustainable response to issues those types fail to comprehend to the detriment of all. The lead single from the new album “Forever In Sunset” is a fiercely compassionate presentation of that whole backdrop as the ambient weight that amplifies whatever mood we’re feeling but suggests we don’t have to be overwhelmed while in survival mode and the meaning and significance of our lives can and will continue beyond the immediate brace of crises at our collective doorstep. Sonically it’s like a great glam rock song with an elevated folk flavor layered with enveloping atmospheres. Which is reason enough to go see how Furman pulls this music off live. But you also get to see Australian singer Grace Cummings whose 2022 album Storm Queen has a brooding grit and fiery passion that is a little reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. But Cummings isn’t ethereal like the latter yet both songwriters have an almost spiritual immediacy and an instinct for crafting the kind of guitar rock that burns from within like the ghost of another era of music trying to manifest through her performance. For instance one hears in the single “Heaven” shades of Big Star, Tommy Bolin and Zeppelin. The rest of the album proves that Cummings isn’t just a rocker, her expressive voice and songwriting chops range far from bombastic heights to tranquilly introspective songs with emotionally vibrant performances. Fans of Aldous Harding will find much to like in Cummings’ rich repertoire.

Grace Cummings, photo courtesy the artist
Causer in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.30
What: Bestial Mouths w/CXCXCX and Cau5er
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with industrial noise dance phenom Cau5er and Denver-based power electronics artist CXCXCX.

The Body, photo by Zachary Harrel Jones

Tuesday | 05.31
What: The Body w/Midwife and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With its extensive history of touring since starting in 1999 there’s a good chance that if you’ve been involved in underground music since that time you’ve seen or had a chance to see The Body from Providence, Rhode Island. The experimental duo might in a reductive way be described as a doom metal band crossed with a grindcore band informed by harsh noise. But drummer Lee Buford and guitarist Chip King really push their art into different sonic territory and in different formations with a fairly long list of collaborative releaes with the likes of Thou, Full of Hell, Unform, BIG BRAVE, and Krieg to name a few. The 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness was inspired by synth pop music and sounds it while also being one of the heaviest and most raw albums of that year that had an inexplicable and undeniable sonic nuance. Its most recent release is a split record with OAA called Enemy of Love and is harrowing fusion of doom, power electronics and intensely pointed social commentary fitting the state of the world today. But it’s not all just the sound of civilization crashing into a burning heap, there are moments when the record uses an almost ambient aesthetic to arrange the denunciation of the world’s destructive bastards and humanity’s seemingly unending instinct for self-destruction. By contrast though completely fitting Midwife is also on the bill with Madeline Johnston’s heartbreaking and soul soothing soundcapes that express a similar pain and rejection of a horrifying situation in the world in a broad and not topical sense while doing so through deeply personal songs about loss and trying to make sense of losses so deep they leave you shaken to the core. Midwife’s 2021 album Luminol provides some of the most transcendent and cathartic passages of music to address the aforementioned to have come out in the past decade. Opening this show is Polly Urenthane mentioned above opening the A Place to Bury Strangers show and will bring to this event her own music to transform trauma into inspiration.

To Be Continued…

A. Spectre Synthesizes Dub, Industrial, Deathrock and Noise on “Subterranean”

A. Spectre, photo courtesy the artist

A. Spectre channels a bit of early Ministry and deathrock on the “Subterranean” single. A slinky, dub-funk bass line buoys a crunchy/cutting guitar riff as the vocals tell a tale of disaffection and alienation and find a place where you can escape a mundane and superficial culture in an underground it doesn’t care about or acknowledge as legitimate. When the guitar solo comes in during the last fourth of the song it’s like a symbolic burning of the bridges between those two worlds. It celebrates subculture and the differentiating sensibilities and ethos. The production on the track is further reminiscent of the aforementioned Ministry as well as Skinny Puppy in how both use a sort of hip-hop production style with an emphasis on bass and rhythm as the driving elements of the song and everything around it is a genre bending amalgam of hard rock and noise. Listen to this genre-busting track on Soundcloud, connect with A. Spectre at the links provided and look out for the project’s Angst EP which includes “Subterranean.”

open.spotify.com/artist/07ByIrr6aftXygExNHxa6G
aspectre.bandcamp.com

Short Takes #3: February 2019

EarthControlPill_LeavesOnLeaves
Earth Control Pill, Leaves On Leaves

earth control pill – leaves on leaves – self-released 

Lead track “drippy tree” is an interesting and comforting collage of retro synth sampling and minimalist beats that pulse and bounce softly like one of those balloons with a grip shaped like an animal head that many people rode around on as kids. And that sort of melancholic, textured atmosphere with some white noise melded with abstract melodies layered with flowing tones and blurred beats that is suggested in “drippy trees” manifests in a variety of ways across the album without ever really replicating the feel of each song. In that way it’s reminiscent of early Aphex Twin but after the advent of modern experimental electronic dance music, tropical pop and deep house. Earth Control Pill pulls ideas together for this album as the title suggests as an organic process of layering wherein the elements complement each other seemingly naturally in the context of clearly technologically produced sounds. Altogether the songs, as sequenced, feel like a slow processing of sorrow by soothing the pains of loss while knowing they’ll never fully go away and the feeling of resignation of that reality. “Fog” strikes a somewhat jaunty note and, in fact, sounds the least like fog of all the songs though may highlight a time of fond memories connected to fog and how magical it can seem on an otherwise sunny morning. Whatever the inspiration or impetus behind this collection of music, it might be described as an ambient version of indie pop with the assembled use of discarded and currently unfashionable sounds to make something beautiful and tranquil with no obvious touchstones in contemporary commercially popular music.

Abjects_NeverGiveUp
Abjects, Never Give Up

Abjects – Never Give Up – Yippee Ki Yay Records

This debut LP from London’s Abjects strikes one as something akin to a frantic, grunge-y power pop record. But in the interest of not getting lazy and being quick to pigeonhole a band, the members of Abjects come from different corners of the world and met up in the UK bringing with them a vastly different set of cultural backgrounds that does give these songs an ineffably different flavor than 90s retro bands that all grew up in countries where the predominant language is English. The rhythms have an urgency yet fluidity that makes it easier to change directions and character rapidly with guitar work and vocals that seem adept at working counter point giving the songwriting an unusual and fascinating dynamism like something one might have heard in early Blonde Redhead songs or out of Velocity Girl.

BisonBone_TakeUpTrouble
Bison Bone, Take Up Trouble

Bison Bone – Take Up Trouble – self-released

One thing Bison Bone has always done exceedingly well is not limit its songwriting and creativity to the expectations of a subgenre of music. Yes, it’s coming from the world of country but also psychedelic rock but for the latter not in any obvious way. Its instincts seem inspired more by the hybrid country, punk and psych of the likes of The Flesheaters, Green On Red and Uncle Tupelo than much of the Americana that has come along since where it has not been too predictably been bathing in the musical DNA of early 1970s Laurel Canyon. Bison Bone’s music sounds like there is some real grit and real life experience behind it and paying of dues and not trying to mimic a beloved and trendy style of music. Take Up Trouble is urban honky tonk with the relatable storytelling intact but with a flair for wordplay and thoughtful commentary. What really makes these songs is the little details that bring the song together like the minimal guitar solo in the middle of “Hey Bartender” and the drone at the beginning of “Late December” to suggest memories of coming out of the haze of a memorable dream or of the heatwaves on the late afternoon road following a long day of driving and having a moment of reflection on what it’s all been about.

BruceLamont_BrokenLimbsExcite
Bruce Lamont, Broken Limbs Excite No Pity

Bruce Lamont – Broken Limbs Excite No Pity – My Proud Mountain

Like an industrial ambient rendition of a culturally hybridized folk music from a hundred years hence, this latest solo record from Bruce Lamont of Yakuza is akin to an Ian McDonald novel. The latter has written several works of science fiction and fantasy that seem aimed at subverting tropes set in places that aren’t the usual locales for fantastic fiction. The influence of anthropology and straight out cultural concepts outside the developed world is so pervasive his work has a tonality and range that is refreshingly unpredictable. Lamont’s interest in non-Western musical ideas too informs these songs of immersive textures and compound rhythms. With “Goodbye Electric Sunday” the science fiction parallels are obvious but throughout Lamont weaves a series of narratives that are reminiscent of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in sounding ineffably futuristic but as a commentary on the civilization on the verge of collapse of now.

Confluence_ClosureStartOver
Confluence, Closure, Start Over

Confluence – Closure, Start Over – self-released

Denver’s Confluence represented a musical rebirth for songwriter Ian Gassman whose work in other bands including his 2000s indie rock band Night Owl. The latter was more in a power pop meets Elvis Costello vein. Confluence was much more math rock in the late 90s and early 2000s sense that one heard touches of in the likes of Modest Mouse and Deathcab For Cutie. Confluence made no bones about nor held up its nose at complex arrangements and guitar solos but all in service to the song. Like it was using its technical skills to have fun and not just to show off. This record came out four years after the band was a functioning outfit and serves as a swan song and a reminder of how Confluence managed to fully integrate indie rock with musical chops and emotionally resonant vocals with a refreshingly unironic earnestness. Fans of LVL UP and Palm should definitely give this record a listen.

EerieWanda_PetTown
Eerie Wanda, Pet Town

Eerie Wanda – Pet Town – Joyful Noise Recordings

Obvious touchstones for the 2016 Eerie Wanda album Hum would be 60s pop stars like Margo Guryan and Françoise Hardy. All of that atmospheric soulfulness and orchestrated sonic details was present in Marina Tadic’s songwriting and recording for that record. For Pet Town, Tadic stripped back some of the seeming orchestration and opted for the use of space and non-tonal atmosphere as well as raw guitar recording, fretting sounds included. The result is a more up close focus in sound rather than the nearly panoramic folk pop of Hum. Same introspective, melancholic lyrics but this time reminding one of the vibe of the Beach House’s 2008 album Devotion conveying a sense of warmth, isolation and reflection on times that haunt you with a sense of comfort and nostalgia.

LigtningCult_EP1_Burner
Lightning Cult, EP1: Burner

Lightning Cult – EP 1: Burner – self-released

A welcome return to the songwriting of Mike Marchant who in the 2000s and early 2010s brought an uplifting moodiness and energy to his indie rock bands Widowers and as a contributing songwriter to Houses as well as Mike Marchant’s Outer Space Party Unit. This isn’t as overtly as experimental as Widowers and the Outer Space Party Unit, nor as psychedelic as the latter. Rather it shines on Marchant’s gift for subtle dynamics and vocalizing with strong yet nuanced emotion. Throughout the EP it’s a mixture of texture and bright tones with driven and shaped by the aforementioned qualities. Marchant has struggled with serious health issues for several years at this point and one is tempted to look for that in this set of songs and if it’s there it’s more in the focus of the songwriting to put something together that feels good and honest to perform and worthy of attention beyond one’s consideration shaded by knowledge of his challenges as a human, at least not anymore than everyone faces. As such, Marchant demonstrates here why he garnered such wide attention during his time in Denver because none of this feels rote or desperate to recapture past glory. There is a timeless quality to Marchant’s music because he’s never really tried to fit in with trends while not spending much time mining the past. This EP is a great example of that. It’s not his masterpiece but if this is a comeback it’s better than many we’ve seen.

LyingOnIce_TheDream
Lying On Ice, The Dream

Lying On Ice – The Dream – Asylum Moon

Pulling apart this record to its components and influences is easy enough because there’s plenty of post-rock informing the guitar ideas, 80s and 90s darkwave and downtempo. But what it really sounds like is if someone got the essence of 80s moody Goth/post-punk but didn’t get trapped there with same production ideas and mood. There’s as much modern electronic pop aesthetic throughout the album like everyone involved is well aware of the likes of Purity Ring, Robyn, CHVRCHES and Phantogram. Composer Jesse Maddox is known more for his work in the world of taiko in Colorado including manufacturing the drums but has had a lifelong interest in dark, industrial music so working with talented dream pop vocalist Angela Cross from Los Angeles with the finished songs mixed and produced by Dave “Rave” Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy fame the project could have been fairly predictable. But it is instead of a deeply atmospheric, sonically rich set of songs including a cover of “Smothered Hope” that shares with the original and deep melancholy and being engulfed with urgent emotions but is more in a psychedelic vein, more Tear Garden than Skinny Puppy. Speaking of the former, Edward Ka-Spel does guest vocals on the stark yet lush and cold “Surrender,” and brings to the song his signature vocals lending a sense of being at the end of one’s struggle with all the things your ego screams to cling to before acceptance of your own mortality sets in.

ShadowsTranquil_Wander
Shadows Tranquil, Wander

Shadows Tranquil – Wander – self-released

Doran Robischon was once a guitarist in Gauntlet Hair and since that time there have been hints of a new musical project. Then Shadows Tranquil played shows in the past couple of years. But if you missed them there was no way to hear that music until the fall of 2018. Wander may remind anyone in the know of another Denver band, A Shoreline Dream. But only in that there are the aesthetics of electronic music underlying the songwriting. But there is more noise rock and psych punk behind the drifty push of the songs on Wander. In that way at times one is reminded of Nowhere-period Ride especially when the songs shift dynamics and add expansive layers of atmosphere and percussion only to pull the sounds back and redirect their momentum as the stream of sound progresses. The recording might be a little lo-fi for some tastes but that adds something of a tiny bit of mystique to music that sounds like the musicians skipped the late 90s and 2000s entirely and landed back in 2018 a late entry into the Holy Mountain Records (USA) catalog.

T-Rextasy_Prehysteria
T-Rextasy, Prehysteria

T-Rextasy – Prehysteria – Boogie Agency Records

Balancing the humorous with the meaningful and melancholy is a difficult balancing act in music, but T-Rextasy have long since mastered that art and this record simply reveals an evolution in the band’s sophistication of songwriting. “Coffee” has plenty of profane and playful double entendre while articulating a relatable frustration. The songs aren’t merely irreverent surf-ska punk songs, they’re like musical theater pieces for a play about young urban Bohemia but brimming with sharp observations as social commentary and character sketches that explore what it means to navigate the fraught political, economic and cultural environment in America today. Identity, sexuality, class and examination of one’s yearnings are discussed in story form with an undeniable affection and compassion for all the soft and hurt spots in everyone. Fans of the the melodramatic tones employed by Julie Brown in “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” and the teen tragedy songs of the 60s that inspired it will find much to love with Prehysteria.

Best Shows in Denver 11/09/17 – 11/15/17

James Murphy of  LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, who play at 1stBank Center on Saturday, November 11, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Thursday: November 9, 2017

Guantanamo Baywatch
Guantanamo Baywatch, photo by Todd Walberg

Who: Guantanamo Baywatch w/Cheap Perfume and Vic ‘n’ The Narwhals
When: Thursday, 11.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: By now surf rock is a style of music that’s been beaten into the ground over the last 7-8 years, all the possibilities of the music beaten out of it, leeched of vitality and iterations of it meditating ad nauseum upon well-worn paths. But it happens. Some band is doing it in a way that brings genuine creativity to a form of music that seems to hold no more surprises. Thus is Guantanamo Beach’s 2017 album Desert Center which has plenty of the usual tricks but even amid those are beautiful leads and melodic turns of phrase that elevate the band’s music beyond tropes and styles into the realm of originality even while employing the sounds and rhythms of an established musical genre. That Guantanamo Baywatch is a compelling live band seals that impression. Opening the show are Cheap Perfume, as thrillingly sassy punk band, and Vic n’ The Narhwals, a psychedelic garage rock band that sounds like it crawled out of Venice Beach in the late 60s, got on a plane that traveled through the Bermuda Triangle and dropped them off in Denver circa 2015. Who knows, really, but they don’t sound like they’re trying to jump on any trendy bandwagons.

Who: PterrorFractyl w/Mirror Fears, Sid Madrid and Terminals
When: Thursday, 11.09, 6 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Mirror Fears’ 2017 album Eaten should be on the Year End Best lists of every music journalist but probably won’t because Kate Warner is from Denver and few journalists outside the Mile High City are aware of her beautifully sculpted, experimental music infused, electro pop songs informed by heightened feelings about so many of the things plaguing our world today. Plus the songs have a depth of atmosphere and a catchiness that’s undeniable. PterrorFractyl is what you might get if an electronic dance outfit got into ambient and the abstract end of dubtechno. Reminiscent of Gonjasufi and maybe showing the influence of Flying Lotus in the mixture of organic sounds and pure electronics in the beats.

Who: Musical Mayhem w/Claudzilla, The Far Stairs as Destination Moon covering TMBG, A Box of Stars and Jacob McKelvie
When: Thursday, 11.09, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: “Mayhem” is the appropriate word for this edition of the event. Okay, not pure mayhem (or pure fucking Armageddon for that matter), but it will be a contrast between Claudzilla’s keytar-driven weirdo pop songs and those of The Far Stairs covering They Might Be Giants and touring Americana bands A Box of Stars from Vermont and Jacob McKelvie from Massachusetts. But at least the touring bands aren’t the usual sort of beards and mandolins variety we get coming to Colorado looking to get their big break following in the path of The Lumineers.

Friday: November 10, 2017

Voight
Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Vase Vide and Had I Known dual album release w/Katey Sleeveless
When: Friday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Zodiac Venue/Bar
Why: The Colorado Springs music scene is probably a bit of a dismissed enigma to anyone outside of that city unless they know a band or two. But the Springs has been home to some of the most interesting musical projects Colorado has yet produced. And if not interesting per se to many, at least respectable. Against Tomorrow’s Sky, Eyes Caught Fire, Dear Rabbit, El Toro De La Muerte, Abracastabya, Blighter, 908, Black Pegasus, Be Thou My Vision, Cocordion, The Mansfields and Nicotine Fits at a minimum. Tonight experimental pop band Vase Vide releases its latest album, Hello Moon, Good Night. Fans of Yo La Tengo and Mercury Rev will appreciate the deep, hazy atmospheres and unfurling whorls of compound time in the rhythms. That latter gives it an open-ended and expansive feeling. A more contemporary comparison could be made with the rock/psychedelia and electronica of The Helio Sequence.

Had I Known is releasing the Pedestrians EP. Singer/guitarist Brian Eastin has been around in bands for years, relatively recently in War Parts. Had I Known is a more spiky, glittery indie rock band than War Parts but with Eastin’s usual sincerity and intensity. Think more like a lo-fi and noisy The Life and Times and you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for.

Katey Sleeveless also has a new EP but it won’t be released at this show. Like Had I Known, Katey Sleeveless is a trio but rather than three men, it’s three women: Kate Perdoni many may know as a singer and guitarist in Eros & The Eschaton; Emily Gould as the drummer in country band Plain As Day; Kellie Palmblad as vocalist/guitarist in Eyes Caught Fire, Waterbear and Constellation of Cars. Among others. Their band together some may want to characterize as dream pop because there is a gritty yet ethereal quality to the guitar sounds but as with the members’ other bands, there is an expressive emotionality to the music that doesn’t release all at once. It doesn’t unfold in one or multiple bursts. It has the rare quality of being cathartic, soothing, nuanced and introspective.

Who: Gone Full Heathen album release w/Married a Dead Man, Teacup Gorilla, Vexing and guests
When: Friday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Gone Full Heathen is release its self-titled album tonight with a show with deathrock band Married to a Dead Man, glam/psych band Teacup Gorilla and Vexing. Gone Full Heathen sounds like a combination of hardcore, transcendental metal and screamo. Meaning it’s heavy, it has moments where singer Ryanne Brooks wails in an unhinged way reminiscent of Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland.

Who: Fathers w/Wild Call, Poolside At The Flamingo and Voight
When: Friday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Heavy music supergroup Fathers (which includes Oscar Ross of Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas of Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe of Cult of the Lost Cause) is releasing its self-titled debut at this show. Calling it metal is a bit of a misnomer because it’s more like the kind of metal and hardcore that came out on Hydra Head—more experimental, usually more extreme. One of these kids is not like the others and industrial post-punkers Voight are opening this show with its second to last show before it goes on an extended period of not playing live. You never know, singer Nick Salmon might break something in a burst of exuberance but that’s long been one of his charms.

Who: Death From Above w/The Beaches
When: Friday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In 2017 Death From Above seems to have been able to go back to using that name without the comma and the “1979” afterward. Combining post-punk’s rhythm driven songwriting, hard rock’s exuberant bombast and electronic dance music, Death From Above quickly became one of the most popular of the “dance punk” bands in the first decade of the 21st century before taking a five year hiatus in 2006. Its latest album, Outrage! Is Now is not the acidic barn burner that is 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine or the sophisticated take on the same as 2014’s The Physical World but it’s a worthwhile listen even if it doesn’t much push the band’s existing envelope and its seemingly meta social commentary can be a tad oblique. The live show, though still seems as exuberant as ever. Opening band The Beaches, also from Toronto, is a pretty straight forward rock and roll band with a harder edge than many of the bands mining the overworked classic rock mold. But there’s more of a power pop melodicism to The Beaches that lifts it from the tired blues based hard rock that’s been pedaled ad infinitum over the past half decade and more.

Saturday: November 11, 2017

LCDSoundsystem's  James Murphy
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Who: LCD Soundsystem w/Traxx
When: Saturday, 11.11, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: Too much pop music is concerned with an adolescent view of love and relationships and the world in general. Which is the appeal for many people who either are there in their lives or who are, somewhere in their heads, trapped in yearning for that time in their lives where they put adolescence and youth on a pedestal as the best time in life. But anyone who gets past 27, and especially into or past your 30s knows the best years of your life are rarely your teens and early 20s. Besides, you can’t go back and a lot of popular art and music isn’t aimed toward you and your life experience and perspectives. Fortunately, when LCD Soundsystem came back, the band gave us a record like American Dream which has all the liveliness and innovation of the band’s earlier records as well as words that speak honestly to concerns, feelings and thoughts that come to you if you’re an especially sensitive, perceptive and introspective younger person and definitely when you’re well into adulthood. No dumbing down or pandering required or given and all sarcasm and sardonic humor hitting exactly where it needs to be.

Who: Franksgiving w/Little Fyodor & Babushka, Ralph Gean and Esmerelda Strange
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This is an annual event thrown by Franklin Bell to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. As usual, the fantastic punk rock band Little Fyodor & Babushka will perform and outweird and frankly outpunk most other bands at the same time with surprisingly catchy songs about anxiety and our strange world. Ralph Gean, Denver’s O.G. still living rock star will perform as well as Esmerelda Strange whose performance moniker is no mere clever stage name.

Who: HorrorHouse Pinball Tournament of Death
When: Saturday, 11.11, 6 p.m.
Where: Vision Comics & Oddities (3958 S. Federal)
Why: This will be a combination haunted house and pinball tournament. It’s $15 to enter with pinball machines provided and maintained by Bloodshed Deathbath’s Ryan Policky who also designed the haunt. His band A Shoreline Dream has been releasing some of the most beautiful shoegaze singles over the past year in preparation for an eventual full length release sometime next year. On this night, however, music will be provided in part by DJ Fernando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

Who: Screwtape tour kickoff w/Remain & Sustain, King Kaleb, Victim Culture, Discount Price, Lovely Gang
When: Saturday, 11.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: If you were to name, oh, the top three best punk bands out of Denver right now, Screwtape would have to be on that list because the hardcore outfit because its shows are an explosion of energy and it has something to say rather than resort to being mere entertainment.

Who: cEvin Key, Djoto, Mudwulf and VJ Dizypixl
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s
Why: cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy and Download fame will do a DJ set this night with some local noise/industrial luminaries including Cozmos Mudwulf. VJ Dizypixl does visuals for all kinds of artists across the country but is based in Denver metro and will provide her usual array of arresting visuals.

Who: Jean-Baptiste Le Cessna
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna (of the Auto Club, of course) doesn’t often perform a solo show so who can say exactly what he’ll perform. But it’ll be with his usual warm yet haunting voice and expressive guitar work.

Tuesday: November 14, 2017

Gift Of Gab
Gift of Gab, photo from officialgiftofgab.com

Who: Porlolo w/Jeff Beam, Turvy Organ and Cocordion
When: Tuesday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Porlolo has various part time members but it’s all the songwriting of Erin Roberts who has kept the project going for more than a decade. In the beginning it might have been described as a side project of her band with Joe Sampson, A Dog Paloma, but the latter has long since gone the way of all things. Is it folk? Maybe grounded there in some senses. Singer-songwriter? What does that even mean when such can be said of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and Greg Laswell? Indie rock? It’s all clumsy labeling for Roberts whose songs combine keen insight into human behavior, poignant observations about everyday experiences and a existential sense of humor that can wax to the absurd and silly. Cocordion is the experimental indie rock band from Colorado Springs that just released its debut full length record, Expectations, also not short on insightful words about the world we live in and our individual navigations of uncertainty, despair and how, yes, expectations (our own, that of others) shape our perceptions. Turvy Organ is the secret great band more people should know about because its orchestral pop songs are dark, moody, expansive and thought-provoking.

Who: Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), Landon Wordswell, Tope, Reason the Citizen, Kruza Kid
When: Tuesday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Gift of Gab (born Timothy Parker) is one of the most talented MCs in all of hip-hop and his fast, literate, profane, profound, pointed delivery is one of the things that made Blackalicious one of the most popular and influential acts in underground hip-hop since the 90s. In 2017, Gab released his latest EP, Rejoice! Rappers are Rapping Again!! And it’s no mere boast because the EP is the rapper in high form.

Wednesday: November 15, 2017

Who: Cut Copy w/Palmbomen II
When: Wednesday, 11.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Cut Copy was one of the few bands that got a good deal of buzz in the 2000s that was better than the buzz would suggest. They early on melded together 80s synth pop sensibilities with shoegaze guitars. And live those guitars were fiery and atmospheric at once. Following 2008’s In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy increasingly experimented with electronic sounds and production techniques for both its records and its live shows. In 2011, Zonoscope probably confused some fans of the band’s early music with its complete adoption of an electronic dance aesthetic which, honestly, was where the band seemed to be going from the beginning. 2013’s Free Your Mind brought the band into a more electrosoul direction that it continued with on 2017’s Haiku from Zero. However, in September 2016, Cut Copy released a limited edition cassette called January Tape. It’s a mostly ambient and minimal synth affair and fans of Popol Vuh, Panabrite and Sinoia Caves will find a lot to like there but it’s a safe bet you won’t see it live. However, Cut Copy won’t skimp on the energy and bright, enveloping atmospheres and dance-worthy rock songs that have made it a noteworthy band from early on.

Who: Samvega w/Medusa’s Disco and Today’s Paramount
When: Wednesday, 11.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Flux Capacitor
Why: Samvega from Napa Valley, California doesn’t fit in a simple box: Its music is heavy, it’s psychedelic, it’s avant-garde and bluesy. Melissa and Mercedes Baker are unconventionally charismatic singers who sound like and come off like they spent a couple of decades touring with Heart and went on to do something weirder. The band’s 2016 album The King is Asleep was one of that year’s most interesting rock albums for its diversity and obvious care for making it a unique from the songwriting to the painting for the cover art. Also on the bill is experimental rock band Today’s Paramount. They look like they might be in a ska band, and maybe on the side some of them are, but their weirdo take on prog, jazz and psych is not like much of anything going on in Denver.