Best Shows in Denver 11/29/18 – 12/5/18

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Lingua Ignota performs with Thou, MJ Guider and Blood Incantation at Syntax Physic Opera on Friday, November 30, 2018. Photo by Teddie Taylor.

Thursday | November 29, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sliver, afd, Tuck Knee, Sick World, Wheels
When: Thursday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: In the early days, Sliver always wanted to be a Limp Bizkit cover band but singer/guitarist Chris Mercer kept being told he looked like Kurt Cobain on April 6, 1994 and he looked into Nirvana’s music and its roots and got inspired to make a sort of rock music with the raw and somewhat unpredictable quality of punk and the tuneful sensibility of Cobain’s own accessible yet often startlingly honest songwriting. In spite of Mercer’s early influences, Sliver has evolved into one of the better bands out of Denver and sharing the room tonight with like-minded artists operating outside of the trad punk straight jacket.

Who: Gamelan Tunas Mekar
When: Thursday, 11.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Denver-based Gamelan Tunas Mekar is an orchestra of practitioners of the percussive/tonal instrument the gamelan. Lead by Balinese composer and Artist-in-Residence Made Lasmawan, this is probably the most legit performance of traditional Balinese music you’re likely to get to see anytime soon.

Friday | November 30, 2018

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Line Brawl, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Thou, Lingua Ignota, MJ Guider and Blood Incantation
When: Friday, 11.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Thou has built a body of work over the course of the past decade and more that transcends a convenient genre designation for the uninitiated like doom, sludge crust and experimental black metal. Its music fits all of those and more but mostly it’s just a sonically accurate embodiment of human struggle and our collective agony at having to bear the crushing weight of societies and cultures that aren’t geared toward cultivating and nurturing us. But not that abstract. Thou’s music feels deeply personal and coming from a place in the heart that has all but given up hope. Thou is also one of the most prolific bands in heavy music with five releases in 2018 alone. In August the group released Magus on Sacred Bones Records, a typically somber yet colossal collection of anthems suggesting a spiritual purge and awakening a sense of mission in surrendering to an intuition guided by forces larger than the self. Hey, one song is called “Transcending Dualities” and another “The Kingdom of Meaning.”

Lingua Ignota is the name for the language that the twelfth century Christian mystic St. Hildegard of Bingen used in her mystical practice. It was a secret language in which Bingen may have expressed her experiences outside that of typical mortal ken. That association certainly fits the music of Kristin Hayter for the project of the same name. Seemingly tapping into the nightmares of the collective unconscious for her compositions and recordings, Hayter inevitably gets compared to the similarly elemental Diamanda Galas who also employs piano to great dramatic effect alongside disorienting, noisy drones. Fans of Pharmakon and Jarboe will also find a great deal to love in Hayter’s oevre. 2018’s All Bitches Die evokes a kind of modern day experience of the mythological and mystical with both claustrophobic intensity and sublimely spacious compositions that at times are reminiscent of the more transcendent passages of Patti Smith’s misunderstood, experimental 1976 record Radio Ethiopia. All comparison’s aside, Hayter’s music pulls you along and challenges you, it is both uncompromising yet accessible.

MJ Guider is Melissa Guion of New Orleans and her composed environment music is enveloping and otherworldly Her 2016 album Precious Systems is like a visionary post-Snow Crash science fiction album written in music.

Blood Incantation doesn’t do many Colorado shows as the weirdo death metal band has been touring internationally for a few years at this point and can preserve some of its mystique locally.

Who: Glasss Presents: Princess Dewclaw, Rat Bites, Bert Olsen
When: Friday, 11.30, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Princess Dewclaw somehow sounds like a great, angsty southern California deathrock band from the early 80s with New Wave-y synthesizers mixed with the electrifyingly raw quality of early Babes in Toyland. All without sounded beholden to any of that. Rat Bites is a four-piece punk band that seems to have come out of 90s era garage punk—a little rough around the edges but with an unerring songwriting sense. Like The Dead Boys or Murder City Devils. Bert Olsen is to garage rock what post-punk was, for the most part, to punk: Moodier, sadder, artier and, well, more sensitive and nuanced.

Who: Slapshot w/Line Brawl and Cadaver Dog
When: Friday, 11.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Slapshot is the legendary Boston hardcore band. Good thing the group didn’t get the memo that hardcore was pretty much over by the time it released its ferocious 1986 album Back On The Map. Across its lifespan the group included members of other classic hardcore groups including people from Negative FX, DYS and SS Decontrol. It’s sound had already absorbed a bit of that crossover sound by the time it was releasing recordings but Slapshot’s songwriting remained tight and vicious even up to and including its 2018 album Make America Hate Again. Joining the veteran band on this bill are two of Denver’s best bands, hardcore or otherwise, with Line Brawl and Cadaver Dogs, both of whom are clearly from that Boston lineage of loud, sharp, stark punk.

Saturday | December 1, 2018

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Boys Noize, photo by Glen Han

Who: Nova Fest 6: Fathers, The Burial Plot, Under Auburn Skies, It’s Just Bugs and Saving Verona
When: Saturday, 12.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This festival basically showcases some of the harder-edged bands that some might call metal or hardcore or post-hardcore but none of which truly fit into a single heavy music genre slot. Especially It’s Just Bugs, which is a confrontational hip-hop group that utilizes industrial beats and noise in evoking the challenges of the modern urban experience and the tension of trying to eke out an existence in a time when the economic and political climate makes it so being working class is harder than it’s been since the Great Depression. Fathers is the post-hardcore super group includes, among others, former members of Lords of Fuzz and Cult of the Lost Cause. Years ago The Burial Plot was a heavy band that was breaking to the national scene when it split but it’s now back and actively performing around the Denver area.

Who: Boys Noize w/Sergio Santana and T-Rx
When: Saturday, 12.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Beta Nightclub
Why: Alexander Ridha has been DJing as Boys Noize for nearly a decade and a half at this point. His upbeat remixes of a broad range of artists from Snoop Dog to Depeche Mode and David Lynch are noteworthy for the same reason his DJ sets are worth a listen or, in the case tonight with Beta and its Funktion-One—Ridha’s ability to weave together multiple genres in a set that sound like genres of their own. And it’s not just the tired EDM clichés that started killing off that world of music. He’s not afraid to bring in some menacing and distorted sounds and beats that one might more rightfully hear in a darkwave band or party bangers that aren’t eyeroll-worthy. Ridha is a versatile artist who seems to seek to expand his own musical vocabulary and methods regularly and it has resulted in a freshness to his sets and his recorded output.

Sunday | December 2, 2018

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Rotten Reputation circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rotten Reputation w/Viqueen, Claudzilla and Rat Bites
When: Sunday, 12.2, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: San Francisco’s Viqueen (pronounced like Viking but not “king”) makes a stop in Denver with its metallic punk reminiscent of L7, Tribe 8 and maybe a less chaotic Blatz. Also on the bill is the political expressed as the personal (and vice versa) poppy punk quartet Rotten Reputation. With its sarcasm and sharp humor game strong, Rotten Reputation has treated us to two full-length albums’ worth of creative vitriol with its 2017 album Nancy and 2018’s Castration Station. Claudzilla may not be punk in the traditional sense of the sound but in spirit, anyone that irreverent and, not to put too fine a point on it, weird is in the realm of punk and her keytar rock/pop songs will probably alienate the right people but the rest of us can revel in its strangeness. Rat Bites, as mentioned earlier in this column, is a noisy punk band that fans of Murder City Devils, New Bomb Turks and Jawbreaker might enjoy.

Who: Black Marlin w/Hail Satan, Dead Characters and Totochtin
When: Sunday, 12.2, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Black Marlin is a Denver band with a proclivity for blending the technical musical sensibility of prog and math rock with thrash. Hail Satan is an out and out, no bones about it thrash band but one that could only come out of a certain degree of self-awareness but without any irony in its love for the music. Totochtin is a sludgy but not doomy noisy metal band. It might be a safe bet the guys in the group listened to a few Unsane, Yob and Thou records but you never know. With names like Little Foot, Grease Trap and Big Trash, instrumental metal band Dead Characters bridge the gap between surf rock and sludge metal.

Tuesday | December 4, 2018

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VNV Nation, photo courtesy the artist

Who: VNV Nation w/Holygram and The Rain Within
When: Tuesday, 12.4, 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: VNV Nation is a group that has been a bit polarizing in the community of industrial music fans. Its particular EBM aesthetic has certainly influenced the sound and style of the futurepop and EBM music of the late 90s and 2000s—that samey, fake dark and intense post-industrial music with emo-esque vocals and fairly uninspired production. Nevertheless, VNV Nation’s records have had a creative cohesive vision that can be found in the music of its mid-era EBM peers like Covenant, Apoptygma Berzerk and Aseemblage 23 and not so much in many of the bands they all inspired. The project has been driven by Ronan Harris’ songwriting and composition since the beginning and his fusion of synth pop with the hard-edged beats of German industrial acts is is not for everyone. But, especially with the 2018 album Noire, Harris demonstrates his command of the underpinnings of the music that influenced him and informs his own work where an instinct for connecting classical music structure, classic pop songcraft and experiments in electronic sounds can yield interesting results.

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Holygram, photo by Yves Christelsohn

Cologne, Germany’s Holygram masterful matching of post-punk moodiness and driving bass lines with industrial beats and synth work has been compared to The Cure from the arc of albums from Seventeen Seconds to Pornography. Brooding but bright and urgent. The outfit’s 2018 album Modern Cults has that hazy headlong quality coupled with haunted vocals and a taut emotional flavor that is part of what makes The Soft Moon so appealing as well.

Who: Minus the Bear farewell tour w/Tera Melos
When: Tuesday, 12.4, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Minus the Bear is calling it quits after seventeen years and several records. Formed in Seattle in 2001 the group’s membership has included then current and former members of prominent post-hardcore bands in America including Botch, Kill Sadie, Circa Survive and These Arms Are Snakes. Minus the Bear’s music required a different kind of technical precision with its idiosyncratic take on math rock – sparkling melodies, intricate guitar work employed with a sort of minimalist approach. That Tera Melos is on the tour is only fitting as that group’s own imaginative math rock is also more focused on songwriting than pure technique.

Who: Childish Gambino w/Vince Staples
When: Tuesday, 12.4, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Why: Childish Gambino caused quite a stir with the spring 2018 release of the video for the song “This Is America.” Often poorly, sometimes cringe-worthily so, imitated by several people, the song and video is a brilliant commentary on racism in America today. Donald Glover’s accomplishments as a comedian are better written about elsewhere but his musical output has been equally as interesting and respectable. His 2016 album Awaken, My Love! is one of the better psychedelic soul and funk albums of the past few years. But his promotion of the album with the app that took uses to space with a view back to earth before crash landing in Joshua Tree followed by a list of tour dates and links to get tickets was, to put it mildly, unconventional. But it’s just Glover keeping with his usual attempts to keep things fresh and interesting for him and anyone who wants to be along for the ride. Also on this bill is Vince Staples whose own music may be hip-hop but his musical interests are far broader and you can hear it in his extensive use of synths, samples, production and vocal delivery. Staples’ incisive and evocative words bring attention to a neglected America that isn’t much talked about by politicians and their lapdogs trying to put a good face on the fake economic boom that is really only benefiting the upper one percent before it crashes hard in the next decade. At least that’s what his 2018 opus FM! seems to discuss among other issues.

Wednesday | December 5, 2018

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Chief White Lightning, photo by Jack Grisham

Who: Chief White Lightning w/The Corner Girls and …And The Black Feathers
When: Wednesday, 12.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Even though that wave of bands trying to mine classic rock glory and songwriting has crashed and dissolved (whether they know it or not) as has the umpteenth psychedelic rock revival, some artists will survive the trend on strong songwriting and having something else to offer than a nostalgia trip appeal. One of those is Josh Logan who is Chief White Lightning. Yeah, boogie rock, blues rock, honky tonk and pop. But Logan brings a great deal of personality to his performances and songwriting and that makes all the difference. …And the Black Feathers from Denver are coming from a similar place but its own songs have an expansive quality that gives its songwriting a broad emotional range even when the songs seem to draw on familiar rock and roll themes. It would be weird if The Corner Girls went more in a blues punk direction or whatever after honing its whole “pastel punk” and surf rock thing but you’ll have to go to see.

Best Shows in Denver 08/9/18 – 08/15/18

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Echo Beds album release Sunday, August 12, 2018 at Mutiny Information Café

Thursday | August 9, 2018

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Lady Gang, photo courtesy Jen Korte

Who: Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.

Who: Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray
When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.

Who: Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force
When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street)
Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.

Friday | August 10, 2018

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Meet The Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros
When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.

Who: Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.

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Parker Millsap, photo by James Coreas

Who: Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.

Saturday | August 10, 2018

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Itchy-O, photo by Christopher Cleary

Who: Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.

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Princess Dewclaw, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Washout Fest at Globe Hall: Muscle Beach, Rotten Reputation, Sliver, Moon Pussy, Princess Dewclaw, Sonic Vomit, Morlox, Ultraviolet, Eraserhead Fuckers, Bert Olsen, Juice Up, Lepidoptera, Fever Dreams, Saddy, Freak//When//Scene, Monty O’Blivio, Clutch Plague, Television Generation, King Slug and Wayward Sun
When: Saturday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Hands down the most eclectic music festival to happen in Denver in 2018. While many try to encapsulate too many genres with not enough interesting artists, others focus on indie rock and NPR-friendly pop, yet others an uninspired and obvious selection of popular artists and token local artists who aren’t going to ruffle any feathers, the organizers of Washout Fest have dug a little deeper. But more than that, not just artists on the Glasss imprint. It includes notable local noise artist Morlox, ambient project Lepidoptera, noisy psych punk group Princess Dewclaw, the industrial noise rock of Moon Pussy, dream psych pop group Fever Dreams, experimental metal band Sonic Vomit, unconventional punk bands Rotten Reputation and Muscle Beach, fuzz rock bands Sliver and Television Generation, noise hip-hop weirdo Eraserhead Fuckers and much more. The more conventionally-minded festivals have their place, especially when they have a local focus like The UMS and Westword Music Showcase, but this is one where radio-friendly wasn’t the consideration, just quality and putting one’s reputation on the line for declaring the bands as such.

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Valley Queen, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.

Who: Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.

Who: GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Aggie Theatre
Why: See above for 8.10 on Melvins.

Sunday | August 12, 2018

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Cannons circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Goon, faim, Soul Vice
When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.

Who: Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents
When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.

Tuesday | August 14, 2018

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The Chamanas, photo by Brett Muñoz

Who: The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.

Who: Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.

Who: Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.

Wednesday | August 8, 2018

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Aseethe, photo by Karlee Barr

Who: Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.

Who: Beach House w/Sound of Ceres
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.

Who: Father John Misty with TV On the Radio
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.

Best Shows in Denver 07/12/18 – 07/18/18

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Neurosis performs at The Ogden Theatre on Wednesday, July 18 with Converge and Birds in Row Photo by Scott Evans.

Thursday | July 12, 2018

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Bell Witch, photo by David Choe

Who: Yob, Bell Witch and Primitive Man
When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Yob’s sludgy doom has always been accompanied with a healthy sense of play. Yes, the crushing heaviness of the band’s music is undeniable but so is the group’s obvious self-awareness. It’s latest record, 2018’s Our Raw Heart subverts doom conventions with almost buoyant melodies and dynamics and a layering of conventionally pretty sounds and gritty, deeply textured atmospherics. It’s only fitting that the trio is touring with fellow Pacific Northwesterners in the duo Bell Witch from Seattle. The latter has crafted majestic and minimalist soundscapes since its 2010 founding. With the tragic death of former drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra in 2016, bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond recruited Jesse Shreibman to continue with the project. The first album with Desmond and Shreibman, 2017’s Mirror Reaper, is both a continuation of the colossal sonics of the band’s first two albums but also a step further into a powerful and moving expression of grief and despair as well as an evocation of cosmic time and our place in it. Conceived of as a single track at over eighty minutes, Mirror Reaper may move slowly and employ repetitive dynamics but it never seems to overstay its welcome. Opening the show is Denver’s own juggernaut of death metal and doom, Primitive Man.

What: Musical Mayhem: Spyderland, Enji and Snaggletoothe
When: Thursday, 07.12, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Musical Mayhem had a home for quite some time at The Skylark Lounge. But now the night curated by Claudia Woodman is happening at Lion’s Lair. Spyderland is a weirdo music duo including Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth and Drew McClellan of Archipelaghost. Enji is TripLip bassist Kevin Schultz doing solo material that sounds like Hella doing music for an 8-bit video game. Snaggletoothe is a noisy, improvisational rock guitar and drum duo.

What: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Fringe Class and Dorian
When: Thursday, 07.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: How Portland, Oregon’s synth pop dance band Fringe Class is going to play at Hooked On Colfax is anyone’s guess. But paired with the more ambient Denver project Dorian maybe the group will do a more stripped down set than it will do in other rooms during its trip through Denver.

What: Lou Barlow
When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Bruz Beers
Why: Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh playing a solo set at Bruz Beers? Given Barlow’s love of brilliantly unusual guitar styles like those of Joni Mitchell, it could be a chance to see something unlike anything you’ll see from Barlow in Denver again.

What: The Dandy Warhols w/Uni
When: Thursday, 07.12 and Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Dandy Warhols are still kicking along and remain one of the great live bands that came out of the alternative rock milieu that’s still around and not milking some nostalgia circuit. Normally the band plays much larger venues making this string of shows at Ophelia’s a rare chance to catch the band in an intimate environment.

Friday | July 13, 2018

 

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A$AP Ferg, photo by Jason Goodrich

What: A$AP Ferg w/IDK and Buddy
When: Friday, 07.13, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For a guy that did visual art and fashion before doing music, realms in which he excelled, A$AP Ferg has done well for himself. While not a pioneer of trap, which had its roots in music that came out before he was born, Ferg nevertheless became one of the genre’s most skilled practitioners in the 2010s. Having the nerve to name his 2013 album Trap Lord, Ferg could at least back-up the bravado and embody the claim. What has kept the rapper interesting is the fact that there’s an unmistakable unusual quality to his beats and wordplay. Perhaps grittier than the work of his A$AP Mob cohort A$AP Rocky, Ferg nevertheless shares a sensibility that aims beyond genre and beyond hip-hop. Even when he engages in lyrics rife with hip-hop tropes, Ferg uses them as elements rendering them meta and more like musical elements than anything to be taken at face value. 2017’s Still Striving showcases the artist’s ever-evolving incorporation of musical elements that give his songs a layered dimensionality.

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Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, photo by John Gessner

What: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Timmy The Teeth
When: Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sarah Shook’s country songs of survival and struggle reflect her upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian family that made the town elders in the movie Footloose seem open-minded by comparison. The video for “New Ways to Fail” (doesn’t the title tell a lot already) shows some everyday urban rebels skateboarding as Shook lays out immediately relatable, self-deprecating lyrics. But every song on the band’s 2018 album Years is, as Henry Rollins once said of early Black Flag records, a direct line to what the fuck it’s all about in America for anyone that can’t expect much out of a society and a culture built on getting us to neglect ourselves and each other on a rat race to nowhere. But there’s an inherent hope in Shook’s music because she’s out there touring and expressing so eloquently and understanding of the everyday lives of anyone that might come to catch one of the band’s shows.

What: Compost Heap Day 1
When: Friday, 07.13, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: The first day of a festival that is to some extent a celebration of the more folk end of punk and bands within that general realm of music. Schedule for today: Real Lyin’ Rohr 4, Just Hanging Out (TX) 4:40, Violet Valentine 5:20, Fire Ant Season (TX) 6, Marissa 6:35, Paul Ski & The James Joyce Letters 7:15, Bird Teeth (WA) 7:55, Long Sought Rest (WA) 8:35, JSR 9:15, Whistlepig (AZ), Crow Cavalier 10:35

What: Quintron & Miss Pussycat w/Phallic Meditation
When: Friday, 07.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Quintron & Miss Pussycat from New Orleans somehow combine a high energy weirdo cabaret/psychedelic rockabilly show with a mind-altering puppet theater performance. Always entertaining and it will transport you outside your everyday life if you let it.

Saturday | July 14, 2018

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Rowboat circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Great American House Fire
When: Saturday, 07.14, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Ross Cherry Creek Library
Why: Someday more bands will figure out that the emotional rawness of emo, the diverse songwriting methodology of 2000s indie rock bands, Americana’s textures and warmth and soulful vocals are completely complementary elements for a band. But for now you can catch a group that excelled at that going back to the days of Denver’s Spokeshaver, from which Great American House Fire draws some of its membership. Now presented on a Saturday morning at the Cherry Creek branch of Denver Public Library,

Who: Rowboat, Wild Call and Grass
When: Saturday, 07.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Sam McNitt’s roots in folk music and literature probably account for some of the sophistication and poetic sensibility to his music. When he was writing music with his old space rock band Blue Million Miles he met the challenge of amplifying his expressive and emotionally taut vocals. Rowboat is more an expression of McNitt’s more sonically gentle work but the emotional colorings are still vibrant and complex. Wild Call is one of Denver’s best psychedelic rock bands because it’s gone beyond the whole psychedelic bandwagon of the past decade with grittier sounds and lyrics that tap into psychological spaces that can’t be reduced to a celebration of mind altering chemicals and partying. Grass is a noisy shoegaze band from Boulder whose 2016 album Dragwire is pleasantly reminiscent of Night Beats and the more dirty dream pop acts on the Siltbreeze label.

What: Compost Heap 3 Day 2
When: Saturday, 07.14, 3 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Schedule for day 2 of Compost Heap 3, a kind of folk punk festival (Sliver isn’t folk punk unless someone wishing they were Bad Brains is folk punk–the argument could be made) featuring artists from Colorado and far beyond: open mic 3, Murder Person For Hire (IL) 4, Sliver 4:40, Old Fox Road (IL) 5:20, Rascal Mikes (OR) 6, Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists 6:35, Hello Darkness 7:55, Human Behavior 8:35, Shooting Tsars (TX) 9:15, Fun Abuse (CA) 9:55, Suspicious Activity 10:35.

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Modern Leisure, photo courtesy Modern Leisure

Who: Modern Leisure album release w/Down Time and shark dreams 
When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Indie pop band Modern Leisure is celebrating the release of its new album, Super Sad Rom-Com. As usual, Casey Banker’s songs are well crafted pop gems with lyrics that are self-deprecating but never maudlin. This time around Banker seems to have a chuckle at the excesses and absurdities of life in America now and navigating interpersonal hurdles while finding it all a bit wearisome. Banker’s employment of melancholic tones has always been good but with Super Sad Rom-Com he’s taken it to places he hasn’t before with his keen ear for emotional and tonal nuance. Also on the bill is Down Time who have quietly been one of the most interesting pop bands out of Denver since its inception two or three years ago combining the intimacy of folk, rock and an experimental streak born of needing to do things in your own way with available equipment and personnel like a drummer/bassist at one point. Not unlike a Young Marble Giants but one that could only have happened in the Twenty-First century.

Who: SPELLS (album release) w/Cheap Perfume, Future Perfect, People Corrupting People
When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SPELLS is putting out its odds and sods album Loose Change, Vol. 1 at this show. The band’s joke, and song, is “80% is Good Enough” and isn’t it really? Forget that oh so American overpromising, boastful nonsense that seems to be an angstrom of our president’s ego and narcissism. Trying too hard without adequate compensation makes chumps of everyone. At any rate, the Denver-based punk band is releasing the compilation through guitarist Chuck Coffey’s scrappy little label Snappy Little Numbers as well as Chicago imprint Anxious and Angry. On red vinyl. So get them while you can. The other bands on the bill are pretty alright too including Colorado Springs’ unabashedly fun feminist punk band Cheap Perfume. At this point having to say a band is feminist seems redundant and regressive because it’s a perspective that should be the part of the thinking and ethos of anyone in America in this century and if not, do some catching up. Maybe start slow and check out some bell hooks, Betty Friedan, Adrienne Rich, Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Inga Muscio. It could happen.

Sunday | July 15, 2018

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Jackie Cohen, photo by Anise Lew

Who: Jackie Cohen w/Jobless and Hillary Susz
When: Sunday, 07.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jackie Cohen just put out her first proper music EP, 2018’s Tacoma Night Terror Part 1. If you’ve spent any time in Tacoma this might be a truthfully humorous exaggeration of a memory from time spent there. For a Colorado specific reference, big stretches of Tacoma are a lot like Commerce City and Thornton but even more worn out with blocks of dubious legitimacy. Cohen’s songs may have some connection to that vibe on some level. The recordings sound older like finding a well-listened to pop cassette from the 70s including the hiss. But none of these songs could really have come out back then. It’s the post-jaded self-discovery vibe that Cohen nails that makes the best Fleetwood Mac songs worth listening to after enduring repeated broadcast of those songs on the radio or friends who never had to experience that music the first time getting obsessed with entire too much music that came out of artists who were entirely too familiar with cocaine and quaaludes. Cohen’s performance isn’t jaded and that’s what makes the difference. She sounds like she’s been through it, man, but finds that dulled emotions don’t work for her and that life must go on even if you’re not over the pain of a bad experience in relationships and other disappointments in life. That you get to see Denver’s great folky, experimental indie rock trio Jobless is more than a bonus, it would be reason enough to go.

What: Compost Heap 3 Day 3
When: Sunrday, 07.15, 3 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is the third and final day of Compost Heap. Less on the folk punk side this day with the likes of hip-hop artist Adam Selene, noise punks Plasma Canvas and hard rock band The Velveteers but the ethos is one shared between the artists. Today’s schedule (all times being p.m.): open mic 3, Patrick the Pirate 4, Adam Selene 4:40, Queen Ren Faire Dance Party (TX) 5:20, Davey Dynamite (IL) 6, Bert Olsen 7:15, Wayfairy 7:55, Ludlow 8:35, Dandelion Massacre (CA) 9:15, Plasma Canvas 9:55, The Velveteers 10:35

What: Final Show at The Climax Lounge
When: Sunrday, 07.15, 4 p.m.
Where: The Climax Lounge
Why: A Taste of Denver to most 80s punks, The Raven to punks in the 90s and in the 2000s mostly The Climax Lounge (its original name), this building at 2217 Welton Street was one of the most important venues for a real underground music world in Denver. It will be knocked down to build yet another shitty, cheaply built condo that downtown doesn’t need or maybe yet another brewery or some other Nü Denver crap that has become the inevitable for all the cool, historic buildings that made Denver a worthwhile and interesting place to live and make art and music for decades. It’s not the nail in the coffin by any means and it hasn’t been a terrible active music venue in years but for many it’s like seeing your favorite high school hangout get the axe. The bands playing on such short notice include the following: Sputnik Slovenia, Scooter James, The Narrow Down, Bourbon Brawlers, Dangerous Friends and National Blues Arsenal.

Monday | July 16, 2018

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Marisa Anderson, photo by Jason Quigley

Who: Marisa Anderson w/Howling Hex and Cuckoo
When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Marisa Anderson’s masterful, expressive, guitarwork, on mostly instrumental songs, evokes moods, landscapes and memories in a way more vivid and emotionally immediate than many artists. One might consider her music in the realm of folk but in the more experimental vein of a John Fahey or Michael Hurley. Her 2018 album Cloud Corner finds Anderson sketching in different ways with her guitar, more impressionistic than solid, if intricate, lines. She shares the bill with Colorado-based Howling Hex whose music is a hypnotic, for lack of a better word, avant-garde Mariachi/norteño band led by Neil Michael Hagerty whose legacy of experimental guitar music includes his stints with influential bands like Pussy Galore and Royal Trux as well as noise super group Dan’l Boone. Cuckoo pretty much blurs the line between noise rock, punk and mathy-folk.

Who: Unknown Mortal Orchestra w/Shamir
When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Ruban Nielson probably could have enjoyed a respectable career in music in his home country playing in his Flying Nun-signed band The Mint Chicks. But New Zealand is a small place and Nielson relocated to Portland, Oregon as he and his brother Kody have dual citizenship with their mom having been a hula dancer from Hawaii. Their new band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, formed in 2010, had that quality of just off of standard guitar rock that seems to be the hallmark of all New Zealand Bands but it also introduced a kind of psychedelic flavor that wasn’t basically following what would become a popular musical trend in America and elsewhere. UMO had crafted its own flavor of transporting music that suggested a parallel dimension where pop music could reconcile atonality, unusual shifts in rhythm the likes of which one might expect out of one of the weirder prog bands like Can or Faust. UMO has done well enough and produced a solid body of work up to and including the 2018 album Sex & Food. Lead single “Hunnybee” with its yacht rock leanings probably confused some fans because it sounds a bit like an old Foxygen track but the whole album has plenty of UMO’s wonderful weirdness.

Wednesday | July 18, 2018

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Chief White Lightning, photo by Jack Grisham

Who: Neurosis w/Converge and Birds in Row
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Neurosis evolved out of the San Francisco Bay area’s post-punk/hardcore scene and its earliest albums have more in common with the likes of English anarcho punk bands like Amebix and Crass than perhaps some of their hometown’s well-known punk luminaries. Yet by 1992 the group had garnered the interest of former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra who mixed that year’s Neurosis record, the decidedly more metal Souls at Zero. Neurosis has since then established itself firmly as a powerful live act whose records have pushed the boundaries of metal, hardcore and psychedelic music more than almost another other single band. Most of the truly interesting and innovative modern extreme metal bands can trace a strand of influence to Neurosis. Tourmates Converge were pioneering their own form of metal and hardcore crossover in Salem, Massachusetts. By 2001, the group had developed a particularly savage and precise form of posthardcore whose sound and aesthetic permeates a good deal of the extreme metal of today as well as any hardcore band that wants to taken seriously. Its live shows are legendarily intense and be prepared for the cascade of would-be stage divers and crowd surfers.

Who: Greg Hill presents the Zebra Skin Shirt release
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Tattered Cover – Colfax location
Why: Former Six Months to Live and current Manotaur frontman Greg Hill will present the release of his latest novel, Zebra Skin Shirt, the third and final installment in the Stratford County trilogy all set in Colorado (including 2012’s East of Denver and 2015’s The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles). Hill’s gift for incorporating the supernatural and even science fiction concepts into deeply personal novels about people struggling with their personal shortcomings in life and in their relationships or attempts thereof are always incredibly engaging and entertaining brimming with Hill’s vivid descriptions, sense of humor and attention to detail whether that’s in recreating past Denver and Joes, Colorado locations or intricacies of plot. Zebra Skin Shirt may be Hill’s most unusual novel to date and his best. If you have to miss the release it’s easy to find the book online including at Amazon.

Who: Chief White Lightning w/Keef Duster
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Josh Logan may be cultivating that look somewhere between Elvis, Zach Galifianakis and Joaquin Phoenix from I’m Still Here, but seeing as he is a member of Austin stoner rock band Blind Pets, his music pleasantly flies in the face of the expectations one might have just looking at his stage persona. The band’s fuzzy, poppy punk and country mix shouldn’t work and the kitsch should render it difficult to take seriously but the group’s new self-titled album is impossible to dismiss as anything but a great rock and roll album with more diversity of sound and songwriting style than a lot of bands who have delved into modern rock and roll.

Best Shows in Denver 6/21/18 – 6/27/18

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Lithics perform at Tuesday 6/26/18 at Lost Lake with Super Bummer and Male Blonding. Photo by Christie Maclean.

Thursday | June 21, 2018

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Bios+a+ic circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Bios+a+ic and Acidbat
When: Thursday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: For this edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 you can see Wesley Davis doing a rare performance as Bios+a+ic, his long-running ambient/experimental electronic and acoustic instrument project. Davis curates the Textures Ambient showcase series now hosted the last Sunday of every month (including this Sunday, 6/24) at Mutiny Information Café. This event marks the twenty year anniversary of Davis’ label Symbolic Insight. Also on the bill is Acidbat, Seth Ogden’s noise-techno-downtempo-IDM project. Though not short on the experimental of electronic soundscaping, Acidbat pushes the use of rhythm and beats in interesting directions.

Who: Cindygod w/French Kettle Station and Whoopsi
When: Thursday, 06.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Probably a good reason to go to this show is to see New Wave Dance phenom French Kettle Station and his emotionally charged performance. But the main reason is to see the debut of Andy Rauworth’s and Craig Nice’s new band Cindygod. Rauworth and Nice were the indie rock duo Gauntlet Hair who made waves in the late 2000s/early 2010s with its energetic, noisy, sparkly rock songs. The group signed to Dead Oceans and did a short bit of touring before calling it quits in August 2013. For this band Rauworth is joined by Anton Krueger formerly of Bollywood Life (now H-Lite) and Eamonn Wilcox
who some may remember performing as Running Niwot a few years back.

Friday | June 22, 2018

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Calm., photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Pop Up: Music & Art with Calm., Adolfo Romero and poet Jesus Rodriguez, art by Goat Witch Goods
When: Friday, 06.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: The benefits of this show will go to benefit the undocumented community. It will include performances from poets Jesus Rodriguez and Adolfo Romero as well as the great Denver-based hip-hop duo Calm. whose own music reflects growing up poor in Park Hill and North Denver and an organic intellectual tradition. Also, rapper Chris Steele might lay down some of his surreal humor between songs and drop some knowledge outside the context of Calm.’s music.

Who: Pearls & Perils, Vahco and Victoria Lundy
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Soulful downtempo and synths show from Glasss Records artists Pearls & Perils and Vahco. Olivia of Pearls & Perils creates a deep cloudscape of sound with her beats and her sultry voice and Vahco’s experimental R&B and powerfully emotive singing gives his songs a quality that transcends any specific genre of music to which it might be attached. Victoria Lundy is the godmother of experimental electronic music in Denver at this point from her time in Carbon Dioxide Orchestra two decades ago to her Theremin work for avant-pop outfit The Inactivists to the music under her own name that reflects the influence of Twentieth Century classical and avant-garde electronic music as well as her own imaginative use of synth and Theremin.

Who: Pink Hawks w/Wheelchair Sports Camp and Polyphoni
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Pink Hawks are one of few legit Afrobeat outfits in Denver led by Yuzo Nieto. The latter helped start the project as more of a free jazz trio but followed his instincts into more out jazz and Latin music to whatever it is one might exactly describe Pink Hawks now. Also on the bill is the great, jazz-inflected Denver hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp whose playful yet deeply meaningful songs bridge the personal and the political with rapper/beatmaker Kaelyn Heffernan’s social activism. WSC doesn’t really sound like anyone else, reflective of its diverse roots.

Who: Sliver, Pout House, Yellnat, Hair Club and Galleries
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: It’s a free show but that is no knock on its quality. Galleries is a heavy psychedelic band from Denver but one where the songwriting comes before simply rocking with a weirdo flourish. Sliver is a punk and grunge band influenced by, of course, Nirvana, but also hardcore pioneers Bad Brains and post-punk/proto-grunge band Wipers from Portland, Oregon. As good as any of those bands? Maybe. But, contrary to the band’s protestations otherwise, Sliver does not in fact suck.

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Krallice circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Trve Brewing’s 6th Anniversary Bacchanal Night 1: Krallice, Wayfarer, Fórn, Many Blessings
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Trve Brewing has been hosting a weekend of great extreme metal for several years now and this first night includes legendary black/technical death metal shredder Mick Barr with his band Krallice as well as Denver doom outfit Wayfarer and Many Blessings, the ambient/instrumental doom/noise project from Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man.

Who: Definitely, Maybe, Thistledown, Ancient Elk and Laura Goldhamer
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Definitely Maybe includes former members of the late, great, math rock band Scatter Gather. Ancient Elk shows us where avant-folk, psychedelia and soul meet. Laura Goldhamer has long been an influential figure in Denver’s later era indie pop and experimental folk world not just for her music but for her steering bookings at the now defunct DIY space Brooks Center Arts as well as her beautifully imaginative filmmaking.

Sunday | June 24, 2018

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Mingo, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures 4 year anniversary at Mutiny w/Mingo, Bios+a+ic and The {Nothing} 
When: Sunday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This Textures anniversary show also celebrates 20 years of Wesley Davis’ Symbolic Insight imprint. For the occasion, Davis will perform as Bios+a+ic, his long running ambient project. Additionally, Mingo, whose work has also been featured on Hearts of Space Program, will put in one of his few performances and The {Nothing} is a newer ambient/experimental project that is Travis Sturm who will provide the usual, greatly evocative visuals under his orchidz3ro moniker.

Monday | June 25, 2018

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Oko Tygra, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Horrors w/Oko Tygra
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Even though The Horrors were basically a The Birthday Party tribute band early on, as evidenced by its promising debut album Strange House, it at least was one that seemed halfway credible. As the band evolved, and as the band aged out of their early 20s, The Horrors took on other flavors like late-era Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized with the 2009 Primary Colours album, motorik beats and all. With 2011’s Skying The Horrors made its inspirations in electronic music much more obvious but so well blended with the rock instrumentation that it was practically a new band whose gift for otherworldly and transporting compositions was fully formed. While not sounding the same at all one might say that The Horrors have become the British equivalent of Deerhunter. With 2014’s Luminous The Horrors went further into the realm of the electronic but with 2017’s V, the band has come to engaging in more straightforward pop songcraft while not shedding its experimental instincts and what it has learned during its impressive arc of development as a band. To say nothing of the group’s great visual style and theatrical performances which give the music its proper and impactful context.

Opening the show is Denver-based dream pop band Oko Tygra. Singer/guitarist Joshua Novak has been making emotionally stirring music since his days of performing as a what one might say singer-songwriter. Of course Novak’s songwriting seemed much more sonically ambitious from the beginning and with this band he’s able to create the kind of downtempo, lush music that has been in his imagination waiting for the right way to see expression for years.

Who: Men I Trust w/Pearl Sugar and Modern Leisure
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Montreal’s Men I Trust operate independently of labels and PR folk pushing their music to press. And often that means the band is probably punk or some kind of rock. But no, the group’s music is minimalist, downtempo dream pop and its ethos reminiscent of bands that used to play the American DIY circuit in the late 2000s when you could never fully predict what kind of music would come through playing place in Denver like Rhinoceropolis, Mouth House and the like. Men I Trust has more in common with Cocteau Twins and Alvvays than modern synth pop or post-chillwave acts and its production sophisticated for a band existing largely outside the traditional channels of the music industry. But, really, isn’t that how many bands these days are doing it? From learning the skills to produce, mix and master their music and create music videos mainly to have control over one’s output but also because you can learn all those skills and not have to pay someone outside your immediate orbit to do the work. That part doesn’t really make the band unique in this day and age. However, Men I Trust seems like it’s put more than their fair share of time into releasing quality product from inception to setting it off for others to enjoy.

Tuesday | June 26, 2018

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Dirty Projectors circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dirty Projectors w/Still Woozy
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Whatever one thinks of Dirty Projectors you can’t really down a band that seems to explore new territory or at least find different angles on ideas it already developed well on earlier releases. Its forthcoming album Lamp Lit Prose (due out July 13, 2018) finds David Longstreth and company doing as it has done for years in weaving together a wide spectrum of musical traditions and ideas to produce music that many may find quirky but which pushes forward what pop music can be. This time the spidery and labyrinthine guitar work and non-western rhythm schemes inside fairly mathy overall structures is a fascinating wrinkle for a band that has rejected certain comparisons to prog. Because it’s not prog. It is, however, using technical musical ideas as a framework to experiment with unconventional ideas in its own musical legacy.

Who: Lithics w/Super Bummer and Male Blonding
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Inevitably Lithics get compared to No Wave early NYC and Bush Tetras. And that sort of wiry, writhing alienation is part of its sonic DNA. But the urgent atonal math rock-esque quality of some of its songs and the junk-jangle riffs remind one a bit of great 90s math rock weirdos like A Minor Forest, Polvo and Autoclave as well as art punk peers like Palm and US Weekly. Nevertheless, Lithics, from Portland, Oregon, has distinguished itself with stark melodies and jagged changes of pace as well as singer Aubrey Hornor’s intense stage presence and piercing gaze that channels perfectly songs brimming with nervous energy distilled into brilliant nuggets of postmodern poetic meditations on the neuroses plaguing anyone paying attention in the world in the past decade. Its new album, Mating Surfaces (out now on Kill Rock Stars), is exactly the kind of harum scarum post-punk disco we need as an salve to challenge and help cope with the conformist shittiness that has taken over our national politics. Bonus: you get to see two of Denver’s greatest post-punk acts with the more psych Super Bummer and Male Blonding’s deeply atmospheric sound grounded by one of the greatest rhythm sections in the Mile High City.

Who: The Sidekicks w/Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Sidekicks, from Cleveland, Ohio, spends most of their excellent 2018 album Happiness Hours proving that you can still be a pop-oriented punk band and not have to perpetually navigate life as an emotionally stunted teenager. It’s not a melancholy album. It’s not cynical. It’s not rife with the voice of someone who feels like they have it all figured out. What the band has figured out, though, is that their version of punk doesn’t have to fit the formula they grew up with in terms of instrumentation or the flavor of the sentiments expressed in the words—that punk, too, can evolve and grow with you if the people making it are willing to reimagine the music they love for a time in life they never really thought about reaching without feeling like they had to put anything fun behind. Denver bands Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive also didn’t get the memo on needing to keep on making punk like you never outgrew shitty street punk and problematic emo.

Wednesday | June 27, 2018

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Thurston Moore circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Thurston Moore
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6-7 p.m.
Where: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Café
Why: Thurston Moore wasn’t just a charismatic member of one of alternative rock’s most influential and iconic bands. He was an ambassador for the underground in music and art throughout the 80s and through to today. He is also a scholar of the Beat movement and an instructor on that subject at Naropa University. Tonight he will be doing readings from his book Stereo Sanctity – Lyrics & Poems.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Dorian, Chromadrift, Denizens of the Deep
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday will have a focus on some of Denver’s greatest ambient bands. Chromadrift just released his latest album Skyline. It’s organic/electronic/textural beats frame luminous compositions reminiscent of Dntel will be soothing enough to make one forget how busy the Baker District has become of late. Denizens of the Deep’s soundtrack-y ambient music is the aural equivalent of an A.E. Van Vogt story set in some detailed yet completely alien and haunted far future after civilization has fallen for the umpteenth time—haunted, suggestive of decaying urban landscapes and dark yet comforting.

Best Shows in Denver 02/08/18 – 02/14/18

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Emerald Siam at Lost Lake on Friday, February 9, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | February 8, 2018

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lib.eriana, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Who: Musical Mayhem: lib.eriana, Klaus Dafoe and Brian Parton
When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This edition of Musical Mayhem looks like a doozy. Alan Muñiz is probably not someone you think of when you think of Denver’s music scene much less the avant-garde end of it. But he has been part of multiple projects that have been exploring sounds and musical ideas out on the edge of accessibility while rooted in a very organic approach to composition. His current project, lib.eriana is a mix of elegant acoustic-electronic music and abstract dub IDM. The moody, gorgeous pieces he’s shared on his Soundcloud account are just a taste of what you’re in for tonight. Also on the bill is post-punk/Canadian avant guitar aficionado solo artist Klaus Dafoe and Americana pop artist Brian Parton. Eclectic line up as should happen more often.

Who: Telefon Tel Aviv w/Dean Grenier, Bones and Peter Vaughan
When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper started Telefon Tel Aviv in the late 90s composing IDM ambient music with sounds suggesting specific natural environments. The duo’s debut album, 2001’s Fahrenheit Fair Enough, established a sound that later became popular among the post-EDM/deep house set—a new kind of dance music for chillout zones. The project went on to explore various extensions of its root aesthetic across five albums before the untimely death of Cooper shortly after the release of Immolate Yourself, Telefon Tel Aviv’s up to now final album. Since then, Telefon Tel Aviv became a bit of a legendary band in the realm of IDM. Eustis became a touring member of Nine Inch Nails in 2013 as well as Puscifer. But since that year, Eustis has presumably worked on the recent reissues of classic Telefon Tel Aviv material and has apparently been working on new material that you can hopefully catch if you make it out to this show.

Who: Ice Troll, New Standards Men, Transmutation
When: Thursday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Calling this a post-rock show might be a bit misleading because Ice Troll is clearly more in the realm of what one might call a doom orchestra. New Standards Men have more in common with noise sculptor punks and post-punks like Unwound and A Minor Forest than something as calming as Explosions in the Sky. But it’ll be instrumental and not adhering to basic genre formats of any kind.

Friday | February 9, 2018

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Jessica Lea Mayfield, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Who: Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sun Seeker and Porlolo
When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jessica Lea Mayfield’s 2017 album Sorry Is Gone sounds noisier and more conflicted than perhaps her earlier efforts. But having gone through a breakup with an abusive spouse with songwriting as one therapeutic outlet, Mayfield nevertheless expertly writes in a way that comes across emotionally honest and poetic. With her life so disrupted Mayfield would have been excused for sounding angry but the record is more melancholy and expressive of hurt buoyed a bit by a spirit of defiance. Musically, Mayfield combines a soulful Americana with the desert-y atmospheric rock of Rain Parade or bits of Meat Puppets II. Though there is a bit of throwback to Mayfield’s melodies the tone of emotion in her voice is poignantly immediate.

Who: The Velveteers EP release w/Plastic Daggers, Bud Bronson + The Good Timers
When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Velveteers are releasing a new EP with songs informed partially by singer/guitarist Demi Demitro’s love of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with at least some of the material written in a graveyard. The duo has always sounded larger than seems possible with just drums, guitar and vocals. But with the new EP, Demi and her brother John push the envelope of their format further and guitar harmonics in the main riffs give the sound broader dimensions than has ever had. The Velveteers have always been a surprisingly compelling and powerful band with fire and bite in their songwriting and performances. The new EP confirms the promise that The Velveteers have plenty more to offer ahead with imaginative hard rock. To help celebrate the release of the debut EP are fuzz rock punks Plastic Daggers and Bud Bronson + The Good Timers, one of the few straight ahead rock bands that isn’t boring us with leaning on the crutch of a sound established completely by bands from decades past.

Who: Wrinkle album release w/American Grandma, Club Soda, Terremoto
When: Friday, 02.09, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: With its new album, A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies, Wrinkle from Denver has some self-effacing laughs amid its signature melancholic stories of the decaying American culture and its erosion of anything resembling the American dream while trying to survive and make sense of anything that could be worth doing, holding on to the bits of life that bring any joy or relief from the grim reality that faces all of us but specifically anyone under 30 that didn’t learn some technocratic trade, had a leg up in the financial industry or otherwise had advantages in life most of us don’t possess. Wrinkle has articulated the anomy of our times so well in its full catalog of songs but A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies finds the band using a broader palette of sounds and dynamics beyond any band inspired by late 90s emo and melodic hardcore. Wrinkle is more interesting than any throwback could be because its expanding what the music could be rather than merely putting on an individual stamp.

Who: Male Blonding, Plume Varia and Emerald Siam
When: Friday, 02.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This is the show of the year so far when post-punk and dream pop will be well-represented on stage between Male Blonding’s gift for making dynamics really create an architecture for atmosphere without having to make it obvious, Plume Varia’s deeply evocative yet gentle melodies and Emerald Siam’s layered, burning of the midnight lamp tones and dipping into wells of disappointment and gloominess and transforming it into something darkly beautiful. The latter released its most recent single, “Clean Split” on January 31, 2018. emeraldsiam.bandcamp.com/track/clean-split

Sunday | February 11, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sliver, Television Generation, Mr. Atomic and Bad Nostalgia
When: Sunday, 02.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Chris Mercer may have had a bit of a troubled life of struggle like Kurt Cobain. But all of it has fueled his lyrics and the music he makes with Dylan Jammes and Hollis Pierman. Obvious comparisons could be made to Nirvana pre-Nevermind and Tad. But there’s plenty of the DC hardcore Mercer encountered and witnessed firsthand before he moved to Colorado from the East Coast. There’s an edginess to the emotional catharsis the band lays out on stage but also an ear for melody that bands so noisy and unapologetically intense sometimes don’t bother to cultivate. Television Generation is cut from similar cloth except that its fuzzy pop songs, especially on 2017’s excellent Peel, are reminiscent of some amalgam of Love Battery, Love & Rockets and Love. Scratch the latter even if it fits and think more like Green Day or Weezer. And because there’s a clear pop-punk and early 90s alternative rock influence informing the music. But also a touch of early psychedelia and a melancholic, sometimes otherworldly, undertone to the songs. Mr. Atomic sounds like it grew up on the last gasp of the legitimate group of alternative rock bands but in forming decided being essentially a tribute band for an era wasn’t going to work out and its songs reflect a modern sensibility. Boneth Ahaneku’s tuneful vocals coupled with the band’s overall songwriting are reminiscent of Letters to Cleo or Veruca Salt in their ability to sound joyful and even playful while not cheapening essentially thoughtful lyrics. And, really, Amy Heckerling should tap this band for her next soundtrack.

Wednesday | February 14, 2018

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Chella And The Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Bonnie and the Clydes, Chella & The Charm, Ryann & Lee, Jennifer Jane Niceley, Five Mile Woods
When: Wednesday, 02.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sure, Valentine’s Day Special at the Hi-Dive called “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.” And if it were a show in which vapid, soulless “country” musicians told stories that weren’t an amped up attempt to imbue limited life experience with faux gravity it might be worth it. But no, if you choose to attend you will get to see talented people like Bonnie Sims, the singer and main songwriter in Bonnie and the Clydes whose songs about life and love have a flavor that reveal her Texan roots but in doing so also a sensibility that more than suggests she’s been around the block a few times with laying her heart on the line. Also, Chella & The Charm’s songs about love and heartache come from a place of striking self-examination and contemplation of the essence of what it all means without bogging it all down with intellectualizing the experience yet not also having a perverse need to dumb it down for accessibility. A great country and Americana show for people who think they don’t like any of that music.

Who: Mandy Yoches & The Hell Knows
When: Wednesday, 02.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Soul and R&B singer extraordinaire Mandy Yoches and her band The Hell Knows will perform a set of songs for Valentine’s Day. Probably not a cynical take on the subject of love because that’s not Yoches’ style but surely the set list will be interesting with some surprises from Yoches’ diverse repertoire.