What:Hieroglyphics w/Rap Noir, Stoney Hawk, S.A.V.E.1, Mike Wird, LoS, Stonewall BLVD When: Friday, 05.31, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Hieroglyphicsfrom Oakland, California and have long been one of the most influential groups in underground hip-hop. Comprised of Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, Domino, DJ Toure and the four members of Souls of Mischief (Phesto, A-Plus, Opio nd Tajai), Hieroglyphics operate in a way that’s classic, old school hip-hop, composing using a sort of free form jazz style with sampling and vocals and more experimental production and the feel of a 70s exploitation film but one where maybe the music was made by a Gil Scott-Heron and Lee Scratch Perry collaboration. This show will include all original members so you’ll get to see some of the sharpest and most deft wordplay in the game.
What:Chromeo, Thievery Corporation, Big Freedia, Adeline, Peanut Butter Wolf When: Friday, 05.31, 5 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Electro soul stars Chromeo seem to bring their bombastic, weirdo new wave pop to Red Rocks every summer and consistently bring artists that will push their fans’ collective music brains beyond their current bounds. This time basically co-headlining with downtempo dub duo Thievery Corporation. More on the outside of the loose realm of music in which the aforementioned operate are Big Freedia and Peanut Butter Wolf. The former is an icon of New Orleans sissy bounce. Which is a really abstract way of saying that Big Freedia is a charismatic and highly energetic performer whose performances blur the line between sissy bounce, noisy industrial dance and a kind of what might be called punk dub. It’s impossible to ignore and may alienate some people with how strange it is to some sensibilities but also one of the most powerful things you’ll get to see at Red Rocks this summer. Peanut Butter Wolf is the founder of experimental hip-hop/electronic music/post-punk imprint Stones Throw, which has regularly issued some of the most fascinating music of the past 23 years.
Saturday | June 1
What:Goth Prom 4 featuring Assemblage 23, DJs Kilgore, Slave1 and Dutch Confetti When: Saturday, 06.01, 5 p.m. Where: EXDO Events Center Why: This year’s edition of Goth Prom will be headlined by EBM/Future Pop legend Assemblage 23. The Seattle-based group has managed to consistently make emotionally honest and compelling music in a realm of industrial dance that is often basically unconscious self-parody that aims to be edgy and dark but misses the mark more often than not. At least Assemblage 23 songs are well-written and seem more aimed to evoke a headspace and mood rather than adherence to tropes.
What:Dead Milkmen w/Granny Tweed When: Saturday, 06.01, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Dead Milkmen were an irreverent punk band from a time when a lot of punk and hardcore was taking itself entirely too seriously. But Dead Milkmen stretched the boundaries of 80s punk by observing few conventions beyond an iconoclastic spirit.
What:Painting With Statue, Echo Beds, DJ Pop CTRL and Animal / object When: Saturday, 06.01, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Painting With Statue is a trio from California that makes noise via what sounds like analog field recording manipulation, sampling and raw low end and white noise. Animal / object is Colorado’s premier avant-garde spontaneous composition band. Who knows what DJ Pop CTRL will be this time other than weirdo folk pop. Echo Beds rarely plays now due to work on its new record so here’s a now rare chance to see the organic-industrial, noisy post-punk legends in the flesh and steel.
What:Summitus Kitharlogus When: Sunday, 06.02, 6 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: A left of field guitar mini fest with performances by or featuring: Weasel Tears, Equine, Amos Helvey, Adam Selene, Lepidoptera, Farrrell Lowe, Joe Mills, Sean Patrick Faling-sonic friction guitarworks, Prayer Hands, Death In Space, Saduwu, Brother Saturn, Sean Mlekush, Space Geist, Bradley Franlik Santulli, Broken Guitar Ensemble, BentonamO, bios+a+ic, Night Grinder.
What:Whiskey Orphans, Slow Poisoner and Universal Devils When: Sunday, 06.02, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Whiskey Orphans sounds like the name suggests. Fortunately, that means more than hard drinking Americana. There is also a touch of sensitivity and wistfulness underlining the sparse melodies. Universal Devils is Tricky Dick Wickett’s one-man metallic singer songwriter project and more odd and original than those mere words could convey.
Monday | June 3
What:KEN mode w/Abrams, BleakHeart and Ten Foot Beast When: Monday, 06.03, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: KEN mode is a metallic, noisy, post-hardcore band whose name is a shortened version of “Kill Everyone Now mode” and in terms of blowing up a groove and cutting a riff into relentlessly jagged pieces, the band has done plenty of that in the more absurdly humorous over-the-top abstract sense. It’s latest album Loved from 2018 has song titles that read like chapters in the diary of a nihilistic misanthrope. For example: “Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should,” “The Illusion of Dignity,” “Learning To Be Too Cold” and “Fractures in Adults.” Given the title of the record one has to respect the dark sense of humor informing all of it including the creepy album cover. Fans of Unsane and Jesus Lizard will find much to like here.
Tuesday | June 4
What:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds When: Tuesday, 06.04, 7 p.m. Where: Ivywild School Gymnasium Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, the long-running alt-country act from Denver, brings its Vaudeville west and vibrantly emotional and lively performance to Colorado Springs along with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Powers was once a member of Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, among others, and with the Pink Monkey Birds he brings a lifetime of stories, insight and masterful songwriting to making his own music with a body of work as worthy as anything else in which he’s been involved.
Wednesday | June 5
What:Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Snails and Oysters and Little Fyodor solo When: Wednesday, 06.05, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This month’s editon of Weird Wednesday maintains peak weirdness with Gothsta who does odd keytar pop songs. Then again, if keytar is involved it’s going to be strange but that just enhances the bizarro nature of the music anyway. Plus some legit keytar covers of songs you wouldn’t expect to hear from her unless you’ve been listening to The Space Lady and not even then. Snails and Oysters is Joe Mill’s solo avant-garde/ambient guitar project in which his combines textures and moods to weave a unique soundscape. Little Fyodor is kinda King Weirdo in Denver and has been for decades going from tape collage/manipulation project Walls of Genius to Little Fyodor and Babushka Band. When a lot of punk is fairly conformist, Fyodor is decidedly not that with a visual presence and songwriting diversity and acumen that is so punk it should be its own subgenre with a clever name you won’t read here because Fyodor is also fairly difficult to pigeonhole as merely punk.
What:Judas Priest w/Uriah Heep When: Wednesday, 06.05, 7:30 p.m. Where: Broadmoor World Arena Why: Judas Priest started in 1969, a year after Black Sabbath formed. But unlike the latter Priest came into its own shortly before the release of its debut album, 1974’s Rocka Rolla. By then iconic vocalist Rob Halford brought his elemental, wide-ranging singing to the band and guitarist Glenn Tipton joined and with K.K. Downing gave the group its signature two guitar sound that gives its music a dynamism and depth that has been influential on many heavy metal and hard rock bands since. After the debut album, Judas Priest embarked on a series of genre-defining records starting with 1976’s majestic Sad Wings of Destiny. The group weathered the manufactured scandals of the 80s when would-be censors targeted the band, and a broad range of other artists, for the corruption of youth and suicide. Judas Priest’s often remarkably thoughtful and in recent years as heavy metal has become embraced by a more mainstream audience the group’s vivid storytelling and energy is finding an audience with a new generation of fans.
Opening the show is Uriah Heep who are arguably the progenitors of a style of melodic boogie rock and hard psychedelia that has been heavily influential on a younger generation of heavy metal musicians. It, too, started up in 1969 and operated in a similar milieu of music as the aforementioned Sabbath as well as Deep Purple. Like the latter, Uriah Heep had a prominent keyboard presence in its songwriting and no strangers to songs about wizards, the forces of evil and the life of a hard touring band. But more so than some of the other bands mentioned above, Uriah Heep clearly has a foot in English folk rock that informs its song structures and vocalist Bernie Shaw’s evocative cadence. The group hasn’t done any major touring in years so this is a rare chance to see them live.
Who:Muscle Beach, A Deer A Horse and Flesh Buzzard When: Thursday, 10.04, 9: p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse is often referred to as sludge and doom and yeah, those sorts of sounds are in there. But the noise punk trio has great melodies and dynamic momentum amid the heaviness reminiscent of the likes of KARP, Melvins and Unwound. Its new 7” for “Double Wide”/”Cold Shoulder” is an abrasive, menacing, harrowing listen—a haunted, dangerous, fuzzy, psychedelic doomy blues. The New York band is paired with one of Denver’s best, equally impossible to pigeonhole punk/post-hardcore band Muscle Beach who are due for their next album to drop any time now. Flesh Buzzard, the harsh noise bludgeoners from Fort Collins, round out the bill with their own brand of sonic brutality.
Who:Lord Huron w/Cut Worms When: Thursday, 10.04, 7: p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Lord Huron’s luminous indie pop has manifested in interesting forms across its career suggesting an unspoken goal within the band to give the era of a band represented by the albums a unified aesthetic visually and sonically. The effect being like that of a novel where images, themes and moods tie together into a whole experience rather than simply disconnected vignettes. Lonesome Dreams evoked the 70s Westerns vibe, Strange Trails has the sound of Wim Wenders’ mythical imagining of the American West in Paris, Texas. The group’s 2018 record Vide Noir is like an alternative soundtrack to an unlikely P.T. Anderson and Nicolas Winding Refn collaboration on a story of doomed romance and redemption. The imagery may be science fiction-esque this time around but the moods still grounded in heightened emotional colorings.
Friday | October 5, 2018
Who:Scream Screen: Invasion of the Body Snatchers with musical guests Little Fyodor & Babushka Band When: Friday, 10.05, 9 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: Little Fyodor & Babushka Band might be succinctly described as an avant-garde punk band but its songs are as catchy and well-crafted as the best of them. The 1970s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a weird science fiction classic but Little Fyodor & Babushka Band is even weirder than that. If you’re treated to a rendition of “Dance of the Salted Slug” during its short opening set, consider yourself getting the double bonus strangeness for the evening.
Who:Starjammer w/Hot Apostles, Joshua Trinidad Trio and The Noise Gallery When: Friday, 10.05, 9 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Squidds Madden is perhaps best known for his turns playing in Denver area ska and funk bands like Action Shot and, more recently, The Dendrites, Champagne Charlie and currently with Roka Hueka. Over the past handful of years he has developed a solo “avant-garde/dub reggae” project called Starjammer. His instruments set up in a rig (the USEV, see below) making them accessible to Squidds all have science fiction concept names and the music itself rooted in Madden’s extensive experience with improvisational composition. Until now the project’s recordings have been under wraps captured in live sessions and relatively unedited. But tonight Starjammer unveils the debut album at an event including some of Madden’s favorite musicians and peers. Witness the Universal Sound Exploration Vehicle yourself tonight or wherever the USEV lands next. If Jodorowsky ever does a futuristic epic as he had planned with Dune, the new Starjammer record should be kept in mind for part of the soundtrack.
Who:Suicidal Tendencies w/Madball and Clusterfux When: Friday, 10.05, 8: p.m. Where: The Summit Music Hall Why: Suicidal Tendencies has created pioneering music in whatever realm it’s found itself since it began in the 1980. Everyone familiar with the early, hardcore era of the band knows “Institutionalized” and its being featured in the film Repo Man. But Suicidal evolved in a more skate punk/thrash direction by the middle of the decade and its transitional album, 1987’s Join the Army, helped make punk accessible to hardcore metalheads. 1992’s The Art of Rebellion brought the band into the mainstream with Top 40 Hits “Nobody Hears” and “I’ll Hate You Better.” Since then the group has become something of a cult phenomenon when some of its members aren’t playing in the hard funk other project Infectious Grooves. These days Suicidal Tendencies don’t write as many songs about personal darkness and alienation but the anti-authoritarian messaging remains strong as does the sense of struggle that most people, whatever one’s background, feel and which founding vocalist Mike Muir seems to be able to articulate in new, relevant ways. The group’s 2018 full-length Still Cyco Punk After All These Years is basically a re-recording of Muir’s 1996 solo album as Cyco Miko Lost My Brain! (Once Again) and while energized, anthemic, uplifting punk, addresses mental illness and emotional trauma with a surprising level of sensitivity that may not be obvious at first listen.
Who:Lord Huron w/Misty Boyce When: Friday, 10.05, 8: p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: For Lord Huron see above for 10.04.
Saturday | October 6, 2018
What: Noise Vs. Doom Day 1 facebook.com/events/1717241811677244 When: Saturday, 10.06, 4 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This two day event showcases that is a fairly comprehensive sampling of artists from the doom and noise music worlds where there is often overlap in membership and playing of bills. Over the course of the two days are veterans like Colorado Springs-based project Clark Nova and Herpes’ Hideaway’s more dark ambient take on the same, Denver’s longest-running and active noise group Page 27, more pop-oriented acts like Mirror Fears and Church Fire, noisy guitar drone experimental metal bands such as New Standards Men, avant-garde noise punks Yardsss from Portland, Oregon and newer harsh noise auteurs like Flesh Buzzard. Not to mention whatever one might call Snails and Oysters and Night Grinder whose own music is impossible to fully categorize but who weave the aesthetics of noise into their soundscapes. Go one or both days and expect to see artists very different from one another no matter when you choose to check in.
4:30-4:50 Clark Nova (opens)
5:30-6pm Heathen Burial
6:10-6:30 Flesh Buzzard
6:40 – 7:10 Snails And Oysters
7:20:-7:35 DJ Zombie
7:40-8pm Floating Cave
8:10-8:40 New Standards Men
8:50- 9:20 Clutch Plague
9:25-9:45 Mirror Fears
10:30-10:50 Herpes Hideaway
11pm Text ESP
Who:Zealot, Jacob T. Skeen and Rat Bites When: Saturday, 10.06, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Luke Hunter James-Erickson has left his imprint on Denver’s indie rock world with his stints in various projects like The Don’ts And Be Carefuls and Violent Summer. For a short while he said he was going to start a band called The Devil. Which was funny considering the guy doesn’t seem particularly diabolical or sinister or offensive, really, unless you count his noise projects. But no, instead he started a fuzzed out indie rock project more in the vein of noisier garage rock bands and The Mountain Goats. Joining him has been former The Outfit and Ideal Fathers bass phenom Michael Jeffrey King on drums rather than the instrument for which he’s mos well known, Nathan Brazil former singer/guitarist in Fingers of the Sun and The Pseudo Dates and Kitty Vincent, former singer and guitarist for Violent Summer. Also on the line up is Rat Bites, a like-minded band that is more punk than garage rock and includes former Sin Desires Marie and Rainbow Sugar drummer Germaine Baca.
Sunday | October 7, 2018
What:Noise Vs. Doom Day 2 When: Sunday, 10.07, 4 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: For Noise Vs. Doom see above for 10.6. Today’s/tonight’s schedule below.
5:00 – 5:20 Ice Troll
6:00-6:20 Night Grinder
6:30 – 7:00 Still Valley
7:10 -7:30 Red Side
7:45 – 8:15 Deer Creek
8:20 – 8:40 Page 27
9:50 -10:20 Yardsss
10:30 Church Fire
What:Primus w/Crown Lands When: Sunday, 10.07, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Leave it to Les Claypool to take the genuinely populist left and environmentalist message of Ul de Rico’s 1978 children’s book The Rainbow Goblin and turn it into The Desaturating Seven a surrealistic album with relevance for the current era. The book is about a group of seven evil goblins who plot to travel around the world to steal the color from rainbows. Its critique of greed and environmental degradation is on par with that of Dr. Seuss’ 1971 classic The Lorax. The album sounds almost like an audiobook rendition of the original text but with the chapters evolving into Primus’ usual, beautifully eccentric experimental funk. So chances are the show will have a special presentation different from its usual already strange enough performances as well as selections from across the group’s career, and all the more reason to check this tour out if you’re a fan or if you just want to see something a little or a lot different.
Monday | October 8, 2018
What:Primus w/Crown Lands When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: For Primus see above for 10.07.
What:Fickle Friends w/Bulow and Rumours Follow When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Fickle Friends are a British pop band that apparently paid attention to what CHVRCHES and Purity Ring have been doing for the last several years. The latter two have made innovative use of electronics and production as part of their songwriting process and the 2018 debut album by Fickle Friends, You Are Someone Else has a similar level of lushness synthesizing synth pop, R&B and rock. The album title, taken from the song “Brooklyn,” not unlike the name of the band, suggests, amid bright and upbeat songs, an alienation from what should be one’s community and from oneself in society that seems to push everyone to present a manufactured and commodified version of identity as one’s genuine self—the fake it ’til you make it quasi-ethos that has grossly manifested itself in the politicians that lead too many governments and the impact of corporate culture on real culture. Not that the band is aiming all or any of its songs that way but the lyrics accompanying fun music certainly seems to point out how things aren’t alright even if we often have to pretend they are to get through life.
What:Against Me! w/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Against Me! Is performing a pair of shows in Denver this week, each night focusing on a particular album. This night the band will be performing 2003’s As The Eternal Cowboy. Something of a country/folk punk album, As The Eternal Cowboy is certainly not what was in step with much of what was coming out on Fat Wreck Chords at the time. “Cliche Guevara” sounds something like a mixture of Mission of Burma and acoustic Misfits. Whatever influences went into the music, the record holds up better than most anything by the band’s peers. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog being on the bill for both nights alone would make the shows worth attending.
What:The Vaccines w/Jesse Jo Stark When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Vaccines new album Combat Sports seems apt enough considering the conflict and artistic self-questioning and self-ruthlessness that went into its making. Supposedly the songs were to sound like 70s and 80s power pop but even after switching producers partway through recording, the band ditched most of the songs and wrote new material for the new record. Nevertheless the band succeeded in capturing the mood and dynamics they were aiming for in the beginning. Additionally, singer Justin Young told the NME in 2016 that he’d listened to much more Leonard Cohen in the wake of the legendary songwriter’s death and found too much of his output lacking by comparison. Likely many songwriters feel that way but it did result in more sophisticated lyrics and musical phrasing. And yet, The Vaccines didn’t mellow out, their sound palette expanded in more interesting directions rather than getting stuck in a rut many bands get caught in when they get a taste of success.
Tuesday | October 9, 2018
Who:The National w/Sharon Van Etten When: Tuesday, 10.09, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: The National is most often associated with 2000s indie rock but the band has its roots in the 90s when lead singer Matt Berninger and bassist/guitarist Scott Devendorf met as graphic design students at the University of Cincinnati. A few bands and a move to Brooklyn later, the two formed The National in 1999 with some friends from same musical circles in Ohio. Hardly an overnight success, The National nevertheless garnered critical acclaim and a fairly large national and international audience by the time of its 2005 album Alligator. Berninger’s smoothly melodic vocals punctuated by raw emotional passages alongside the group’s almost orchestrated melodies and melancholic yet expansive songs have since early on offered a coherent and ambitious artistic vision rendered with an ear for emotional subtleties and in rich sonic detail. 2017’s Sleep Well Beast may be an “adult” album but one that taps into the modern zeitgeist without succumbing to the temptation of going overtly topical. The group’s signature cool shimmer crackling, luminous melodies that would be paired well with a Matthew Frost short.
Who:Against Me! w/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog When: Tuesday, 10.09, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: The second night of Against Me! performing albums (plus generous bonus material, as it were) will focus on the 2007 album New Wave. It was the group’s first record on a major label, a move inspiring some fans to cry “sellout.” As if that wasn’t a tired narrative two decades on hence aimed at bands that weren’t really changing their sound, the content of their lyrics and their ethos. Against Me!, it should be noted, never really entered the pop mainstream. But not for lack of writing some of the best power pop of the 2000s.
What:Soccer Mommy w/Sasami When: Tuesday, 10.09, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Sophie Allison has had a big year in 2018 with the release of her debut full-length Clean on Fat Possum in March followed by a summer tour with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Kind of a steep upward arc for a musician who played her first show as Soccer Mommy at DIY venue Silent Barn at its Bushwick location . Allison’s songs are about the usual struggles and angst of a person in their 20s but her sound seems to be some parts 70s folk rock and the edgy, color-out-side the lines guitar music of the 90s without really coming off throwback—no mean feat in modern music.
Who:Slugger, Origami Ghosts and Eyebeams When: Tuesday, 10.09, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Former Silver Face guitarist/singer Gabriel Albelo started what became Slugger as a vehicle for his solitary songwriting endeavors. Now it’s a full-fledged rock band. Seeing as Albelo grew up in Puerto Rico and had limited access to live music but not so limited access to hearing music from across decades rather than having a lot of pressure from peers imagining themselves hip but largely into music of the moment. Thus his own songwriting is fairly richly informed even if at first blush it might come off as garage rock had it spawned in the immediate wake of 1970s glam rock. But the songwriting isn’t imitative so much as evocative and sounds like some retrofuturist band that should be in an unlikely sequel to the 1983 film Rock & Rule. Eyebeams shouldn’t be a well-kept secret in Denver or elsewhere but for now the psychedelic pop band has been a little under many people’s radar despite the fact that former Fingers of the Sun and Pseudo Dates singer/guitarist Suzi Allegra is at the songwriting helm. Rather than simply an indie pop band that discovered psychedelic music in the last decade, Allegra’s sonic palette is much broader as she grew up on a lot of that music throughout the 80s and 90s. And her lyrics are incisive, poignant and thought-provoking if you choose to listen beyond the exquisite melodies. Indie psych folk band Origami Ghosts is on tour from Seattle.
Wednesday | October 10, 2018
What:Soccer Mommy w/Sasami When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery
Why: For Soccer Mommy see above for 10/9 at Globe Hall.
What:Natalie Prass w/Stella Donnelly When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Stella Donnelly told Fact in March 2018 that she had been in a punk/thrash band when the humorous title of her debut solo full length Thrush Metal suggested itself to her. The album that is simply Donnelly finger-picking her guitar and singing is beautifully sparse and spacious but powerful and heartbreakingly poignant in its depictions of the struggles of women today. “Boys Will Be Boys” seems particularly relevant in the wake of the appointment of alleged sexual abuser Brett Kavanaugh to the bench in the Supreme Court not to mention the fact that the president of the United States garnered any votes despite his despicable comments regarding his own self-avowed sexual assaults. For starters. Thrush Metal is a starkly beautiful portrait of terrible things and speaks with a poetic honesty to the experience of them. Headliner Natalie Prass was once a touring keyboard player who in June 2018 released her sophomore full-length, a chill but soulful R&B inflected pop record called The Future and the Past.
What:Stones Throw Records Presents: Jerry Paper, Keifer and Stimulator Jones When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Jerry Paper is coming to hip-hop from many different angles having been influenced by, according to a 2017 interview with The Blaaahg, the likes of noise/drone project Growing and krautrock. His own beats are like reading what it looked like in the 1970s and 1980s and watching movies from the era with the sound turned off and making music to provide all the audio content. Paper has used all the usual technologies and methods to create music from various synthesizers and Acid to get to where he is now in his mastery of production and the intentionality of the lo-fi sound in creating a realm of soundscaping that might be best compared to indie pop lo-fi geniuses like Owen Ashworth and Karl Blau.
Who:Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Left Handed Electronics, Grrrl, Bianca Mikahn When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Bianca Mikahn’s combination of almost free verse poetry and beats should be well within the canon of hip-hop and ultimately is. But her delivery and her crafting of her songs has as much in common with the kind of hippie-ish, open mic, slam poetry world as it does with any hip-hop context. Mikahn’s ability to critique society at large while speaking to those issues with a compassion and positive spirit minus any note of insincerity sets her apart from most other artists. That her beats contains elements of noise and melodic ambient music makes her immediately accessible music an otherworldly dimension even as the songs are grounded in fairly earthbound experiences.
Who:High Plains Honky 7” release w/Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels Band and Danny Dodge & The Dodge Gang When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: If Ronnie Milsap had gone a little more honky tonk with a grittier voice, the results might sound a bit like High Plains Honky. The group is releasing its latest seven inch record tonight at the Hi-Dive joined by a couple of other bands who are no slouches in the local country scene. Maybe comparing a Denver band to a best selling artist like Milsap seems like a bit much to some but what made him such a compelling songwriter beyond the masterful combination of musicianship and an ear for catchy and evocative melodies is the vivid storytelling. High Plains Honky have both qualities as well as no holding up of the nose at pop conventions used in a country context. “Goin’ All The Way” and “I Know Where You Go,” the two sides of the record, seem so relatable even if country music isn’t your thing. A tastefully tiny hint of psychedelia haunts the edges of the music and the aspirational, anthemic quality of the stories suggest a deep knowledge of personal reality but needing to write the songs to escape being too bogged down by current circumstances to go after what you really want while also honoring the emotions subsequent to the potential disappointment, pain and lack of resolution that is a part of everyday life. High Plains Honky invites its listeners to dream just a little bit and to embrace their heartsickness.
Who:DOA and MDC When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: In the annals of hardcore outside of American coastal cities, DOA and MDC have to be considered two of the most important acts out of that movement. DOA from Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of the hardest touring bands for years, spreading the gospel of hardcore across the continent and whose album Hardcore ’81 is, perhaps apocryphally, is often cited as the first use of the term in connection to the musical movement. DOA’s political songs struck personal tones in Joe Keithley’s deft songwriting allowing the band’s music to have an appeal beyond agreeing with every iota of the band’s politics. MDC started in Austin, Texas as The Stains with similarly political punk songs that were more left than most of its peers at the time. It didn’t hurt that singer Dave Dictor seemed to havea personal agenda to push the envelope with fans in his stage persona as the ultimate freak and always with the aim of challenging reductive notions of animal and human rights. Listen to that first MDC album and it’s clear that Dictor was an unabashed critic of police brutality and creeping fascism in a way that makes those songs and their specific anti-authoritarian tone even more relevant now.
Who:The Blackouts w/Adrian Conner (Hell’s Belles) and We Are Invisible and Wild Call When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: The Blackouts are an all female rock band that really shows how you can have a fairly straightforward hard rock band and not fall to the boring tropes that happen with too many bands with roots in punk and metal. Adrian Conner from the great all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Bells is also playing this show as well as Wild Call, a band whose forthcoming album is reminiscent of White Hills and Medicine.
Who: Amy Shark and Tomi globehall.com/event/1663566-amy-shark-denver When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Amy Shark is a pop songwriter from Australia whose 2016 single “Adore” caught the attention of tastemakers in Australia and the song was reissued by Sony Music Australia. That Shark was either in her late 20s or 30 when the song came out explains a bit how her voice and the perspective present in the song had a bit of depth and more of the weight of experience than would be the case of a pop artist a decade or more younger. Shark’s debut full-length, Love Monster, will drop in July 2018 so you can catch her live tonight at Globe Hall before everyone has heard of her.
Friday | May 25, 2018
Who:Amber Mark w/Demo Taped and Adiel Mitchell When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater Why: Amber Mark seemed to come out of nowhere when she uploaded her song “S P A C E” to Soundcloud in February 2016. Her voice strong and assured, drawing immediate comparisons to Sade for those qualities and a soulfulness one rarely hears in someone just twenty-two years old. But Mark had something to say and in subsequent singles like “Monsoon,” Mark revealed herself to be a brilliantly poetic songwriter. The 3:33 a.m. EP followed in 2017 and in 2018 Mark released the EP Conexão. Joining her on the Denver date of the tour is Adam Alexander, aka Demo Taped. His electronic pop songs are bright and upbeat but the subject matter of his songs run a broad range of subjects including struggles with anxiety and insecurity. His nuanced and layered songwriting manifested especially strongly on his 2018 EP Momentary.
Who:Orbit Service, Church Fire, The Drood and DJ Mudwulf When: Friday, 05.25, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Denver ambient/space rock legends Orbit Service don’t play many shows these days and even less often at a dive bar like Lion’s Lair. The project’s primary figure, Randall Frazier, has been responsible for maintaining and putting together some of the best live sound in Denver rooms like Walnut Room and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox as well as championing experimental music in the local scene and collaborating with Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots fame. And that would be reason enough to go to this show but also on the bill are Church Fire, a band one might describe as industrial synth pop but its inspired and emotionally fiery performances elevates what could be considered excellent dance music to a higher level. Also, The Drood, a dark, psychedelic, avant-garde prog band.
Who:How To Measure the Weather: Tobias Fike, Ryan Wade Ruehlen, Kari Treadwell, Scott Ferguson When: Friday, 05.25, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Where: Emmanuel Gallery Why: This show has been described as a “migratory sound installation” meaning the performers, members of the Flinching Eye Collective, will move their respective sound-making rigs to take advantage of the Emmanuel Gallery on Auraria campus, one of the oldest buildings in Denver, and its architecture to provide a truly unique, one-off environmental sonic experience.
Who:Muscle Beach w/Colfax Speed Queen, Kenaima and Voight When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Confrontational, arty hardcore. Furious post-psych garage punk. Crushing, post-hardcore noise rock. Emotionally-charged, industrial post-punk. Also, four of Denver’s best, most interesting and always compelling and entertaining live bands.
Who:Super Bummer album release w/Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Super Bummer may be both one of the most ironic and yet accurate names in Denver underground music. The band’s melancholy compositions sure do articulate life’s downbeats with sincerity and self-deprecating humor—a rare combination. Its new album, Big Ambition, out on GROUPHUG, comes out tonight at Syntax where the band will share the stage with the broodingly melodic Americana band Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie, whose 2017 album Holographic Universe is a rabbit hole of beautifully enigmatic sounds and ideas to get lost in across its nine tracks.
Who:La Luz w/Savila and The Kinky Fingers When: Friday, 05.25, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: La Luz may have originally been (and continue to be) inspired by 60s surf rock giants and the great girl groups of the era. But the Los Angeles-based group have long since made their own mark in music, especially with its 2018 album Floating Features, out on Hardly Art. Spooky and soulful, La Luz have mastered the art of nuanced emotional textures and mood so that its songs can be urgent and spend passages of sound swirling in the sweeping heat of a memory that unexpectedly rushes back into your consciousness triggered some moment or detail you encounter in the present. Denver’s The Kinky Fingers possess similar powers of evoking vivid emotions and imagery with their own surf-rooted rock songs.
Saturday | May 26, 2018
Who:Victoria Lundy, Snails and Oysters, Sporehive, Denizens of the Deep and Floating Cave, DJ sets by Franklin Bell and visuals by Orchidz3ro When: Saturday, 05.26, 2:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: An entire afternoon of some of Denver’s most interesting experimental and avant-garde bands. For instance, Snails and Oysters used to be just Joe Mills but is now a duo creating organic ambient music using rock instruments in unconventional ways. A project that cites psych folk legend Sandy Bull, the artist that did an arrangement of Carl Orff’s symphonic opera masterpiece “Carmina Burana” for five-string banjo and released it on a debut album in 1963, is definitely not coming from predictable places. While every act on the bill is worth checking out and nothing really much like each other, the star of the show is Victoria Lundy who at one time people might have said is better known for being the Theremin player in The Inactivists. But by now she has established herself locally as a gifted composer of electronic and ambient music with the Theremin and synth. One thing that sets Lundy apart is that her music tends to be free of transient, modern culture reference tropes and is rooted in 20th century classical and the first wave electronic music avant-garde. And yet, Lundy makes her music accessible and emotionally engaging. There is plenty of intellect going into the making of the music and the craft and technology but the art comes from the heart.
Who:102 Wires When: Saturday, 05.26, 5 p.m. Where: Bar Max Why: This is a celebration of the possibilities of guitar in music beyond the typical use of the instrument in popular or even experimental music. Read our interview with organizer Kevin Richards here.
Sunday | May 27, 2018
What:A Life Celebration For Steve Gordon When: Sunday, 05.27, 1 – 4 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: This will be an event honoring the late, great, Steve Gordon. Steve was a visual artist, sculptor and musician who contributed greatly to the local avant-garde improvisational and ambient music scenes in Denver. Steve passed away in early May following a prolonged battle with cancer but as a widely admired figure, his legacy of excellence, originality, humanity and humor will continue to have an impact in the Denver art world for years to come. For the event friends and collaborators will share stories, music, poetry, food and drink. Read Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s excellent piece on Steve for Westword here and our own interview with the artist from November 2017 here.
Who:Textures featuring Tunica Externa, paperbark, Lepidoptera When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be John Mulville’s last show in Denver for a while as he’s moving back to Minneapolis for the duration. His ambient project paperbark has brought some of the most compelling, textured to grace Denver spaces in recent years. Generating sounds with treated modular synth tones, Mulville’s compositions suggest natural spaces with a physicality suggested by the earlier reference to texture. It’s like you experience a tactile sensation through a creative crafting of atmosphere. Though Mulville will be back through town, we won’t have the luxury of catching any of his soothingly hypnotic sets regularly.
Who:ManifestiV, Bloodied, eHpH and Keldari Station When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: ManifestiV from Vallejo, California sounds like it came out of the intersection of the burner community that embraces both industrial music, electronic dance and New Age concepts in the use of sound. But it works though at times you expect it to be the soundtrack to some kind of hippie-esque cyberpunk video game. But who wouldn’t want to play that game? Denver’s Keldari Station sounds like it’s coming from a similar place but its own music is more pop, has more elements of dub and old school glam rock. eHpH, like the other bands on this bill, is a duo with a penchant for dark, atmospheric music. Except this duo has managed to combine EBM with industrial rock without sounding like they’re trying to fit in with the tired old Goth scene sound of the 90s and 2000s. The band’s music is more experimental, more nuanced in its emotional expressions, than bands who really want to be a new version of Suicide Commando.
Tuesday | May 29, 2018
Who:King Tuff w/Cut Worms and Sasami When: Tuesday, 05.29, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: At the end of his last tour, Kyle Thomas was sick of the party monster persona he had cultivated for years as King Tuff. The pressure to live up to something you’re not because it benefits you professionally and to some extent artistically erodes you more than a little on the inside and Thomas was feeling it. “I was a lost soul,” Thomas posted on his website regarding the release of his 2018 album The Other. “I didn’t know who I was anymore.” The new record is certainly a bit of a departure for Thomas. Any trace of the garage rock that informed his earlier releases is pretty much gone. There is a soulfulness and an overt spirit of experimentation running through all the songs for the release. In moments its tinge of futuristic funk and glam prog are reminiscent of I Robot period The Alan Parsons Project.
Also playing this show is Cut Worms. The band’s main creative force is Max Clarke who seems tapped into a mid-60s pop sort of sound and aesthetic. There is a simplicity and clarity of melody and songwriting that we’ve heard plenty of, likely, in this era of mining past decades for artistic inspiration. But especially on Clarke’s 2018 album Hollow Ground the subject matter isn’t so clean and tidy and his songs, like the era it perhaps sonically echoes, reflect a self-aware sense of social anxiety, a painful yearning but struggling with real or endlessly imagined inability to not fuck things up somehow and a willingness to stumble and scrape through even if life doesn’t always, or never does, turn out as planned or hoped. The brilliance comes in striking that balance—being real alongside the sounds of a time many romanticize in spite of the dark and grisly underbelly of people’s lives and the culture itself.
Who:Broncho w/The Paranoyds and Valen When: Tuesday, 05.29, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Broncho formed in 2010 in the wake of the dissolution of indie pop weirdos Starlight Mints. Ryan Lindsey of the latter, went on to play guitars, keys and perform lead vocal duties in Broncho. The four-piece has always been kind of an outsider in the music world in that it never really fit in with any emerging trend and was probably too weird to hit it big time in the mainstream. But Lindsey knows he doesn’t belong there. At this point, Lindsay has already done his time deconstructing pop in Starlight Mints and it’s obvious that subverting the tropes of indie, garage and psych rock this past decade isn’t as interesting as it might have been a few years ago. 2016’s Double Vanity found Broncho excavating and exploring some of the sonic ideas that Phil Elverum was onto on those final two The Microphones records, 2001’s The Glow Pt. 2 and 2003’s Mount Eerie. But without imitating Elverum’s richly imaginative and innovative soundscaping. With any luck, this version of Broncho will represent the band’s next phase of its injecting the pop format with expansive ideas and sounds.
Wednesday | May 30, 2018
Who:Gang of Youths w/Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Gang of Youths’ 2017 sophomore album Go Farther in Lightness garnered near universal acclaim in the band’s home country of Australia. Rightfully so. It has the poetic insight and depth of early Bruce Springsteen and more recent from Titus Andronicus. Like both of those artists, Gang of Youths has a gift for taking the mythical/universal aspect of everyday experiences and giving it a poignantly personal expression. There’s a song called “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?” that goes beyond that whole rediscovering your bliss and your passion nonsense. But it’s a whole record of songs that might seem like a collection of trite platitudes but in the end are the exact opposite. It’s highly energetic indie rock but the emotional and intellectual content run a lot deeper with Gang of Youths.
Who:Nunofyrbeeswax w/Open to the Hound, Claudzilla and Rat Bites When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Berlin’s Nunofyrbeeswax brings together aspects of indie pop, naïve lo-fi rock and outsider pop in its music. Good thing its on a bill with local weirdos in keytar punk Claudzilla, gritty indie pop outfit Open to the Hound and Germs-esque noise punkers Rat Bites.
Who:Ufomammut w/White Hills and Tjutjuna When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Saying Ufomammut is a doom metal band from Italy is a bit like saying that Neurosis is a post-hardcore band from the Bay Area. Clearly Neurosis found some kinship with the trio from Tortona, Italy because Neurot Recordings issued the group’s most recent four records in the USA. Ufomammut’s music has elements of doom and sludge metal but its psychedelic drones and industrial sounds have more in common with the other bands on the bill than a straightforward doom band.
New York City’s White Hills has been exploring past settled territories of modern psychedelic rock since its 2003 inception. The duo of Dave W and Ego Sensation use drum machins and sampled rhythms to set a frame in which each can weave a mind-altering and hypnotic soundscape of vivid tones and dark atmospheres. The band’s storytelling and Dave’s vocals are reminiscent of what one might hear on a Legendary Pink Dots or Skinny Puppy album in which there’s no rockist self-aggrandizement or empty calories rhetoric. Dave has something to say, observations to make and narratives to give in his songs that are frankly worth listening to in themselves but couched in an immersive experience in the listening and especially so in the live setting. The group’s 2017 album Stop Mute Defeat, out on Thrill Jockey, is a major leap forward in terms of capturing the band’s masterful use of mood, texture and atmosphere to craft psychological experiences in the form of song.
Denver’s Tjutjuna rarely plays live shows these days, but the band and its talent for krautrock-inspired mind-expanding drones and percussion was always ahead of the curve of so-called “psychedelic rock” bands in the Mile High City. Like White Hills, Tjutjuna is no stranger to employing motorik beats except with a live drummer and the clear melding of the aesthetics of psych, noise and the avant-garde sets the group galaxies ahead of indie rockers who recently discovered how to maybe use reverb pedals with chorus. Quaint. Tjutjuna? Not so much.