Best Shows in Denver November 2021

Julien Baker performs at Gothic Theatre on Nov 13, photo by Alyssa Gafkjen
Brandy Clark, photo by Chris Phelps

Wednesday | 11.03
What: Brandy Clark w/Kelsey Waldon
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: If famous country music stars performing songs you’ve written is a sign of your significance as an artist, Brandy Clark has had a resoundingly successful career. Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker have all performed songs penned by Clark. Her critically acclaimed 2020 album Your Life Is a Record garnered her accolades for her own work even from more critical reviewers because her arrangements and thoughtful lyrics were undeniably well crafted and affecting even if you’re not a fan of country music or acoustic pop. Producer Jay Joyce encouraged Clark to expand her musical range with sounds and ideas that brought a quality to the songs that pushed beyond the boundaries of Clark’s previous work for arguably the best record of her career thus far. The 2020 pandemic put plenty of plans for touring and promoting records on hold so this is a chance to see the award winning singer and songwriter at an intimate venue.

Wolf Alice, photo by Jordan Hemmingway

Wednesday and Thursday | 11.03 and 11.04
What:
Wolf Alice w/The Blossom
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Wolf Alice is hitting its stride with its new album Blue Weekend. Earlier records like 2017’s Visions of a Life and 2015’s My Love is Cool showcased the music of a band learning its powers and creative instincts in often thrilling ways during some years when too many rock bands were trying to cop some of that classic rock or psychedelic garage cachet. Wolf Alice walked a finer line of hard rock and atmospherics fortified by singer Ellie Rowsell’s sometimes gritty vocals yet always emotionally vibrant and nuanced vocals. The new album reveals a band that has not become stuck in what one might expect from previous efforts. Swells in a song don’t inevitably lead to a glorious blowout, rather Wolf Alice takes left field turns in its arrangements perhaps a challenge to foster their growth as a band with consistently compelling results.

Black Dice, photo by Black Dice

Thursday | 11.04
What: Black Dice w/cindygod and H Lite
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Black Dice was an integral part of New York City underground music in the late 90s and 2000s. Its members had come up through punk but took the spirit of open possibilities suggested by that music to do whatever the wanted to. Anything could be an instrument, any rhythmic idea could be made to work. Even ideas about how structure and patterns would emerge through a kind of sound collage cut-up technique that one might compare favorably with the work of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Key to the band’s creative approach and aesthetic was visual art concepts and its various album covers have been designed by members of the band in a style that hits you like graffiti by way of the Situationist International. The band’s methods of composition and expression proved influential to peers like Animal Collective, a band that on the surface makes an updated form of 90s indie pop but like that music truly experiments with the form and musical substance of the songwriting with forays into noise and sampling that enriched the palette of sounds and dynamics available in crafting songs.

In 2012 Black Dice released its then most recent album Mr. Impossible after which its members took time to pursue other projects, Eric Copeland releasing several solo works as well. With the pandemic thus far time seems to have stretched and compressed for most people and what may feel like a handful of years in the living it can stretch to several and in 2021 Black Dice released its latest record Mod Prog Sic. It is classic Black Dice as a free flowing parade of ideas, textures, rhythm and playful tone and signal processing like some futuristic hip-hop/EBM fusion psychedelic beatmaking. We recently had a chance to speak with longtime member Aaron Warren about his early musical days growing up in California and his formative years as an active member of the punk scene in Boulder and Denver in the 90s before ending up in NYC in pursuit of furthering his education and ending up in the city at a time of great creative ferment. Listen to the interview on the Queen City Sounds Podcast.

Thursday | 11.04
What: The Black Angels w/L.A. Witch
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Black Angels came together and established its individual style of psychedelic rock before that became too trendy in the 2010s and has been able to develop, refine and then evolve its aesthetic across multiple records. Obvious influences drawn from early psychedelic rock, shoegaze, Middle Eastern drones and compound time signatures out of that music and perhaps a touch of African influence along with industrial and the avant-garde has merely made for a musical career that is much more creatively varied than seems obvious with a live show that is consistently entrancing. Opening is the like-minded L.A. Witch and their engaging take on blending 60s psychedelic pop with noir vibes.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Brian Ziff

Thursday | 11.04
What: Soccer Mommy w/Alexalone
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Probably virtually every musician touring in 2021 has the same story of an album released early in 2020 or slated or release that year only to have all forward momentum in getting the music out there slowed down or stopped due to the pandemic. When Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory was released at the end of February 2020 it garnered some critical acclaim for its winsome, melancholic pop songs in which the songwriter’s arrangements expanded to give her short lyrical lines expansive and often shimmering background textures paired with ethereal string arrangements. There is a pensive and yearning quality to singer/songwriter Sophie Allison’s words and vocal performance that elevates the music beyond much of the sometimes interchangeable indie music offerings you might hear on a playlist in a public space. Allison is not stranger to luminous and introspective songwriting, but right now she is taking her craft into deeper emotional territory than her admittedly excellent 2018 debut album Clean.

Band of Horses, photo by Stevie and Sarah Gee

Thursday | 11.04
What: Band of Horses w/Miya Folick
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Band of Horses is a band that has managed to make uplifting yet incredibly heartbreaking music with undeniable earworm melodies without losing the emotional impact for the last 17 years. The group formed after the respected indie pop band Carissa’s Wierd split in 2004 and quickly established itself as purveyors of thoughtful songs imbued with an upbeat energy and great forward momentum while never dipping into the realm of the hokey or obnoxious positivity. Probably because the lyrics have consistently hit as grounded and insightful even when written in good fun. Expect the new Band of Horses album Things Are Great to drop in January 2022 but for now you can maybe catch a good deal of that new material live until then.

Friday | 11.05
What: Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary Pre-Show: Wisteria w/Candy Apple, Deadluv and Vitrina
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brian Castillo has been involved in DJ nights over the years and releasing a few records here and there. But he may have found his niche when he launched Eventually It Will Kill You four years ago releasing mostly experimental music and darkwave like the 2018 reissue of the 1983 death rock classic by Denver band Your Funeral and their single “I Want To Be You” b/w “April Fool’s Day” and releases from Many Blessings, the noise side project of Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy, chicago darkwave band Funeral Door and dark minimal synth group Child of Night from Columbus, OH. For the occasion of the anniversary “El Brian” put together two shows including this Pre-Show which includes performances by Pittsburgh based post-punk band Wisteria and jagged, jangly Denver post-punkers by way of hardcore Candy Apple.

Plack Blague in October 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.06
What: Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary: Kontravoid, Plack Blague, Many Blessings and Closed Tear
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: For the second night of the 4 year anniversary of Eventually It Will Kill You you can catch some of the stars of underground darkwave and noise with EBM techno artist Kontravoid, industrial disco legend Plack Blague (listen to our new interview with Raws Scheslinger of Plack Blague from our podcast on Bandcamp), the ambient noise stylings of Many Blessings and the gloomy, post-punky dream pop of Closed Tear.

Saturday | 11.06
What: Dan Deacon w/Alex Silva and Patrick McMinn
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Dan Deacon’s 2020 album Mystic Familiar was praised as a solid synth pop album but it sounds more like Deacon has really honed his songwriting after a career of pushing musical ideas ever forward. The instrumental performances have a nuance and energy with a granular level of musical detail that can be enjoyed for simply the sheer joy and dynamic expressiveness Deacon seems to bring to his music. But one has to marvel at the way Deacon orchestrates complex passages and textures to into majestic pop songs that uplift the spirit and living up to the name of the album. His live shows are often a collaborative affair and even with his music surely Deacon will encourage those that show up to become involved in spontaneous and creative ways that don’t happen at other shows.

Gus Dapperton, photo by Jess Farran

Saturday | 11.06
What: Gus Dapperton w/spill tab at The Gothic
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Forget the hair style, the jewelry, the eyeliner and Gus Dapperton’s stylish sartorial proclivities, the songwriter’s 2020 album Orca is brimming with touching and delicate songs with real insight into the vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts that come to you in your lowest moments. His spare musical arrangements give the vocalization of the lyrics space to issue forth and sit in the air like lingering melodies. It’s an unexpectedly interesting effect from a songwriter who can come across to anyone that hasn’t sat down with the music as saccharine pop but the guy’s music is anything but that.

Uniform, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Monday | 11.08
What: Uniform, Portrayal of Guilt and Body Void
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Uniform is an industrial hardcore band from New York that came out of the city’s punk and extreme music scene. Its fiery and abrasive electronic onslaught articulates issues of existential confusion and frustration with the destructive forces of society and within our own minds and clawing a path to catharsis. The group’s 2020 album Shame (Sacred Bones Records) is perhaps its most accessible but also its most deeply personal and raw. Also, listen to our podcast episode with an interview with vocalist Michael Berdan on Bandcamp. Opening the show is the great experimental hardcore group Portrayal of Guilt. With music sitting somewhere betwixt black metal, grindcore, hardcore and noise, Portrayal of Guilt consistently delivers scorching songs of poetic yet abrasive beauty. Its new album Christfucker is due out November 5, 2021 on Run For Cover Records. Body Void’s scathing, outraged doom just seems like the perfect complement to the whole show and its 2021 album Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth out on Prosthetic Records is not short on tortured crushers.

Mamalarky, photo by Sara Cath

Tuesday | 11.09
What: Slow Pulp w/Mamalarky
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When many bands in the 2010s were evoking a bit of 1990s fuzz rock and grunge, Slow Pulp took a hint of that but went in more a direction of atmospheric pop and experimental soundscapes as a structure for its more hushed and introspective songs. Tourmates Mamalarky from Atlanta is on a similar wavelength with songs of unconventional structure, rhythmic strategy and tonal palette. Like maybe its members came up listening to early Liz Phair demos, Broadcast, Virginia Wing, Deerhoof and Electrelane. The group’s outstanding 2020 self-titled album never gives you a chance to get too settled into a sound but draws you along for a ride into a colorfully dreamlike realm of lush pop adventures.

Wednesday | 11.10
What: Nothing w/Frankie Rose and Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Nothing has been on a great trajectory of developing into and beyond punk-influenced shoegaze reaching a high state of creativity on its 2020 album The Great Dismal. Whorling sheets of guitar drone bursting up and receding like waves punctuated by electronic crackles and an aesthetic as much informed by electronic music as by rock at this point. Frankie Rose has spent time in such bands as Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and Beverly but her solo albums is where she has perhaps been most free to utilize her imaginative guitar work, production and songwriting. Though these days she’s also in a band with Matthew Hord of Pop. 1280 called Fine Place which is more in the realm of dub-influenced darkwave pop. So it may be awhile before you get a chance to see a solo Frankie Rose performance for a bit. Enumclaw is one of the few modern bands that sounds like it was heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr without ripping the band off and injecting a good deal of fuzzy dream pop like they listened to The Smiths but found a way to mix Morrissey out of the proceedings.

Wednesday | 11.10
What: Armand Hammer w/Trayce Chapman and Time (from Calm.)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The psychedelic sounds in the beats to Haram, the 2021 album by Armand Hammer with The Alchemist, is reminiscent of the ways cLOUDDEAD tapped into subconscious spaces to evoke a mood that complements the surreal vibe of the lyrics. Fans of Gonjasufi and early Sole records will appreciate the way this pairing of artists collage tone and texture to create great depth of sound and expression. Plus opening is Time whose existential and deeply philosophical and playful lyrics are an antidote to the programmed ignorance of the American education system and the current state of the culture.

Silverstein, photo by Juan Angel

Thursday and Friday | 11.11 and 11.12
What: Silverstein w/The Plot In You and Can’t Swim
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater and Gothic Theatre
Why: Silverstein is one of the few bands that walked the line between pop punk and screamo without sounding a parody of itself and where the distorted, screaming vocals really did sound like a primal expression of an intense peak of feeling in the context of the songs. What has kept the band worth a listen is the songwriting and how, as is the case with the better pop punk, the most critical examination in the lyrics is aimed at one’s own shortcomings and finding a way to get through those moments of feelings of failure and intense self-judgment rather than lash out at someone else like a challenge to oneself to truly feel these things you don’t want to in an attempt to be a better person even if you fall short because life and self-betterment is often a process of reworking habits and not some perfect formula to follow.

Friday | 11.12
What: Glacial Tomb, Noctambulist, Necrosophik Abyss — CANCELED
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Glacial Tomb and Noctambulist are two of the best and most brutal and imaginative technical death metal bands out of Denver at the moment and if that’s your thing they’re both on the same bill.

Phony Ppl, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 11.12
What: Phony Ppl w/Kent Washington
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl have done some music with Megan Thee Stallion but their own music is a richly expressive sort of art soul music and jazz-inflected hip-hop without making boundaries between any of those styles. There is a gentleness to the music that makes it instantly accessible even though the specific content is very musically sophisticated and challenging. These five guys take heady musical elements and ideas and bring to it a loose and playful spirit that sounds like it should be music for the kind of arty dramas that have yet to be made about the poignant periods in the lives of regular people.

Julien Baker, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Saturday | 11.13
What: Julien Baker w/Dehd
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Little Oblivions is not the album a lot of people were expecting from Julien Baker. Her first two records of hushed and introspective folk rock had an undeniable emotional power in part because of Baker’s own stirringly emotional vocals. For this record Baker expanded the palette of sounds including more electronic elements and more expansive, brash soundscapes that seem perfectly suited to what really feels like a burst of expressing emotions kept under wraps for too long yearning to be let out. There is an intensity to the record that almost makes Baker’s previous albums seem safe by comparison if they too weren’t informed by a strong emotional honesty themselves. Easily one of the top albums of the year in the realm of rock. Opening is psychedelic surf pop band Dehd from Chicago. Don’t let that short descriptor throw you off because Dehd performs with an often unsettling intensity as well for a band whose moody music is not short on nervy energy too.

Saturday | 11.13
What: Nitzer Ebb w/DJ Eli
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: EBM/industrial legends Nitzer Ebb don’t tour much these days and no matter which of their music you’ve heard the live band is more scrappy, more visceral and more powerful than you could really expect. Their 1987 album That Total Age remains a stone classic of 1980s electronic industrial music.

Big Dopes, photo by Jake Cox

Saturday | 11.13
What: Big Dopes album release w/Bellhoss
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Roxy on Broadway
Why: Big Dopes is one of the best Denver bands not enough people know about yet. Its new EP Destination Wedding picks up where its outstanding 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude left off with affecting lyrics and exquisitely crafted melodies. Fans of C86 era pop, Magnetic Fields and Carissa’s Wierd will likely appreciate the band’s attention to sonic detail and knack for a poetic and thoughtful turn of phrase. Also on the bill is the utterly idiosyncratic pop group Bellhoss. Although many have compared Bellhoss and singer Becky Hostetler, at least according to the project’s website, to artists like Waxahatchee and Soccer Mommy, Bellhoss is weirder and more interesting than those comparisons would suggest (though both artists are obviously notable in their own right) and often comes off like some kind of weirdo indie pop thing with intricate and eccentrically shoegaze-y guitar. Really a show with two of the most compelling bands in the Denver scene post-2017 when the music scene in the Mile High City started to severely fragment even as it expanded.

Monday | 11/15
What: Surfbort — CANCELED
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Coast (Fort Collins)
Why: Surfbort is a weirdo punk band that’s probably a little too rough around the edges and real for a lot of people who call themselves fans of punk but it’s also one of the most interesting and powerful bands in the world of punk today. They don’t have a lot of releases but its new single “FML” has a strange music video that includes Fred Armisen of Portlandia fame whose own background in punk and his own unusual sense of humor vibed with that of this New York band.

Monday | 11.15
What: Exhumed w/Creeping Death, Bewitcher and Victim ov Fire
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Indeed, it’s influential deathgrind band Exhumed from San Jose, California. Though the music can be brutal and forbidding in a way that might be reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse it nevertheless performs the music with great energy informed by a sense of irony and humor with lyrics often aimed at the corrupt American political and economic system that has metastasized into an oligarchy with a wide gulf between the ultra rich and the poorest members of society.

Paul Jacobs, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Tonstartssbandht, Paul Jacobs and Wally
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Between its gentle lo-fi psychedelia and almost found sound collage aesthetic, Tonstartssbandht from Orlando, Florida is a different animal in the realm of modern psychedelic pop. Andy and Edwin White draw on a broad spectrum of influences from more traditional music to classical music, classic rock and they have a High Rise tribute band called High Rise II. So even though their relatively pastoral 2021 album Petunia can come off just shy of too weird and gritty for yacht rock there are plenty of bizarro nuggets in the mix to keep it interesting. Paul Jacobs’ 2021 album Pink Dogs on the Green Grass gave us a solid batch of wefting and warping psych pop that somehow both hits the ears reminiscent of both Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Clarke and the Himselfs and Odessey & Oracle period The Zombies. The textural quality of his guitar sound keeps us grounded as vocals and wind sounds and even the percussion carries us away into ethereal realms of daydream wonder. In the case of both artists it seems odd to consider how they might pull this stuff off live and yet they do.

Black Marble in May 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Black Marble w/Voight
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Black Marble has spent some years perfecting a sonic equivalent of Polaroid photos cast in the colors of lo-fi, New Wave-y post-punk. The 2021 album Fast Idol finds Black Marble less in the realm of entrancing gloom pop and more in some upbeat mood with a sound that makes one think about what forbidden music might have sounded like if it was the USA rather than the USSR that cracked down on the immoral popular music of a decadent other empire. Live the music hits with full fidelity resulting in two different experiences of the music. Denver’s Voight really wants to be a dark techno band playing in dark rooms in the neo-urban decay but is still stuck in industrial shoegaze mode. And yet remains one of the best bands in the Mile High City because the music isn’t rote, predictable, safe pabulum and ferocious live.

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock & Roll Revue w/Los Straightjackets
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Nick Lowe is one of the pioneers of power pop. He would have sealed that reputation had he remained in Rockpile with one of the other greats of that form of music Dave Edmunds. But Lowe’s solo career speaks for itself with soulful pop rock classics like “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass.” This run of music is a nod to the sounds that influenced Lowe from rockabilly to soul and beyond.

Wednesday | 11.17
What: Caribou w/Jessy Lanza
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Dan Snaith has written some of the most inventive yet accessible electronic music for nearly 20 years as Caribou. Employing traditionally acoustic instrumentation alongside synths/electronic instruments and programming, Snaith taps into some of the same emotional pools of yearning, introspective pondering and nostalgia as the later chillwave and bedroom pop composers he influenced directly or indirectly. His most recent album Suddenly (2020) seemed more somber than other releases but still flowing with hazy yet bright melodies. Even in the most down moments, Snaith incorporates a playful creativity in the mix to convey the nuances and complexity of existence and how we experience life.

Kraak & Smaak, photo by Michael Mees

Wednesday | 11/24
What: Kraak & Smaak w/Capyac
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dutch musical production trio Kraak & Smaak are masters of blending a tropical beat with layers of synth melody modified in real time to give a sense of fluid movement giving the music the aural equivalent of 3D visuals. The effect being an enveloping music with a cinematic sensibility like a somehow benevolent spy movie funk without any violence or skullduggery involved, just adventure and relaxing moods. It’s most recent EP, Scirocco, is like an unlikely but satisfying blend of Ennio Morricone, Boards of Canada and Simple Minds. If the band’s recent live streams are any indication, this current tour will be like seeing some long lost electro funk great of the past playing music that seems familiar yet fresh.

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

Friday | 11.26
What: The Velveteers w/Dreadnought and Dry Ice
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Velveteers were a promising band from early on in their career in Denver and Boulder playing house shows, small clubs and DIY spaces. While many bands were trying for that classic rock sound, The Velveteers were rapidly outgrowing those early influences into their own sound with fuzzed out riffs and surging song dynamics that made the band sound like it was taking off in multiple directions lending its performances a fiery energy. Through developing the group, creating their own music videos and a little bit of touring, The Velveteers came to the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who offered to produce the trio’s new album Nightmare Daydream. Sure it has expert production and clearly the band got some polish in Auerbach’s studio but this set of songs also sound so focused yet as thrillingly effusive as it ever has.

Friday | 11.26
What: Baroness
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.

Primitive Man in April 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.27
What: Primitive Man w/Spectral Voice and Oryx
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver is fortunate to have an exceptional extreme metal scene with many bands worth a deep listen. This show, though, showcases three of the best. Spectral Voice and the angular brutality of its dark death metal has evolved from an earlier sort of a blackened deathgrind sound into more refined sonic brutality without losing its raw edge. Oryx has never been short on an inventive evocation of musical heaviness and commentary on the hubris of human civilization. It’s 2021 album Lamenting a Dead World perhaps says it all with the title but the vocals sound especially feral and the parallel rhythms and guitar leads flow with a primordial energy that embodies an inevitable path to doom for the planet if things don’t take a different turn amongst us humans. And of course Primitive Man brings the most crushing and emotionally harrowing death grind you’re likely to experience anywhere. The Denver trio did not tour or play much if anything in the way of live shows in 2020 or much of 2021 so its caustic 2020 album Immersion and its nightmare vision of what seem like end times didn’t get to unleash what is hopefully a catharsis of the eschatological mood that has cloaked the planet since the onset of the pandemic until recently. That these great works of music from Oryx and Primitive Man are still so relevant does speak to the excellence of their conception and execution but also to how far we have to go as a species to prove ourselves worthy of continued existence.

Best Shows in Denver 10/4/18 – 10/10/18

SquiddsMadden_Sep15_2018_TomMurphy
Squidds of Starjammer, which performs Friday, October 5, 2018 at Goosetown Tavern with Hot Apostles, Joshua Trinidad Trio and The Noise Gallery. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | October 4, 2018

lord_huron2_IanHolliday
Lord Huron, photo by Ian Holliday

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

SuicidalTendencies-Lightbox-Revelation
Suicidal Tendencies, photo by Lightbox Revelation

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

FleshBuzzard_Oct4_2018_TomMurphy
Flesh Buzzard, photo by Tom Murphy

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)
5-5:20 Sporehive
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
9:50-10:20 Voideater
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

Yardsss_Mar25_2018_TomMurphy
Yardsss circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

4:30-4:50 Catdog
5:00 – 5:20 Ice Troll
5:30-5:50 ATARI
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

FickleFriends_DanielHarris
Fickle Friends, photo by Daniel Harris

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

The-National-by-Graham-MacIndoe-1
The National, photo by Graham MacIndoe

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.

Soccer-Mommy---Natalia-Mantini---General-4
Soccer Mommy, photo by Natalia Mantini

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

Stella-Donnelly_-Cooper-Gordon_Gordonco-Visuals
Stella Donnelly, photo by Cooper Gordon, Gordonco Visuals

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.

Best Shows in Denver 7/26/18 – 8/1/18

Tarmints_Aug11_2007_TomMurphy
Tarmints (circa 2007) perform at The UMS on Sunday, July 29, 2018 at The Hi-Dive

Thursday | July 26, 2018

 

MrPacman_Feb17_2007_TomMurphy
Mr. Pacman circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: I Heart Monkey Mania: Mr. Pacman, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Cyclo-Sonic and Moon Pussy, visuals by Chris Bagley 
When: Thursday, 07.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Mr. Pacman is not a band that should be dismissed as mere gimmick. Yes, the band dresses up like characters from a cosplay of some weird, ancient Japanese video game. But it’s live drums, keytar, electronic drums and other instrumentation with, indeed, fairly silly songs but performed with a disorienting intensity and earnestness. At times it’s fun but moderately scary. Which is what any good band should be at least once in a while. Mr. Pacman is that pretty much every time. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is a more out downtempo band and Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of Denver punk legends The Rok Tots, Choosey Mothers and The Frantix. Chris Bagley, one of the filmmakers of the 2008 documentary Wesley Willis’ Joyrides, will provide visuals and make it even more of a trip.

Who: Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series Season 2 Finale w/Brother Saturn, Equine, VAHCO, MYTHirst, Bowshock
When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This is the final show of the second season of Glasss Records’ The Speakeasy Series. It’ll be more of an ambient show with Brother Saturn’s soothing and abstract guitar and synth collages, Equine’s avant-guitar drone and beats, VAHCO’s beat-driven soul,. MYTHirst’s bright soundscapes and ukulele and whatever it is one might call Bowshock’s mixture of influences from space rock, reggae and improvisational composition.

Who: Har Mar Superstar sings Sam Cooke
When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Har Mar Superstar cleaned up but good for this series of shows in which he dresses up in a suit and tie (which may or may not come off before the set is over in the weather Denver has been experiencing as of late). Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar) and his band will perform several of Sam Cooke’s classic R&B hits and maybe even some deep cuts. Seeing as Har Mar’s usual schtick is singing R&B and soul and making a spectacle of himself but pulling off the singing like he was born to it, this is not a huge leap for the performer. And at this time, the socially conscious end of Cooke’s music seems more relevant than ever.

Friday | July 27, 2018

RedBaraat_MarkJaworski
Red Baraat, photo by Mark Jaworski

Who: Red Baraat
When: Friday, 07.27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Clyfford Still Museum
Why: Red Baraat’s syncretic pop spans South Asian musical styles, Western funk, Afrobeat and Caribbean pop to create something that’s celebratory, immediately accessible and deep. The sprawling band is playing this free concert at Clyfford Still Museum in central Denver in the wake of the release of its latest record, 2018’s Sound The People. With its cultural scope and implicit message of human unity, Red Baraat’s music is an international call of all people to come together to resist the rising wave of aggressive authoritarianism plaguing the world today. Beyond the heady messaging, Red Baraat is a reminder that sprawling, seemingly improvisational compositions needn’t be the pure realm of jam bands and that it is a component of popular musical styles across the world.

Who: SUPER PARTY Day 1: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Friday, 07.27,7 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: This parallel event to the UMS amidst the dense and varied offerings there is out on by the boutique Remixed Gifts and the Denver culture-centered comic ‘zine Hot Sauce the Dog written and drawn by the gifted singer-songwriter Rachael Pollard whose new band DEN |V|OTHER will kick off the event at 7 p.m. followed by Joe Sampson at 8 and R A R E B Y R D $ at 9. Simply some of the best people from Denver you can see at any time. The event runs two days picking up again on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. with Bonnie Weimer.

Who: Larians, Real Gongs, Jumanjuhad
When: Friday, 07.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Larians is Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons’ IDM/experimental electronic project and Real Gongs is that of Male Blonding guitarist Bryce Navin. If the UMS is too much or not of interest for whatever reason or if you have some time Friday night, highly recommended.
Who: Denver Broncos UK, Echo Beds, Simulators and Shadows Tranquil
When: Friday, 07.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver Broncos UK is sort of a post-punk side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club so a good fit with math-y post punk duo Simulators (think like Shellac but stripped down to even more of the bare essentials) and Echo Beds whose forthcoming album Buried Language (due out August 18 on The Flenser) pushes their harsh organic-industrial soundscape further than previous boundaries.

Saturday | July 28, 2018

CSH-credit-Mikeal-Beland-4
Car Seat Headrest, photo by Mikael Beland

Who: SUPER PARTY Day 2: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Saturday, 07.28, 2 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: Day 2 of SUPER PARTY, a free event amidst the UMS. The following is today’s schedule: 2 – Bonnie Weimer, 3 – Jen Korte, 3:45 Ted Thacker of The Red Tack, 4:30 Andy Thomas solo, 5:30 Kissing Party, 6:30 Teacup Gorilla

Who: Car Seat Headrest w/Naked Giants
When: Saturday, 07.28, 8 p.m.
Where:The Gothic Theatre
Why: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest is one of the most prolific and interesting songwriters of his generation. Having put out nine albums independently before signing to Matador in 2015, Toledo clearly didn’t need a label but the distribution and marketing arm of one helped to get his music to a wider audience. The new Car Seat Headrest album, 2018’s Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), is brimming with what has made the band impossible to dismiss with lazy genre designations. Vocals that sometimes soar with an upsweep of deeply felt emotion, sometimes speak quietly about the concerns of the moment that flood your mind and won’t let go. Lo-fi guitar composition in the vein of maybe a Pavement or Sebadoh but informed more by underground rock of the 2000s like Jay Reatard’s more sublimely ethereal moments and more modern lo-fi stars like No Age, Times New Viking and artists from the Siltbreeze imprint. Beyond just the sonics, though, the new record is an exploration of the concerns, anxieties and self-image of a young person in an era when destructive, and self-destructive messages, have been repackaged and made to seem like a viable option. Car Seat Headrest’s new album is a compassionte and vibrant rejection of much of that as well as a suggestion of a path of discovery/rediscovery of what’s truly important in one’s life.

Tuesday | July 31, 2018

Weezer-2017_BrendanWalter
Weezer, photo by Brendan Walter

Who: Weezer and the Pixies w/Sleigh Bells
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 5 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Weezer got to be in on the tail end of the legitimate wave of alternative rock in the early 90s. Its 1994 self-titled album, “The Blue Album,” yielded a couple of hits with “Buddy Holly” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The crunchy melodies and quiet-loud dynamics pioneered by groups like Mission of Burma and Pixies, who had then recently split, continued the tradition of nerdy punk rockers making music that took that spirit of punk to different places. Weezer could have been another fuzzy, alternative rock/pop punk band with that kind of sunny Southern California flavor. But Weezer’s songs, even when it’s indulging in some fun-loving goofiness, had at its core an impulse to resist being pigeonholed or musically fitting into a specific trend.

After its first record, singer Rivers Cuomo wanted to change gears dramatically and nearly made a science fiction-themed concept album but what came out instead is what could be argued is the band’s most artistically interesting record to date, 1996’s Pinkerton and its darkly conflicted lyrics. Cuomo has since all but disavowed the album as a reminder of a painful time. And to Weezer’s credit, the group has not spent its time as a band trying to recapture past glory. Its most recent full-length album, 2017’s Pacific Daydream, reflects not only Cuomo’s personal alienation but the anomy of our time when many people feel a disconnect with the lives they might want, however modest the aspiration, and the reality we face with diminished expectations. A melancholy set of songs? Maybe not obviously so but despite the title, a song like “Beach Boys” sounds like something that, psychologically speaking, was written in a vast room lit only by small windows on a cloudy day reminiscing about what once brought one joy. Like a less dire but no less impactful musical version of William Friedkin’s depiction of life in the City of Angels.

That Weezer is co-headlining with Pixies seems fitting. Both bands find themselves perhaps having to reinvent themselves for the current era even as their back catalog speaks for itself. Pixies are obviously the influential alternative rock band from Boston, darlings of college radio in the late 80s and early 90s and breaking up with its legacy intact. The band’s humor, unhinged energy, idiosyncratic songwriting filled with seething emotion, delicacy of feeling, have kept its music fresh decades onward. Like any band worth its salt, Pixies also produced new music post 2003 reunion once its internal dynamics leveled out. The group’s first album with former touring, now permanent, bassist Paz Lenchantin, 2016’s Head Carrier, isn’t generally as immediately cathartic and as vital as the group’s 80s and 90s output, it proved Pixies can still write material worth a listen and highlights the band’s ability to clue in to unusual sounds and rhythm and texture ideas that other established artists often don’t.

Who: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks w/Soccer Mommy
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Stephen Malkmus is obviously the singer and one of the guitarists in lo-fi slacker psyche legends Pavement. But his songs under his own name and with The Jicks are as worthy as anything he did with Pavement. Free to explore unusual melodies, self-indulge a wide range of guitar styles and fusing noise, jangle rock, improvisational instincts, 70s rock, psychedelia and prog, Stephen Malkmus with the Jicks is capable of coming up with refreshingly unusual songs even if they all have the stamp of eccentricity and imagination that Malkmus has brought to all his projects. The group’s 2018 record Sparkle Hard reflects Malkmus examination of the modern world and his place in it as a white man, and father, in his fifties who is still engaged in doing the thing he’s best at—writing unusual rock music—when the world seems to be falling apart and changing at a rapid pace. In typical fashion, Malkmus has a worthwhile and interesting take on all of it.

Opener for this tour, Soccer Mommy, is an interesting pairing because Sophie Allison’s songs have a layered and emotionally rich, compositional style with a sound collage quality that isn’t at first obvious. Her 2018 debut studio album Clean is a solid 10-song collection of sophisticated pop. Unlike many young songwriters, Allison, now 21, doesn’t sound like she’s tapping into a particular era of the 90s or the 2000s except for maybe Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. But, really, those are exceptionally respectable touchstones. What is also noteworthy is Allison’s range of dynamics, command of what, in a film score, might be called sound design, materfully orchestrating textural and atmospheric elements to augment her storytelling. With a debut so strong, one can only hope we’ve not yet seen Allison at her peak.

Who: ModPods w/R A R E B Y R D $
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: ModPods from Los Angeles with its mixture of electronic post-punk and dance music sounds more like some kind of band from Baltimore in the 2000s or the kind of band that would have played The Smell in its heyday with an eclectic spirit not trapped in adherence to a stylistic subgenre. Either way its beat-driven songs have an edge and an 8-bit melodic fringe on its minimal synth melodies. Fronted by Myriad Slits, the trio, including Mindee Jorgensen and Daniel Guzman who switch up instruments regularly so that the musical duties never really become rote, is like an intentionally lo-fi synth pop/dance band.

Also on this bill is R A R E B Y R D $, the hip-hop trio that keeps pushing boundaries, including its own, in terms of beatmaking and Key Lady’s and KoKo La’s alchemical vocal interplay. The way some guitarists create interesting shapes for chords, the members of this group creates interesting synergy of sounds between vocals, beats and Michael Blomquist’s organic percussion. It’s a deeply emotional experience that you share with the band. It’s like alternative hip-hop if made by people who take great joy in seeing exactly what you can do with a synthesizer and a sampler to make something entrancing and meaningful. Hypnagogic post-disco, endorphin releasing, gangsta dub.

Wednesday | August 1, 2018

 

Who: Shocker Mom, Spargob and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 8-11 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: It’s a free show and you get to see some of Denver’s best producers of electronic music in the underground. For R A R E B Y R D $, see above. Shocker Mom is Robin Walker who to the big wide world outside of Colorado is not known at all. But for those that have been able to witness her talents as a solo artist, member of lo-fi pop phenoms Cougarpants or one half of the hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus, Walker is a singular talent. As Shocker Mom, Walker taps into her broad musical experience to produce tracks that blur the line between hip-hop, trap, IDM, ambient, dubtechno and indie pop. Aleeya Wilson is perhaps most well-known for her avant-garde guitar/noise project Death In Space. But now the Girls Rock Denver alumn is writing music as Spargob, her production project so expect something refreshingly weird and imaginative.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Universal Devils, Limber Wolf, The Far Stairs facebook.com/events/509245982828786
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday, Claudia Woodman’s monthly at 3 Kings Tavern, will include Rick Layton’s solo experimental metal project Universal Devils. Layton is a talented multi-instrumentalist who spent several years as the drummer for weirdo punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band. The Far Stairs is fronted by former Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Imagine a manic New Wave/New Romantics/power pop band influenced by They Might Be Giants. But not just good, but great.