What:Zeta (Venezuela), Clarion Void, Disposal Notice, Its Just Bugs When: Thursday, 11.21, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Venezuelan band Zeta has been developing its experimental hardcore sound since 2003. It’s sound is a parts progressive rock and punk but in a way that’s expressive and moody while not sacrificing the intensity. Currently touring in support of its 2019 album Mochima.
What:Mt. Joy w/Wilderado and Adam Melchor When: Thursday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Wilderado’s new single “Surefire” sounds wistful and nostalgic in a way that allows for words to develop into an introspective narrative that blooms into an expansive melody alongside the story. Reminiscent of the way The War On Drugs echoes some of the vibe of Bruce Springsteen’s reflective, diary-like lyrics, this offering from the band builds on the atmospheric experiments of its 2018 EP Favors with more electric instrumentation and a more immersive sound without compromising the group’s use of space as a canvass for its emotional colorings.
Friday | November 22
What:Married a Dead Man w/False Report, Dead Characters When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Denver’s Married a Dead Man is releasing its second album Awakening this night. The group’s sound might be described as somewhere between Xmal Deutschland’s wiry, urgent, dark atmospherics and modern pop melodies. The new set of songs, no doubt honed from live performances, are not just bandwagon new post-punk revival and darkwave. At times Megan Kelley’s performance and songwriting chops from her time as a solo artist infuse the songs with a warmth and coherence that gives the music a broader range than the genre of late can sometimes have with songs like “Burn” having a massive, expansive, dramatic dynamic that stretches the boundaries of what one might this band is capable of at first blush. Worth delving into beyond a casual listen.
What:Wildermiss w/Slow Caves When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Wildermiss is a Denver-based indie rock band that is probably on the verge of much wider circles than simply relatively successful local band status. Its new EP In My Mind captures the spirit of our time now of great contrasts of emotional states and expectations, a mixture of fear and hopefulness that most people are experiencing due to the state of the planet, politics, culture and economics. We stand on the precipice of disaster and promise of a better future if we do not lack the will to make it happen. In My Mind expresses that tension well across its length.
What:Briffaut, Down Time and Inaiah Lujan When: Friday, 11.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Briffaut’s new album A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away is a nice capsule of this band’s idiosyncratic songwriting. Fans of both King Krule and Deerhunter will find something to love about the band’s lush and unpredictable song structures and raw, emotional swells of tone and a disregard for whether a song or style or performance fits in with some established aesthetic outside its own. Too much music in the indie world is boringly predictable. Not just the indie world. Imitators of milquetoast artists and already successful formulas are rife in music now as at all times since popular music has been a thing. Thankfully Briffaut and its willingness to embrace its own weirdness has been intact since the beginning and gloriously so on the new album of imaginative soundscapes, completely unconventional songwriting and the ability to utterly transport us outside our usual frames of musical reference.
What:Blood Incantation w/Vermin Womb, Dreadnought and Superstition When: Saturday, 11.23, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Blood Incantation recently released its new album Hidden History of the Human Race. The Denver-based death metal band is a big of an enigma in that it has been slowly building a cult following for years and playing few local shows. But its songs, especially live, come across as larger than life, psychedelic although imbued with the technical precision of the best death metal, and as oddly accessible as the genre has ever been. The record is a science fiction concept album but one that has a cover designed by Bruce Pennington who did cover art for A Canticle For Leibowitz and the Dune books after the initial novel. Plus the guy did the iconic cover for Gene Wolfe’s landmark science fiction fantasy book The Shadow of the Torturer. Fine stuff for an album that is a thrilling reminder that death metal can still be fun and not a forbidding drag.
What:Black Star Gang ft. Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, DJ Premier w/Brother Ali, Evidence and The ReMINDers When: Saturday, 11.23, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Black Star is a hip hop duo comprised of Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), two of the sharpest critics of American culture and innovators in the genre themselves. The project only has one album up to now, 1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, but rumor has it they have another in the works produced by Madlib. So if you’ve caught the recent live performances maybe you’ve heard some of the new material and it seems likely it’ll be on display for this show.
What:Lisa Prank w/The Tangles (fka The Tickles) and Horse Girl When: Sunday, 11.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Lisa Prank has established refined and thoughtful emo pop songs as a national artist since starting the project in Denver several years back. Her new record Perfect Love Song is a a little fuzzier, more confident but just as wise and as insightful.
What:Shibui Denver #8: Dead Orchids and The Shift When: Sunday, 11.24, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: For this edition of Shibui Denver we will have two bands that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. The Shift is an improvisational, experimental progressive rock band and includes Esmé Patterson and former Bad Weather California bassist Jeremy Averitt. Dead Orchids’ dark, brooding songs are a vital mix of post-punk and Americana but without the trendy habits that often mar bands trying their hand at either.
What:Midwife w/Hogwaller When: Monday, 11.25, 7 p.m. Where: Forest Room 5 Why: Midwife is an ambient folk artist of the highest order who was recently tapped to perform at The Flenser showcase at the Roadburn Festival in 2020 with her debut album on that record label later in the year. See her at these small rooms while you still can.
Tuesday | November 26
What:HIDE w/Echo Beds, Church Fire and Cau5er When: Tuesday, 11.26, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Confrontational, performance art-oriented industrial band HIDE is the urban dystopian futurist ritual catharsis we need now to burn off the darkness of the modern world. Its new album Hell is Here is a searing, discordant exorcism of the demons that plague the body politic.
What:Pigface w/eHpH, DJ N810, DJ Mudwulf When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Pigface is the long-standing industrial supergroup with roots going back to the 80s with members of Ministry, KMFDM and other industrial luminaries. EhpH is a Denver-based duo whose mix of EBM and industrial rock is actually compelling and cathartic and doesn’t come off like its members’ musical imagination got stuck in the early 2000s.
What:Shark Dreams w/Nuancer, The Milk Blossoms and GhostPulse When: Wednesday, 11.27, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Best local dream pop line-up in more than a minute with some of Denver’s best. Shark Dreams is more the kind of drifty indie pop with a leg in glittery, slowcore dynamic. Nuancer is as informed by experimental electronic music as pop. The Milk Blossoms are a hip-hop trio disguised as a heartfelt, hyper sincere, experimental indie pop group with a sense of humor and humanity. GhostPulse weaves together downtempo beats, unconventional instrumentation and luminously cloudy atmospherics.
What:The Hu w/Crown Land When: Wednesday, 11.27, 6 p.m. Where: The Black Sheep Why: The Hu is a rock band from Mongolia that performs with traditional instruments, uses throat singing and yet its songs are an exquisite hybrid of Mongolian folk music and heavy metal. Could be corny but it is not, it is powerful, stirring stuff. Fans of Laibach will enjoy the sound of this band even though the styles are so different. Around since 2016 The Hu recently released its debut album The Gereg on Eleven Seven Records.
What:Rubedo’s Independence Day V w/Matt Embree (member RX Bandits, Dispatch and The Sound of Animals Fighting), Poor Bodhi, DJ Reubot When: Thursday, 07.04, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: For five years now Rubedo has been doing an Independence Day show that includes friends and comrades in music and cultural resistance. This year includes Matt Embree, frontman of eclectic prog/punk/psych band Rx Bandits who is also a member of post-hardcore supergroup The Sound of Animals Fighting. Rubedo itself is no stranger to being difficult to pigeonhole. All its players have a degree of respectable musical chops and adept at mixing improvised sections in the songs based on the mood of the moment. One might call it a prog band because of the direct influence of The Mars Volta but also psychedelic rock and indirectly the musical thinking and techniques of hip-hop even though its all live instrumentation. The storytelling and themes of Rubedo songs somehow also manage to be positive and aimed toward a better future and celebrating the present without coming off as insincere.
Friday | July 5
What:Pictureplane w/OptycNerd and DEBR4H When: Friday, 07.05, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pictureplane returns to Denver where he first made waves in the underground beyond his home state of New Mexico. As one of the residents of Rhinoceropolis he was a real ambassador to experimental electronic dance bands in Denver and far beyond, evangelizing the DIY ethic and Rhinoceropolis and Monkey Mania to the places far and wide including performances in Russia. His musical style has evolved over the years and recently included more industrial textures and sounds but at his core, he’s an idiosyncratic artist who is trying to push his aesthetic in interesting directions.
Saturday | July 6
What:Get Your Eyes Swoll: Last Humans, Tears to Li6ht and Gothsta When: Saturday, 07.06, 8:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: This edition of GYES features dark chillwave artist Tears to Li6ht, lush Americana band Last Humans and Gothsta which is series host Claudia Woodman in her guise as a weirdo Goth pop star known for bizarre covers and even stranger originals.
What:Angry Hand of God, Never Kenezzard, Flat Earth When: Saturday, 07.06, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: A doom/stoner rock show featuring the now active again Angry Hand of God which experienced a bit of a heyday in the late 2000s before Denver metal, with a few notable exceptions, started attracting much attention outside of Colorado. Also on the bill is Never Kenezzard whose mixture of sludge rock, prog and psychedelia pushes the boundaries of heavy rock into innovative territory.
What:Short Shorts album release, Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Safekeeper and Florea When: Saturday, 07.06, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Short Shorts is a four-piece from Denver who will release their new EP Hang-Ups tonight. Somewhere betwixt surf rock and the kind of punk with a footing in 2010’s garage rock, Short Shorts have a sound that fans of the likes of Tacocat and Bully might enjoy. Echoes of 90s K Records bands. Also with song titles like “Jumbotron Debutate” and “Quantum Entanglement” the band’s pop songs are clearly a cut above and more thoughtful than one might expect from a band with a name like Short Shorts. On the bill are like-minded acts like the dark Americana band Florea and Sour Boy, Bitter Girl. The latter has a real knack for taking down and out sensibilities and turning them into earnest and thought-provoking pop songs with a literary flair.
What:Heart Bones feat. Har Mar Superstar and Sabrina Ellis w/Good Fuck and Mark Mallman When: Saturday, 07.06, 8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Two powerhouse performers in the same soulful synth pop band? Har Mar Superstar has long been putting on the most absurdly entertaining performances mixing soul and punk an dance music while Sabrina Ellis has been the animated and powerful frontwoman of A Giant Dog. Also, Good Fuck, the latest project from Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse, is like an experimental electronic German pop band but more like ADULT. than electroclash. Its 2019 self-titled album is a moody and spacious set of dark, noisy, techno industrial dance music.
Sunday | July 7
What:Priests w/Olivia Neutron John When: Sunday, 07.07, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Fiercely DIY band Priests releases its what might be described as post-punk glam through its own label Sister Polygon Records. With the latter the group has helped to advocate for like-minded artists critical of the oligarchy like Downtown Boys and Snail Mail. It’s latest record is The Seduction of Kansas. Theatrical and dynamic, Priests make its flamboyantly strange aesthetic accessible. Olivia Neutron John is the dark, post-punk electroclash type of solo project of Anna Nasty whose 2019 self-titled debut is driven by brooding and stark low end and plenty of punk attitude.
What:Melissa Etheridge When: Sunday, 07.07, 5:30 p.m. Where: Hudson Gardens Why: Melissa Etheridge is a cultural icon in various ways and beyond being a very public figure in the LGBTQ community going back decades. Before coming out in public in 1993, Etheridge had hit records on college and AOR radio with her 1988 self-titled debut, 1989’s Brave and Crazy and Never Enough from 1992. Etheridge came across as thoughtful, soulful, gritty and she had a kind of gravitas that relatively new artists don’t yet possess. Her songwriting held an appeal that transcended any specific considerations of sexuality and gender and her music even crossed over into the more adventurous radio stations that typically played classic rock mixed with some modern hits. Her first big hits came with “Come to My Window” and “I’m The Only One” from the 1993 album Yes I Am. In 2019 Etheridge released her latest record The Medicine Show—a strong showing of songwriting prowess and performance for an artist this far into a prolific career. It’s almost a hard rock record with Etheridge sounding more confident than ever and heartfelt odes to life and loss.
Monday | July 8
What:Melissa Etheridge When: Monday, 07.08, 6:30 p.m. Where: Chautauqua Auditorium Why: See above for Melissa Etheridge. This show is in the uniquely arranged Chautauqua Auditorium which is a bit like seeing a show in a very large barn with good acoustics.
Tuesday | July 9
What:Bad Religion w/Dave Hause & The Mermaid When: Tuesday, 07.09, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Bad Religion has long been reliable for having something to say in its music across its nearly forty year career and its latest album, 2019’s Age of Unreason, is no different. It’s fifteen tracks of anthemic, melodic punk against Trump and the authoritarian program worldwide in general. If any of it is heavy handed the times call for leaving no ambiguity in resisting the rise of fascism. Musically, one either likes the chances Bad Religion has taken or not but at least with its words the band has used its platform to challenging regressive political and cultural forces and to comment on the same with irreverent wit and intelligence.
What:Turvy Organ album release w/Panther Martin, Sour Boy Bitter Girl When: Thursday, 06.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:The Ghost at the Feast is Denver indie rock band Turvy Organ’s new record. What has always set the group apart from the oft-necessary but lazy “indie rock” overarching term is that it most certainly is not operating to jump on some trendy sound or bandwagon. Yes, you’ll hear the echoes of Modest Mouse in some of Ilya Litoshik’s vocals but from there the dynamics of the music and the songwriting is too idiosyncratic to fit into the mold of anyone else. The new album has what sounds like a story arch trying to make sense of a deep yearning for place and identity and coming to accept things as they are. Very Zen. But that journey is one worth taking with the band. There isn’t a single sonic flavor Turvy Organ employs across the album except for maybe some tasty, energetic melodic bass lines. That may even be how the record ties together outside of Litoshik’s highly charged and wide-ranging vocals. Splicing together post-punk moodiness and wiry energy with the frayed musical and emotional edges of 90s lo-fi rock, Turvy Organ has not just come to terms with what it’s about as a band The Ghost at the Feast but with what it’s like to be an underground rock band at this juncture in our culture where if you’re not doing it for the right reasons you’ll undermine your goals by not seeming honest.
What:TOKiMONSTA w/Holly and Blackbird Blackbird When: Thursday, 06.13, 9 p.m. Where: Club Vinyl Why: TOKiMONSTA garnered a name for herself for crafting imaginative and lush downtempo beats that wouldn’t be out of place in the body of work of some of the more melancholy artists on the Warp and Stones Throw roster. She has a real gift for expansive, complimentary synth lines and multiple layers of percussion to accent the tempo of her songs. As a DJ TOKiMONSTA mixes in plenty of material from across a broad spectrum of modern electronic music.
Friday | June 14
What:Electric Funeral Fest Night 1 When: Friday, 06.14, 3 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive/3 Kings Why: This is the fourth edition of Electric Funeral Fest which features some of the most interesting acts in underground “extreme” and experimental metal. Tonight’s programme is as follows:
What:Anderson .Paak w/Earl Sweatshirt and Thundercat When: Friday, 06.14, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Three of the most creatively brilliant artists of modern hip-hop on one bill anywhere would be noteworthy, at Red Rocks it would be deserving of the word epic.
What:Sympathy F When: Friday, 06.14, 9 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Formed in 1991, Sympathy F is one of the few, if not only, still active bands from Denver’s alternative rock era whose melancholic, jazz-inflected, dream pop reflects an era in Denver where the city felt dark, neglected and wide open. When creative weirdos could rent a warehouse on the relatively cheap and hang out with each other and converse and mutually inspire and otherwise have their own subculture that was vibrant and not well known by the world outside the Mile High City. When downtown had viaducts (Fifteenth and Twentieth Streets) that went from downtown proper to a now long gone warehouse district, where the old Montgomery Wards build stood west of downtown like the abandoned monolithic structure from a bygone era. That the band’s songs are emotionally powerful and moving and intense yet luminous doesn’t hurt because it has been written from a place of nostalgia, but at its heart is a shard of that unique time and place in Denver’s history and it shines forth from the band’s entrancing performances.
What:Daikaiju When: Friday, 06.14, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: Writing about Daikaiju seems folly at this moment so here’s a video that gets at some of the chaotic glory of the weirdo surf band from Alabama.
What:Lazarus Horse, Mt. Illimani, Enji and Sam Morris When: Friday, 06.14, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Maybe Eddie Durkin shoulda zigged when he shoulda zagged here and there in life. But haven’t we all? His old band Sparkler Bombs was pushing punk and noise rock and modern proto-psychedelia in interesting directions. But nearly a decade hence, Durkin has been writing songs under various project names including Lazarus Horse. Imagine if someone somehow bought Rainwater Cassette Exchange, The Glow Pt. 2 and a few Julianna Barwick and Grouper records pluse The Velvet Underground & Nico and got sent off with their parents to scientific station duty at Edinburgh of the Seven Seas with spotty internet but a good instruments and pedals and some recording equipment. That’s basically what Lazarus Horse sounds like—drawing on the weirdo rock familiar while sounding ineffably different from even that.
Saturday | June 15
What:Tacocat and The Paranoyds w/Princess Dewclaw When: Saturday, 06.15, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Seattle’s Tacocat and L.A.’s The Paranoyds are making thought-provoking and emotionally nuanced fuzzy post-surf-punk pop with a refreshing level of depth and spirited energy. Although Tacocat has been associated with the sort of surf punk thing the past decade it’s always been different from all of that because its songwriting has been brimming with irreverent humor, playfulness and a surreal and colorful aesthetic. The cover of its new album This Mess is a Place is striking when you see it at the record store and draws you in with its inviting, retrofuturistic collage style promising something within that will offer interesting stories and perspectives that aren’t trend hopping or trite blandishments about love or needing to always center all content on what’s topical. In that way Tacocat offer a view of a more interesting and vital future for all of us. Paranoyds can be reminiscent of The Raincoats if that band came from southern California instead of London with the wonderful, unconventional choruses and noisy guitar. Watch out for the group’s new 7-inch “Hungry Sam”/”Trade Our Sins” out on Suicide Squeeze July 12.
What:Electric Funeral Fest IV When: Saturday, 06.15, 3 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: See above for Electric Funeral Fest IV. Here is this night’s programme of performances:
4:40 – 5:20 Casket Huffer
5:40 – 6:20 Sun Voyager
6:40 – 7:20 Trapped Within Burning Machinery
7:40 – 8:20 The Munsens
8:40 – 9:20 Fotocrime
9:40 – 10:20 Call of The Void
10:40 – 11:25 Dead Meadow
12:45 – 1:25 Bummer
Mutiny Information Cafe Stage:
3:00 – 3:40 Red Mesa
4:00 – 4:40 Upon a Fields Whisper
5:00 – 5:40 Horseneck
6:00 – 6:40 Dizz Brew
7:00 – 7:40 Dysphotic
What:Jamila Woods w/Duendita When: Saturday, 06.15, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Jamila Woods recently released Legacy! Legacy! with song titles drawn from names of some of the greatest artists, writers and thinkers of color from America and beyond. Rarely do musicians name check the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, James Baldwin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters and others of similar cachet at all much less with such style and soulfulness. Woods’ voice is commanding and wise and one gets the sense you’re learning something about the human beings named as they impacted Woods as a person and an artist in her own right. She doesn’t pretend to speak for them but reflect their deep influence through her own lens and how their work has inspired her to do what she hopes is interesting and worthy in her own right. It’s a deep record worth repeated listens. Fans of Nina Simone and Erykah Badu should give Woods a listen.
Sunday | June 16
What:Natural Velvet, Church Fire, Rabbit Fighter and Bert Olsen When: Sunday, 06.16, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Natural Velvet bassist/singer Corynne Ostermann told the Baltimore Sun in 2016 “’Basically, we aim to be a “Sailor Moon” villainess.’” And who wouldn’t want to see that band? Apparently a post-punk band it sure has some nefarious punk energy but the fun kind like what you might imagine a raccoon is thinking. A good fit with Denver’s industrial dance pop powerhouse trio Church Fire whose subversive and politically charged music is not just cathartic but deeply emotional on multiple levels. This is the last show post-punk/dream pop duo Bert Olsen is playing under that name. The group recently lost its drummer and is changing to maybe using a drum machine and changing focus a bit and taking on the name Gila Teen. But it’ll still be Hunter Woods and Aidan Bettis on vocals/guitar and bass respectively so the same luminously evocative songwriting will remain.
Tuesday | June 18
What:Pile w/State Champion and Warring Parties When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pile has long been making the kind of post-punk/noise punk/lo-fi music that never really sounds like anyone else. Its new record Green and Gray is filled with the band’s signature, and always interesting, counter-point guitar riffing and richly varied song dynamics. The group switches up the pace in a song, conveying the way a mood will pass through your mind as you’re working through memories and contemplating what your life should be about and diving deep into how it really is. All their records are worth a listen and the latest one may be their best.
What:Charly Bliss w/Emily Reo When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: On 2017’s Guppy, Charly Bliss sounded a bit like other bands mining the 90s, fuzzy alternative pop bands for inspiration but with great energy and Eva Hendricks’ ebullient vocals. With Young Enough the group’s emotional palette seems to have grown exponentially and its sound evolved into a kind of atmospheric power pop but somehow without losing the verve that powered its full-length debut.
What:Lavender Fest Denver: Where in the Hell is Lavender House? The Longmont Potion Castle Story (screening) When: Tuesday, 06.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Longmont Potion Castle is the phone prank wizard extraordinaire of all time. His early use of odd sound processing methods for prank calling in the 80s and early 90s went above and beyond other, perhaps more well-known prank call “comedians.” Still mysterious after all these years someone finally made a documentary about his exploits and it’s screening tonight at the Oriental.
What:Operators w/Doomsquad When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Dan Boeckner is best known for being in some of the most interesting rock bands of the past two decades including Wolf Parade and Divine Fits. But in the past five years and more he’s been in a band that now includes Devojka, Sam Brown and Dustin Hawthorne that has been exploring the use of analog synths to write the kind of bright, brooding pop songs that wouldn’t sound out of place at some weird “New Wave” in the early 80s that hosted the likes of Gary Numan, Sparks and Fad Gadget. Rather than simply ethereal melodies, Operators has a robust low end in its mix giving the music some real power and momentum rather than merely sounding pretty. The quartet is currently touring in support of its 2019 full-length Radiant Dawn.
Wednesday | June 19
What:Wand w/Dreamdecay When: Wednesday, 06.19, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Wand bridged the gap between weirdo, psychedelic lo-fi rock à la Pavement with the heaviest metal but without ever come off live like a metal band. More like indie rock nerds who never had to turn their nose up at the kinds of dynamics and sounds one heard in 70s hard rock, prog, the more inspired jam bands and stuff like Sleep. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2019 album Laughing Matter. On the latter it sounds like the group has been listening to some more post-punk and post-rock like Slint.
What:Mastodon and Coheed and Cambria and Every Time I Die When: Wednesday, 06.19, 5 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: On Mastodon’s 2009 album Crack the Sky the Atlanta-based metal quartet aimed to write their version of a classic rock album with strong melodies and great mood and solid songwriting. True enough the overall tenor of the record with its dynamics out of step with most metal at the time, but anticipating where so many rock bands, not just metal, would go over the next decade. This is sort of a Tenth Anniversary type tour but the band recently recorded an homage to its late manager Nick John called “Stairway to Nick John” that is a cover of the Led Zeppelin song that some people may have heard at some point in their lives. The single was released on Record Store Day and the proceeds are going to benefit the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer.
Who:Charlie Parr w/Them Coulee Boys When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Charlie’s stage banter is pretty much worth the price of admission. But his take on country and blues is so personal and individual that he leaps over expectations of the genre performed by modern musicians. You can start anywhere in his discography and it’ll be worth a listen. His latest record, 2017’s Dog, seems to capture this moment in American history where a lot of people are experiencing depression and despair and a need to catch a break from that wearying state of mind. In articulating that mood so well, Dog is actually a therapeutic record that actually finds a way to explore dark places without getting stuck in them.
Who:To Be Astronauts album release w/The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Flahoola When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: To Be Astronauts is a psychedelic hard rock band that sounds like the main songwriter might listen to a whole lot of the Misfits and Clutch. Fortunately, on the band’s new album, indifferentstates, these tendencies are morphed into something more original and the songs seem to be about something substantive as in the songs “This Is Not Normal” and “Discontent.” The Patient Zeros are the kind of blues rock band that there should be more of instead those more easy to mock. Probably because CJ Kjolhede, younger brother of former Cutthroat Drifters frontman Nicolas Kjolhede, and Joe Schramm and Michael Raymond aren’t trying to be the next Dead Weather or whatever. Their songs sound more like they’re rooted in some kind of folk and country sensibility with a spooky edge. Add some grit, fuzzy melodies and excellent use of space and that’s a bit of what you get with The Patient Zeros.
Friday: December 1, 2017
Who:Maria Bamford When: Friday, 12.01, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Maria Bamford spent the 90s honing her comedic craft and flew almost completely under the radar of everyone but fans of underground comedy. She got her start in stand-up in the late 80s at age 19 and by the mid-90s she had spots on various television comedy showcases getting a few minutes on screen here and there. But those sports were memorable and you could tell there was more going on with her comedy than the usual faire. During that time Bamford obviously made connections with other comedians and be her 30s she started to become known for her surreal, intelligent, thoughtful, brilliant comedy to wider audiences. Bamford has voiced various animated TV shows and films such as Stuart Little 2 and Barnyard because of her sheer versatility as a voice actor, her gift for tone, inflection and vocal texture, all features of her stand-up, a real asset for character acting. Her appearances on Arrested Development, Louie, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Kroll Show and numerous others have been standouts, taking all of those shows in more temporarily unusual direction than was already the case.
The Bammer now has her own comedy skit show called Lady Dynamite. As funny as the show might be, like George Carlin, who had a short-lived comedy series on Fox from 1993-1995, Bamford shines brightest in her stand-up where she can exercise her genius for free association storytelling, her illumination of ridiculous moments in all our lives, her sensitivity to the vicissitudes of the traumatized psyche and some of the most incisive social and political commentary of our time. Many don’t “get” Bamford but one might suggest these people take too much too seriously and handle all situations in the world with a shocking lack of nuance and subtlety. Bamford expertly treats subjects with the right stresses, the right pressures, the proper intensity, the appropriate tone and with a true appreciation for the humor inherent to almost every experience without unduly diminishing what really is important by, even in joking about it, not trivializing the truly weighty on the social and especially the personal level.
Who:SPELLS, Colfax Speed Queen, Cheap Perfume and Simulators When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: All four bands on this bill could be considered punk but also a step or more in a different realm of music from that. Cheap Perfume is a raw yet melodic punk band that minces no words about sexism, Nazis and El Presidente Cheeto. Stephanie Antillon is an electrifying and commanding front person and that is something not common enough in music. SPELLS has a motto. Something about “80% is good enough.” And sure they live up to that on average in that sometimes you see an unhinged show because Ben Roy is a madman singer and everyone else in the band doesn’t exactly hold back even in hook-driven, pop-oriented punk (though not pop punk, per se). Other times, it’s just a fun, energetic show. Sometimes you don’t need unhinged and thus, yes, 80% is indeed good enough. Stop going for broke all the time or telling yourself you need to do that with all things in life, America. It burns you out. SPELLS teaches us by example that something can be good even if you’re not giving it your all. Colfax Speed Queen didn’t get that memo, apparently, because the psyche garage act seems to play like they’re trying to set a new bar for what that music can sound and look like on stage. Simulators is a noise-punk duo that came about, in part, from wanting to get away from the ideas and sounds of the bands Bryon Parker and Brian Polk are in and have been in. But it still reminds one of Shellac as did Parker’s old band Accordion Crimes—truly no bad thing.
Who:Kacy & Clayton w/Many Mountains and Patrick Dethlefs When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Kacy & Clayton are kind of a vocal and acoustic guitar duo and while that can be one of the most boring things in the world, Kacy & Clayton are drawing upon the great British folk-rock tradition embodied by the likes of Fairport Convention. Resonant tones, spare arrangements that feel full. The duo’s latest record is 2017’s Siren’s Song, for which it is touring in support. Opening the show is Patrick Dethlefs whose own folk music is so richly developed, mastetrfully written and emotionally powerful yet finely nuanced that when you see him you kind of assume he should be the headliner.
What:Rubedo Album Release Popup Shop and Local Music Record Store Debut When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Understudy (890 C 14th Street) Why: Rubedo’s full blown album release show for Vaca is scheduled for January 6 at The Bluebird Theater with iZCALLi, Wes Watkins and El Cro. But you can pick up the band’s latest record, a tribute to and meditation on the impact of friends and community on our lives. Over the weekend there will be a showcase celebrating the opening of a popup local record store at Understudy. Friday will celebrate the release of the record, Saturday there will be performances from Rubedo, Holophrase, Entrancer and many others. Sunday will continue live music performances with artists to be announced. For more information and more up-to-date schedules, please visit the link above or here.
Saturday: December 2, 2017
Who:Pink Hawks When: Saturday, 12.02, 11 a.m. Where: Children’s Library at Denver Public Library Central Branch Why: The sprawling afrobeat band from Denver finds a way to mix humanistic radical politics with high energy performances. And this time you’ll be able to catch the band in the Children’s Library at the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library in the morning. Yes, the content doesn’t mince words but it’s also safe for kids because Yuzo Nieto and his bandmates are brilliant that way in making accessible music with deep content designed to bring you in rather than alienate you.
Who:Alex Lahey w/Dude York and Porlolo When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Alex Lahey hails from Melbourne, Australia and over the last couple of years she’s garnered some attention for her spirited, fuzzy, pop songs. Lahey’s lyrics are tender, self-deprecating, often humorous tales of desire, angst, seemingly thwarted aspirations, and everyday struggle and misfortune. Lahey’s songs are usually upbeat but she seems to honor the downbeat emotions even as she transforms the experience into something with real fire and energy behind the delivery. Her debut full-length, 2017’s I Love You Like a Brother is brash yet sensitive and bluntly yet somehow thoughtfully honest.
Who:Rocky Mountain Low 2: United Mutation, Vile Gash, Cadaver Dog, The Pollution and Combat Force When: Saturday, 12.02, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The second edition of Rocky Mountain Low, a mini-festival put together by Reed Bruemmer of Poison Rites and Heavy Dose Records head Brian Castillo. This time it’s mostly punk and hardcore including a rare appearance from United Mutation from Washington D.C.–a band that existed in the 80s alongside the bands on the Dischord imprint of that day. U.M. had incorporated psychedelic rock sounds into its songwriting so that it still has the bite and energy of hardcore while seeming to have learned a thing or two from Chrome and Hawkwind. Similar ethos, different side of the D.C. punk scene of the 80s. Jay Fox of United Mutation has lived in Denver for several years and his more overtly psychedelic punk band The Pollution will perform as well.
Who:Jed Kopp’s Birthday Bash: Pretty Mouth and The Sleep Escape When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: Gary Lee’s Why: Jed Kopp has been lending his drumming talents to several bands in Denver over the years and his clear musical talent plus his affable nature has made him a real fixture in Denver underground music. One band he plays with these days is the alt-country/punk band Pretty Mouth whose singer Marie Litton has an otherworldly presence as a front person, giving the songs and the performances an elevated and elegant quality.
Who:Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Savage Blush, Modern Leisure and Down Time When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Must be the top notch all local bill weekend in Denver. For this show Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, formerly from Fort Collins, will bring its literate yet gritty folk rock. The Savage Blush’s deeply reverby psychedelic pop will illuminate the stage. Modern Leisure’s superbly crafted pop songs graced with Casey Banker’s insightful lyrics and ability to truly capture a moment in time and tell a story will be on display. And Down Time is an indie rock band but it will demonstrate, as it always does, how you can work with familiar sounds and tools and by being willing to experiment with all elements make something incredibly compelling and original. The band’s use of percussion in a way that is very tied to the vocals and the use of synths in the mix brightens the sound and augments all the melodies in a way you don’t often hear.
Who:The Lollygags, Hot Apostles, Jonny Barber and The Ghost-Towners When: Saturday, 12.02, 8:30 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original BBQ Englewood Why: Very mixed bill but no filler. The Lollygags is a power pop band that sounds like it’s listened to a lot of The Wedding Present and Elvis Costello. Hot Apostles is a hard rock band that sounds like its members worked all the obvious influences out of its sound. Like maybe the members were into 70s classic rock and glam rock of the 80s but ditched the gross trappings and held onto the solid songwriting and passion. The Ghost-Towners describe themselves as an outlaw country band, which could be more retro-mundane rip-off of better material but the band includes Dario Rosa formerly of Cabaret Diosa, his former Cabaret Diosa bandmate Kimmy Franco, Zack Littlefield who spent time playing with Supercollider, Greyhounds and Sonnenblume, Bobby Genser and Chuck Cuthill both of Slakjaw and Mark Aubie of The Jaguars. Not a supergroup, per se but the outlaw country claim is no idle boast because of that lineage.
Who:Blackcell with Solypsis, The Psybrid, DJ Hepster Pat When: Saturday, 12.02, 9 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: This will be a bit of a different show with Denver’s longest-running industrial/experimental electronic band Blackcell as the duo collaborates with ambient and industrial artist Solypsis. Whatever the exact nature of the set it’ll be an entrancing, enveloping sonic experience.
Sunday: December 3, 2017
Who:Chella and The Charm, Bryan McPherson and Sputnik Slovenia When: Sunday, 12.03, 5 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Two of Denver’s great storytellers will be playing this show. Michelle Caponigro of Chella and The Charm, can write a song about situations and experiences pretty much anyone can relate to but in the telling take aim at larger issues and while thoughtfully unpacking what are often complicated subjects. Anyone can write a trite song about relationships for the gendered fist bump of solidarity. Caponigro gives us something much more profound and anything but rote. Jim Yelenick will perform his more or less solo material as Sputnik Slovenia but you may remember him for being the frontman of Nuns of Brixton, Pitch Invasion and Jet Black Joy. Among others. There’s a very self-conscious and irreverent humor in his show and in many of his songs. Amid that, and because of that, there’s an unexpected sincerity that you get when a natural born smartass gets real even using irony as an element in the art.
Who:Punk For Positive Change—Benefit for Northern Colorado AIDS Project: Discount Price, Equine, Smashy Claw, Plasma Canvas, Teacup Gorilla, Sinister Pig When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m. Where: Surfside 7 Why: Obviously a benefit show for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, not so obvious is how, thank goodness, broad the sense of punk might be for this show. Kevin Richards, who is Equine, was once in experimental post-hardcore band Motheater even though his current project is more like an avant-garde guitar solo project that wends toward the realm of ambient. Teacup Gorilla is more like a post-punk-oriented glam band that doesn’t seem to be looking to any era or scene for inspiration and what’s more punk than that, really. If you mixed Weird Al with Dead Milkmen you might get something like Smashy Claw. Who knows what instruments they’ll use in the songs? Live, the band is probably more stripped down and will still probably confuse people who don’t get bands that don’t fit into a narrow genre. The irreverent, fuzz-fueled melodies of Plasma Canvas’s post-sludge-doom garage punk has more in common with Kyuss and Mudhoney than King Tuff. Not that this duo isn’t into King Tuff.
Who:Whitney w/Julie Byrne When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchel’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.
Monday: December 4, 2017
Who:Whitney w/Julie Byrne When: Monday, 12.04, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchell’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.
Who:Grizzly Bear w/serpentwithfeet When: Monday, 12.02, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Grizzly Bear’s 2017 album Painted Ruins sounds like it’s tapping into the same emotional states of fantasy, yearning, uncertainty, nostalgia and self-examination that Joe Walsh expressed in his 1978 album But Seriously, Folks… and the wistful, deeply atmospheric soundscaping conjured by Supertramp for the songs on 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments and 1979’s Breakfast in America. The melody is there, even the pretense of upbeat tempos and gestures of hope. But all are about anxiety in an age of fake plenty expressed with a sublime irony and compassion for all of us living through this moment. All those albums were written by relatively successful artists who may have fully indulged in the “good life,” to varying degrees, that music made possible for them but all of whom also saw the limitations of the hubris that commercial success and the privilege it provides engenders in many people and wrote existential songs to that effect. That’s not to say Grizzly Bear is “important” or that Painted Ruins is a masterpiece, certainly the other three records mentioned aren’t necessarily so for those respective artists, it’s just refreshing to hear a solid, thoughtful album that doesn’t give the impression that nothing’s wrong but also doesn’t try to offer shallow, pat advice.
Tuesday: December 5, 2017
Who:Overcoats w/Sarah Jaffe When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Electronic pop duo Overcoats released its debut full-length YOUNG in 2017. It has the kind of sonically rich production you would hope for from a band of its kind but where Overcoats truly distinguishes itself is in its willingness to incorporate fairly unconventional sounds and rhythms in its songs and the subject matter of the lyrics sound more like a worthwhile country or folk artist. The vulnerability and startling frankness may not be obvious amid ghostly atmospheres and lushly smooth low end pulses but if you take some time with the songs it’s striking. And who better to tour with Overcoats than Sarah Jaffe’s whose own 2017 album Bad Baby swims in bright yet melancholic synth tones and sweeping rhythms as well as thought-provoking words that unwind some of the complexity of mixed emotions everyone seems to navigate in modern life these days. Definitely for fans of St. Vincent and EMA.
Who:Supersuckers, The Bellrays, Bombpops When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Supersuckers have tried on various sounds over the course of the last thirty or so years. But initially the band was kind of a garage punk band with an irreverent and ironic sense of humor. Probably too many people took their song “I Say Fuck” too much at face value, totally missing the significance of Daniel Clowes having done the artwork to The Smoke of Hell and Clowes’ own views on the lunkheads of the world. Whatever your takeaway from the band, its shows are energetic and celebratory even after it wisely progressed away from its roots a bit and became more of a gritty country rock band in recent years. Bellrays are a soulful revolution rock band fronted by the incomparable Lisa Kekaula. For its 1998 album Let It Blast, the band wrote a song called “Blues For Godzilla” and actually lived up to the title. That image should give you some idea about the live show.
Wednesday: December 6, 2017
Who:Weird Wednesday: Sheet Metal Skingraft, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Universal Devils When: Wednesday, 12.06, 9p.m. Where: 3 Kings Why: For this edition of Weird Wednesday you get to witness the noise-driven beatmaking of Sheet Metal Skingraft, the sinister one-man band folk-metal of Universal Devils as performed by Tricky Dick Wickett of Little Fyodor and Babushka Band and Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars which answers the question “What do you get when a noisy, experimental funk band makes music that J. Dilla might have wanted to sample while making a song that sounds like a lo-fi version of J. Dilla’s more out there beats?” Very meta. Thus, Weird Wednesday delivers another night of some of the most interesting and unusual music in Denver.
Now that Trump and the Democrats have struck a bargain about the budget and DACA, maybe we can all take a break and check out a great show happening in Denver (or beyond as some of the acts listed below are on tour).
P.S.: “Goddamn-dipshit-Rodriguez-gypsy-dildo-punks. I’ll get your ass.” — RIP Harry Dean Stanton
Who:Church Fire, Giardia, Deer Creek and The Pollution When: Friday, 9.15, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: The Pollution is essentially a psychedelic punk band done by people who are punks who like Hawkwind. Bassist Jay Fox was (sometimes still is) in DC hardcore band United Mutation. But given his having spent a great deal of time in the Southern hemisphere including New Zealand, Fox’s musical tastes are eclectic and there’s plenty of that Kiwi rock influence in his music today. Meaning The Pollution could never be a standard punk act. Church Fire makes synth-beat-driven pop music with a passionate intensity worthy of any the heavier rock bands on this bill. And yet, somehow, singer Shannon Webber amidst her ritualistic performances, manages to inject just a twinge of humor—a quality welcome in music that, while immediately danceable, addresses serious social and political issues with an unblinking ferocity. Okay, maybe some blinking.
Who: Speakeasy Series: Rare Byrd$, Abeasity Jones When: Friday, 9.15, 6 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Experimental hip-hop show in a basement of a coffee shop? Not the first time but in this case you’ll get a chance to see one of the most promising acts in Denver or anywhere with Rare Byrd$. The group has incredibly soulful flow and its beatmaking combines the finely sculpted low end of 90s gangsta rap and ambient and psychedelic music in that it’s as hypnotic as it is mind-expanding. Easy to compare to cLOUDDEAD, Deep Puddle Dynamics and early Atmosphere but only in the sense that all are rooted in imaginative soundscaping and poignantly truthful poetry.
Who:Post-Punk Piano/Vocal Covers Night w/Todd Loomis of The Twilight Garden and The Siren Project When: Friday, 9.15, 8 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Todd Loomis of Goth/dark dream pop band The Twilight Garden along with like-minded Denver-based act The Siren Project will perform songs by the likes of INXS, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Switchblade Symphony, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, Morrissey, Bauhaus, Ladytron, Garbage and more. Loomis will also play some songs you wouldn’t expect by artists like Roy Orbison, Elvis, Otis Redding, John McLaughlin, Metallica and Sinead O’Connor. What makes this different from cover bands playing the usual sort of gig is that neither set of artists generally does covers and the interpretations are likely to be interesting.
Who:Blanket Empire w/Silver Face and Quantum Creep When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Blanket Empire is releasing its latest album, Hymn For the Heartless at this show. Superficially Blanket Empire sounds like its members recently ditched that wave of music miming classic rock in favor more unusual influences and embraced modern sensibilities as much as those classic. Maybe these guys listened to a lot of T. Rex, Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin for big, warping sounds. But the lo-fi charm of its album is reminiscent of Jay Reatard’s masterful blend of raw rock and roll and a sophisticated sense of melody and songwriting has been a massive influence on underground music even before his untimely passing in 2010.
Who:Vic N’ the Gnarwhals, Surf Mom and Monocle Stache When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Vic N’ The Gnarwhals do that rare thing where the music has a familiar vibe, one might dub it psychedelic surf rock for the blend of styles, and thus very tangible. But there’s a mysterious undertone to its songs suggestive of noir cinema even when its songs get a little out there. Surf Mom used to be kind of a surf rock band, sort of still is, but the band has evolved greatly since it debuted a couple of years go. How many surf rock bands cover Christian Death? But the influences with this duo are broad ranging and since its members are still in high school you have to think they’re going to outgrow what inspires them now or at least take the music in new directions.
Who:Lotus w/Com Truise and Nosaj Thing When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Lotus is basically an EDM jam band. For some people this sounds like the combination of two terrible things. And Lotus may not be for you. Lots of jazz overtones like an electro version of Galactic. But what would you expect of a jam band? Nevertheless, Lotus is respectable live band. But if you want to catch some of the more interesting electronic acts playing more mainstream venues these days, check out Nosaj Thing and Com Truise. The former is a hip-hop artist who has done production work for Kendrick Lamar, Busdriver and Chance the Rapper. His own albums, though tend to be more like ambient dance music with deep low end coursing over and under drifting, vivid melodies. On his 2013 album Home, he featured Blonde Redhead singer Kazu Makino on the song “Eclipse/Blue.” So his musical range and interests are not limited to just a single genre of music. Com Truise came to prominence in the underground through fans of analog synth-based dance music several years back. But his science fiction themed albums caught on with a wider audience not just because Seth Haley is a talented songwriter but he was able to take what could have been simply a lo-fi aesthetic best experienced in a small venue with small sound system and render it suitable for a much larger format of presentation.
Who:Stiff Little Fingers w/Death By Unga Bunga When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast, Ireland, were an anecdote in the film High Fidelity for a reason. It’s scrappy, melodic outbursts, as found on its classic, aptly titled, 1979 album Inflammable Material, found an immediate influence but its enduring impact was on the early pop punk scene in America. Although the band broke up in 1982, it reconvened in 1987 and have been actively releasing albums and touring since. Plus, if recent shows are any indication, these guys still play like the world could end tomorrow.
Who:Sonic Vomit, Condor & Jaybird (IA), Harikiri (MN) and Kwantsu Dudes When: Saturday, 9.16, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Pueblo’s Sonic Vomit probably gets broad brushed as a death metal or grindcore band. But it’s avant-garde and jazz side aren’t exactly subtle or hidden. It just makes the band’s music more unsettling and, frankly, more interesting than something straight ahead couched in a heavy metal subgenre. Which makes its pairing with Condor & Jaybird, a psychedelic band from Iowa rooted in that kind of psych that could have come out of a cult like The Source Family with folk song structure but one using non-Western instrumentation and sounds.
Who:TOPS w/She-Devils When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Superficially, TOPS is a Canadian band that makes the kind of light pop music reminiscent of the kind that did well on record charts in the mid-to-late 70s through the 80s. But the secret of many of the songs from that timeframe too is that, yes, discussed the usual everyday life struggles, but in a way that commented on the emptiness and dissatisfaction that is at the core of every society in which the best most people can hope for is a job that doesn’t suck too bad, spending the rest of one’s life with someone you get along with okay even after the rush of early love has long since passed and resign oneself to a beige reality knowing deep down it never needed to be that way. TOPS’ music sounds like the sinking realization of that sort of thing but with more than a shade of the knowledge of what could make life be more fulfilling. That aside, the band’s songs are true gems of indie pop songcraft with words that dig more than a little deeply at the quiet desperation of 21st century urban living.
Who:Micah Schnabel, Sour Boy Bitter Girl and The Swindlin’ Hearts When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: It’s difficult to say whether, at this point, Micah Schnabel is better known for his solo career or for his band Two Cow Garage. Either way, Schnabel’s take on alt-country is self-critical and he has a real gift for puncturing his own pretensions of years past and foolish notions he might entertain in the present. In that way one might compare him to comedians like Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford who are keenly aware of their own shortcomings and turn them into their best work. Sour Boy Bitter Girl couldn’t be a more well-named band considering the music. Benjamin Buttice seems to have few qualms in laying out his twitchy psyche out for the audience. Every neurosis, fear and flaw is mixed in with his honest and poetic portrayal of life as its experienced, the only filter seeming to be to make it relatable to other people. The band probably gets labeled alt-country or the like as well but like Schnabel’s, Buttice’s songwriting transcends simple genre designation. It just feels vitally authentic in a format of music tends to hold few surprises.
Who:Witchtrap (Colombia), Nekrofilth, Weaponizer and Skeid When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Colombian thrash band Witchtrap makes an appearance at the Hi-Dive. Also on the bill are death grind band Nekrofilth, black metal thrashers Weaponizer and “Barbarian black metal” band Skeid. What is that whole Barbarian business about? Listen to their 2017 split release with Morgue Whore and it makes sense because it sounds like the kind of pulsing, low-end heavy stuff Conan would listen to if he could.
Who:GGOOLLDD w/Time Scale When: Tuesday, 9.19 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Before starting GGOOLLDD with her bandmates in 2014, Margaret Butler was someone who got out of high school and got out of her home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After a stint of subsistence living in Portland, Oregon, she was invited by friends to spend some time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but it was there that things came together for Butler when she heard the right music that made he want to sing along and soon enough GGOOLLDD became a bit of a local phenomenon before taking its synth pop, crafted to cinematic proportions to stages far and wide. The band isn’t yet playing large theaters regularly but its music is written to that scale. In December the band will release its latest EP, Teeth on Roll Call Records.
Who:Widowspeak w/Death Valley Girls and Clearance When: Tuesday, 9.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death Valley Girls have done a magic trick in turning campy musical and performance elements into a powerful live band that has the kind of bombast and raw power of L7 or Bikini Kill complimented by an elegant atmospheric side that recalls Cocteau Twins. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work but it just makes DVG more interesting than any surface level assessment of the band could convey outside the live setting even though the band’s records capture some of this essence nicely. Headlining the bill is Widowspeak, a band also known to upset expectations in the best way. Its’ ethereal melodies have an introspective shimmer reminiscent of Mojave 3, The Sundays and Mazzy Star. Its latest record, 2017’s Expect the Best out on Captured Tracks, finds the band exploring a broader palette of sounds seemingly emphasizing texture and rhythm as much as tone and its signature sweeping vistas of dreamy melodies.
Who:Ride w/Lo Moon and DJ Paul Italiano When: Wednesday, 9.20, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: In June 2017, British shoegaze legends Ride released Weather Diaries, its first album in twenty-one years. This in the wake of a successful reunion tour in 2015. And like its contemporaries, Slowdive, the new record is a worthy entry in its already respectable extant catalog. The term “shoegaze” is known to have been an insult to bands operating pedals in order to execute their mindbending sounds. What is missed in such a nickname, now minus the negative connotations, is that many of those bands, Ride in particular, did more rocking than shoegazing. As several bands in the 2000s embraced the visceral sound sculpting of 90s shoegazers, the old guard has enjoyed a renaissance and to the credit of most, they came back with new musical ideas that didn’t sound like a tired second act. Those fortunate enough to have caught Ride since it’s been back got to see a band that re-established its reputation as one of the great live bands of its era. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based dream pop phenoms, Lo Moon. The band has released a few singles that hint at the kind of band that has the sophisticated songcraft and soulfulness of a band like Talk Talk and the knack for crafting evocative atmospheres that have made Perfume Genius one of the most interesting modern artists. But Lo Moon isn’t standing in anyone’s stylistic shadow and its beautifully brooding songs may yet be released on a full length album before the year is out. Get to the show early and catch one of the most promising new bands of the last several years.