Best Shows in Denver 1/9/20 – 1/15/20

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Oryx performs at Hi-Dive on January 9, 2020, photo by Alvino Salcedo

Thursday | January 9

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The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Oryx, Cthonic Deity and Zygrot
When: Thursday, 1.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: In the realm of Denver extreme metal it would be hard to find a more solid line-up this month than this. Oryx is perhaps rightfully considered a doom band but its wall of noise is a shifting, mind-altering experience that creatively uses drones and riffs to comment on the world in a way the reflects and exorcises the sense of despair at the way our economic and political system normalizes the ways in which our lives are eroded through the environment, the fake prosperity figures that hide the poverty and desperation that permeates much of society in America and elsewhere and a cultural climate that favors a cultural identity anchored to the fortunes of the world’s oligarchs. And yet it’s not a bummer, there are hopes and dreams in its grinding and harrowing aesthetic. Cthonic Deity released one of the most promising fusions of death metal and hardcore with 2019’s Reassembled in Pain. Zygrot is a crusty grindcore quartet that releases its self-titled debut in September 2019.

What: Billy the Poet, The Maykit and Chella and The Charm
When: Thursday, 1.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: The Milk Blossoms w/Turvy Organ and Midwife
When: Thursday, 1.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Friday | January 10

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Don Chicharrón, photo by Spencer Higbee

What: Don Chicharrón, Roka Hueka, TúLips, DJ Charlie Continental, Dos Luces Brewery, benefit show for Casa de Paz & Metro Denver Sanctuary
When: Friday, 1.10, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: As indicated above this is a benefit show for Casa de Paz & Metro Denver Sanctuary, organizations aiding the local immigrant populations. It features some of the the city’s best Latin music-inflected acts. Also for this show Don Chicharrón is releasing its new 7” “Valle b/w En La Gruta Del Rey De La Montaña” through Snappy Little Numbers the proceeds from the sales of which will benefit the same organizations.

What: Space in Time, The Honey Blazer Band and Star Garbage
When: Friday, 1.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Empty Caskets, Piss Poor, Moon Phase, Cagemates
When: Friday, 1.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Daikaiju w/Lost Relics, Stone Deaf and Messiahvore
When: Friday, 1.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Daikaiju is a flame wielding, Kabuki/La Lucha Libre-looking, acrobatic, surf rock/punk spectacle of the highest order.

Saturday | January 11

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I’m A Boy, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Origami Angel, Short Fictions, Flora De Luna and Obtuse
When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Origami Angel is a band from the Washington, D.C. area that is mining a similar sonic territory as bands in the past half decade or more going beyond the neo-pop punk into a hybrid of math-y emo and indie pop. So a bit retro but at least not yet another band thinking it is discovering Laurel Canyon all over again and with earnest, heartfelt performances. Obtuse is a like-minded band from Denver whose 2019 album Who’s Askin’ is a gloriously raw and incisive examination of one’s insecurities as a normal reaction to a society and economic system seemingly designed to make everyone feel like an inadequate failure. Their songs are an acknowledgment of those anxieties and an attempt to not be completely sunk by them.

What: New Ben Franklins and I’m a Boy 7” split release
When: Saturday, 1.11, 10 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Long running alt-country/American band New Ben Franklins and power pop sensations I’m A Boy are releasing their split 7” tonight at The Skylark.

What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and Today’s Paramount
When: Saturday, 1.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

What: Dressy Bessy w/Pout House, Television Generation
When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: To Be Astronauts w/Too Many Humans, Decatur and Star Garbage
When: Saturday, 1.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Sunday | January 12

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The Vanilla Milkshakes with Frank Registrato on drums circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Total 80s Live with Bow Wow Wow w/When in Rome and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Sunday, 1.12, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Bow Wow Wow is an English New Wave band assembled by then Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1980 when he convinced members of Adam Ant’s band to form a new group that was fronted by 13-year-old Annabella Lwin who McLaren had heard singing along to the radio at her laundromat job. The other singer of the band in the beginning was George O’Dowd who left the group early and became famous as Boy George of Culture Club and as a solo artist. Bow Wow Wow somehow managed to break into the mainstream with hit songs like “C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!” and a lively cover of The Strangeloves’ 1965 recording of “I Want Candy.” This current version of the band will not include Lwin who hasn’t been in this iteration of Bow Wow Wow since 2013, now performing as Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” So while it won’t be the original line-up except for bassist Leigh Gorman, you can hear those hits as well as When in Rome whose 1987/1988 single “The Promise” has been a staple of 80s synth pop playlists for decades. The Vanilla Milkshakes are a pop punk band with attitude and an offbeat sense of humor that will probably make the nostalgia seekers wonder how they got on the bill but end up liking a lot of the songs in spite of themselves.

Wednesday | January 15

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e-scapes, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Yao Guai, Lady of Sorrows and e-scapes
When: Wednesday, 1.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes ambient prog project Yao Guai, emotionally expressive darkwave solo act Lady of Sorrows and experimental synth pop composer e-scapes.

What: Miró Quarter
When: Wednesday, 1.15, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Newman Center (Denver University)

What: Ceasefire, Disowned, Barking Mad, Pontius Pilate and ASALT
When: Wednesday, 1.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Best Shows in Denver 04/18/19 – 04/24/19

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Oko Tygra releases Assistoma at the Hi-Dive on April 19. Photo by James Holden Cromwell.

Thursday | April 18

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Lady of Sorrows, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lady of Sorrows and Dead Orchids
When: Thursday, 04.18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series features Lady of Sorrows which is a combination of luminous, synth-driven post-punk and spiritual operatic vocals. It would be a misstep to compare it to Dead Can Dance or Enya or something like that but fans of either might find Lady of Sorrows interesting. Dead Orchids is on the darker end of post-punk but bluesy and gritty.

Friday | April 19

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Voight, performs Monday, January 14, at DATELINE gallery. Photo by Tom Murphy

What: OKO TYGRA Album release w/Voight and DJ Noah (of Flaural)
When: Friday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: OKO TYGRA has been through a few permutations as singer/guitarist Joshua Novak and his bandmates have explored various paths to creating a lush, expansive sound that reflected but was not limited to the sort of dream pop and post-punk that is the group’s foundational influence. With Assistoma the quartet created a fluidly dynamic set of songs that use subtle textures and drifting hazes of melody like Novak is floating in clouds of emotion and memories moving forward and commenting in typically thoughtful fashion on how so much of modern life is conditional on the seemingly tentative nature of relationships (personal, professional, social) while we yearn for something more solid with genuine connection. Although there is an ethereal quality, Novak sings with a warmth that casts his music in a different mode than a lot of the music that influenced him. Grounded in the rhythm and low end, Assistoma’s tracks seem to dance throughout the record with grace and nuance without getting bogged down in any kind of stylistic repetition while maintaining a coherent sonic aesthetic. Also on the bill is industrial post-punk duo Voight who keep threatening to do an all production set but is still always worth seeing for the sheer colossus of wiry energy and sonic intensity of its performances.

What: Shadows Tranquil, Feigning,The Machine That Stole My Family, Kid Mask, A23P
When: Friday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: On one hand, dark shoegaze and experimental guitar music with Shadows Tranquil and Feigning and out there weirdo electronic music with Kid Mask and A23P.

What: Detroit In Effect (M.A.P./Clone), Flora FM (Kalahari Oyster Cult/Vanity Press), French Kettle Station, Wild Dungeon World, Occidental, James Tao, b3b, Mr. Lin
When: Friday, 04.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Experimental dance/noise/IDM night at Rhinoceropolis.

Saturday | April 20

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In The Valley Below, photo by Jaimie Skriba

What: In The Valley Below presents: The Pink Chateau
When: Saturday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Alamo Drafthouse Sloan’s Lake
Why: In The Valley Below is doing a different kind of tour this time around with a sonically immersive live performance and the screening of its film The Pink Chateau. The latter is a sort of silent movie with musical accompaniment in which a series of vignettes involving a young woman follows a stranger into the countryside into dreamlike vignettes exploring the protagonists deep desires and the nature thereof. All inspired by, according to the promotional video on YouTube (youtube.com/watch?v=G6H-qvyf72U) “vintage French erotica and the faded colors of 1970s films.” Maybe a bit engimatic like Picnic at Hanging Rock or like a more introspective, non-vulgar Going Places. Whatever the tone or influences, the music of The Pink Chateau is, like much of the band’s music, gorgeously saturated and enveloping giving the experience the aforementioned immersive quality as the soundtrack won’t be provided by a prerecorded track but by a live band.

What: Lost Network, Never Kenezzard, Blinddryve, Wiretrap, DJ Cozmos Mudwulf, visuals Opia
When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: With Lost Network and Wiretrap this will be kind of a hybrid of industrial rock and EBM show but not the sort that is steeped in the future pop version of that. Lost Network is a bit like where Ministry should have gone after Filth Pig. Never Kenezzard is an experimental kind of sludge metal band but one more like Unsane if the people in the band were more into Frank Zappa and John Zorn.

What: Shelley Hirsch
When: Saturday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Muse
Why: Shelley Hirsch is an avant-garde vocalist and performance artist whose range and diversity doesn’t sit comfortably in any genre. She has worked with John Zorn, Ikue Mori, David Weinstein and Anthony Coleman. Her forceful and imaginative vocal exercises can be both exhilarating and forbidding, eccentric and otherworldly.

What: Space in Time, Halahierba and Keef Duster
When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s 4.20 so hey, a show with legitimately worthwhile stoner rock/sludge metal bands should happen somewhere and tonight it’s at the Hi-Dive.

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Ages and Ages, photo by Joe Bowden

What: Ages and Ages w/The Harmaleighs and Mondegreen
When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Ages and Ages has been developing its particularly engaging style of pop music since 2009. Utilizing unconventional percussion alongside a drum set and expertly orchestrated vocals and instrumentation, Ages and Ages sounds like it could have come out of the tail end of the first wave of indie pop with a sound that seems to embrace the infectious melodies of ABBA and the meticulous song craft of Harry Nilsson as well as the experimental flourishes of the Beatles. Of course the influence of The Apples in Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control are in the mix. Its 2019 album Me You They We is a beautiful blend of introspective exploration of inner space and the nature of yearning.

What: Half Hearts, Porlolo and Tammy Shine
When: Saturday, 04.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: It’s the debut of Jason Heller’s and Karen Walton’s new power pop band. Heller is a renowned science fiction author, editor and music writer but he’s also been a member of some of the greatest bands from Denver including Crestfallen, Red Cloud West and The Blue Ontario. Walton has been the drummer for beloved local punk acts like Turbo Knife Fight, Rabid Ragdolls and Naako Deesko. But her musical interests have always been far ranging and her sensibilities with those of Heller seem like a good match. You also get to see Porlolo’s witty, irreverent folk pop and Tammy Shine, the charismatic singer of Dressy Bessy, doing her more or less solo thing.

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Steel Pulse, photo by Patrick Niddrie

What: Stick Figure w/Steel Pulse, Pepper, The Movement, Iya Terra, hosted by Nick Swardson
When: Saturday, 04.20, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For better or worse, depending on your outlook on these things, there’s a reggae concert at Red Rocks on 4/20. But this one includes Steel Pulse. When the band started in 1975 in Birmingham, England, the home of other working class bands like Black Sabbath and Napalm Death, it helped to shape what reggae would sound like for decades. Its particular sound is more traditional but in a way that has evolved and embrace technology and production. Its latest album, and first in over a decade, is 2018’s Mass Manipulation.

Sunday | April 21

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Eels, photo courtesy Gus Black

What: Eels w/Inspector Cluzo
When: Sunday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Even a seemingly endless prolific and inventive songwriter like Mark Everett hits the wall. And that’s what Everett did following the touring cycle of 2014’s The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. Absolute burnout pushed the songwriter into taking a break from music after nearly thirty years of exploring a variety of emotional spaces through his songwriting. Having lost his father when he was 19, his sister to suicide in the mid-90s and his mother to lung cancer in the late 90s and a cousin in the 9/11 attacks, Everett has had more than his fair share of personal tragedy. In some ways re-living and processing that in your music gives it a depth and heaviness and an attended ambition to do justice to the subjects that isn’t always there in pop music. But carrying that weight also takes its toll on your psyche and then your life.

With 2018’s The Deconstruction, Everett takes the time to unravel the angst and burnout lays bare the need for patience and gentleness to self needed to recover when your core has fractured in the wake of the momentum of your life when that machine isn’t entirely working anymore in a way that suits real life. All the bravado, insisted enthusiasms and the pressure to be on and up all the time even as an artist who writes melancholic music will not get you over that kind of ditch in the road. It’s obvious The Deconstruction wasn’t meant to be a coherent album as in most of the rest of Everett’s career. One does not rediscover joy and reconnect to one’s creativity in a linear fashion, rather in honoring one’s frailties and soothing the endless series of existential crises that wrack the mind once you’ve bottomed out at level that didn’t seem possible when you’re a teenager or in your twenties. Or even in your thirties. What Everett is doing now is not just writing music with a sense of compassion and kindness at their root but showing how you can express at length, even with mixed results (unless you’re completely delusional life is a lot of mixed results that many overly ego driven people choose to edit out of their telling of it), that coming out of a low period can’t be accomplished through hard work alone, perhaps not at all, but in nurturing and discovering new or neglected ways of being you and creating therefrom.

What: Chris Cohen w/Jobless and American Culture
When: Sunday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Former member of Deerhoof Chris Cohen has a gift for writing songs that have a hazy, easily digestible quality that perfectly capture quiet moments in everyday life with a poetic economy and emotional sensitivity. His 2019 self-titled album sounds like it could have come from an alternative reality version of Southern California in the 1970s. Like music that would suit the later-era Philip K. Dick novels or the works of Jim Thompson. That said, the new record is like a kinder, gentler Imperial Bedroom.

Tuesday | April 23

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Com Truise at The Bluebird Theater circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Com Truise w/Jack Grace and ginla
When: Tuesday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Touring ahead of the May 17 release of his new album Persuasion System, Seth Haley’s Com Truise is making a stop in Denver and chances are you’ll get to experience that new music live before legally getting a hold of the new record. Seems as though Haley has further refined his sound with a greater degree of the separation of sound in the layers of tone and texture. Like futuristic “library music” mixed with downtempo but brightly melodious IDM, the new Com Truise stuff is musical science fiction capturing a likely future post-climate-change-crisis and post-oligarchic domination.

Wednesday | April 24

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Big Business, photo courtesy the artist

What: Big Business w/The Lycan
When: Wednesday, 04.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Beast You Are could simply be described as psychedelic sludge. But that has never really encompassed what Big Business is about. The duo came out of the 90s punk and underground rock scene in the Pacific Northwest. Jared Warren from Karp and Coady Willis from Murder City Devils—both bands that would be difficult to pigeonhole on their own. Both musicians also played as part of Melvins for nearly a decade, yet another band whose musical legacy and sound is so much more than “sludge rock” or whatever one might call a band that was a direct influence on grunge. The Beast You Are, though, is a collection of dynamic, triumphant songs with unconventional melodies and an elevated updraft of tone. Big Business has always been, if nothing else, heavy but buoyant. On The Beast You Are, Big Business experiments further in the songwriting with its use of space and pacing. There’s still the headlong rush you’d expect from the band but also an imaginative application of its palette of sound that has kept the band from being predictable, an uncommon quality in heavy music. For Big Business it is not enough to pummel with its colossal sound but to have emotional and thoughtful intentionality behind it.

Best Shows in Denver 06/28/18 – 07/04/18

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Rubedo will headline its annual summer show at The Bluebird Theater this Saturday, June 30, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | June 28, 2018

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Post Animal, photo by Tim Nagle

Who: Post Animal w/Slow Pulp and Serpentfoot
When: Thursday, 06.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Chicago’s Post Animal sounds like a power pop band that has adopted some sludge rock edginess and a lot of psychedelia to warp those edges into interesting directions. Its new album When I Think Of You In a Castle makes you wonder what would have happened had The Sweet and ELO merged because the exquisitely tuneful melodies rock with an earnestness out of step in this decade where many try and fail miserably at projecting that authenticity much less at sustaining the quality songwriting across an entire record. The changes of pace, dynamics, tone and atmosphere throughout the album also proves the band cares enough about its own art and potential listeners to not brand its career with a same-y aesthetic. Post Animal is a rock band but one that isn’t stuck in rock-ist clichés as its sonics are as transporting as they are riveting.

Who: Pretty Mouth video release w/Archipelaghost and Oxeye Daisy
When: Thursday, 06.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Pretty Mouth is debuting its video for “This Poison Loves You” at this show at Ophelia’s. The Denver-based quartet combines the drawn out pacing and dynamics of alt-country with windswept dream pop, singer Marie Litton seemingly channeling the energy of ancestral spirits to effect a an emotional catharsis throughout the performance. Joining Pretty Mouth for the occasion is avant-garde pop outfit Archipelaghost and like-minded neo-alternative rock band Oxeye Daisy, which recently released an excellent self-titled debut engineered by Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons.

Friday | June 29, 2018

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Cop CIrcles circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Froth: A Rhinoceropolis fundraiser w/Superstar & Star, Cop Circles, Lux Hearse, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Mirror Fears, Data Rainbow, French Kettle Station
When: Friday, 06.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Redline Gallery
Why: Denver DIY space Rhinoceropolis, which was closed in December 2016 in the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland, California, for supposed fire code violations, has had multiple hurdles to overcome to re-open including paying rent on the building while it couldn’t be utilized and remodeling to bring the space to code. So this event is happening to help move that along to the final phase before the re-open. The usual suspects of former Rhino inhabitants and those who made the space what it was will be performing but the night will include a special appearance from Neville Lawrence who performs as Superstar & Star, who now lives in Omaha, Nebraska and claims to be the “undisputed king of home-disco.” Watch any of his videos and that’s pretty much impossible to dispute as his VCR 80s era home video aesthetic is much more likeable than one might expect in this age when many things are overproduced and essentially unrelatable.

Who: Strange Goo feat: Pheel, Mirror Fears and PterrorFractyl
When: Friday, 06.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This is the latest edition of Strange Goo which includes some of the most forward thinking experimental electronic artists in Denver. Tonight’s show includes dream noise/industrial pop artist Mirror Fears and post-dub techno soundsculptor PterrorFractyl.

Who: Sliver w/Parking With Planets, The Swamp Rats, Bailout, Theoretic 
When: Friday, 06.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ
Why: It would be enough to go see sludge/surf punkers The Swamp Rats. But it would also be worth your time to check out grunge punks Sliver. That despite singer Chris Mercer dropping the bomb on his own band and admitting that his own take on his own band’s style of punk: “Post hardcore that came out in the early 00’s and beyond is just the poppy emo shit with a lot of screaming.” We beg to differ and declare Sliver a refreshingly emotionally raw and honest rock band with a leg in both DC hardcore and NW proto-alternative rock. Sure, Mercer doesn’t do a great job of ripping off Bad Brains and Wipers but he tries and that has to count for something.

Who: Electric Funeral Fest III Day 1
When: Friday, 06.29, 3 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern, Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: This two day festival showcases some of the underground’s best extreme music bands from Denver and elsewhere including Spirit Adrift, Eagle Twin, R.I.P., Aseethe, Amplified Heat, Forming the Void, Love Gang, Urn., Loom, Necropanther, Smokey Mirror, Twingiant, Echo Beds, Augur, Green Druid, Keef Duster and The Rare Breed. Someone also convinced Denver thrash punks Speedwolf to reunite for tonight’s line up. Kudos.

Saturday | June 30, 2018

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R A R E B Y R D $, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rubedo w/Holophrase, R A R E B Y R D $, Picture the Waves and Mace Windu
When: Saturday, 06.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: In what has become at least a semi-annual tradition, Rubedo headlines The Bluebird Theater in early summer. The Denver band, parts prog, psychedelic rock, noise rock and avant funk, has been at the forefront of one wing of the local DIY scene for years. For these events Rubedo brings together some of the more interesting bands out of the underground like experimental electro-downtempo band Holophrase and the soulful and lush hip-hop of visionaries of a utopian yet grounded, loving and compassionate future, R A R E B Y R D $.

Who: Electric Funeral Fest III Day 2
When: Saturday, 06.30, 3 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern, Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: This second day of heavy and extreme music includes sets from bands across the front range and beyond: Weedeater, Primitive Man, Zeke, Sierra, Duel, Grey Gallows, Cloud Catcher, The Munsens, Communion, Crud, Space in Time, White Dog, Vexing, Pink Fuzz, Wizzerd, Smolder & Burn, Alone and Still Valley

Who: Machinefest w/16Volt, Machinewerx and Society Burning
When: Saturday, 06.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Outdoor location in Wellington, CO
Why: Tempting to call this an event linked to the local Burning Man community and maybe ultimately it is, but in truth it’s an industrial music and sculpture performance event in the middle of nowehere (map on the event page). Coming out for the occasion is infamous/legendary industrial rock band 16 Volt.

Who: Magic Sword w/Church Fire and EVP
When: Saturday, 06.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: This show would be worth attending for Denver bands Church Fire and EVP alone because they’re both pushing forward the aesthetics of dance music and electronic pop with energetic and emotionally stirring performances. But Boise, Idaho’s Magic Sword doesn’t make it here nearly enough with their space knight stage personae and one-would-think-wack-but-never-is combination of 80s prog metal guitar and sweeping science fiction movie soundtrack synthscapes. Camp is pretty played out these days but Magic Sword has taken it to another level that makes it endearing like you’re in on the camp so it’s no longer a joke but just fun.

Sunday | July 1, 2018

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Immersion, photo by Toby Mason

Who: Immersion w/Brother Saturn
When: Sunday, 07.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Immersion is the ambient project comprised of Malka Spigel of Israeli/Belgian experimental post-punk band Minimal Compact and her husband Colin Newman who more than a few people may know as being in Wire. In the 80s their respective bands surely rubbed shoulders in the UK and the rest of Europe and in the early 90s when the duo created Immersion as a way to further explore beat-driven, non-rock music it entered a realm of sound and atmosphere that might have been associated with minimalist IDM and ambient/abstract atmospheric artists of the day like Seefeel and Future Sound of London. The group’s recent albums, including 2018’s Sleepless, have shown a willingness for more overt use of guitar to create texture and tone.

Who: Janelle Monáe w/St. Beauty
When: Sunday, 07.01, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Janelle Monáe’s new album Dirty Computer spent a decade percolating and incubating in her rich imagination. Apparently she felt as though she had to present an image safe for public consumption, as it were. The album is even more a concept album than any of her other excellent offerings over the past several years and it tells a story of personal evolution and self-acceptance in the face of a world that tries to define you and impose meaning on you especially if you’re an “entertainer” and black and a woman. The short film Monáe released in the wake of the album gives vivid life to the story with Monáe as an android named Jane 57821 struggling against a dystopian society toward a more open and compassionate future. While her music has always been sonically rich and evocative, with Dirty Computer, Monáe has pushed her art beyond previous boundaries by revisiting some of her perennial themes in creative new ways.

Who: Canyon of the Skull, Giant of the Mountain, Voideater, A Light Among Many
When: Sunday, 07.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you made it to Electric Funeral Fest III but just want one more night of the heavy, this show will more than do with deep, atmospheric doom act Canyon of the Skull from Austin alongside the more experimental, ambient metal of A Light Among Many.

Who: Nevayda Gunn (last show), Horns and Spyderland
When: Sunday, 07.01, 5 – 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: When a lot of rock bands were riding the psych bandwagon and making fairly mundane music that was essentially pop or straight ahead rock with some reverb and yelping, Nevayda Gunn were pushing boundaries of what the music could be and left us one great statement of where it was and where it could have gone with its 2016 album Glitchkraft; A Human Experience. Maybe a slightly art-pretentious title but very much worth a listen. This is their last show. Catch members in Archipelaghost.

Monday | July 2, 2018

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Dirty Few circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dirty Few 7” release w/Wyldlife, The Bad Engrish, The Born Readies, DJ Ross Taylor Murphy
When: Monday, 07.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Dirty Few is releasing its new 7” EP, Volcom Sessions out on Snappy Little Numbers (you can order the 7” here). While the band has a deserved reputation for being a rowdy party band one thing that is often overlooked is the songwriting. Somewhere between power pop and post-Reatards garage punk, Dirty Few’s fuzz pop has never sounded more focused and and tuneful. It sounds like someone in the band has been listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy but that’s no bad thing. The vocal harmonies really make the songs this time around and this new record represents the band at its current peak.

Tuesday | July 3, 2018

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Pale Sun, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Michael Rault w/Pale Sun and Bear and the Beasts
When: Tuesday, 07.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Michael Rault, though Canadian, sounds like he spent some time hanging out in Laurel Canyon in the mid-1970s—gently psychedelic pop compositions with a twinge of country rock running through them are the hallmarks of his sound. We’ve heard a lot of that sort of thing in recent years but Rault happens to be better at the songwriting end than most other people mining similar territory. Also on the bill is Denver-based shoegaze band Pale Sun whose cosmic soundscaping has some edge to its hypnotic melodies.

Wednesday | July 4, 2018

FloweringBlade_May13_2017_TomMurphy
Flowering Blade, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Spectral Voice, Superstition, Flowering Blade, Many Blessings
When: Wednesday, 07.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Meadowlark Bar
Why: Spectral Voice is a Denver-based death metal band whose instincts wend toward a more stark sound. And it’s in good company for this show with Many Blessings, the ambient/noise project of Primitive Man vocalist/guitarist Ethan McCarthy, and Aaron Miller of Cadaver Dog doing his solo noise act Flowering Blade. So, musically speaking, all the negative vibes with none of the negative consequences.

Best Shows in Denver 10/26/17 – 11/01/17

Slowdive
Slowdive, performs at the Ogden Theater on Wednesday, November 1. Photo by Ingrid Pop

 

Thursday: October 26, 2017

The Black Angels
The Black Angels, photo by Alexandra Valenti

Who: The Black Angels w/Ron Gallo
When: Thursday, 10.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: The cover of The Black Angels’ new record, Death Song, itself is a commentary on what’s going on in American culture now and its ripple effect beyond the nation’s borders. Red, white and blue in repeating, circles within larger circles, hypnotic and disorienting, an image suggesting chaos but one that also hints at the possibility of a return to some semblance of coherence and peace. The image, designed by guitarist Christian Bland, is part graphic design style and part minimalist art, much like his work on previous Black Angels albums, but one that suggests movement and confused stasis.

The album’s music bears out those qualities with some of the group’s heaviest and most politically pointed, but never preachy, material to date. The Black Angels were one of the bands that pre-dated the relatively recent wave of psychedelic rock having begun life in 2004 and its own career helped to influence and shape the sound of modern psych with its own music and direct advocacy through Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and The Reverberation Appreciaion Society. While one of the bigger acts out of psychedelic rock today, The Black Angels and other psych acts make the kind of music that resists full commercial co-optation.

As a live act The Black Angels has always been one that integrates the visual presentation of the music with the sounds so that the experience of the show is one that reflects the experience intended with the creation of the music. This time out the urgency, the heaviness, the fear, anxiety and the catharsis that we all hope comes about on the other end of the current national and international nightmare unfolding as we speak.

Who: Me Me Monster, Gort Vs. Goom and Television Generation
When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Your Mom’s House
Why: Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums duo who perform a kind of eccentric punk and jazz hybrid that may remind some listeners of Primus but it’s weirdness has as much to do with one of that band’s influences, The Residents, as with any post-Mr. Bungle art rock band. GvG (for MMO nerds even if not fully intentional on the part of the band) also often perform in costume or some sort of get-up. And Me Me Monster and its commitment to theater and spectacle is a good fit but its own warped hard rock sounds like what might happen if Neil Young got into making psychedelic prog but went through a weirdo jazz phase teaming up with Robin Trower. Television Generation isn’t overtly weird. It’s brand of fuzzy punk, psychedelic garage rock and pop bears some comparison to Love Battery but there is even more of a sardonic sense of humor informing its songwriting and presentation.

Who: Perry Weissman 3, Roger Green and Andy Monley
When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Perry Weissman 3 is a long-running avant-garde jazz and rock band that was perhaps most active in the 90s and earl 2000s. Roger Green is the genius guitarist and avant-garde composer who may be best known for his stint in local slowcore band The Czars, which included experimental pop songwriter John Grant. And hey, while we’re talking about former members of The Czars, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist, Andy Monley, is on this bill as well. Monley, however, has plenty of respectable music outside The Czars including his still going tenure with alternative rock band/country punk weirdos, Jux County and his exquisitely written and thoughtful solo material.

Who: Jerkagram, The Uglys, Chromadrift, Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh
When: Thursday, 10.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café)
Why: Jerkagram from Los Angeles is one of those bands that didn’t really fit in a single genre of music so its styles can be all over the place and all at once. But loosely more on the heavier and math-y end of things. In some ways the band is reminiscent of former Denver art rock weirdoes Action Friend who now live and play in L.A.. The Uglys get dubbed this and that and probably haven’t fully decided what they are themselves. How a band can remind you of both Mudhoney, At the Drive-In and Fu Manchu all at once I don’t know but that’s The Uglys for you. Some screamy stoner rock, if you will. Chromadrift? As in Drew Miller? The IDM/ambient artist whose music is so ethereally beautiful it immediately transports you to a better place? Indeed. Filling out the bill are Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh, progressive metal bands from Georgia.

Friday: October 27, 2017

Brotherhood Of Machines
Brotherhood Of Machines, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Brujeria w/Powerflo and Piñata Protest
When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Brujeria is almost pure schtick as a North Mexico drug cartel/national liberation group/band. Death metal, grindcore, unabashed takedowns of questionable politicians like Donald Trump (pre/post-presidency) and lots of cartoonishly dark humor. But the music to some extent transcends the joke because the musicians are members of other well-known heavy acts like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cradle of Filth, Criminal and others. Opening act Piñata Protest is a highly entertaining hybrid of ska punk and Norteño.

Who: Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code
When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Chelsea Wolfe has spent her career writing in a variety of musical styles but all of it has been a vehicle for her stark rendering of emotional turmoil and channeling that into challenging yet entrancing works of art. Wolfe’s last few records have brought forth in explicable form the subconscious ghosts that have long haunted the songwriter. Her latest, 2017’s Hiss Spun, is the heaviest set of songs Wolfe has yet released. Heavy but also heady and sonically expansive. If some of Wolfe’s previous records could feel and sound claustrophobic as a reflection of an insular creative vision, Hiss Spun is that vision opened up and shared more fully with anyone who might want to share in that experience as someone well-acquainted with personal demons and/or as someone that appreciates an authentic emotional experience so intensely realized.

Youth Code while a different animal musically, is a great fit for this tour because Sarah Taylor’s own unrelenting emotional intensity on stage is something to witness. The band’s dark, industrial bursts of tones and rhythm have evolved considerably since its earliest recordings and 2016’s Commitment to Complications revealed a band that is more than a thrilling jackhammer of aggressive music. There is a moody underbelly and a catharsis of internalized melancholy alongside the desperation you’d expect.

Who: Church Fire and Motion Trap
When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Shirt Brewery
Why: It could be argued that both of the bands on the bill are electronic dance bands of the highest order because they are. Motion Trap, though, is tends toward bright tones and more keyed into the kind of aesthetic for dance clubs because it is very upbeat. But its music is way too steeped in strong pop songwriting to fully fit in that world. One of the few bands it does seem to fit in with is Church Fire whose dark undertones, politically-charged, noisy synth pop is one of the most exciting bands in Denver or anywhere right now. It’s own unabashed embrace of hip-hop beat production and industrial and dance music isn’t necessarily obvious. This will be an outdoor show starting at 8 p.m. so bring warm clothing.

Who: Mux Mool, atruc, RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines 
When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: Kind of a more leftfield live dance music/hip-hop night with progressive beat maker Mux Mool, alternative hip-hop duo Curta playing as atruc, electro-guitar-based ambient solo act RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines. The latter’s combination of ambient, IDM and dubtechno-flavored beats is always very different from many of the acts in whose company he finds himself. The 2016 album III Pillars was a triptych of hypnotic noise and textured atmospheres that established a sense of place. Except that place wasn’t in normal reality.

Who: Rot Congress Night 1: Loanword, Boat Drinks, Jobless, The Far Stairs, Fake Awake
When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Hot Congress, the long-running indie rock collective, has been hosting this Halloween-themed event for years with some of the best bands out of that corner of the Denver music scene. This first night includes ambient project Loanword is on tap as is lo-fi band Jobless and former Hindershot keyboardist Jesse Livingston’s experimental synth pop band The Far Stairs.

Saturday: October 28, 2017

Cults
Cults, photo by Shawn Brackbill

Who: Cults w/Cullen Omori and Hideout
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Cults made a bit of a splash with its debut EP and “Go Outside” single in 2010. Its evocation of upbeat, breezy 60s pop mixed with a sense of the otherworldly. Like an alternative history science fiction story born out of heartbreak, personal trauma or simply plain wanting to recast a drab and depressing present with something more romantic and meaningful without the cheese factor that often accompanies such impulses and creative work that comes out of them. Cults latest record, 2017’s Offering, finds the band maintaining that Julee Cruise-esque, dreamlike, nostalgic tone but this time with a broader palette of sounds and rhythms. Where some of the earlier music sounded like it was tapping into some of Phil Spector’s Gold Star Studios years’ vibe, Offering sounds more present and immediate. Opener Cullen Omori was once a member of up-and-coming pop/rock band Smith Westerns. When that band split in 2014, Omori continued writing and performing under his own name. The music wasn’t radically different but the tone seemed to shift. Smith Westerns was very rooted in 70s rock. Omori’s solo output is more reminiscent of a modern version of a New Wave band with a gently psychedelic overtone. More synth, more lush sounds overall. His 2016 album, New Misery, sounded like an artist who wasn’t creatively cutting all ties with his old band so much as reinventing it and, um, culling the elements that didn’t work for him the first time around.

Who: TR/ST
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Robert Alfons doesn’t yet have a new record out but TR/ST released a new single, “Bicep,” over the summer. The new track sounds like Alfons is wending more in the direction of EBM than the synth/dance pop of his first two records. TR/ST was one of the few bands that Goth DJs in Denver would play out of the wave of dark electro music that has been very much part of the indie underground since the second half of the 2000s. No, it didn’t sound like Depeche Mode or even Erasure but Alfons’ songs were as dark and moody as anything the former has ever released and as celebratory yet thoughtful as the latter’s best material. When TR/ST recently played Denver it was a well-attended show at The Bluebird so here’s a chance to see the project at a much smaller venue.

Who: Rot Congress Night 2: Kissing Party, Bleak Plaza, Quantum Creep, Voight (as The Cure), Wrinkle (as Guided By Voices), Last of the Easy Riders and Wild Flowers (Fleetwood Mac)
When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: See above re: Hot Congress’ annual Halloween show. Excellent indie pop bands Kissing Party, Bleak Plaza and Quantum Creep will perform. Industrial post-punkers Voight will perform a set of songs by The Cure for the first and last time. Lo-fi emo greats Wrinkle will do a Guided By Voices set.

Who: Mehvana (as Nirvana), Denver Meatpacking Company (as Hüsker Dü) and Lawsuit Models (as Jimmy Eat World)
When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Bands performing covers sets for Halloween isn’t the most original thing in the world but all the bands on the bill for this show are at least trying out something different with grunge-esque band Denver Meatpacking Company doing a set of Hüsker Dü songs probably focusing on the middle era. It’s not a huge leap for pop punk band Lawsuit Models to a Jimmy Eat World set but putting yourself in someone else’s creative head space even if you’re influenced by their work takes some effort when you’re not some session musician or someone that generally plays in cover bands.

Who: Sharone & The Wind (“Night of Terror”) w/Black July, 21 Taras and Married a Dead Man
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que
Why: It’s a Halloween show that Sharone & The Wind is advertizing as their “Night of Terror” so expect some theatrical shenanigans from the Denver hard rock band. In recent months the band has reinvented itself in a direction more like a cross between a proto-death rock band and a blues-inflected emo group. Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does. Married a Dead Man is a Goth/death rock band that came out of people who played in the punk and hardcore scene beforehand. Sonically, sort of reminiscent of Sunshine Blind but rougher around the edges at the moment—you know, that ethereal synth with some metallic guitar with a female vocalist who sounds like she is no stranger to belting it a little.

Who: Bob Log III w/Colfax Speed Queen
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bob Log III used to freak people out as the confrontational frontman of Doo Rag. The Crash Worship crowds for whom the duo played probably got it but the Lollapalooza crowd probably wasn’t used to seeing weirdo blues quite that raw and primal. As a solo artist, Bob Log III has only pushed the theatrical side of his act further with strange costumes like a carnie, blues punk Dex Romweber. Denver’s Colfax Speed Queen won’t be quite as stripped down but it’s own psychedelic garage rock is surprisingly forceful and disorienting in its own way.

Who: Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System w/Gracie Bassie, TNERTLE (solo) 
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the architects of modern music as we know it. As the producer at the now defunct Black Ark in Jamaica, Perry was one of the pioneers of dub, which is a radical remixing and reproduction of existing music and represents one of the earliest forms of electronic music and a creative use of an early version of sampling. Directly or indirectly, as an engineer, producer or musician, Perry shaped the sound of much of reggae music and through that of punk, hip-hop and electronic music from the 70s forward. In recent years, Perry has collaborated with house/experimental electronic band The Orb on original material. His live show is a masterful delivery of his imaginative soundscaping and hypnotic rhythms.

Sunday: October 29, 2017

Curta
Curta, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ministry w/Death Grips
When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Ministry somehow made the crossover from synth pop (With Sympathy) to EBM (Twitch and to some extent The Land of Rape and Honey) to industrial rock (by the time of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste) in the course of seven years. It’s a remarkable transformation and at each stage Ministry was one of the very best bands in those respective genres. Since then Ministry’s newer material has been on the heavier end of music though arguably more difficult to neatly classify. The current touring incarnation of Ministry is focusing on material post-1988. If you’ve been switched off for 30 years and are expecting tracks from the EBM era and would be disappointed not to see it live, don’t go. But if you appreciate Al Jourgensen’s mutant heavy music from The Mind forward, it’ll be a worthy selection of material. Death Grips is an industrial hip-hop band with a charismatic frontman in MC Ride and one of modern popular music’s greatest drummers in Zach Hill. Even if you’re not into hip-hop for some reason Death Grips is really more of an experimental band that doesn’t really bother with splitting hairs between the aesthetics of hip-hop, noise, industrial music or whatever its own style might be that comes out of that.

Who: Haunted Sound Laboratory, Unbridled Sonic Anarchy, Chris Sessions, Jonathan Cash
When: Sunday, 10.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Textures is an ambient showcase that happens at Mutiny the final Sunday of every month. This time, host Wesley Davis’ own Unbridled Sonic Anarchy will be performing alongside Jonathan Cash who some may know more for his noise project Break Dancing Ronald Reagan.

Who: Vanilla Milkshakes, Denver Meatpacking Company and Uncle Bad Touch
When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This is another Halloween-themed show and apparently grunge/punk band Vanilla Milkshakes will treat those in attendance with its take on The Ramones and DMC will reprise its Hüsker Dü cover set from the night before.

Who: 2Mex, Onry Ozzborn, Early Adopted and Curta
When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: 2Mex may not be a household name but in the alternative hip-hop scene of the 1990s (and now for that matter) he has long been a star. His witty and imaginative wordplay was honed at the open mic nights at Good Life Café in South Central Los Angeles and he has been willing to couch it in beats that reflect popular music of the time. More importantly his raps criticize his own music culture, American culture in general and himself with humorously poetic sensibility. Onry Ozzborn is a respected alternative hip-hop artist in his own right whose music seems to favor darker tones and downtempo beats. As a member of Grayskul and Dark Time Sunshine Ozzborn’s gritty stories were reminiscent of Aesop Rock’s literary output, and of course the two rappers have collaborated. Opening act, Denver’s Curta, incorporates a more industrial and psychedelic/experimental electronic flavor into its beats. Apparently this will be the last show with founding keyboardist/guitarist Brent Larsen, aka 4Digit who is moving out of town.

Who: Governor Mortimer Leech (Widow’s Bane) undead and unplugged
When: Sunday, 10.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Widow’s Bane is the undead pirate band from Boulder. They do interviews in character and perform in character. Is it “character”? Anyway, Governor Mortimer Leech will be performing a rare acoustic show early at Ophelia’s and it’s free.

Monday: October 30, 2017

Ghoulfriend
Ghoulfriend, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cobalt, Worry and Fathers
When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Greeley-based black metal band Cobalt didn’t play much in the first decade or so of its existence and nevertheless garnered a bit of an international following. Founding member Phil McSorley left the project in 2014 but Erik Wunder (who also plays in one of Jarboe’s bands) and Charlie Fell (formerly of Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium and Abigail Williams) have kept the band going and completed its best album to day, 2016’s Slow Forever. The band’s previous records were boundary pushing in what can be an insular musical style and Slow Forever‘s expansive dynamism sacrificing none of the bleakness and brutality was something of a new chapter for the band. Colorado Springs-based deathgrind band Worry and Denver’s heavy band super group (with members of Native Daughters, Cult of the Lost Cause and Lords of Fuzz) round out the bill.

Who: Ghoulfriend, Corner Girls, Page 27, art by Katherine Louise, Jesse Nickell and poetry by Kelsey Carolyn Bowe
When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ghouloween 2017 will be held in the basement of Syntax for extra spookiness. It’ll be a night of art, music and poetry. Chances are you won’t see the bands on the same bill again any time soon. Ghoulfriend is weirdo guitar project of Trey Tafoya of Ancient Elk and déCollage. Some bands play psychedelic rock, Ghoulfriend takes the concept of using guitar to expand sound palettes to a higher and more original level while still making it accessible. Page 27 is one of Denver’s, and the world’s, longest-running noise bands. Now, P27’s soundscape has included harsh noise and sometimes still does but it’s more like a hypnotic, modulated drone that pulls in sounds that one does not often associate with the genre called drone. Corner Girls is an excellent surf rock/punk band whose lyrics are often enough an irreverent take-down of patriarchal cultural features that should have been weeded out of our collective unconscious decades ago but somehow still linger and affect people’s everyday lives. Addressing it with music is simply a peaceful and creative way to discuss the issues.

Tuesday: October 31, 2017

Alvvays
Alvvays, photo by Ardin Wray

Who: Alvvays w/Jay Som bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/337225
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Alvvays’ self-deprecating pop songs could be glum but Molly Rankin and company seem to realize that wallowing in despair rather than finding the humor in life’s downstrokes is more boring than transforming those moments of intense emotions into something creative. The Toronto band’s promising 2014 debut sounded like a band fully formed and tapping a bit into the pop music that came out of the C86 era in its sophisticated simplicity and unabashed embrace of bright and breezy, catchy melodies. The 2017 album, Antisocialites is highlighted with neon-sounding synths like someone in the band has started listening more closely to Missing Persons including the flourishes of tastefully intricate micro guitar solos. The subtle details make it a consistently rewarding listen. Along for this leg of the Alvvays tour is Jay Som whose lo-fi anthems about identity, self-discovery, self-definition and personal liberation seem very relevant in a time when the boorish, hateful and oppressive side of modern American culture has reared its ugly head in a big way. 2017’s Everybody Works is a bracing antidote to all of that even if it may sound like a gentle indie rock record to many.

Who: Itchy-O w/Altas
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: For the uninitiated, Itchy-O is a roughly 32 member avant-garde music performance troupe that plays its shows entirely in costume like mariachi mystics. The band has a full drum corps and other percussion, a taiko section, bass, guitar, synths, processed vocals and other noises and “dancers” that creep about the crowd during the show. It’s a real spectacle and really unlike other bands in every way. That it can release albums that could be worthy of the live show seems implausible but the band recently released its second full-length album, From the Overflowing, on Alternative Tentacles. The records are no replacement for the experience of the band but fascinating listening nevertheless. Instrumental rock band Altas opens the show with its dynamic, cinematic compositions.

Who: Space In Time, Keef Duster, Colfax Speed Queen and Wild Call
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Space in Time is a hard rock band whose sound harkens to a time when early metal and psychedelic rock were not at all far apart. Obvious touchstones for Space in Time would be Deep Purple, Captain Beyond (which included ex-members of Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly) and Uriah Heep with both bands’ gift for writing melodic heavy rock with a fluidly trippy groove. Keef Duster’s music draws on similar inspirations but wends more toward the doom end of the heavy spectrum. Fronted by Kim Phat, who some may know from garage rock punks Dirty Few, Keef Duster is more than a clever name even though it recently released a song called “Hash Hive.” The latter was mixed and produced by Matt Loui of psychedelic garage rock band Colfax Speed Queen, also on the bill.

Who: Captured! By Robots w/908, Bewitcher and Night of the Living Shred
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Captured! By Robots at this point is a great metal band, bordering on death metal and industrial. Most of the band is comprised of robots constructed by JBOT but a lot of the kitsch factor of the earlier part of the project’s life are gone and the performance is much more focused on doing something that isn’t a complete gimmick. Internationally known deathgrind band 908, from Colorado Springs, shares the bill as does skate thrash band Night of the Living Shred. So basically Bryan Ostrow will be doing throat destroying vocals for two bands this night because he’s the Nivek Ogre of extreme metal.

Who: Bronze, Terminals, Master Ferocious, The Pollution and The Stunning Cuntz
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Three of the handful of good sludge metal bands from Denver at Mutiny? We’ll have to assume some books will fall off shelves at some point. Bronze is named in reference to Mad Max and its heavy music is more tied to bands from the 70s and early 80s with strong songwriting and good vocals rather than the 90s and 2000s stoner rock bands it may sound like. When there seemed to be way too many stoner rock bands in Denver from roughly 2000-2010, Bronze stood out. Members of Master Ferocious came out of some of the better bands of that era too like The Angry Hand of God. Out of the latter, guitarist Mark Pilloud and bassist Brian Kennedy were involved in the founding of Master Ferocious in 2014 and the newer band still seems to write dystopian songs about the present with guitar work that demonstrates an interesting co-influence from, of course, Black Sabbath and late 70s Judas Priest.

Wednesday: November 1, 2017

Slowdive
Slowdive, photo by Ingrid Pop

Who: Slowdive w/Cherry Glazerr
When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Of all the shoegaze bands of the late 80s and early 90s, Slowdive was an early adopter of an ambient and electronic music aesthetic. When the group started as a kind of indie pop band called Pumpkin Fairies, its songwriting, inspired in part by atmospheric post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees (the song of whom the fledgling band borrowed its then new name), The Cure and Cocteau Twins. For the 1991 debut full-length, Just For A Day, the ethereal vocals that one now associates with the shoegaze genre was very much in place and so were the expansive, towering guitar drones that the band had developed on its previous EPs.

By the time of the 1993 follow-up, Souvlaki, Slowdive was working with ambient music godfather Brian Eno and had all but abandoned conventional rhythm structure in favor of more organic rhythms giving songs like “Sing” and “Souvlaki Space Station” a quality that melds the tone and the atmosphere into what might later be described as a beat-driven approach to the songwriting. Those musical instincts reached their peak with Slowdive on what might have been its final, and in some ways most daring and interesting album, 1995’s Pygmalion. The latter came out at a time when the alternative music world had long gone down the rockist path with a set of songs based in what seemed like a sonic recreation of pure emotion cast in minimalist textures. It was like a post-rock album seemingly inspired by and synthesizing IDM, abstract dub and ambient house music. The innovative record lost the band their label contract with Creation records and the members of Slowdive went on to other musical concerns over the years including Mojave 3, Monster Movie and The Sight Below.

Perhaps inevitably, Slowdive reunited in 2014 but under its own terms and with the aim of recreating its heart and imagination-stirring music authentically. And its subsequent tours have borne that goal out. Making no promises until the possibility was a bit of a concrete reality, the band didn’t announce new material until Spring 2016. The forthcoming self-titled album, released in May 2017, was not a rehash of the band’s past. It was not an attempt to outdo the sheer experimentalism of Pygmalion. Rather, it was a strong set of songs worthy of all of its earlier music. The music doesn’t feel like nostalgia, it feels like the band knew it had to do something that wouldn’t reject the past but also not be yoked to expectations of any lack of artistic growth on the part of the musicians over the previous twenty-two years. So if you go to the show, and you should if you’re a fan of highly emotionally stimulating music that is an unexpectedly visceral experience, no need to dread any newer, inferior material because the most recent Slowdive songs are far from subpar.

Who: Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Ice Troll, Dear Rabbit and Open to the Hound
When: Wednesday, 11.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This might be the deluxe edition of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday series for the first half of the month. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is “Electronica Glam Rock” that includes contributions from Never Kenezzard’s Ryan Peru. Ice Troll is a sort of doom rock orchestra. Dear Rabbit is lo-fi avant-garde folk. Open to the Hound is what might happen if Lloyd Cole formed a band that took some cues from The The and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s just that weird but grounded in classic songwriting sensibilities.

Who: Chicano Batman w/Khruangbin and The Shacks
When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: To say Chicano Batman is sort of a psychedelic soul band doesn’t quite do it justice because its music comes out of tropicalia, old timey rock and roll and funk without sounding like it’s trying too hard to please everyone. Live, the group presents a unified visual image with matching outfits as one might expect from 60s and 70s Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters and Sunny & The Sunglows. Early on championed by the late, great, Ikey Owens, Chicano Batman got a leg up reaching a wider audience through a 2015 tour with Jack White, with whom Owens had been playing before his untimely death in October 2014. The group’s 2017 album, Freedom is Free, is a bracing antidote to the climate of chaos, desperation and despair that many people have been experiencing with the Trump administration by offering an alternative vision for a better America and a world.

Houston’s Khruangbin is a Thai surf-funk-soul band so it and Chicano Batman are a perfect compliment to one another as Kruangbin’s music isn’t grounded in the same influences even if the music it’s music is also not inspired by music from just one place and one time. Inspired initially by Thai funk cassettes from the 60s and 70s, Khruangbin has found fuel for its creativity in the music that influenced those bands and the music that resulted from those roots that manifested in various ways. Dub, Afrobeat, reggae and hip-hop, among others.

Best Shows in Denver 10/5/17 – 10/11/17

Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag, photo by Marie Lin

 

October has long traditionally been the busiest month for shows coming to Denver and keeping up with them much less catching everything you’d like to witness is challenging even if money and time aren’t big considerations. Here are not even close to all the cool concerts in the Mile High City and the surrounding area through October 11, 2017.

Who: Tennyson w/Photay
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tennyson is a duo from Canada that seems to have found a way to fully synthesize jazz, IDM, pop and dub techno into lush pop songs that get under your skin and into your psyche. Difficult to compare them to anyone other than maybe artists on the Ghostly International imprint because so many of them are breaking conventions in general as well. If Lusine, Thundercat and Boards of Canada collaborated on a pop album it might sound like Tennyson but Tennyson’s beautiful, finely crafted compositions don’t feel like a real nod to anyone else, a true rarity in modern music. Its new EP, Uh Oh!, is a perfect introduction to what this brother and sister project has to offer.

Who: 1865668232 (Ithaca), Distance Research, Sunk Cost, Matt Struck, Hypnotic Turtle simulcast
When: Thursday, 10.05, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark
Why: Musical Mayhem is a bi-weekly event at The Skylark Lounge hosted by Claudia Woodman who also does Weird Wednesdays at 3 Kings Tavern.This week it’s noise and ambient night with harsh noise sculptor extraordinaire, Jonathan Cash, performing as Sunk Cost. Distance Research is the analog/modular synth project of sound and visual artist Sean Faling. The guy has more synths at his place than anyone but maybe Gabriel Temeyosa of Kuxaan-Sum and he crafts his sets around various arrangements of gear meaning every show is a little different but always excellent. 1865668232 is based out of Ithaca, New York and traveling with a show in Denver of sound collage atmospheres.

Who: Glacial Tomb, Nightwraith, Space in Time, Urn
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sort of a doom and stoner rock/psychedelic metal night at the Hi-Dive with Glacial Tomb which includes members of Khemmis and Cult of the Lost Cause. Urn is basically a new version of the great Denver sludge psych band Skully Mammoth. Nightwraith is a melodic doom band whose recent self-titled EP is ripe with crunchy riffing and post-hardcore-esque black metal vocals. Space in Time is what happens when talented musicians from punk, country and pop bands update trippy heavy rock from the 70s like Captain Beyond and Uriah Heep.

Who: Palehound w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Ellen Kempner somehow takes the kind of folk-inflected, confessional indie rock song and injects it with new life through a compelling and moving vulnerability and poetic honesty. In some ways her music is reminiscent of a modern day Melanie—well crafted yet raw songwriting. The 2017 album, A Place I’ll Always Go, has more of a full band sound and filled out with more electronic soundscapes but without losing any of the sense Kempner’s revealing her deepest loves, fears and wishes.

Who: Ghost Tapes album release of Mad Props w/Fed Rez, Sur Ellz and DJ Soulrane
When: Friday, 10.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ghost Tapes if finally releasing its debut album, Mad Props. The quintet’s sound is somewhere between soul and smooth jazz minus any cheese factor. Rather, its music is the sort of thing you might expect to hear if you stopped in to some hip coffee shop off the Pacific Coast Highway and caught the house band doing its music and poetry residency outside its usual gig of touring the country in a successful indie rock band. Perhaps that’s a tortured metaphor but there is something intimate and beautiful about a Ghost Tapes performance that will fit in well with Syntax Physic Opera. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s best experimental hip-hop projects: the more jazz-inflected Fed Rez and the lushly loop/beat driven Sur Ellz.

Who: Sympathy F and JL Universe
When: Friday, 10.06, 8 p.m.
Where: The Walnut Room
Why: Sympathy F is one of the longest running bands in Denver. It would be too facile to say the band is merely dream pop because it incorporates singer Elizabeth Rose’s jazz chops honed in her solo side project and the other players make rock music with the fluid dynamics of a improv jazz band with a dreamlike quality that draws you into the group’s storytelling. Really, Sympathy F’s music recreates the feel of Denver pre-LoDo when there was a shadowy, gritty and haunting yet comfortable vibe to a place where while there was potential danger around every corner there was also a sense of wide openness and untapped possibility. The band’s next album, its third in 26 years, is due out later this year.

Who: Sheer Mag w/Tenement and American Culture
When: Saturday, 10.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: One of the most anticipated punk tours of recent years not being undertaken by an established name includes two of the genre’s most acclaimed acts, Sheer Mag and Tenement. Sheer Mag might be compared to the Minutemen for current punk not because the bands sound anything alike. But because both had/have musicians with chops who aren’t afraid to let that show in the songwriting out of some misguided adherence to standard punk aesthetics. Both also were unabashed admirers of older music many of their peers think/thought wack. Vocalist Tina Halladay sounds like Janis Joplin fronting a garage rpunk band that listened to a lot of James Gang and The Allman Brothers. Should be completely dumb but it really works and the live band is a force to be reckoned with. Tenement sounds like a snotty power pop band with a raw melodic sense reminiscent of maybe Teenage Fanclub or pre-1983 The Replacements. Local openers American Culture should be as known as the other bands on the bill on a national scale but its own rawly melodic and glittery take on punk might be too big a leap for some to accept in the same realm of music. But its own impassioned performances speak otherwise and the lyrics about being an eternal outsider in a world of fake sophistication and a yearning for authentic choices for living a life worth living are clearly the stuff of which great punk songs are made.

Who: Ought w/US Weekly and Male Blonding
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Ought’s noisy, Fall-esque, whorling melodies reminiscent of Television driven by steady, hypnotic rhythms set it apart from a lot of other post-punk bands of the current decade. Was it aware that Protomartyr had got off the ground in Detroit three years before its own formation? That Women had developed its Wire-esque, spiky yet deeply atmospheric aesthetic before that? Hardly matters as Ought sounds like neither band but there is a strong resonance between the music of all those bands. With Ought there is also a sense of urgency to its music and an ability to draw you into its gritty, dreamlike compositions before you know you’re under their spell. Austin-based no-wave/post-hardcore/noise rock band US Weekly may be difficult to track down using conventional search engine methods but it’ll be worth it. Because these guys are a bit like Flipper on fast mode. Denver’s Male Blonding garnered some influence from Canadian post-punk of the 2000s but its rhythm section takes the music into a different realm of sound. Coupled with the group’s imaginative dual guitar work and Noah Simons’ commanding vocals, Male Blonding is simply carving its own path and not easily planted in the realms of post-punk or indie rock.

Who: Big Thief w/Little Wings and Mega Bog
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Big Thief’s new record, Capacity, is a pleasant and thoughtful enough listen. But Adrianne Lenker’s tender vocal delivery is what makes the songs because even if she’s conventionally melodic she brings a sense of melancholic yearning that’s pretty compelling. Definitely for fans of Jenny Lewis solo or during her tenure with Rilo Kiley. Mega Bog has been one of America’s best kept musical secrets for too long. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mega Bog now resides in New York City where it now doubt rubbed shoulders with Big Thief. Singer/songwriter Erin Birgy and her bandmates aren’t really working in a genre unless you count “good drum.” Its latest record, Happy Together, is an eclectic affair that will remind some people of Laurie Anderson (especially “London” to Anderson’s “Blue Lagoon”). It’s part jazz and part seemingly lifting otherworldly atmospherics from Birgy’s dreams.

Who: Worriers, Thin Lips, Cheap Perfume, Lawsuit Models
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Moon Room
Why: Worriers are the bouncy, melodic punk band of former The Measure (SA) guitarist and singer Lauren Denitzio. The band’s 2015 album, Imaginary Life, produced by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, is a charming mixture of irreverent self-examination cataloging life’s downbeats, playfully pointed social commentary and genuinely clever wordplay. Cheap Perfume shares Denitzio’s sense of humor, politics and energy and earlier this year the band debuted the video for a song called “It’s Okay (To Punch Nazis).” And given Richard Spencer’s recent turn with a ten minute or so protest revisiting Charlottesville it’s difficult for any normal person to disagree with the sentiment even if you’re not inclined to act on the song literally.

Who: Touché Amoré w/Single Mothers, Gouge Away, Muscle Beach
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Moon Room
Why: Touché Amoré may have kind of a silly name but its melodic post-hardcore while still heavy hitting has a kind of uplifting quality at times that has more in common with late 90s emo. But it’s all part of the same punk world so of course several bands have overlapping musical interests, Touché Amoré just integrated it all as well as expansive, shimmering atmospheric passages that sound like post-rock angels hovering at the edges of its core songs. And it’s kind of a big deal for 2000s post-hardcore fans that London, Ontario post-hardcore legends Single Mothers are playing in Denver. No downside on the bill including Denver’s own Muscle Beach who have found a truly sweet spot between metallic post-hardcore and fluid noise rock.

Who: Haujobb w/Blackcell and DJ Niq V
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Haujobb came about at time when there was a great deal of overlap between underground electronic music genres with Meat Beat Manifesto synthesizing EBM, techno and early drum and bass, The Orb creating dance music too weird for most dance clubs, Rabbit in the Moon embodying trance and house and indulging creative breakbeats. Haujobb’s own music was more grounded in EBM and industrial and darker than most of the music that would provide the soundtracks to raves and night-long parties in Ibiza even though its methods of creation wasn’t so far apart from the “electronic” acts who were its peers. Blackcell is one of Denver’s longest running bands in general and certainly out of the electronic and industrial music world going back to its origins in the early 90s when the project was more in the vein of noise with tape collages and samples alongside its synthesizer experiments. These days the duo uses mostly hardware synths, sequencers, drum machines and samplers to craft its richly layered, entrancing soundscapes.

 

Who: The Church w/The Heliosequence
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Many rock bands get stuck in a perpetual revisiting of teenage themes, hedonism and concerns bespeaking of a state of stunted personal development. The Church has never really been that band. Before becoming famous in the U.S. in the wake of the release of its 1988 album Starfish and hit single “Under the Milky Way,” The Church had been crafting albums of exquisite beauty that took the pop and rock song format in interesting directions both sonically and thematically. There was a literary quality to the band’s lyrics that more than hinted at thoughtfulness in the songwriting that aimed at a poetic understanding of life and human interactions beyond the rote clichés of art aiming at little more than entertainment. And with The Church it wasn’t purely intellectual or of the head and its powerful live shows became and remain a powerful shared experience of artist and audience alike. In 2014, The Church released arguably its best record to date with Further/Deeper. The title was a pitch perfect summary of an album in which the band was finding itself having to reinvent itself after the departure of founding guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper but also to continue making relevant music that wasn’t a retread of past glory—something, surprisingly, The Church has never really done, each album being a worthwhile listen. Futher/Deeper was also one of the few rock records written by musicians from an adult perspective without sounding jaded or safe. In 2017 The Church released its latest album Man Woman Life Death Infinity. The Helio Sequence probably gets lumped in with modern shoegaze and dream pop but the band was doing fascinating experiments with electronic music and an expanded sense of psychedelic music early in its career. These days the band is perfecting affecting soundscapes and lyrics that reach well beyond the realm of the mundane. A perfect pairing of bands in a year when that’s not been such a rarity.

Who: The Mercury Tree, Hamster Theatre and Neil Haverstick
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Walnut Room
Why: Portland, Oregon’s The Mercury Tree is proof that progressive rock need not be over intellectualized as its layered atmospheres and rhythms, intricate in composition, are a heady and expansive listening experience. And that band would be worthy enough of attending the show but also a rare Denver appearance by Denver avant-garde rock/jazz legends Hamster Theatre and microtonal guitar wizard Neil Haverstick.

Who: GZA w/Low Hanging Fruit
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The GZA at The Fox? Sure enough. As a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, GZA has exerted a broad influence on much of the hip-hop to have come along since. But GZA’s lyrical brilliance paired with RZA’s production has impacted some of the most interesting electronic music made since the release of his landmark 1995 album Liquid Swords. That album transcended genre and its echoes can be heard in much of alternative and underground hip-hop today.