Jim Ward is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of art punk band Sparta which releases it’s new album, self-titled, on October 14, 2002. Ward first came to the attention of many while a member of post-hardcore legends At the Drive-In. Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Ward came up through the underground music scene and hung out in the same social circles with Foss whose membership included then future At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Beto O’Rourke who went on to be a U.S. Representative and at this writing is a candidate for the governorship of Texas. Ward had been impacted by a wide variety of underground rock bands of the 80s and 90s including, of course, Fugazi and the energy and political consciousness informed his own thinking and creativity as a musician and songwriter. When At The Drive-In split the first time in 2001, Ward formed Sparta whose music was sonically closest to the sound of his former band than other post-ATDI projects but with more of a focus on texture and melody and maintaining the sharply observed yet nuanced social critique. Sparta has undergone its own periods of hiatus and has stayed together since 2017 but whether in Sparta or with Sleepercar or his own fairly prolific solo career, Ward has consistently delivered a body of work that is both thoughtful and visceral. This interview was conducted next to the parking lot south of The Gothic Theatre within an hour before Sparta took the stage on September 4, 2022, a testament to how Ward keeps it real and down to earth.
Listen to the interview on Bandcamp and pre-order the new Sparta record at the appropriate links below. And to keep up to date on Sparta tour dates and available merch visit sparta.band
Friday and Saturday | 09.02 and 09.03 What: Nine Inch Nails w/Yves Tumor When: 7 Where: Red Rocks Why: Nine Inch Nails is too famous and for too long and rightfully so to bother to get detailed about its significance in popularizing industrial and electronic music and even ambient. The band’s shows are always innovative and pushing the performance envelope in some way whether that be in the visual presentation, with the sound production end, with sets that change throughout the show or playing with how the band itself presents its music as a live act. Nine Inch Nails doesn’t skimp on putting on probably the best show you’ll see this year or among the top tier at the least. And Trent Reznor or someone in the NIN camp always finds one of the coolest, up-and-coming, genre boundary challenging, innovative musical project going and for these two shows it’s Yves Tumor the experimental electronic and R&B artist whose shows are part Prince, part HEALTH, part Janelle Monáe but very much his own glorious earth alien charismatic psychedelia.
The concept for the event was born of Barnett’s love of curation. As the owner of Milk! Records for the past decade Barnett has championed and released music by artists from her home town of Melbourne, Australia as well as US artists like Sleater-Kinney, Chastity Belt, Hand Habits and others.
Over the course of the tour from August through September, lineups will include all of the following artists: Alvvays, Arooj Aftab, Bartees Strange, Bedouine, Caroline Rose, Chicano Batman, Courtney Barnett, Ethel Cain, Faye Webster, Fred Armisen, Hana Vu, Indigo De Souza, Japanese Breakfast, Julia Jacklin, Leith Ross, Lido Pimienta, Lucy Dacus, Quinn Christopherson, Sleater Kinney, Snail Mail, The Beths, Waxahatchee and Wet Leg.
Barnett quickly went from a beloved and critically acclaimed indie artist known for her masterful use of the English language and powerful and imaginative guitar work and songwriting when her early EPs released 2012-2013 to widely celebrated singer-songwriter of no small cachet by the time of the 2015 release of her debut full length album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. With each record Barnett has distinguished herself as a songwriter able to expose her vulnerabilities and anxieties in a way that conveys a solidarity with other people and their own struggles.
Sharing the bill is Japanese Breakfast, the band lead by Michelle Zauner whose own trajectory as an artist parallels that of Barnett going from playing all the small clubs on the same circuits a little under a decade ago and delivering emotionally arresting pop songs that aren’t short on musicianly artistry. In 2021 she released her memoir Crying in H Mart to great acclaim in its poignant and loving depiction of her life coming up with a Korean mom, coming into playing music and the passing of her mother from pancreatic cancer in 2014. Her own pop music has as much in common with art rock in its creative ambition and songwriting with her songs easily fitting into the categories of dream pop, shoegaze, psychedelia, indie rock and R&B.
Arooj Aftab is the US-based Pakistani singer and songwriter who is the first person of Pakistani origin to be awarded a Grammy for Best Global Music Performance for her song “Mohabbat.” Her style is a hybrid of experimental folk, jazz and more traditional Pakistani music with elements of her 2021 album Vulture Prince reminiscent of Qawwali, the devotional music of Sufism. But her orchestral arrangements and powerfully tranquil yet emotionally rich vocal delivery defies easy categorization.
Bedouine aka Azniv Korkejian is a Syrian-American musician who grew up with both mainstream music via MTV and traditional Armenian and Arabic music. Her third album Waysides (2021) is a masterful evocation of loss, isolation, yearning and introspective insight cast in the sounds of Laurel Canyon era folk.
Sunday | 09.04 What:The Get Up Kids w/Sparta When: 7 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Get Up Kids from Kansas City were one of the defining bands of 90s emo but stylistically never quite trapped in the tropes of the genre and its songwriting came to include keyboards and more focused pop songcraft without sacrificing the energy and intensity of its early music. Like Jawbreaker, The Get Up Kids made music in a style that isn’t cringey decades later unlike that of some of their peers. For this tour the band will perform its debut full length album Four Minute Mile as well as the Woodson EP in their entirety. Jim Ward of Sparta came up through similar circles of 90s underground punk and post-hardcore as a member of the influential and incendiary At The Drive In. But when the latter split in 2001 and part of the group went on to form The Mars Volta making music of a very different style, Ward continued to refine the style of music he’d helped develop in ATDI. The angular punk with searing emotional energy and intellect informing the lyrics. The group went on hiatus in 2008 and outside of a brief reunion in the early 2010s didn’t fully come back together until 2017. During the interceding years wrote and released music under his own name and with Sleepercar and honed his songwriting so that when Sparta returned to write and release 2020’s Trust the River the artistic growth was obvious and what has been put out from the forthcoming self-titled Sparta album is like a fusion of that fiery sonics of early Sparta and a more refined focus in the dynamics and structure of the songs to hit with emotional precision.
Sunday | 09.04 What:Echo & The Bunnymen w/Cayucas When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Echo & The Bunnymen were and are one of the classic bands out of the second wave of UK post-punk with a rooting in the first. The Bunnymen brought a romantic sensibility to the lyrics and a sense of mystery and tenderness to the music that has made its songs age exceedingly well apparently having formed outside immediate and obvious influences rather drawing inspiration from across decades of music and aiming to craft their own creative mythmaking. You’ll hear the hits, probably, but also deep cuts that will please true fans of the group’s deep well of great material.
Monday | 09.05 What:An Evening With Peter Hook & The Light – Joy Division: A Celebration When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Peter Hook is of course one of the founding members of influential post-punk band Joy Division. For this occasion Hook will make an evening of a broad spectrum of that band’s songs. Anyone that has seen Peter Hook & The Light knows that Hook isn’t phoning in some greatest hits set. The band conjures the spirit of the original music and Hook’s own bass lines are iconic and foundational the sound, the mood, the cadences of post-punk and by extension through New Order pop and dance music. He brings a commanding presence and no small amount of his own fire to the performances though he shares bass duties with his son Jack who some may have seen play in The Smashing Punpkins. Hook’s three books The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club (2010), Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division (2012) and Substance: Inside New Order (2016) are essential reading for not just entertainment value but for the perspective and sense of history and culture that Hook was there to witness and in some ways shape.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday | 09.05, 09.06, 09.07 What: Flume ( w/Pospa, Sega Bodega at Mission on 9.05 – w/TSHA, Porspa and Oklou on 09.06 – w/Eprom, Shlomo and Oklou on 09.07 When: 7 p.m. for 09.05 and 5 p.m. for 09.06-09.07 Where: Mission Ballroom (09.05) and Red Rocks (09.06-09.07) Why: Harley Streten has come a long way since learning basic production from a DJ and mixing program CD he got from a box of Nutrigrain. From early smaller club shows far afield from his home home town of Sydney, Australia, Streten as Flume steadily but fairly rapidly established himself as one of the more innovative ED artists of the 2010s whose facility with sculpting atmosphere and melody and merging it seamlessly with unconventional beats to make for music that has been able to evolve, absorb and move beyond micro-stylistic shift in the world of electronic dance music and today he’s one of the most popular artists in a realm of music that has remained important but seemingly plateaued in its cultural impact. But Streten’s musical imagination and skills have consistently kept him ahead of the curve and in mentoring newer artists in an organic way his shows are not just a showcase for his own work but that of potential future stars already doing interesting work.
Thursday | 09.08 What: Alphabet Soup #52: Felix Fast4ward, Reed Fox, Furbie Cakes, Sky Floor and Green Leader https://blackboxdenver.co/events/alphabeat-soup-sep8 When: 9 Where: Black Box Why: Long-running experimental electronic dance-oriented music showcase Alphabet Soup returns with some of the local scenes more daring producers and imaginative soundscapers.
Friday | 09.09 What:Kal Marks – My Name is Hell Tour w/Moon Pussy and Cherished When: 9 Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Boston’s Kal Marks recently released its new album My Name Is Hell. The record out on NYC label Exploding In Sound is a further development of the group’s hybrid of emo, noise rock, pop collage and post-punk. The live band brings a visceral energy that takes the core of the recorded material and transforms it into cathartic performances that seem simultaneously passionate and vulnerable. Also playing this show is the crackling ball of nervous energy and roiling angular dynamics that is Moon Pussy whose fractured soundscapes and raw power transforms anxiety and amused outrage into inspiration. Cherished has become one of the most emotionally charged, melancholic shoegaze bands in Denver and elsewhere and the melodically gloomy counterpart to the other bands you’ll get to witness at this show.
Friday | 09.09 What: Gary Numan w/I Speak Machine and DJ Slave1 When: 8 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Gary Numan probably needs no introduction and this is a show rescheduled from the spring for the foundational synth pop and industrial rock songwriter and musician. Maybe you only know “Cars” or “Down In the Park” but Gary Numan has had a long and consistently boundary pushing career and whose body of music is like a distinguished career in the kind of science fiction as song that puts the human experience at the center and thus it has aged well and his intense and riveting live shows are proof positive of the enduring vitality of his creative genius.
Friday | 09.09 What:Flogging Molly & The Interrupters w/Tiger Army and The Skints When: 5 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Celtic punk can be a bit niche for many but Flogging Molly’s songwriting transcends that niche partly due to the exceptionally powerful vocals courtesy actually Irish lead singer Dave King. Though often lumped in with the pop punk world in which its spirited performances seem to find a natural home, there is a charming nuance of sound and style in the group’s music that lend its tales of poverty, love, death, revelry and struggle an artfulness to its clearly authentic sentiments. The band’s latest album Anthem includes “A Song Of Liberty” that starts out, at least in the music video and in the lyrics, to be a show of solidarity for the people of Ukraine against Russia but extends that solidarity with struggles for national liberation across decades and across continents. There’s nothing performative or phony about that messaging in the music nor in the band’s general, internationalist working class solidarity born out of basic compassion for other humans.
Friday | 09.09 What:Munly & The Lupercalians w/Church Fire and Emerald Siam When: 7 Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Munly & The Lupercalians, longtime project of Jay Munly of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, is celebrating the release of its latest album Kinnery Of Lupercalia; Undelivered Legion with this show at the Bluebird. This band is also an Americana band in a dark vein akin to that of some of SCAC’s own style but generally darker, more overtly literary and conceptual and in the live setting often accompanied by an element of the ritualistic. Breaking with local scene custom, and all the better for that, the opening bands aren’t going to be Americana at all except in the larger sense that political, darkwave industrial band Church Fire wouldn’t emerge anywhere but America where its incisive critique of the perils of patriarchy and religion as infused into the culture and politics as a lived experience perhaps has the greatest impact, or that Emerald Siam’s own moody, garage rock noir flavored post-punk would seem like an odd affectation coming from anyone but people who have breathed deep in what it’s like to live and struggle in the fractious society that is the USA.
Friday | 09.09 What:Westword Music Showcase Part 1 When: 7 Where: Various Venues in RiNO Why: This is the first night of the Westword Music Showcase and it’s free. So some best bets no explanations given because there’s a lot going on this night. 7pm: Honey Blazer 8 pm: Bellhoss, Plasma Canvas or Kayla Marque 9 pm: Endless Nameless, Ritmo Cascabel, Bluebook 10 pm: Julian St. Nightmare 11 pm: Despair Jordan 12:20 am: Pink Fuzz or Citra
Friday and Saturday | 09.09 and 09.10 What: Brandi Carlise ( w/ Lucius and Allison Russell on 09.09 and w/Indigo Girls and Allison Russell on 09.10) When: 6 Where: Red Rocks Why: Brandi Carlisle is rightfully an incredibly famous and commercially successful singer-songwriter for her broad stylistic and emotional range as an artist with a powerful and expressive voice. Her latest album is In The Canyon Haze. Opener Allison Russell is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter whose debut solo album Outside Child released in 2021 on respected jazz, folk and Americana label Fantasy. Her orchestral yet spare arrangements bring her powerfully soulful vocals together in a style that might be described as Appalachian jazz R&B yet it works because Russell’s commanding presence and facility in playing multiple roles in performance is riveting for both its instrumental virtuosity and emotional resonance. See her band’s performance on KEXP below.
Saturday | 09.10 What: Westword Music Showcase Day 2 When: 12 Where: Various Venues Around Mission Ballroom Why: This is the Westword Music Showcase day where you need to buy a ticket and here are some recommendations with no details. 2 pm: The Mañanas 2:35: Cannons 3:20: Ramakhandra 4:05: Wet Leg – canceled 5: Don Chicharrón 8:40 N3PTUNE 9:30: The Flaming Lips
Monday | 09.12 What:The National w/Lucy Dacus When: 6:30 Where: Red Rocks Why: The National rose to prominence in the 2000s and its brooding, atmospheric pop songs has certainly been one of the templates of modern indie music. Even early on its lush production and layered, orchestral arrangements felt like a natural successor to 90s indiepop and its contemplative lyrics can’t help but strike a chord with anyone that actually takes them in. Matt Berninger’s vocal delivery always seems to come across like he’s reading from a memoir from some future decade and having a poignant memory to relate, the kind that takes you back vividly to that time in a way that makes it possible to articulate with the benefit of life experience—something not everyone can do as well as Berninger does. After a eight acclaimed albums The National has returned with material for the upcoming ninth album and performing some of that at its 2022 live shows. Opening the proceedings is accomplished songwriter Lucy Dacus. Some may know Dacus more for her membership in supergroup boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. But Dacus’ records under her name are a body of personally insightful and emotionally fortifying songs that the songwriter delivers with an understated cool that nevertheless doesn’t mask the feelings and examinations thereof that went into distilling them into musical poetry. Even on her first album No Burden (2016), Dacus displayed a sophistication of songwriting at twenty one that can take many more years to attain. 2021’s Home Video has moments of almost uncomfortable rawness and honesty that aren’t made easier to hear with the gentle performances. Rather the songs are a vivid trip through psychological spaces perhaps we all experience but sometimes try to forget and Dacus makes it seem okay to think and feel these things because emotional self-honesty can be as healing as it can be searingly painful and haunting. Dacus brings that kind of compassionate energy and sense of mystery to her live performances as well so clearly a fine match for the headliner.
Tuesday | 09.13 What:Stereolab w/Fievel is Glauque When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Stereolab is the long-running experimental rock and electronic band formed in 1990 in London with former members of leftist political pop band McCarthy, Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier. The new group would adopt lo-fi pop aesthetics, Krautrock, avant-garde electronic and musique concrète into its ever evolving sound so that the “groop” could never get fully stuck in its own stylistic rut. Stereolab has become one of the most respected and beloved cult bands of the 90s that endured through the late 2000s before going on hiatus for a decade until 2019. Its most recent release is the 2022 compilation album Pulse of the Early Brain: Switched On, Vol. 5 which brings together tracks from across its career including a 1997 collaboration with arch experimentalists Nurse With Wound and other non official album tracks that have formerly been hard to come by including the 1992 Low Fi EP that marked the first appearance with the group of the late Mary Hansen and longtime and current member Andy Ramsay. The live shows are a combination of impassioned performance and sultry cool.
Tuesday | 09.13 What:Full of Hell & Blood Incantation w/Vermin Womb, Mortuous and God is War When: 6 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Might be the noisy heavy show of the month. Death grind legends Full of Hell whose 2021 album Garden of Burning Apparitions is as relentless as it is unsettling in its haunting vibes co-headlines with progressive death metal weirdos Blood Incantation from Denver who recently released an entire synth album though you probably won’t hear much of that for this show. Vermin Womb just release the blistering and thrillingly punishing Retaliation EP and will probably hit the stage hard with economical precision in its sonic brutality and exit before you’re full aware of what hit you.
Wednesday | 09.14 What:Boris w/Nothing When: 7 Where: Bluebird Theater Why: For the past thirty years Japanese rock band Boris has truly explored so many different styles of heavy and experimental across its prolific career that one would have to be hesitant to try to define the group’s aesthetic because from album to album it’s always been an exploration of the trio’s interests at the time from gear to songwriting to genre. In addition to the impressive and influential body of work under its own name, Boris has multiple collaborative albums with noise legend Merzbow, albums with Michio Kurihara of psych legends Ghost (not to be confused with the Swedish heavy metal band) and an album with respected Japanese avant-garde musician Keiji Haino. Its most recent album is its 2022 and second album titled Heavy Rocks. And as advertized it’s a rock album that is heavy but this time more in the vein of a strange and fascinating hybrid of punk, glam rock and heavy psychedelia. Live Boris has a mystique that renders all of its music strange and alluring rendered with a forceful intensity. Also on this tour is post-hardcore/noise rock band turned heavy shoegaze outfit Nothing whose 2020 album The Great Dismal is a great exercise in mood sculpting through hazy melodies and introspective vocals making observations on the decay of society and a fragile hope for things in the world to flow toward the better.
Wednesday and Thursday | 09.14 and 09.15 What: Kikagaku Moyo When: 7:30 (09.14) and 7 (09.15) Where:Fox Theatre (09.14) and Ogden Theatre (09.15) Why: Legendary psychedelic folk prog band Kikagaku Moyo from Tokyo is taking its live show on the road one last time with two shows in Colorado. In May 2022 the group released its latest and likely final album Kumoyo Island and revealed the influence of cosmic funk on its sound in addition to the fusion of Japanese folk and Krautrock.
Wednesday | 09.14 What:Wilco w/Margo Price When: 6:30 Where: Red Rocks Why: Wilco is of course one of the most critically acclaimed indie rock bands going on three decades now and deservedly so. There isn’t a Wilco record that isn’t worth an earnest listen. Its 2022 album Cruel Country isn’t just brimming with solid songwriting and performances but the social commentary is poignant and personal in a way worthy of early Bob Dylan. The title track addresses youthful misconceptions about the country of one’s birth and the evolution of one’s nuanced understanding not just of countries but one’s own place in them. Perhaps unintentionally but one hears a touch of the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty on this record but that just gives it a cultural resonance across decades that is probably warranted in making meaningful and creative statements about society in the times we’re in now rather than hit issues of national identity on the nose. Of course the show will include material well beyond the new album and Wilco is reliably delivers a lively and highly entertaining performance. Opener Margo Price is one of the rising stars of modern country music but of course this means she’s not just a charismatic performer but her own songwriting expands the boundaries of what that music can be. Her new single “Been To The Mountain” borders on the psychedelic and is reminiscent of more adventurous country artists of the past like Lone Justice and Green on Red.
Wednesday and Thursday | 09.14 and 09.15 What: The Head and the Heart w/Hiss Golden Messenger When: 6:30 Where:Mission Ballroom (09.14) and Red Rocks (09.15) Why: The Head and the Heart has established itself as one of the definitive artists of indie rock of the past decade and more. Earnest vocals and spacious arrangements and expansive melodies are components of its sound from early on but the Seattle based sextet has a knack for crafting pop hooks and imaginative arrangements that easily get stuck in your head but you don’t mind because it’s not repetitive or insipid, just heartfelt and memorable. Its 2022 album Every Shade of Blue seems to have pared its usual sonic mode to a spare minimalism that may not be what some fans are expecting from The Head and the Heart but within each one hears an experiment with where the group will go with its next album. Coming out of the pandemic every band can probably be excused for indulging a wide range of songwriting ideas that can make their new album sound like a transitional effort and maybe that’s what the sound of this record may come across as being yet there are undeniable gems on the record including the title track. At the very least at the show you’ll get to see old favorites live and see how The Head and the Heart pulls off material from the new record.
Thursday | 09.15 What:HEALTH w/Perturbator and Street Sects When: 6 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: This tour features some of the most inventive modern electronic industrial artists going. HEALTH got its break as one of the most prominent bands to come out of the DIY music scene around the non-profit venue The Smell in the mid-2000s. Weaving together noise, electronic dance music and darkly urgent post-punk, HEALTH has garnered a global audience with its ferocious live shows and idiosyncratically stylish aesthetics. Perturbator is more in the vein of blending industrial rock with 1980s horror movie synth soundtracks but delivered with a confrontational energy. James Kent aka Perturbator has a background in black metal and brings that attitude to his compositions and performance. 2021’s Lustful Sacraments turns down the aggression of Perturbator’s sound a little in favor of a touch of ethereal guitar melody and creative use of space in the mix lending the overall sound a haunting undercurrent. Street Sects is an industrial punk duo from Austin, Texas whose use of drastic dynamic shifts and spiky rhythms in a cloak of fog and metallic percussion that has been a flagship band of the experimental music label The Flenser. Its shows can have an unhinged intensity with a sense of danger to them though lately they haven’t as often brought out the bladeless chainsaw to change out into the crowd.
Thursday | 09.15 What:Pink Turns Blue, Radio Scarlet, Redwing Blackbird When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Pink Turns Blue is the influential post-punk/darkwave band from Berlin, Germany that made waves in the 1980s through the mid-1990s for its moody yet triumphant songs imbued with a political awareness and sense of urgency within its gloomy melodies and dynamically measured paces. The group got back together in 2003 after the so-called post-punk revival that happened shortly after it broke up the first time and prior to the development of the modern darkwave scene yet clearly, directly or otherwise, exerted a bit of influence on artists in both periods. TAINTED is the 2021 record by the band and contains some of its most poetic and poignant political material of its career in challenging the world’s mishandling or really ignoring of the climate crisis and the rise of authoritarianism and income inequality—all seemingly so pressing now.
Thursday | 09.15 What:Alice Glass w/Uffie When: 7 Where: Meow Wolf Why: Alice Glass is perhaps most widely known for her work in electronic duo Crystal Castles where her expressive and otherworldly yet intimate vocals were a large part of the appeal of the project. After parting ways with Crystal Castles in 2014 later accusing her bandmate of assault and sexual misconduct, Alice Glass has emerged a solo artist whose work has a unique emotional resonance and vulnerable intensity that vibes perfectly with the inventive and mysterious beats in a style that sounds like it’s taken elements of hyper pop and the 8-bit electronic production of her earlier music and pushed it in a direction that suited the likely painful subject matter of her songs. After a 2017 debut EP Glass had some conflict with her label and parted ways but released her debut full length PREY//IV in February 2022 and she’s still putting out some honest words that speak truth about the kind of struggle and pain a lot of people go through every day especially people that have experienced abuse and in doing so provides maybe a tiny bit of catharsis with the music and with her powerful live show.
Friday | 09.16 What:Melvins w/We Are The Asteroid and Taipei Houston When: 7 Where: Fox Theatre Why: Melvins are one of the foundational bands of the heavy punk scene out of the Pacific Northwest and one of the primary influences on the bands that became the first wave of grunge. But Melvins never got stuck there or with that legacy even as it evolved its early sound and went on to explore a multitude of ideas in the music they made and how it was presented and where they would play and the kinds of tours they would tackle including the time they played every U.S. State in fifty days. All along the way Melvins have left us an impressive body of albums that push the boundaries of what heavy music can be and with every album Melvins offer something very different from the one that came before. This time around for the newly released 2022 album Bad Moon Rising there has been little advance promotion or videos or really much of a peak into what it sounds like. Making it a good excuse to go see one of the most entertaining and consistently impressive live rock bands of the modern era.
Friday | 09.16 What:George Cessna & His Band perform Lucky Rider w/Rose Variety, Fainting Dreams and DBUK When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: George Cessna & His Band will perform the 2021 album Lucky Rider in its entirety. The existential and haunting, lo-fi record distills the essence and spirit of being a creative and thoughtful person in the current time dealing with a multitude of challenges from those of the pandemic, to an increasingly neglectful media environment for the arts especially those local, trying to navigate personal challenges while reaching deep into self to find a reason to keep doing creative work when all sensible arrows point elsewhere. It is one of the most poignant personal music statements in the last few years and worth getting to witness in the live setting.
Friday | 09.16 What:Grace Ives w/Super Bummer When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Grace Ives’ 2022 album Janky Star has likely snuck onto the year end best lists of more than a few music critics because not only are her eccentric pop songs imaginative crafted but speak to the current cultural moment. There is a meta self-awareness that is employed to make earnest commentary on mental health and seeking out deeper meanings in a cultural environment where so much is thrown your way often decoupled from context. All the songs on the album are short and to the point but rich with ideas. Ives says a great deal in a small space without overwhelming the listener. Somewhere between synth pop, hip-hop and even some bit of progressive rock Ives’ music has obviously absorbed a lot of modern music and come out more surprisingly original for it.
Friday | 09.16 What: Wild Rivers w/Violet Skies When: 7 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Toronto-based indie folk trio Wild Rivers released its sophomore album Sidelines in 2022, the follow up to its 2016 self-titled debut. Like most bands Wild River basically had to take a couple of years off from performing live and maybe rediscover and reimagine its sound some but in this case Wild Rivers leaned into its superb use of space and minimal instrumentation for a good deal of the material to allow for the gentle, warm and expressive touch of the vocals to sit center but also in allowing the percussion and rhythm to guide the music subtly but firmly, a feature of music one doesn’t often hear so clearly in folk-oriented music.
Saturday | 09.17 What:Porridge Radio w/Blondshell and Moodlighting When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Porridge Radio is a post-punk band from Brighton, UK formed after songwriter and lead vocalist Dana Margolin realized she needed a band to fully bring to life the songs she had been crafting and mainly performing at open mics and her own bedroom. There is a grittiness to the atmospheric music that can be found rooted in Margolin’s raw and tenderly honest lyrics and the way the band manifests the layered the contrasting emotions the singer/guitarist brings to bear and let out in often unexpected and engulfing outbursts that make it obvious you’re not listening to a conventional indie band because Porridge Radio doesn’t try to smooth over the rough edges. Its new album Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky (2022, Secretly Canadian) is rich with poetic metaphors for relationships fracturing and the struggles of one’s inner life that are too often kept bottled up and never addressed. Porridge Radio lets that anxiety out in a gripping sustained catharsis. Tourmate Blondshell aka Sabrina Teitelbaum is a songwriter based in Los Angeles whose own vulnerabilities and insecurities are also laid out in exuberant pop songs. Blondshell’s sound, though, is more akin to 90s alternative rock in its liberal use of fuzz and bombastic song structures to give some sonic and emotional boost to songs about the kinds of thoughts and experiences that can make us feel like we’re falling apart and failing ourselves yet finding some redemption and positive transformation in being willing to own the feelings and work through them. Moodlighting is a dream pop band from Denver whose fragile and winsome melodies are charged with an ethereal melancholy that lends the music more depth than seems obvious on first encounter.
Saturday | 09.17 What:Sick of It All and Agnostic Front w/Crown of Thornz When: 7 Where: Oriental Theater Why: Agnostic Front may predate the existence of Sick Of It All by six years and technically part of the first wave of hardcore, but New York City hardcore didn’t really get its due or hit its stride until later in the eighties and these two bands were a couple of the leaders of that punk milieu along with Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law and others.
Saturday | 09.17 What:Colin James When: 7 p.m. Where: Soiled Dove Underground Why: Colin James is a Canadian blues and rock guitarist/vocalist who got his big break into a national and international music world when his band was tapped to open last minute for Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984 when another opening act was no longer available. Since then James has expanded upon his electric and acoustic blues style and was an early adopter of swing in the early 90s when straight ahead blues wasn’t as much in favor for a number of years and his Colin James and the Little Big Band project enjoyed some success when the swing revival was under way throughout the 90s. But in the 2000s and 2010s it seemed as though blues enjoyed a bit of a renaissance including the popular Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and numerous blues festivals that have come about since the turn of the century. James’ most recent album, 2021’s Open Road, is a collection of interpretation of blues classics and original material that showcases the musician’s masterful command of the musical idiom and ability to innovate within it.
Sunday | 09.18 What:Bob Mould Solo Electric: Distortion and Blue Hearts! When: 7 Where: Oriental Theater Why: Bob Mould is of course the co-founder of Hüsker Dü and Sugar but his solo albums have provided some of his best and most refined songwriting to date. This tour will be a chance to see Mould perform from across his solo catalog including the 2020 Blue Hearts album which included Jon Wurster of Superchunk fame and Jason Narducy also of Superchunk filling in for Laura Ballance. So this performance will probably include both of those guys and Mould’s own lively presence.
Sunday | 09.18 What:Snotty Nose Rez Kids w/Freedom Move… When: 7 Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall Why: Snotty Nose Rez Kids are a First Nations hip-hop duo from Kitamaat Village, BC but now based in Vancouver. Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce have a style that people that appreciate trap and hyper pop would appreciate including the meta self-awareness required to pull that off with creativity and artistry. So of course there is a deep sense of play and humor in the music but so many of its songs hit as poignant and as powerfully as the best hip-hop especially in painting a portrait of life in their First Nations community and the unique struggles attendant with that experience.
Monday | 09.19 What: Pavement w/Annalibera When: 6:30 Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Almost all indie bands of any originality worth listening to can trace their roots to the idiosyncratic and masterful guitar rock of Pavement. The group long made a virtue of unconventional song structure, Stephen Malkmus’ unusual vocal style and an almost free associating lyrics. Its loosely arranged guitar jangle both loping and angular leaves room for truly creative improvisation that have yet to be fully appreciated by many fans who might be put off by how much Pavement’s music resonates with free jazz and a psychedelic blues jam. Live Pavement has remained a brilliant head scratcher which is really the reason to see them live if you can afford the exorbitant ticket price because even though the influence on modern music is obvious no one has really been able to quite mimic the idiosyncratic melodies and bizarre observational lyrics.
Wednesday | 09.21 What:of Montreal w/Locate S, 1 and Duck Turnstone When: 7 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: of Montreal is one of the longest running bands that emerged out of the 90s indiepop milieu with roots in the Elephant6 collective (i.e. Apples in Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel). Its colorful album cover imagery and borderline performance art stage personae come from a real place of genuine eccentric creativity informed by an experimental literary approach to lyrics and not just conceptual album arcs but individual songs as well. There is a deep imagination discernible on any of its albums including the 2022 offering Freewave Lucifer F<ck F^ck F>ck. This new music sounds even more like a collage of psychedelic pop and space rock glam.
Wednesday | 09.21 What: PROBLEMS w/Goo Age, Andy Loebs, DJ Arman and DJ Fresh Kill When: 8 Where: Glob Why: Daren Keen has been responsible for some of the most creative electronic and noise music of the past several years and with his project PROBLEMS it’s like he is mixing techno with surreal spoken word, hip-hop and electronic dance music as a vehicle for what might be musical autobiography as exposure of neuroses and insecurities inverted bravado.
Thursday | 09.22 What:Dan Deacon w/PROBLEMS When: 7 Where: Meow Wolf Why: Dan Deacon is one of the most prominent experimental electronic pop artists to have emerged from the American DIY underground whose graduate degree in electro-acoustic and computer music he has put to direct use as a composer and songwriter whose work can be found across a long career of high concept albums and film scores. The former also serving as sage commentary on modern American culture. His shows tend to be incredibly interactive involving audience participation which may make the stage at Meow Wolf more conducive to such adventures than more traditional concert venues. Also on the bill is PROBLEMS mentioned above for that date at Glob.
Friday | 09.23 What:Built to Spill w/The French Tips and ORUA When: 8 Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Boise, Idaho’s Built to Spill needs no real introduction as one of the bands to emerge in the 1990s that embraced a noisy punk sound and jammy psychedelia at once to craft a body of work that could express deeply personal contemplations on life as well as commentary on the nature of existence. Its new record When The Wind Forgets Your Name is one of its most gritty and bracing in years with Neil Young-esque guitar leads and Doug Martsch’s signature, haunted, playful mystic vocals offering more of the band’s unique creative vision that never seems trapped by an era or style of music thus its continued vitality.
Friday | 09.23 What:…And The Black Feathers EP release w/The Trujillo Company, Jaguar Stevens and Bootleg Baldwins When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: …And The Black Feathers is a band that somehow grinds out bluesy garage rock without sounding like its trying to be some other artist. It’s tempting to compare it to John Spencer Blues Explosion but it’s not that bizarre yet there is something otherworldly to its performances and air of having come to us from the same parallel dimension that gave us Tav Falco and Kid Congo Powers. The group is releasing its first EP in a few years.
Friday | 09.23 What:Dehd w/Exum When: 8 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Dehd is a trio from Chicago that is somehow able to be funny and incredibly poignant and powerful at the same time with an eclectic body of work that blurs the line between blues, punk, garage rock and dream pop. Its 2022 album Blue Skies is one of its more melancholic and contemplative records but as per usual there is a defiant spirit running through the music that directly translates to the live show where Dehd take minimalist elements and turn it into something that seems so gloriously bombastic and celebratory it exorcises some of the pain and disappointment that went into making the writing of the songs possible.
Friday | 09.23 What:Divide and Dissolve w/Matriarch and Vulgarian When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Divide and Dissolve is an instrumental doom band from Melbourne, Australia. And yes, instrumental but its songs crafted from saxophone, guitar and percussion are a commentary on colonialism and its corrosive effects not just on indigenous culture but on itself as an extension of a racist economic system that ultimately commodifies all things and all people and devalues life, the earth and inspires so many to rationalize its predation because they benefit from its narrow vision of sharing resources and the “proper” use of our time in what little of it we have on the earth. The music sounds like a deconstruction of that system and the 2021 album Gas Lit leaves no question about how “the legacy of greed has grown from its seed to infiltrate every place, every face, releasing a suffering recorded in stone and in bone, so old that language can’t console it.”
Friday | 09.23 What:F-ether tour kickoff w/UaZit, FOANS, Knife Band and Causer When: 7:30 Where: Glob Why: F-ether is one of the few producers in Denver who is steeped in both the noise, electronic dance and rock scenes who seems adept at navigating these musical concepts in crafting his own playful and imaginative tracks. He’s setting off on his latest tour and celebrating with likeminded, creative electronic artists for this show including the always powerful and engrossing Causer.
Saturday | 09.24 What: Foreign Air w/Anna Shoemaker and Ghostpulse When: 8 Where: Globe Hall Why: Foreign Air got together when Jacob Michael’s former rock band U.S. Royalty split in 2017 and he came to work with Jesse Clasen whose own rock bands The Bear Romantic and HRVRD had played shows with U.S. Royalty. For their band together the duo tapped into a more electronic music production approach to crafting lush pop songs. The sound is can range from lo-fi, spare but energetic post-punk flavored pop to enveloping melodic haze given solidity with organic instrumentation. The advance tracks from the new Foreign Air album Hello Sunshine finds the band using the sound palette of modern indie pop and funk with an ear toward more unconventional arrangements and rapid adding and dropping of layers to convey not just gradations of sonic saturation but in doing so the emotional as well. Anna Shoemaker’s 2022 debut album Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire) is a collection of sharply observed sketches of lived experience expressed through gritty guitar pop and quiet-loud dynamics akin to 90s alternative rock. But as with lyrics like on her new single “I’m Your Guy” Shoemaker’s songwriting subverts convention by threading her songs with modern electronic details that give the music some unexpected turns of phrase in parallel with her taking relationship, gender and sexuality norms in pop music and turning them over in a way that is both rebellious and gives those normally not in the usual power structure of culture another way of imagining how things can be and dispensing with othering.
Saturday | 09.24 What:Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends w/Almanac Man and An Antiquated Bluff When: 8:30 Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: To the casual listener Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends may sound like they listened to a lot of stoner rock and Monster Magnet before forming this band but there is something subversive in the way the group has used its music to challenge transphobia and hideously lazy and destructive thinking in general. Its 2022 split with The Erratic Retaliator Strategy is part noise rock and part philosophical exploration of social phenomena with titles like “Competitive Grief” and “The Misplaced Optimism of the Doomed.” That’s keeping it real. Also on the bill is Denver-based experimental noise rock band Almanac Man and emo Americana math rock phenom An Antiquated Bluff whose own songs examine and attempt to exorcise the anguish of external and internalized oppression.
Sunday | 09.25 What:Trentemøller w/TOM & his Computer When: 7 Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Anders Trentemøller has been perfecting his particular fusion of moody rock and the electronic under the project moniker of his surname since 2006. The tonally cool downtempo of his earlier albums seemed to anticipate and transcend the forthcoming darkwave movement of the 2010s as his own minimalist compositions organically unfolded to enhance the nuanced melancholy of the song lyrics. In 2022 the songwriter released his latest album Memoria which features the usual reconciliation of thematic and musical contrasts with gritty, saturated synth and ethereal melodic drift over steady beats all conspiring to produce a dynamic that seems aimed at raising spirits against the gloom of the album’s subject matter of acceptance of when things feel off or aren’t going how one might prefer. It gives an element of complexity that feels like a process you’d need to go to shed deep seated regret and process bittersweet memories without forgetting what made them significant.
Sunday | 09.25 What:Laveda w/Isadora Eden, Nina De Freitas and Alana Mars When: 7 Where: Lost Lake Why: Laveda from Albany, NY is a dream pop/shoegaze band whose gorgeously lush melodies and warmly evocative singing never masks its all too real and bracing assessments of the world as it is and the challenges we face and the feelings we go through as we try to navigate a culture and society that isn’t giving an adequate response to the specter of climate disaster, fiscal malfeasance from the top, legislative and judicial corruption and all the ways the powerful are making life more difficult for those not in positions of power on a granular level. Sure, ethereal, heavy guitars but as a kind of ambient catharsis and path to staying out of the pits of despair even while giving voice to the concerns that when they hit you at once can paralyze your psyche. But also enjoyable as one of the best new shoegaze bands operating in America.
Monday | 09.26 What: Julia Jacklin w/Katy Kirby When: 7 Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: On her new album Pre Pleasure, Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin makes uncertainty seem so comforting and reassuring. Like her 2019 album Crushing, this new album has concepts guiding its exploration of themes one does not often hear in music written in a way that sounds like something that landed in the Twenty-First Century from the 1960s with the wash of melody accomplished with spare, organic musical elements in miniature orchestral fashion and Jacklin’s introspective vocal style that seems to draw out the nuances of emotion and psychological details of how we feel that can often be brushed under in the push of the raw, face fronting emotional experience. Jacklin emphasizes the whole picture in its lived experience. On Pre Pleasure she makes acceptance of unresolved feelings and situations seem as satisfying as we’re going to get out of so many circumstances in life.
Monday | 09.26 What:Rein w/DJ Eli and Niq V When: 8 Where: HQ Why: Swedish darkwave/industrial artist Rein makes a stop in Denver after her performance at the Coldwaves festival in Chicago. Her blend of synth pop and a gritty and stylized delivery that balances aggression and grace like a more Goth-y Youth Code and more steeped in 90s EBM but with the same sort of punk style and spirited performance.
Tuesday | 09.27 What:The Foreign Resort, Hapax and Plague Garden When: 8 Where: HQ Why: Also fresh off their performances at Coldwaves X in Chicago are Depeche Mod-esque, Danish post-punk band The Foreign Resort and the urgent and almost strident melancholic sound of HAPAX from Naples, Italy. Local support from Plague Garden’s whose emotionally charged, electronically infused post-punk is well outside the cookie cutter trendiness that can be heard in too much modern post-punk and darkwave.
Tuesday | 09.27 What:The Nakatani Gong Orchestra w/Ryan McRyhew and Ben Donehower When: 7:30 Where: Scorpio Palace Why: Master percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani brings his 10-piece gong orchestra for an intimate performance at Scorpio Palace (formerly known as Rhinoceropolis). Nakatani will conduct the ensemble in performance with bowed gong. Prior to the 10-person performance there will be a trio comprised of Nakatani and local improvisors Ryan McRyhew, aka Ntrancer who will utilize a Hordijk system, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Donehower who some may know for his avant-pop project Petite Garçon. Seating is limited for this unique performance and doors are 7:30 p.m. with the show starting promptly at 8 p.m.
Tuesday | 09.27 What:Khruangbin w/Tennis, Vieux Farka Touré and Genesis Owusu When: 5 Where: Civic Center Park Why: Houston’s Khruangbin has emerged as one of the most popular bands to have emerged from modern American psychedelic rock. It’s sound has trended more toward a upbeat funk and soul sound like the kind of music you’d expect to hear as a regular guest on a modern incarnation of Soul Train. On its 2020 album Mordechai it certain seems to tape into the energy and style of later P-Funk and the kind of mutant funk of early 99 Records bands. But whatever the exact aesthetic one might try to push on Khruangbin its music defies easy pigeonholing and has as much in common with the aforementioned as it does with W.I.T.C.H. and Afrobeat. Opener Owusu Genesis is a Ghanaian-Australian artist who doesn’t just make music but designs his own fashion and those impulses seem to inform each other in an asymmetrical way in that he mixes and matches styles and aesthetics to create something uniquely his own. With rich synth work and polyrhythms his music might be considered hip-hop but his vocal style is decidedly different and playful and imaginative the way one might hear an analog of in Thundercat’s solo material where it would be difficult to pigeonhole him as well. His 2021 debut album Smiling with No Teeth is a genre busting delight of experimental hip-hop and electronic pop.
Wednesday | 09.28 What:Pale Waves w/Gatlin When: 7 Where: Marquis Theater Why: Underneath Pale Waves’ effervescent energy and infectious melodies are lyrics that directly and sensitively deal with issues of anxiety, depression and class. Its 2018 debut EP All the Things I Never Said delivered on the promise of early singles like “Television Romance” and “There’s a Honey.” Employing a palette of wonderfully melodramatic pop punk and straight ahead pop, Pale Waves delivers music that is immediately and thrillingly accessible for anyone not looking to be alienated by catchy music but with deftly crafted, meaningful content. Pale Waves recently released its third album Unwanted on August 12, 2022.
Friday | 09.30 What: The Luka State w/Micky James When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: The Luka State from Winsford, Cheshire brings its tour to Denver ahead of the release of its sophomore full length The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same. If its new single “Stick Around” is any indication the group isn’t short on the anthemic melodies that drove its earlier releases. Its live show looks more fiery and intense than one might expect from songs coming from a place of seeming thoughtful vulnerability.
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