Best Shows in Denver 11/29/19-12/4/19

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Cheap Perfume performs on November 30 at Hi-Dive, photo circa 2016 by Tom Murphy

Friday | November 29

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Black Mountain circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Black Mountain w/Ryley Walker
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Mountain is one of a handful of bands that was associated with 2000s “stoner rock” that evolved past and beyond the tropes of that genre. Probably because from the beginning the psychedelic end of its sound was more developed than some other bands that were essentially making a form of what’s now called “drone metal.” But even at the beginning, with its 2005 self-titled debut, the band wrote heavy songs with an ethereal tonal architecture like “Heart of Snow.” The group’s 2019 album Destroyer is its first with former Sleepy Sun guitarist/vocalist Rachel Fannan and Adam Bulgasem of Soft Kill. It sounds like it has more extensive use of synthesizer than previous albums and thus having more in common with obvious influences like Hawkwind and Can. Live the new direction for the band has been more immersive and hypnotic without sacrificing its rock and roll punch, a testament to its integration of its musical instincts and incorporation of even more of Jeremy Schmidt’s transporting synth work which he used to great effect on the soundtrack to dark science fiction film Beyond the Black Rainbow under his moniker Sinoia Caves.

What: High On Fire w/Power Trip, Devil Master and Creeping Death
When: Friday, 11.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental, Theater

What: Automatic w/Sweetness Itself and Chrome Wave
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Babah Fly, Ill Se7en, Zanib
When: Friday, 11.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy

What: Catching Flies w/Chitchat, Sifts and Chromadrift
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Saturday | November 30

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Plasma Canvas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Cheap Perfume Burn It Down album release, SPELLS, Plasma Canvas and Wild Lives
When: Saturday, 11.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Cheap Perfume is the Colorado Springs-based punk band who make no bones about their feminist political orientation but that really should be part of anyone’s agenda in the modern world and a centerpiece of any human who claims to have morality, ethics, basic human decency and concern for human rights as part of their perspective on the world. But Cheap Perfume makes it fun with pointed songs that while sometimes snarky are heartfelt and clever but with no fence sitting. Its new album, Burn It Down, is being released this night with some of the Mile High City’s best punk acts sharing the stage for the occasion.

Tuesday | December 3

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The Allah-Las circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Allah-Las w/Mapache & Tim Hill
When: Tuesday, 12.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In the rush to cop the 60s and early 70s southern California sound in the past half decade and more so many bands seem to have mimicked those Laurel Canyon artists outright. Allah-Las dipped into a similar pool of references but didn’t forget to write great songs or to inject that with modern sensibilities. Its soundscapes are paired well with entrancing melodies and not merely indie rock with some reverb and chorus and a laid back vibe. Its 2019 album LAHS is typically introspective and expansive with more than a dash of playfulness.

Wednesday | December 4

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Men I Trust, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Sporehive, Fables of the Fall, Babushka’s Naughty XXXmas Carols, DJ Andy Z
When: Wednesday, 12.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday this month will include experimental drone collective Sporehive, chamber folk quartet Fables of the Fall, Babushka of Little Fyodor & Babushka fame doing her Naughty XXXmas Carols and DJ Andy Z spinning tunes.

What: Turnover & Men I Trust w/Renata Zeiguer
When: Wednesday, 12.4, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Men I Trust has been described any number of ways but the live band evokes the mood of dusky nightclub R&B and soft lighting. But without evoking the early 70s Laurel Canyon pop sound so much in vogue lately. The band’s videos look like some kind of cinematic rendering of 1980s home movies and in a way reminds one of fan videos various people have made for Boards of Canada. It’s not often a band can maintain some sense of mystique these days but Men I Trust definitely has some. Currently touring in support of its lushly downtempo 2019 album Oncle Jazz.

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

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

Thursday | October 4, 2018

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Lord Huron, photo by Ian Holliday

Who: Muscle Beach, A Deer A Horse and Flesh Buzzard
When: Thursday, 10.04, 9: p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse is often referred to as sludge and doom and yeah, those sorts of sounds are in there. But the noise punk trio has great melodies and dynamic momentum amid the heaviness reminiscent of the likes of KARP, Melvins and Unwound. Its new 7” for “Double Wide”/”Cold Shoulder” is an abrasive, menacing, harrowing listen—a haunted, dangerous, fuzzy, psychedelic doomy blues. The New York band is paired with one of Denver’s best, equally impossible to pigeonhole punk/post-hardcore band Muscle Beach who are due for their next album to drop any time now. Flesh Buzzard, the harsh noise bludgeoners from Fort Collins, round out the bill with their own brand of sonic brutality.

Who: Lord Huron w/Cut Worms
When: Thursday, 10.04, 7: p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Lord Huron’s luminous indie pop has manifested in interesting forms across its career suggesting an unspoken goal within the band to give the era of a band represented by the albums a unified aesthetic visually and sonically. The effect being like that of a novel where images, themes and moods tie together into a whole experience rather than simply disconnected vignettes. Lonesome Dreams evoked the 70s Westerns vibe, Strange Trails has the sound of Wim Wenders’ mythical imagining of the American West in Paris, Texas. The group’s 2018 record Vide Noir is like an alternative soundtrack to an unlikely P.T. Anderson and Nicolas Winding Refn collaboration on a story of doomed romance and redemption. The imagery may be science fiction-esque this time around but the moods still grounded in heightened emotional colorings.

Friday | October 5, 2018

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Suicidal Tendencies, photo by Lightbox Revelation

Who: Scream Screen: Invasion of the Body Snatchers with musical guests Little Fyodor & Babushka Band
When: Friday, 10.05, 9 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Little Fyodor & Babushka Band might be succinctly described as an avant-garde punk band but its songs are as catchy and well-crafted as the best of them. The 1970s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a weird science fiction classic but Little Fyodor & Babushka Band is even weirder than that. If you’re treated to a rendition of “Dance of the Salted Slug” during its short opening set, consider yourself getting the double bonus strangeness for the evening.

Who: Starjammer w/Hot Apostles, Joshua Trinidad Trio and The Noise Gallery
When: Friday, 10.05, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Squidds Madden is perhaps best known for his turns playing in Denver area ska and funk bands like Action Shot and, more recently, The Dendrites, Champagne Charlie and currently with Roka Hueka. Over the past handful of years he has developed a solo “avant-garde/dub reggae” project called Starjammer. His instruments set up in a rig (the USEV, see below) making them accessible to Squidds all have science fiction concept names and the music itself rooted in Madden’s extensive experience with improvisational composition. Until now the project’s recordings have been under wraps captured in live sessions and relatively unedited. But tonight Starjammer unveils the debut album at an event including some of Madden’s favorite musicians and peers. Witness the Universal Sound Exploration Vehicle yourself tonight or wherever the USEV lands next. If Jodorowsky ever does a futuristic epic as he had planned with Dune, the new Starjammer record should be kept in mind for part of the soundtrack.

Who: Suicidal Tendencies w/Madball and Clusterfux
When: Friday, 10.05, 8: p.m.
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Suicidal Tendencies has created pioneering music in whatever realm it’s found itself since it began in the 1980. Everyone familiar with the early, hardcore era of the band knows “Institutionalized” and its being featured in the film Repo Man. But Suicidal evolved in a more skate punk/thrash direction by the middle of the decade and its transitional album, 1987’s Join the Army, helped make punk accessible to hardcore metalheads. 1992’s The Art of Rebellion brought the band into the mainstream with Top 40 Hits “Nobody Hears” and “I’ll Hate You Better.” Since then the group has become something of a cult phenomenon when some of its members aren’t playing in the hard funk other project Infectious Grooves. These days Suicidal Tendencies don’t write as many songs about personal darkness and alienation but the anti-authoritarian messaging remains strong as does the sense of struggle that most people, whatever one’s background, feel and which founding vocalist Mike Muir seems to be able to articulate in new, relevant ways. The group’s 2018 full-length Still Cyco Punk After All These Years is basically a re-recording of Muir’s 1996 solo album as Cyco Miko Lost My Brain! (Once Again) and while energized, anthemic, uplifting punk, addresses mental illness and emotional trauma with a surprising level of sensitivity that may not be obvious at first listen.

Who: Lord Huron w/Misty Boyce
When: Friday, 10.05, 8: p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For Lord Huron see above for 10.04.

Saturday | October 6, 2018

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Flesh Buzzard, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Noise Vs. Doom Day 1 facebook.com/events/1717241811677244
When: Saturday, 10.06, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This two day event showcases that is a fairly comprehensive sampling of artists from the doom and noise music worlds where there is often overlap in membership and playing of bills. Over the course of the two days are veterans like Colorado Springs-based project Clark Nova and Herpes’ Hideaway’s more dark ambient take on the same, Denver’s longest-running and active noise group Page 27, more pop-oriented acts like Mirror Fears and Church Fire, noisy guitar drone experimental metal bands such as New Standards Men, avant-garde noise punks Yardsss from Portland, Oregon and newer harsh noise auteurs like Flesh Buzzard. Not to mention whatever one might call Snails and Oysters and Night Grinder whose own music is impossible to fully categorize but who weave the aesthetics of noise into their soundscapes. Go one or both days and expect to see artists very different from one another no matter when you choose to check in.

4:30-4:50 Clark Nova (opens)
5-5:20 Sporehive
5:30-6pm Heathen Burial
6:10-6:30 Flesh Buzzard
6:40 – 7:10 Snails And Oysters
7:20:-7:35 DJ Zombie
7:40-8pm Floating Cave
8:10-8:40 New Standards Men
8:50- 9:20 Clutch Plague
9:25-9:45 Mirror Fears
9:50-10:20 Voideater
10:30-10:50 Herpes Hideaway
11pm Text ESP

Who: Zealot, Jacob T. Skeen and Rat Bites
When: Saturday, 10.06, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Luke Hunter James-Erickson has left his imprint on Denver’s indie rock world with his stints in various projects like The Don’ts And Be Carefuls and Violent Summer. For a short while he said he was going to start a band called The Devil. Which was funny considering the guy doesn’t seem particularly diabolical or sinister or offensive, really, unless you count his noise projects. But no, instead he started a fuzzed out indie rock project more in the vein of noisier garage rock bands and The Mountain Goats. Joining him has been former The Outfit and Ideal Fathers bass phenom Michael Jeffrey King on drums rather than the instrument for which he’s mos well known, Nathan Brazil former singer/guitarist in Fingers of the Sun and The Pseudo Dates and Kitty Vincent, former singer and guitarist for Violent Summer. Also on the line up is Rat Bites, a like-minded band that is more punk than garage rock and includes former Sin Desires Marie and Rainbow Sugar drummer Germaine Baca.

Sunday | October 7, 2018

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Yardsss circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Noise Vs. Doom Day 2
When: Sunday, 10.07, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: For Noise Vs. Doom see above for 10.6. Today’s/tonight’s schedule below.

4:30-4:50 Catdog
5:00 – 5:20 Ice Troll
5:30-5:50 ATARI
6:00-6:20 Night Grinder
6:30 – 7:00 Still Valley
7:10 -7:30 Red Side
7:45 – 8:15 Deer Creek
8:20 – 8:40 Page 27
9:50 -10:20 Yardsss
10:30 Church Fire

What: Primus w/Crown Lands
When: Sunday, 10.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Leave it to Les Claypool to take the genuinely populist left and environmentalist message of Ul de Rico’s 1978 children’s book The Rainbow Goblin and turn it into The Desaturating Seven a surrealistic album with relevance for the current era. The book is about a group of seven evil goblins who plot to travel around the world to steal the color from rainbows. Its critique of greed and environmental degradation is on par with that of Dr. Seuss’ 1971 classic The Lorax. The album sounds almost like an audiobook rendition of the original text but with the chapters evolving into Primus’ usual, beautifully eccentric experimental funk. So chances are the show will have a special presentation different from its usual already strange enough performances  as well as selections from across the group’s career, and all the more reason to check this tour out if you’re a fan or if you just want to see something a little or a lot different.

Monday | October 8, 2018

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Fickle Friends, photo by Daniel Harris

What: Primus w/Crown Lands
When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For Primus see above for 10.07.

What: Fickle Friends w/Bulow and Rumours Follow
When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Fickle Friends are a British pop band that apparently paid attention to what CHVRCHES and Purity Ring have been doing for the last several years. The latter two have made innovative use of electronics and production as part of their songwriting process and the 2018 debut album by Fickle Friends, You Are Someone Else has a similar level of lushness synthesizing synth pop, R&B and rock. The album title, taken from the song “Brooklyn,” not unlike the name of the band, suggests, amid bright and upbeat songs, an alienation from what should be one’s community and from oneself in society that seems to push everyone to present a manufactured and commodified version of identity as one’s genuine self—the fake it ’til you make it quasi-ethos that has grossly manifested itself in the politicians that lead too many governments and the impact of corporate culture on real culture. Not that the band is aiming all or any of its songs that way but the lyrics accompanying fun music certainly seems to point out how things aren’t alright even if we often have to pretend they are to get through life.

What: Against Me! w/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog
When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Against Me! Is performing a pair of shows in Denver this week, each night focusing on a particular album. This night the band will be performing 2003’s As The Eternal Cowboy. Something of a country/folk punk album, As The Eternal Cowboy is certainly not what was in step with much of what was coming out on Fat Wreck Chords at the time. “Cliche Guevara” sounds something like a mixture of Mission of Burma and acoustic Misfits. Whatever influences went into the music, the record holds up better than most anything by the band’s peers. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog being on the bill for both nights alone would make the shows worth attending.

What: The Vaccines w/Jesse Jo Stark
When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Vaccines new album Combat Sports seems apt enough considering the conflict and artistic self-questioning and self-ruthlessness that went into its making. Supposedly the songs were to sound like 70s and 80s power pop but even after switching producers partway through recording, the band ditched most of the songs and wrote new material for the new record. Nevertheless the band succeeded in capturing the mood and dynamics they were aiming for in the beginning. Additionally, singer Justin Young told the NME in 2016 that he’d listened to much more Leonard Cohen in the wake of the legendary songwriter’s death and found too much of his output lacking by comparison. Likely many songwriters feel that way but it did result in more sophisticated lyrics and musical phrasing. And yet, The Vaccines didn’t mellow out, their sound palette expanded in more interesting directions rather than getting stuck in a rut many bands get caught in when they get a taste of success.

Tuesday | October 9, 2018

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The National, photo by Graham MacIndoe

Who: The National w/Sharon Van Etten
When: Tuesday, 10.09, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: The National is most often associated with 2000s indie rock but the band has its roots in the 90s when lead singer Matt Berninger and bassist/guitarist Scott Devendorf met as graphic design students at the University of Cincinnati. A few bands and a move to Brooklyn later, the two formed The National in 1999 with some friends from same musical circles in Ohio. Hardly an overnight success, The National nevertheless garnered critical acclaim and a fairly large national and international audience by the time of its 2005 album Alligator. Berninger’s smoothly melodic vocals punctuated by raw emotional passages alongside the group’s almost orchestrated melodies and melancholic yet expansive songs have since early on offered a coherent and ambitious artistic vision rendered with an ear for emotional subtleties and in rich sonic detail. 2017’s Sleep Well Beast may be an “adult” album but one that taps into the modern zeitgeist without succumbing to the temptation of going overtly topical. The group’s signature cool shimmer crackling, luminous melodies that would be paired well with a Matthew Frost short.

Who: Against Me! w/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog
When: Tuesday, 10.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The second night of Against Me! performing albums (plus generous bonus material, as it were) will focus on the 2007 album New Wave. It was the group’s first record on a major label, a move inspiring some fans to cry “sellout.” As if that wasn’t a tired narrative two decades on hence aimed at bands that weren’t really changing their sound, the content of their lyrics and their ethos. Against Me!, it should be noted, never really entered the pop mainstream. But not for lack of writing some of the best power pop of the 2000s.

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Soccer Mommy, photo by Natalia Mantini

What: Soccer Mommy w/Sasami
When: Tuesday, 10.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Sophie Allison has had a big year in 2018 with the release of her debut full-length Clean on Fat Possum in March followed by a summer tour with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Kind of a steep upward arc for a musician who played her first show as Soccer Mommy at DIY venue Silent Barn at its Bushwick location . Allison’s songs are about the usual struggles and angst of a person in their 20s but her sound seems to be some parts 70s folk rock and the edgy, color-out-side the lines guitar music of the 90s without really coming off throwback—no mean feat in modern music.

Who: Slugger, Origami Ghosts and Eyebeams
When: Tuesday, 10.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Former Silver Face guitarist/singer Gabriel Albelo started what became Slugger as a vehicle for his solitary songwriting endeavors. Now it’s a full-fledged rock band. Seeing as Albelo grew up in Puerto Rico and had limited access to live music but not so limited access to hearing music from across decades rather than having a lot of pressure from peers imagining themselves hip but largely into music of the moment. Thus his own songwriting is fairly richly informed even if at first blush it might come off as garage rock had it spawned in the immediate wake of 1970s glam rock. But the songwriting isn’t imitative so much as evocative and sounds like some retrofuturist band that should be in an unlikely sequel to the 1983 film Rock & Rule. Eyebeams shouldn’t be a well-kept secret in Denver or elsewhere but for now the psychedelic pop band has been a little under many people’s radar despite the fact that former Fingers of the Sun and Pseudo Dates singer/guitarist Suzi Allegra is at the songwriting helm. Rather than simply an indie pop band that discovered psychedelic music in the last decade, Allegra’s sonic palette is much broader as she grew up on a lot of that music throughout the 80s and 90s. And her lyrics are incisive, poignant and thought-provoking if you choose to listen beyond the exquisite melodies. Indie psych folk band Origami Ghosts is on tour from Seattle.

Wednesday | October 10, 2018

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Stella Donnelly, photo by Cooper Gordon, Gordonco Visuals

What: Soccer Mommy w/Sasami
When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery
Why: For Soccer Mommy see above for 10/9 at Globe Hall.

What: Natalie Prass w/Stella Donnelly
When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Stella Donnelly told Fact in March 2018 that she had been in a punk/thrash band when the humorous title of her debut solo full length Thrush Metal suggested itself to her. The album that is simply Donnelly finger-picking her guitar and singing is beautifully sparse and spacious but powerful and heartbreakingly poignant in its depictions of the struggles of women today. “Boys Will Be Boys” seems particularly relevant in the wake of the appointment of alleged sexual abuser Brett Kavanaugh to the bench in the Supreme Court not to mention the fact that the president of the United States garnered any votes despite his despicable comments regarding his own self-avowed sexual assaults. For starters. Thrush Metal is a starkly beautiful portrait of terrible things and speaks with a poetic honesty to the experience of them. Headliner Natalie Prass was once a touring keyboard player who in June 2018 released her sophomore full-length, a chill but soulful R&B inflected pop record called The Future and the Past.

What: Stones Throw Records Presents: Jerry Paper, Keifer and Stimulator Jones
When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jerry Paper is coming to hip-hop from many different angles having been influenced by, according to a 2017 interview with The Blaaahg, the likes of noise/drone project Growing and krautrock. His own beats are like reading what it looked like in the 1970s and 1980s and watching movies from the era with the sound turned off and making music to provide all the audio content. Paper has used all the usual technologies and methods to create music from various synthesizers and Acid to get to where he is now in his mastery of production and the intentionality of the lo-fi sound in creating a realm of soundscaping that might be best compared to indie pop lo-fi geniuses like Owen Ashworth and Karl Blau.

Best Shows in Denver 08.23.18 – 08.29.18

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Boss 302 performs at The Oriental Theater on Friday, August 24, 2018 with Landgrabbers and The Vanilla Milkshakes

Thursday | August 23, 2018

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Esmé Patterson circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Adam Faucett, Esmé Patterson, Bellhoss
When: Thursday, 08.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Arkansas-based folk/Americana artist Adam Faucett performs in Denver ahead of the August 24 release of his new record It Took The Shape of a Bird. Faucett’s creative use of vocal tones and dynamics along with his poetic imagery gives his music real character. The same could be said of Esmé Patterson whose creativity in storytelling and richness of emotional colorings in her songwriting makes her noteworthy artist in a realm of music that can sometimes seem same-y. Becky Hostetler’s Bellhoss is also a great fit for this bill since her own spare songwriting provides the skeleton of mood and atmospherics in a way that brings your imagination to bear to fill in the spaces.

Who: short[circuit]circus #1: Structures Beavers Make (ATX noise-ish), Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess, Housekeys, Rose Alley
When: Thursday, 08.23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is the beginning of what will hopefully be a series focused on more experimental music. Structures Beavers Make is an act based out of Atlanta, Georgia that doesn’t limit itself to just lo-fi moody guitar and voice over subtle, ambient beats, as the artist says (jokes) on her Bandcamp page that she might do bad Avenged Sevenfold covers. We can only hope. Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess fortunately also doesn’t fit comfortably in a single, discernible genre somewhere betwixt ambient, experimental electronic dance and samples manipulation. Housekeys is Tiffiny Costello’s ghostly guitar and vocals ambient project. The most obvious comparisons are Grouper and Juliana Barwick or the less noisy period of Flying Saucer Attack. Rose Alley is a “drag noise poet” in that it’s kind of a trippy spoken word performance with environmental sounds to enhance the words.

Friday | August 24, 2018

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Lady of Sorrows, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Boss 302 w/The Landgrabbers and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Friday, 08.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Boss 302 started in the early days of 1993 on the cusp of the breakup of the band that inspired its existence: The Fluid. However, Boss 302 spent several years establishing its own reputation as a fun, rowdy garage punk band with a charismatic frontman in Rich Groskopf and a solid band that wrote songs good for a party in the classic sense rather than the self-parody of party rock in more recent years. Boss 302 had a handful of releases including 1997’s Whatever Happened To Fun, which included its only recordings with Matt Bischoff of The Fluid on bass. The group split in 1999 and reunited in 2008 around the same time The Fluid came unexpectedly out of retirement for a time to play Sub Pop’s 20 year anniversary show as well as a string of other performances, a reminder that it was and still was one of post-punk’s greatest bands. Ten years hence Boss 302 reunited once again in July 2018 for the Mile High Parley with a spirited performance at Gary Lee’s. Even if you’re not familiar with the band’s music, you’ll get to have some laughs and see one of Denver’s best punk bands of the 90s. Also on the bill are country punk band Landgrabbers and post-grunge pop outsider punk band Vanilla Milkshakes.

Who: Lady of Sorrows, Church Fire and Mirror Fears
When: Friday, 08.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Lady of Sorrows is the downtempo, brooding R&B solo project of Lady Justice of industrial/darkwave band Angel War. Church Fire is a band that should be everyone’s radar in Denver at this point but in case not the emotionally charged, noise-infused dance-darkwave band never disappoints with its cathartic live show. Mirror Fears too is in a similar vein but with a more ethereal vocal style and presence whose emotional power washes through you, cleansing the psychic detritus that seems to be stuck in everyone with a heart these days.

Saturday | August 25, 2018

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ohGr circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Archipelaghost at final Alligator Party
When: Saturday, 08.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Archipelaghost, an electronic/psychedelic rock band extraordinaire, is moving away as is Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth who will also DJ this show. Maybe they’ll be back through on a tour but for now this is your last if not only chance to catch them before they’ve relocated.

Who: Lead Into Gold, ohGr and Omniflux
When: Saturday, 08.25, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Paul Barker was the iconic bassist and co-producer of Seattle post-punk legends the Blackouts as well as EBM/industrial rock band Ministry during its most popular and productive era. Lead Into Gold was a side project Barker put together in the late 80s/early 90s. The project was basically put on the shelf until 2015 when Low & Slow was released, making available some tracks originally recorded in 1990. With 2017 performances including that at Chicago’s Cold Waves festival, Lead Into Gold became an active band again with a new album titled The Sun Behind the Sun appearing in 2018.

ohGr is the band formed by Nivek Ogre and Mark Walk of Skinny Puppy. Its music is not as dark or as heavy as Skinny Puppy can be, rather more a focus on the playful side of both musicians. Devils in My Details showcased a noisier side of ohGr and a more sound design approach to composing the music, a method Walk and Ogre also applied more to the then subsequent Skinny Puppy album 2011’s HanDover. As per Ogre’s performances with Skinny Puppy, from the early tours for ohGr in 2001 to now his stage appearance is theatrical and dramatic reflecting the flavor of the music. So for the 2018 album Tricks we can probably expect some heavy emphasis on animal imagery for the stage set and Ogre’s costuming.

Sunday | August 26, 2018

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Modern Leisure, photo courtesy Modern Leisure

What: Textures: Pythian Whispers, Finnocitta and lib.eriana
When: Sunday, 08.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This is the latest edition of Textures the ambient showcase hosted by Wesley Davis of biostatic and his Symbolic Insight imprint. Included on this bill is experimental electronic/ambient duo Pythian Whispers and lib.eriana, the acoustic and production project of Alan Muñiz, former member of avant-garde jazz band Malamadre. Drone, loops and beats artist Finnocitta from Gainesville, Florida will also make an appearance.

Who: Straight White Teeth, Modern Leisure, Briffaut and Whole Milk
When: Sunday, 08.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Patrick McGuire was a member of one of the more promising Denver pop bands Flashbulb Fires before he moved away to Philadelphia in 2015. After sustaining a severe injury that damaged his right arm putting any notion of every playing guitar and piano again in jeopardy. Two surgeries later and McGuire had full use of his arm back only for, according to the Straight White Teeth bio on its bandcamp page for the track “Lifetime,” McGuire and his girlfriend/former bandmate Ella Trujillo had to leave their home due to violence in the neighborhood. Now rootless with no permanent residence McGuire and Small White Teeth has managed to tour with McGuire as a solo act with tracks and what bandmates he can pull together for a show or performance. For the past year, McGuire has been recording and releasing singles rather than a full-length album all at once, a gesture that may give potential bandmates in any given city he may play a frame of reference. That this show will include the great Colorado indie pop bands Modern Leisure and Briffaut, from Denver and Colorado Springs respectively, suggests that maybe someone in either band could join McGuire for this performance.

Monday | August 27, 2018

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David Byrne and band, photo by Donna Lewis

Who: David Byrne
When: Monday, 08.27, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: David Byrne is rightfully known for his idiosyncratic and visionary music art and performances going back to his days with punk/pop band Talking Heads in the 70s and 80s. His solo material as well as his various collaborative albums including those with Brian Eno (in particular the 1981 non-western ambient/electronic drone/samples masterpiece My Life In The Bush of Ghosts) and St. Vincent (for 2012’s Love This Giant) have been products of a unique imagination and curiosity that illuminate American culture and the human condition in ways that are both eccentric and relatable. Byrne’s body of work is proof that he’s not been one to fully rest on his laurels. This includes his 2018 album, American Utopia, which has been hailed as a return to form by critics. In some senses that is the case with Byrne’s inimitable songwriting style incorporating traditional instruments used in both traditional and decidedly unconventional ways alongside production methods as compositional tools, both giving his deceptively simple songs a sonic and emotional depth to enhance the experience of listening both in the recorded and life form. American Utopia is also a component of the multimedia project Reasons to Be Cheerful which aims to give people a reason to have some joy and hope in a time of seemingly unremitting bleakness and destructive political impulses with their inevitable consequences for the planet including human civilization.

For this tour Byrne is bringing a sprawling lineup to manifest the music of American Utopia as well as material from across his long career. People who purchase a ticket for this current run of shows can also redeem a coupon for a free CD copy of the album with details on the ticket. But the real treat is to see a master of the artform of pop in full bloom well into an already lengthy career.

Tuesday | August 28, 2018

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Equine, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: David Byrne
When: Tuesday, 08.28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For David Byrne see above for Monday, 8.27.

Who: The Binary Marketing Show, New Standards Men, Equine and Sporehive
When: Tuesday, 08.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: The Binary Marketing Show is from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Its layers of drones, simple percussion, minimalist guitar, lo-fi production and spare vocals have an intimate, warm quality that is reminiscent of bedroom recordists and the more imaginative indie pop weirdos of the 2000s like Microphones, Dntel and Casiotone For the Painfully Alone. Going out on a limb maybe you’ll hear a hint of cLOUDDEAD in the way the controlled distorted instrumentals vibe with the understated vocals. Also on this bill are Denver drone guitar experimentalists New Standards Men and Equine as well as avant-instrumental improvisational band Sporehive.

Wednesday | August 29, 2018

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Cop Circles circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cop Circles, Staggered Hooks, Techno Allah, Goo Age
When: Wednesday, 08.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Meadowlark Bar
Why: Cop Circles is an artist that subverts the tropes of No Wave jazz, indie pop and Afrobeat to make the kind of catchy songs that are fun and danceable on their own but which are often sharp and thoughtful critiques of culture and the way social policies and economic models erode human dignity and our collective quality of life in ways that aren’t obvious unless you take the time to pay attention. Cop Circles music has a way of helping to clarify your way of thinking about these things without hitting you over the head with didactic platitudes. Staggered Hooks is Dean Inman of Dream Hike’s more industrial and ambient project and this may be the last time you get to witness Inman’s gift for sound design live before he moves out of Denver. Techno Allah is sort of a glitchy IDM dance artist. Goo Age makes environmental soundscapes populated by the sonic, abstract equivalents of ambient creatures in 16 bit video games. Not the kind you can or have to overcome, they’re just there to give the scene some character and Goo Age’s IDM-esque beats some serious flavor. Think a way more playful early-yet-updated Future Sound of London circa Lifeforms.

Best Shows in Denver 5/24/18 – 05/30/18

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High Plains Honky, photo by David Sands

Thursday | May 24, 2018

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Bianca Mikahn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Left Handed Electronics, Grrrl, Bianca Mikahn
When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Bianca Mikahn’s combination of almost free verse poetry and beats should be well within the canon of hip-hop and ultimately is. But her delivery and her crafting of her songs has as much in common with the kind of hippie-ish, open mic, slam poetry world as it does with any hip-hop context. Mikahn’s ability to critique society at large while speaking to those issues with a compassion and positive spirit minus any note of insincerity sets her apart from most other artists. That her beats contains elements of noise and melodic ambient music makes her immediately accessible music an otherworldly dimension even as the songs are grounded in fairly earthbound experiences.

Who: High Plains Honky 7” release w/Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels Band and Danny Dodge & The Dodge Gang
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If Ronnie Milsap had gone a little more honky tonk with a grittier voice, the results might sound a bit like High Plains Honky. The group is releasing its latest seven inch record tonight at the Hi-Dive joined by a couple of other bands who are no slouches in the local country scene. Maybe comparing a Denver band to a best selling artist like Milsap seems like a bit much to some but what made him such a compelling songwriter beyond the masterful combination of musicianship and an ear for catchy and evocative melodies is the vivid storytelling. High Plains Honky have both qualities as well as no holding up of the nose at pop conventions used in a country context. “Goin’ All The Way” and “I Know Where You Go,” the two sides of the record, seem so relatable even if country music isn’t your thing. A tastefully tiny hint of psychedelia haunts the edges of the music and the aspirational, anthemic quality of the stories suggest a deep knowledge of personal reality but needing to write the songs to escape being too bogged down by current circumstances to go after what you really want while also honoring the emotions subsequent to the potential disappointment, pain and lack of resolution that is a part of everyday life. High Plains Honky invites its listeners to dream just a little bit and to embrace their heartsickness.

What: Girls Rock Denver: Showcase series 7-11 p.m.: Dressy Bessy, Rotten Reputation, Contender, Cheap Perfume, Surf Mom, The Catcalls and Mirror Fears
When: Thursday, 05.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is a fundraiser for Girls Rock Denver to give some of the young women who want to be involved a scholarship to this summer’s programme and beyond. For your donation you get to see some of the best local bands from the indie pop legends Dressy Bessy, punk rock phenoms Rotten Reputation and Cheap Perfume, fuzz rock feminist rock band Surf Mom and electronic dream pop start Mirror Fears.

Who: DOA and MDC
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: In the annals of hardcore outside of American coastal cities, DOA and MDC have to be considered two of the most important acts out of that movement. DOA from Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of the hardest touring bands for years, spreading the gospel of hardcore across the continent and whose album Hardcore ’81 is, perhaps apocryphally, is often cited as the first use of the term in connection to the musical movement. DOA’s political songs struck personal tones in Joe Keithley’s deft songwriting allowing the band’s music to have an appeal beyond agreeing with every iota of the band’s politics. MDC started in Austin, Texas as The Stains with similarly political punk songs that were more left than most of its peers at the time. It didn’t hurt that singer Dave Dictor seemed to havea personal agenda to push the envelope with fans in his stage persona as the ultimate freak and always with the aim of challenging reductive notions of animal and human rights. Listen to that first MDC album and it’s clear that Dictor was an unabashed critic of police brutality and creeping fascism in a way that makes those songs and their specific anti-authoritarian tone even more relevant now.

Who: The Blackouts w/Adrian Conner (Hell’s Belles) and We Are Invisible and Wild Call
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: The Blackouts are an all female rock band that really shows how you can have a fairly straightforward hard rock band and not fall to the boring tropes that happen with too many bands with roots in punk and metal. Adrian Conner from the great all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Bells is also playing this show as well as Wild Call, a band whose forthcoming album is reminiscent of White Hills and Medicine.

Who: Amy Shark and Tomi globehall.com/event/1663566-amy-shark-denver
When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Amy Shark is a pop songwriter from Australia whose 2016 single “Adore” caught the attention of tastemakers in Australia and the song was reissued by Sony Music Australia. That Shark was either in her late 20s or 30 when the song came out explains a bit how her voice and the perspective present in the song had a bit of depth and more of the weight of experience than would be the case of a pop artist a decade or more younger. Shark’s debut full-length, Love Monster, will drop in July 2018 so you can catch her live tonight at Globe Hall before everyone has heard of her.

Friday | May 25, 2018

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Demo Taped, photo by Savannah Ogburn

Who: Amber Mark w/Demo Taped and Adiel Mitchell
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Amber Mark seemed to come out of nowhere when she uploaded her song “S P A C E” to Soundcloud in February 2016. Her voice strong and assured, drawing immediate comparisons to Sade for those qualities and a soulfulness one rarely hears in someone just twenty-two years old. But Mark had something to say and in subsequent singles like “Monsoon,” Mark revealed herself to be a brilliantly poetic songwriter. The 3:33 a.m. EP followed in 2017 and in 2018 Mark released the EP Conexão. Joining her on the Denver date of the tour is Adam Alexander, aka Demo Taped. His electronic pop songs are bright and upbeat but the subject matter of his songs run a broad range of subjects including struggles with anxiety and insecurity. His nuanced and layered songwriting manifested especially strongly on his 2018 EP Momentary.

Who: Orbit Service, Church Fire, The Drood and DJ Mudwulf
When: Friday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Denver ambient/space rock legends Orbit Service don’t play many shows these days and even less often at a dive bar like Lion’s Lair. The project’s primary figure, Randall Frazier, has been responsible for maintaining and putting together some of the best live sound in Denver rooms like Walnut Room and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox as well as championing experimental music in the local scene and collaborating with Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots fame. And that would be reason enough to go to this show but also on the bill are Church Fire, a band one might describe as industrial synth pop but its inspired and emotionally fiery performances elevates what could be considered excellent dance music to a higher level. Also, The Drood, a dark, psychedelic, avant-garde prog band.

Who: How To Measure the Weather: Tobias Fike, Ryan Wade Ruehlen, Kari Treadwell, Scott Ferguson
When: Friday, 05.25, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Emmanuel Gallery
Why: This show has been described as a “migratory sound installation” meaning the performers, members of the Flinching Eye Collective, will move their respective sound-making rigs to take advantage of the Emmanuel Gallery on Auraria campus, one of the oldest buildings in Denver, and its architecture to provide a truly unique, one-off environmental sonic experience.

Who: Muscle Beach w/Colfax Speed Queen, Kenaima and Voight
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Confrontational, arty hardcore. Furious post-psych garage punk. Crushing, post-hardcore noise rock. Emotionally-charged, industrial post-punk. Also, four of Denver’s best, most interesting and always compelling and entertaining live bands.

Who: Super Bummer album release w/Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Super Bummer may be both one of the most ironic and yet accurate names in Denver underground music. The band’s melancholy compositions sure do articulate life’s downbeats with sincerity and self-deprecating humor—a rare combination. Its new album, Big Ambition, out on GROUPHUG, comes out tonight at Syntax where the band will share the stage with the broodingly melodic Americana band Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie, whose 2017 album Holographic Universe is a rabbit hole of beautifully enigmatic sounds and ideas to get lost in across its nine tracks.

Who: La Luz w/Savila and The Kinky Fingers
When: Friday, 05.25, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: La Luz may have originally been (and continue to be) inspired by 60s surf rock giants and the great girl groups of the era. But the Los Angeles-based group have long since made their own mark in music, especially with its 2018 album Floating Features, out on Hardly Art. Spooky and soulful, La Luz have mastered the art of nuanced emotional textures and mood so that its songs can be urgent and spend passages of sound swirling in the sweeping heat of a memory that unexpectedly rushes back into your consciousness triggered some moment or detail you encounter in the present. Denver’s The Kinky Fingers possess similar powers of evoking vivid emotions and imagery with their own surf-rooted rock songs.

Saturday | May 26, 2018

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Victoria Lundy, Snails and Oysters, Sporehive, Denizens of the Deep and Floating Cave, DJ sets by Franklin Bell and visuals by Orchidz3ro
When: Saturday, 05.26, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: An entire afternoon of some of Denver’s most interesting experimental and avant-garde bands. For instance, Snails and Oysters used to be just Joe Mills but is now a duo creating organic ambient music using rock instruments in unconventional ways. A project that cites psych folk legend Sandy Bull, the artist that did an arrangement of Carl Orff’s symphonic opera masterpiece “Carmina Burana” for five-string banjo and released it on a debut album in 1963, is definitely not coming from predictable places. While every act on the bill is worth checking out and nothing really much like each other, the star of the show is Victoria Lundy who at one time people might have said is better known for being the Theremin player in The Inactivists. But by now she has established herself locally as a gifted composer of electronic and ambient music with the Theremin and synth. One thing that sets Lundy apart is that her music tends to be free of transient, modern culture reference tropes and is rooted in 20th century classical and the first wave electronic music avant-garde. And yet, Lundy makes her music accessible and emotionally engaging. There is plenty of intellect going into the making of the music and the craft and technology but the art comes from the heart.

Who: 102 Wires
When: Saturday, 05.26, 5 p.m.
Where: Bar Max
Why: This is a celebration of the possibilities of guitar in music beyond the typical use of the instrument in popular or even experimental music. Read our interview with organizer Kevin Richards here.

Sunday | May 27, 2018

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eHpH, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A Life Celebration For Steve Gordon
When: Sunday, 05.27, 1 – 4 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: This will be an event honoring the late, great, Steve Gordon. Steve was a visual artist, sculptor and musician who contributed greatly to the local avant-garde improvisational and ambient music scenes in Denver. Steve passed away in early May following a prolonged battle with cancer but as a widely admired figure, his legacy of excellence, originality, humanity and humor will continue to have an impact in the Denver art world for years to come. For the event friends and collaborators will share stories, music, poetry, food and drink. Read Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s excellent piece on Steve for Westword here and our own interview with the artist from November 2017 here.

Who: Textures featuring Tunica Externa, paperbark, Lepidoptera
When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This will be John Mulville’s last show in Denver for a while as he’s moving back to Minneapolis for the duration. His ambient project paperbark has brought some of the most compelling, textured to grace Denver spaces in recent years. Generating sounds with treated modular synth tones, Mulville’s compositions suggest natural spaces with a physicality suggested by the earlier reference to texture. It’s like you experience a tactile sensation through a creative crafting of atmosphere. Though Mulville will be back through town, we won’t have the luxury of catching any of his soothingly hypnotic sets regularly.

Who: ManifestiV, Bloodied, eHpH and Keldari Station
When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: ManifestiV from Vallejo, California sounds like it came out of the intersection of the burner community that embraces both industrial music, electronic dance and New Age concepts in the use of sound. But it works though at times you expect it to be the soundtrack to some kind of hippie-esque cyberpunk video game. But who wouldn’t want to play that game? Denver’s Keldari Station sounds like it’s coming from a similar place but its own music is more pop, has more elements of dub and old school glam rock. eHpH, like the other bands on this bill, is a duo with a penchant for dark, atmospheric music. Except this duo has managed to combine EBM with industrial rock without sounding like they’re trying to fit in with the tired old Goth scene sound of the 90s and 2000s. The band’s music is more experimental, more nuanced in its emotional expressions, than bands who really want to be a new version of Suicide Commando.

Tuesday | May 29, 2018

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King Tuff, photo by Olivia Bee

Who: King Tuff w/Cut Worms and Sasami
When: Tuesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: At the end of his last tour, Kyle Thomas was sick of the party monster persona he had cultivated for years as King Tuff. The pressure to live up to something you’re not because it benefits you professionally and to some extent artistically erodes you more than a little on the inside and Thomas was feeling it. “I was a lost soul,” Thomas posted on his website regarding the release of his 2018 album The Other. “I didn’t know who I was anymore.” The new record is certainly a bit of a departure for Thomas. Any trace of the garage rock that informed his earlier releases is pretty much gone. There is a soulfulness and an overt spirit of experimentation running through all the songs for the release. In moments its tinge of futuristic funk and glam prog are reminiscent of I Robot period The Alan Parsons Project.

Also playing this show is Cut Worms. The band’s main creative force is Max Clarke who seems tapped into a mid-60s pop sort of sound and aesthetic. There is a simplicity and clarity of melody and songwriting that we’ve heard plenty of, likely, in this era of mining past decades for artistic inspiration. But especially on Clarke’s 2018 album Hollow Ground the subject matter isn’t so clean and tidy and his songs, like the era it perhaps sonically echoes, reflect a self-aware sense of social anxiety, a painful yearning but struggling with real or endlessly imagined inability to not fuck things up somehow and a willingness to stumble and scrape through even if life doesn’t always, or never does, turn out as planned or hoped. The brilliance comes in striking that balance—being real alongside the sounds of a time many romanticize in spite of the dark and grisly underbelly of people’s lives and the culture itself.

Who: Broncho w/The Paranoyds and Valen
When: Tuesday, 05.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Broncho formed in 2010 in the wake of the dissolution of indie pop weirdos Starlight Mints. Ryan Lindsey of the latter, went on to play guitars, keys and perform lead vocal duties in Broncho. The four-piece has always been kind of an outsider in the music world in that it never really fit in with any emerging trend and was probably too weird to hit it big time in the mainstream. But Lindsey knows he doesn’t belong there. At this point, Lindsay has already done his time deconstructing pop in Starlight Mints and it’s obvious that subverting the tropes of indie, garage and psych rock this past decade isn’t as interesting as it might have been a few years ago. 2016’s Double Vanity found Broncho excavating and exploring some of the sonic ideas that Phil Elverum was onto on those final two The Microphones records, 2001’s The Glow Pt. 2 and 2003’s Mount Eerie. But without imitating Elverum’s richly imaginative and innovative soundscaping. With any luck, this version of Broncho will represent the band’s next phase of its injecting the pop format with expansive ideas and sounds.

Wednesday | May 30, 2018

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Gang of Youths, photo by Sergey Osipov

Who: Gang of Youths w/Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Gang of Youths’ 2017 sophomore album Go Farther in Lightness garnered near universal acclaim in the band’s home country of Australia. Rightfully so. It has the poetic insight and depth of early Bruce Springsteen and more recent from Titus Andronicus. Like both of those artists, Gang of Youths has a gift for taking the mythical/universal aspect of everyday experiences and giving it a poignantly personal expression. There’s a song called “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?” that goes beyond that whole rediscovering your bliss and your passion nonsense. But it’s a whole record of songs that might seem like a collection of trite platitudes but in the end are the exact opposite. It’s highly energetic indie rock but the emotional and intellectual content run a lot deeper with Gang of Youths.

Who: Nunofyrbeeswax w/Open to the Hound, Claudzilla and Rat Bites
When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Berlin’s Nunofyrbeeswax brings together aspects of indie pop, naïve lo-fi rock and outsider pop in its music. Good thing its on a bill with local weirdos in keytar punk Claudzilla, gritty indie pop outfit Open to the Hound and Germs-esque noise punkers Rat Bites.

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White Hills, photo by Simona Dalla Valle

Who: Ufomammut w/White Hills and Tjutjuna
When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Saying Ufomammut is a doom metal band from Italy is a bit like saying that Neurosis is a post-hardcore band from the Bay Area. Clearly Neurosis found some kinship with the trio from Tortona, Italy because Neurot Recordings issued the group’s most recent four records in the USA. Ufomammut’s music has elements of doom and sludge metal but its psychedelic drones and industrial sounds have more in common with the other bands on the bill than a straightforward doom band.

New York City’s White Hills has been exploring past settled territories of modern psychedelic rock since its 2003 inception. The duo of Dave W and Ego Sensation use drum machins and sampled rhythms to set a frame in which each can weave a mind-altering and hypnotic soundscape of vivid tones and dark atmospheres. The band’s storytelling and Dave’s vocals are reminiscent of what one might hear on a Legendary Pink Dots or Skinny Puppy album in which there’s no rockist self-aggrandizement or empty calories rhetoric. Dave has something to say, observations to make and narratives to give in his songs that are frankly worth listening to in themselves but couched in an immersive experience in the listening and especially so in the live setting. The group’s 2017 album Stop Mute Defeat, out on Thrill Jockey, is a major leap forward in terms of capturing the band’s masterful use of mood, texture and atmosphere to craft psychological experiences in the form of song.

Denver’s Tjutjuna rarely plays live shows these days, but the band and its talent for krautrock-inspired mind-expanding drones and percussion was always ahead of the curve of so-called “psychedelic rock” bands in the Mile High City. Like White Hills, Tjutjuna is no stranger to employing motorik beats except with a live drummer and the clear melding of the aesthetics of psych, noise and the avant-garde sets the group galaxies ahead of indie rockers who recently discovered how to maybe use reverb pedals with chorus. Quaint. Tjutjuna? Not so much.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 05/03/18 – 05/09/18

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Alice Glass performs with Zola Jesus and Pictureplane at Fox Theatre on Saturday, 5/5/18. Photo courtesy Sacks & Co.

Thursday | May 3, 2018

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Ariel Pink, photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

Who: Desert Daze Caravan 2018: Ariel Pink w/DIIV
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: Desert Daze Caravan is the traveling mini-version of the Desert Daze festival in California that features some of the best of the more psychedelic-leaning bands existing today. While the festival happens in October, for this touring edition, Desert Daze brings along a couple of the most interesting artists playing music in its wheelhouse. Los Angeles based lo-fit mutant pop renegade Ariel Rosenberg, aka Ariel Pink, has had a varied and storied musical career that should be the subject of a book someday because it’s not short on drama, controversy and artistic achievement. In 2017 Rosenberg released Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, a collection of songs that bridge dream pop, psychedelic rock, what one might called garage soul and lo-fi funk. As with all of his records, Rosenberg plays with the form of genre with an offbeat use of sound and weaving together aesthetics that most other artists wouldn’t. At times one is reminded of some early 80s German synth pop, others of Get Lost-period Magnetic Fields and of the music of his friend and contemporary, John Maus. Unlike many of his contemporary synth artists Rosenberg isn’t trying to show how big a sound he can get with a synthesizer, he makes it serve the song as much as any other musical element and not as the basis for the composition.

DIIV became a bit of a cult band for Zachary Cole Smith when Oshin came out on Captured Tracks in 2012. Though the record felt a bit indistinct it made krautrock’s repetitive beat structure softer like downtempo with a little more emotional urgency. The follow-up, 2016’s Is the Is Are found Smith embracing the raw and vivid emotionalism of Elliott Smith’s lo-fi pop and the messy, atonal trash rock of Royal Trux. It’s challenging to hear that on the beautifully melodic songs of Is the Is Are but that the songwriting is growing beyond the band’s earliest phase is obvious and at times Is the Is Are sounds like Smith is training himself to deconstruct his own musical instincts to make something more creatively rewarding.

Who: In/Planes Radio Wave tape release w/Down Time and Kyle Emerson
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: In/Planes’ music has a very soft touch and is the “Mixtapes” single from its new tape, Radio Waves, is any indication, the duo has a gift for taking fairly common experiences and making them resonate with an immediacy of the deeply personal. Joining the band for the tape release show are like-minded tender pop band Down Time and Kyler Emerson with his jazz-inflected, incisively poetic, desert-y folk pop gems.

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series season 2: Lepidoptera, MYTHirst, Bow Shock
When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: MYTHirst’s sound is part bright, modular-synth sounding beats with organic string sounds and textured percussion. The Denver version of Lepidoptera, not the Palm Beach, Florida band, has a dream-like guitar and minimal atmospheric sound reminiscent of mid-90s Flying Saucer Attack but not quite as noisy. Bow Shock is somewhere between improvisational electro jazz funk and whatever it is one might call Prefuse 73 with its own mixture of samples of records and live instruments in a way that expands the parameters of what constitutes electronic dance music.

Friday | May 4, 2018

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Television Generation, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Jane Doe, Television Generation and Meet the Giant
When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Three of Denver’s best off the beaten path rock bands are playing the Skylark on this bill. Jane Doe is in the realm of post-punk but there are elements of noise rock and avant-garde jazz and performance poetry as delivered by Becca Mhalek. The latter spent some time playing with Nels Cline as well as Denver experimental bands Nightshark, MVP and Aenka. Television Generation takes the harrowing intensity of early grunge and mixes it with melodic and energetic post-punk. Meet the Giant has taken what could be fairly gloomy music and given it a driving rhythm and grit that somehow perfectly captures urban melancholy and desperation as experienced by anyone living in American west: uncertainty, disconnection, disaffection, undercurrents of fatalism and a sense of pondering whether or not its foolish to hope for things to change for the better where or not you give it a good try. All while sounding scrappy and not ready to give up on the rewards of creative expression for one’s own fulfillment. Meet the Giant’s self-titled full-length releases digitally on May 15 with a vinyl release later in Spring or Summer.

Who: Porlolo (album release) w/Land Lines and Spirettes
When: Friday, 05.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Porlolo released Awards on April 27 but this is the official release show. Erin Roberts, the lead singer and guitarist in Porlolo, has kept the band going for years while not exactly breaking through to a mainstream audience, Roberts’ songwriting has been noteworthy for its humor, wisdom and sensitivity. Maybe some of the roots are in folk and Americana but at this point Porlolo transcends both and has as much in common with Luna, Cat Power, Mojave 3 and Mazzy Star as it does with anything fully in the country spectrum of songwriting. Getting to see Land Lines’ experimental, string driven pop and Spirettes’ incandescent dream pop in person just makes this show three times worth seeing.

Who: SPELLS, Quits, Wild Lives
When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: SPELLS is a poppy punk band that is as much a party as a band. Wild Lives is more in the realm of punk bands from the 80s and 90s who were melodic but not pop punk. Like The Didjits, New Bomb Turks and Blatz. Quits, a little different from the rest of the lineup in being more a noise rock band than punk. Which makes sense in that every member of the band has contributed to some of the most noteworthy post-hardcore and noise rock out of Denver of the last two decades including former Hot White members Tiana Bernard and Darren Kulback as well as Luke Fairchild and Doug Mioducki who were last in a band together in the early 2000s with Sparkles who always seemed to play like they were ready to explode.

Saturday | May 5, 2018

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Al Scorch band, photo by Alexis Ellers

Who: Alice Glass – Snowblood tour w/Zola Jesus and Pictureplane
When: Saturday, 05.05, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: When Alice Glass released her self-titled EP in August 2017 it sounded like a a purging of several years of having told hold back in revealing her own truth and a declaration of her identity as an artist viable beyond any past associations with Crystal Castles. In the latter, Glass was a riveting performer and a singer that channeled perfectly the synthesis of 8-bit music, synth pop, modern dance music and hip-hop that was the essence of Crystal Castles and its being ahead of a curve in modern electronic music that embraced lo-fi and collage production as much as more conventional compositional techniques. For this tour Glass paired with one of the other powerful songwriters in electronic underground music with Zola Jesus whose own 2017 album Okovi represented her own breaking with the methodology and career path of an “indie” artist that might have been open to her. Instead, she trusted her personal and creative instincts and put together an album that was awash in ambient sounds and an hypnotic melodies and sonic structures reminiscent of classical music and black metal. Pictureplane is an old friend of Glass’s from his days as a Denver artist living at Rhinoceropolis. As an artist whose work traverses noise, electronic pop, hip-hop and dance, Pictureplane has a broad palette of sounds and sensibilities employed in his songwriting and performance style.

Who: Al Scorch (full band), Gun Street Ghost, Matt Rouch & The Noise Upstairs
When: Saturday, 05.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Al Scorch earned a name for himself as an energetic and engaging performer with his blend of punk and Americana. Sure, a ton of punks have turned country and the great Camper Van Beethoven and Green On Red, among others, set a high bar for that sort of thing. A number of punk and country artists have even threaded in some eastern European and non-Western musical ideas into their mix. But Scorch does so with an irresistible energy and charisma. His most recent record, 2016’s Circle Round the Signs, contained more than a small amount of poignant social commentary about class and the consequences of war and conflict.

Sunday | May 6, 2018

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HIDE in August 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: HIDE, Curse, Echo Beds and Jump Scare – DJ Brian Castillo
When: Sunday, 05.06, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Chicago-based post-industrial duo HIDE makes a return visit to Denver in the wake of the release of their 2018 album Castration Anxiety. Using samples, pounding beats and corrosive drones, HIDE’s shows are like confrontational rapidfire snapshots into our culture’s nightmares and insecurities set to a heady soundtrack and as embodied in vocalist Heather Gabel’s ritualistic performance style. Fortunately, the band’s tour intersected with that of Baltimore industrial/darkwave punk band Curse whose own synth-driven heavy music predates some of the current darkwave renaissance and yet sounds like a future form of the music. Curse recently released a split 7” with noteworthy Austin-based industrial act Street Sects. Also on the bill are local industrial noise phenoms Echo Beds and Jump Scare, which includes Anton Kruger, formerly of experimental electronic dance project Bollywood Life. Brian Castillo will DJ the night with some rare cuts from his extensive vinyl library of underground and not-so-underground darkwave music.

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Yardsss at Treefort Music Fest 2018, Boise, ID. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Flesh Buzzard, Sporehive, Morlox, Nighttimeschoolbus, Mirror Fears, Yardsss, Ghost House, visuals by Clark Nova, DJ sets by JusJo
When: Sunday, 05.06, 6 p.m., show 6:30
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A night of mostly local noise and electronic acts at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Patrick Urn of Morlox has long bridged the worlds of noise and electronic music production and has released a fairly diverse body of work including hip-hop and ambient music beyond the noise and industrial music for which he’s best known. Whether as a member of defunct industrial legends In Ether, as Herpes Hideaway, as Syphilis Sauna or Morlox, Urn’s imaginative compositions are highly worthy of exploring in recorded form and witnessing live if you can. Nighttimeschoolbus is an underground hip-hop duo comprised of Toby Hendricks of Otem Rellik and vocalist extraordinaire Robin Walker. The name tells you a bit about the aesthetic and sense of play involved in the songwriting but it also articulates perfectly the necessary emotional state in which you’re indulging your whimsy as a refuge from the rest of the time in life when you’re dealing with the heavier side of human existence. Mirror Fears will not be short on bringing the feels with her melancholy yet cathartic, beat driven electronic pop songs. Yardsss from Portland, Oregon in this configuration is the three-piece band so the show is more like a post-punk, industrial ritual performance than the inspired, hermetic electronic performance art piece it was when Krist Kruger performed as Yardsss solo in Denver in 2017.

Monday | May 7, 2018

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MGMT, photo by Brad Elterman

Who: MGMT
When: Monday, 05.07, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: MGMT came up a time when many of the big time electronic pop acts of the 2000s were getting going. That LCD Soundsystem, Paramore, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Matt and Kim and MGMT and the like started experiencing the first stirrings of popularity in roughly the same timeframe before chillwave became a thing should be noteworthy to future popular music historians. MGMT, though, started when Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were students at Wesleyan and like many dorm/bedroom projects in the 2000s the early musical ideas were noisier and more experimental than their more developed work. But when MGMT got more accessible it also became more interesting and its weirdo psychedelic pop struck a chord with an increasingly wide audience. The 2007, Dave Fridmann-produced Oracular Spectacular took MGMT out of the underground for good and when the band returned to Denver after the release of that album it wasn’t playing the Hi-Dive, it was much larger venues. The band’s subsequent albums, Congratulations and MGMT, didn’t seem to advance the band’s musical ideas much but 2018’s Little Dark Age finds the group not returning to form so much as a re-embrace of the band’s core idiosyncratic vision of electronic pop and dance music that made it interesting in the beginning.

Who: Curse w/Echo Beds and Ghost House
When: Monday, 05.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Triple Nickel Tavern (Colorado Springs)
Why: This is your second chance to see Curse (see above) in Colorado also with Echo Beds. It’s not too common that these kinds modern darkwave and industrial bands perform in the Springs so don’t sleep on the opportunity if you’re into that kind of music.

Who: Smoking Popes (acoustic) w/The Bigger Empty (feat. Mike Felumlee)
When: Monday, 05.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Smoking Popes were one of the best of the 90s Chicago punk bands. It came out of the same scene that produced Screeching Weasels and Pegboy. But Smoking Popes was a bit more melancholy than than many of their peers even when the pace was high energy and one might even say the Popes were basically an emo band. Combining a punk edge with an emotional vulnerability wasn’t terribly common in the early 90s but the Popes did it in a way that seems more a feature of punk than an anomaly these days. The band flirted with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s but by the end of the decade Josh Caterer found his newfound strong religious convictions didn’t jibe with what the band was about the end group broke up in January 1999. Six years alter, the band played a reunion show in Chicago before which Caterer explained that songs he didn’t think he could perform again weren’t songs the band tended to play live anway. But the reunion would happen without original drummer Mike Felumlee. Over a decade later, Felumlee is back in the fold and playing this current “acoustic” tour as well as playing with opening act The Bigger Empty.

Tuesday | May 8, 2018

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Curse, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Curse, Church Fire, Kill Your Darlings
When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery (Upstairs)
Why: Baltimore darkwave band Curse makes it to Fort Collins for a show with Denver-based electro-industrial-dance band Church Fire and Fort Collins’ industrial band Kill Your Darlings which includes Brett Scheiber of Stella Luce and formerly of dance pop band Pep*Squad and noise project Four Pins Pulled. Sure, darkwave but all of these bands have an emotional intensity on stage that may have an element of the melancholy yet never a downer.

Who: Pseudogod, Hellfire Deathcult, Abysmal Lord, Casket Huffer
When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Perm, Russia-based black metal band Pseudogod converges with like-minded bands Hellfire Deathcult from Chicago, New Orleans’ Abysmal Lord and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne for a show that, if fantastical conceits could be true, open a gate into the dimension where the Great Old Ones are partying to music like this. Pseudogod’s cover for The Pharynxes Of Hell, part humorous, part spooky, visually arresting seems to encompass the spirit of what this show will be like to see.

Wednesday | May 9, 2018

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Tricky, photo by Sebastian Pielles

Who: Tricky w/Young Magic
When: Wednesday, 05.09, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Tricky is one of the artists directly responsible for what came to be called trip-hop in the 90s. As an early collaborator with Massive Attack, and having contributed vocals to that band’s 1991 debut Blue Lines, Tricky demonstrated a versatile talent and when he embarked on a solo career in 1993, he brought with him a gift for borrowing musical ideas and production methods from a variety of musical styles resulting in his debut album, 1995’s Maxinquaye. A hybrid of downtempo, post-punk, dub, hip-hop, Tricky’s music was an antidote to the increasingly conformist and bland alternative rock of that mid-decade. Over twenty years later, Tricky continues to make evocative, deeply atmospheric music. Although, his 2017 album Ununiform, co-engineered by Jay-Z, finds Tricky focusing on spare, uncluttered melodies and strong, minimal beats. It has the feel of Tricky’s least abstract and ethereal record while not sacrificing his ability to set a vibrant mood.

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Brazilian Girls, photo courtesy Six Degrees Records

Who: Brazilian Girls w/Tiger Party (Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits and Josh Fairman of Sunsquabi and Analog Son)
When: Wednesday, 05.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: New York City has been a melting pot of popular musical styles for decades. But in the 2000s a particular brand of mixing Latin, African and non-Western musical ideas in general with dance music, post-punk, pop and noise emerged in various forms including the tropical pop of early High Places and the no-wave funk of bands like These Are Powers. Or, if you prefer, more above-ground acts like Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend who re-popularized polyrhythms and less conventional vocal styles. Brazilian Girls came in on the dance music end of that wave with its always eclectic and lively live show and songs that wove together ghostly, downtempo melodies, pulsing low end, dub-esque percussion, sex positive messaging and singer Sabina Sciubba’s otherworldly jazz vocals and enigmatic, theatrical stage presence – something akin to Björk fronting a lounge band. In April 2018 the band released Let’s Make Love, it’s first in a decade. Not as cool and sonically smooth as its previous efforts, Let’s Make Love, nevertheless, finds Brazilian Girls more thoughtful but musically more urgent, highlighting the band’s talent for reconciling contrasts.