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 04/05/18 – 04/11/18

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Kitty Crimes, photo by Lindsey Webb

Thursday | April 5, 2018

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Frankie Cosmos, photo courtesy Loroto Productions

Who: Frankie Cosmos w/Lomelda and Ashley Koett
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: Frankie Cosmos released its third album Vessel on March 30, 2018. Like it’s predecessors there’s a tender sensibility to the songwriting that recalls the lo-fi introspection of Exile In Guyville period Liz Phair and the peek-into-a-strikingly-insightful diary quality of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Sure, Kline had famous parents (Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates) and was once a member of Porches. But Frankie Cosmos doesn’t sound like it’s resting on any of those laurels. Kline uses everyday details as a vehicle for exploring feelings and thoughts long hidden. The results are a refreshing frankness and intimacy even in the context of a pop song without the overpolishing and overproduction that the musical form often gets.

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series 2: Brother Saturn and Vahco
When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This edition of the new season of the Speakeasy Series (all in the basement of Hooked on Colfax) includes some of the most mind-calming artists of the entire programme. Brother Saturn’s dreamlike soundscapes are an entrancing synthesis of ambient and dream pop. Vahco is the solo project of Vahco Before Horses from Demoncassettecult and Gold Trash. Whereas those other two are more in the realm of noise and experimental electronic music, Vahco is more in the realm of pop music with soulful vocals.

Who: Liza Anne w/Valley Queen and Down Time
When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Liza Anne’s 2018 album Fine But Dying may sound upbeat and bright and, well, like a conventionally commercial pop record I some ways. But not at all beneath the surface of the music is the fact that, according to a recent interview with Billboard, Anne just laid out her struggles with “panic disorder and depression,” articulating them in a way that could be relatable to almost anyone and hopefully at least putting to rest some of her own anxiety and shame regarding those issues. In putting the struggle in very specific personal terms without sensationalizing it or making it seem like a special taboo subject, Anne brilliantly makes it all seem like something anyone might experience without judgment. Joining Anne for this tour is Los Angeles’ Valley Queen who take a folk/acoustic music foundation to songwriting and make it warm and energetic. There’s plenty of post-neo-Laurel Canyon stuff around in the world today but Valley Queen frontwoman Natalie Carol doesn’t sound like she’s copping someone else’s vibe. Rather, her voice, sometimes quavering from the well of emotion, provides a compelling narrative and vivid imagery. One might compare her in that regard to Esmé Patterson’s own knack for creative storytelling that aims at bigger issues through the language of personal experience.

Who: Ty Segall w/Dirty Few ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/347251
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Probably anyone that’s been paying attention to modern rock music knows who Ty Segall at this point. If not, pick up pretty much any of his records (they’re all worth listening to) and you’ll get an idea of what music Segall makes but keep in mind that he is clearly a songwriter who wants to explore a wide variety of tones, moods, dynamics and songwriting styles. On his 2018 album, Freedom’s Goblin, Segall explores a more lush songwriting style without waxing into the fake soul and ersatz R&B that is being peddled a little too much of late. Covering Hot Chocolate’s 1978 hit “Every 1’s a Winner” was an interesting choice for the record but it all fits in with an album that sounds like Segall is trying to create for himself an emotionally comfortable space in which to express feelings that are out of step with some of the more hard-edged rock and roll that some may have come to expect from Segall who is too much of a creative chameleon to ever fully embody, all the better for fans of musicians who evolve whether their fans are ready for the changes or not. People have been trying to pigeonhole Denver’s Dirty Few  for any manner of reasons for years as just rock and roll hooligans. And they are that but bottom line, the band actually writes solid, surprisingly thoughtful, songs that fit in the context of a rowdy live show.

Who: Kitty Crimes album release w/GVgrace
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Maria Kohler has been performing as Kitty Crimes for several years now and it seems as though many of her fans never really knew her as a talented musician and singer in various past bands including Houses, Science Partner and Mercuria and the Gem Stars. Kitty Crimes sometimes seemed like a goof and a gimmick. The whole white-presenting woman doing “dirty” rap thing. But Kohler isn’t someone easily clowned and she turned an interesting project into something powerful and well-composed beyond the obvious appeal. Her new record, Crimes of the Kitty, Volume 2 has soul, the expected deft wordplay, personal insight and lush production. For fans of K’Valentine and Kari Faux.

Who: Entrancer, Cities of Earth, Staggered Hooks, Glissline
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This fundraiser for Project Worthmore, an organization dedicated to aiding the refugee community, is also a great chance to catch some of Denver’s most interesting experimental electronic projects. Entrancer’s music is grounded in the production and sensibility of 90s hip-hop and Detroit techno as well as the full breadth and depth of synthesizer music as someone who has more than a passing experience with modular synths. Cities of Earth’s Tangerine Dream-esque IDM sounds like what should be on the soundtrack to a documentary about Warp Records. At least if his 2017 EP Tangra is any indication. Staggered Hooks is probably the latest project from Dean Inman whose up-to-now-most-recent project, Dream Hike, was responsible for some of the most beautifully hypnotic deep house/ambient going. Glissline is the name Tommy Metz (formerly under his given name as well as Iuengliss) is using for his music these days. Metz has a gift for melodies that soothe the mind and his beats seem to employ the interval that releases endorphins. But whatever his music really does, fans of Aphex Twin and Clark should make an effort to see Glissline sometime if not tonight.

Who: Built to Spill w/Rituals of Mine, Black Belt Eagle Scout
When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Coming out of post-punk/post-hardcore band Treepeople, Doug Martsch put together a band that could synthesize his musical interests and a path of sonic curiosity that wouldn’t fully congeal in underground culture in quite the same way until the late 90s/early 2000s. He cited Caustic Resin as an influence and brought that band’s brilliant guitar player into the new band, Built to Spill, on bass as well as Ralf Youtz on drums. The group’s 1993 debut album Ultimate Alternative Wavers was an oblique thumbing of the nose at how their music culture had been co-opted and marketed as product rather than a culture parallel to the mainstream. The music sounded like a blend of Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr (a band clearly influenced by Young) and underground Pacific Northwest rock. But inside all of that, Martsch had found a way to bring in extended guitar jams that were emotionally charged and expressive rather than purely self-indulgent and wanky. The development of that sound and dynamic perhaps reached its apex on Built To Spill’s 1997 masterpiece, Perfect From Now On and the 1999 follow-up, Keep It Like A Secret. Along with the visionary indie pop of the Elephant 6 collective, the bands on Merge Records, K and Kill Rock Stars, and unlikely “alternative rock” star bands post-alternative collapse like Pavement, Built To Spill helped to shape indie rock in the first decade of the 2000s by offering yet another alternative vision to what was being pumped by large commercial outlets for music.

Seeing Built To Spill in 2018 is a bit like a glimpse back to a time when it was more easily possible to have a viable career in music without having to get commercially huge or over compromise or have to fit in with a trendy subgenre of the moment and ride that wave. Sure, BTS has been on Warner Brothers since Perfect From Now On but if they’re being encouraged to get more commercial you sure can’t tell from even its most recent record, 2015’s Untethered Moon. If the group’s showing at Treefort Music Fest 2018 is any indication, the trio is still capable of weaving its gritty, hypnotic magic today. And its sonic DNA is in music of most modern indie rock bands whether those bands know it or not.

Friday | April 6, 2018

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Palehorse/Palerider, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Immediate Music Festival 
When: Friday, 04.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Metropolitan State University of Denver
Why: The Immediate Music Festival celebrates collaborative improvisation. Throughout the day (for more information click here) there will be workshops on group improvisation, soundpainting, noteworthy avant-garde musician Pauline Oliveros’ presentation Deep Listening. That night, at the King Center, there will be a concert from the avant-garde-improv band Sone which includes some of the local luminaries of that world with Jane Rigler, Janet Feder, Evan Mazunik, Gil Selinger and Mark Harris as well as a performance from Grammy-nominated jazz drummer extraordinaire Matt Wilson.

Who: Dead Meadow w/Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show, Grass and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Friday, 04.06, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Dead Meadow is one of the pioneers of the recent psychedelic rock resurgence with its mixture of heavy rock, droning blues, freak folk and densely flowing psychedelia. Read our piece on/interview with Jason Simon of Dead Meadow here. Also on the bill is Palehorse/Palerider, Denver’s own masters of heavy, mind-altering rock that blurs lines between doom, heavy shoegaze and post-rock.

Who: Steve Gordon Art Show
When: Friday, 04.06, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Vertigo Gallery 960 Santa Fe
Why: Master sculptor, painter and drawing artist Steve Gordon is having what may be one of his last art shows into the foreseeable future. Gordon is also a significant artist in Denver’s experimental music world mostly notably with improvisational composition band Animal / object, which often includes Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano.

Who: Doug Spencer: Cave Lovers 
When: Friday, 04.06, 6-11 p.m.
Where: Dateline Gallery 3004 Larimer St.
Why: This is the latest art show from painter Doug Spencer whose creative use of texture and lighting has made his work desired by connoisseurs of the artform wherein Spencer combines 2D design with 3D, sculptural/diorama elements to create truly unique works. Some may know Spencer as the imaginative guitarist in notable Denver and Fort Collins rock bands Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Monofog and Sweet Tooth Meat Tooth.

Who: Nocturnal Presents: Exos w/Talien and Alex Whittier
When: Friday, 04.06, 11 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Nocturnal is a long-running event that puts together deep house/experimental electronic dance events akin to a classic rave. So there will be long sets with the artists listed above going from late night until the early morning.

Who: Slugger, Henry and the Kissingers, Galleries, Pelvis Presley
When: Friday, 04.06, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: After too many bands embraced the less interesting aspects of 60s and 70s rock a little too much a group of bands were bound to come along that embraced the more interesting aspects of that music including original songwriting that isn’t so obviously beholden to an earlier band. This is a show that includes a handful of those groups on the local level including Slugger, the band fronted by former Silver Tone songwriter/guitarist Gabriel Albelo.

Saturday | April 7, 2018

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Cut Chemist, photo by Joseph Armario

Who: Cut Chemist w/El Dusty and Chris Karns (Pretty Lights Live Band)
When: Saturday, 04.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Cut Chemist is perhaps best known for his long term stint as a DJ/turntablist in Jurassic 5 and his involvement in the early era of Ozomatli. His tasteful breaks and ear for unusual and evocative samples brought a an uncommon elegance and depth to Jurassic 5’s beats. But the call to do something outside the context of the influential hip-hop group drew Cut Chemist to a solo career in 2004. His 2006 debut album under his own name was an eclectic and borderline world music and downtempo record called The Audience’s Listening. Since then the turntablist has served as a producer on numerous records, performed live DJ sets including opening for Shakira on her 2007 tour, collaborated with DJ Shadow and, in 2017, started doing a bi-weekly radio show, A Stable Sound, on dublab / 99.1 FM KZUT. In March 2018, Cut Chemist released his second solo album, Die Cut. The record continues Cut Chemist’s masterful treatment of samples into songs with a Dilla-esque use of motes of white noise in the mix, samples processed to sound like you’re getting intermittent transmissions of old radio programs, vintage television shows and commercials and ambient IDM glitch-hop.

Who: Nina Storey w/Michael and Sarah Hornbuckle
When: Saturday, 04.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Nina Storey spent years cultivating her sound, songwriting and live show in Denver before relocating to Los Angeles in the 2000s. If you caught Storey in the 90s you probably got to see a singer whose voice was perfectly suited to the bluesy rock music she was writing then. Also, that her powerful voice seemed unlikely coming from someone with such a relatively small frame. Since then (and likely even at that time), Storey has explored the range of her voice and where it fit in and discovered it was well-suited to jazz and R&B as well. On her most recent full-length album, 2013’s Think Twice, Storey blended all her musical impulses into well-crafted modern pop songs. These days Storey still comes through Denver and on this date she is joined by local luminaries in the Denver blues world, Michael and Sarah Hornbuckle.

Who: Suss Law, Rotstrotter, Sentry Dogs, Berated and Florida Man
When: Saturday, 04.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar / Carioca Café
Why: Portland, Oregon’s Suss Law could be where power violence, noise and grindcore meet. Its recently released seven inch is a chaotic and relentless assault on the senses with few concessions to accessibility. If you go to this show you can also catch local grind/hardcore luminaries like Rotstrotter and Sentry Dogs. And given the set times of most of these groups, who don’t waste our time by dragging things out, the show may be over by midnight even with five bands.

Monday | April 9, 2018

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Acid Mothers Temple circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Acid Mothers Temple w/Yoo Doo Right and Emerald Siam
When: Monday, 04.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Acid Mothers Temple in its Melting Paraiso U.F.O. incarnation is now on the Electric Dream Ecstasy Tour. The long-running Japanese psychedelic rock band manages to continuously bring a unique show every tour because its roots can be traced back mainly back to fairly experimental western music whether rock or avant-garde (i.e. Can, Karlheinz Stockhausen and King Crimson) but members of the band past and present have been instrumental, literally and figuratively, in comprising and shaping underground music and noise in Japan. The composition of the band’s songs is influenced more by concept than technique. It is bombastic and wild and simultaneously as gorgeous and as mysterious as an other-dimensional spirit incarnate. A list of the band members and their official role and their real title clues you into the fact that leader Kawabata Makoto has a sense of humor to match his imagination and technical prowess as a musician.

Kawabata Makoto : guitar, voice, synth, voice, speed guru
Higashi Hiroshi : synthesizer, harp, noodle god
Jyonson Tsu : vocal, guitar, bouzouki, electronics, midnight whistler
Satoshima Nani : drums, another dimension
Wolf : bass, space & time

Prepare to be taken to otherworldly emotional spaces during the show if you surrender to the music some. Also on the bill is Denver’s Emerald Siam which has become refreshingly difficult to pigeonhole. Ever since singer/guitarist Kurt Ottaway and the rest of the band has seemingly tapped deeper into a creative muse, the songs have gotten darker yet more open and spacious. Expect a full-length release in 2018.

Who: Primitive Man, Spectral Voice, Prison Glue and Cadaver Dog
When: Monday, 04.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Primitive Man is celebrating its return from a long tour with this show at Syntax with like-minded death/doom/grind band Spectra Voice. Joining both bands will be hardcore band Cadaver Dog as well as noise/performance artist Prison Glue.

Tuesday | April 10, 2018

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Luna, photo courtesy Grandstand Media

Who: Luna w/Flaural
When: Tuesday, 04.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Luna split for around ten years after its 2005 tour. The disappointment and despair and reality of the music industry at that time is documented in the 2006 film Tell Me Do You Miss Me. If you got to see Luna on that until now final tour, those feelings radiated from singer/guitarist Dean Wareham’s eyes when he looked out into the crowd. And not just because the late-night-hours lush pop that has been Luna’s hallmark ever since Wareham left influential dream pop band Galaxie 500 (which also never got its due during its time together or much since except by aficionados of deeply evocative, melancholy and ethereal gorgeous guitar rock). Wareham genuinely seemed like he was looking out on the last days of his career with plenty of life left to lead knowing he’d created some great music that would only be appreciated in the past tense. You couldn’t help but feel for him unless you’re one of those people for whom music is merely entertainment made not by humans but by functionaries of some kind of Distraction Industrial Complex.

But Wareham didn’t give up. He wrote music with then bandmate now wife Britta Phillips as well as noteworthy solo albums. He also wrote one of the best and most well-written and thoughtful rock autobiographies of all time with 2008’s Black Postcards. The book reads like all the music Wareham has been a part of making, warm and not detached but able to examine one’s feelings and intimate thoughts and express them in a way that is immediate relatable with a passionate yet gentle spirit even when the music is in moments of high feeling. Luna reconvened in 2015 and in 2017 released an album of interesting and not predictable covers called A Sentimental Education as well as an EP of originals, A Place of Greater Safety. That latter being some of the best music Luna has yet released so this would be a tour on which to catch one of the great rock bands of the last 27 years.

Who: Animal / object live on KGNU Radio Kabaret: Kurt Bauer, Steven Gordon, George Figgs and Karen Sheridan
When: Tuesday, 04.10, 7-8 p.m.
Where: Streaming on KGNU.org and broadcast on radio
Why: Animal / object is Denver’s premiere avant-garde acoustic instrument band. For the last several years the group around the current core of Kurt Bauer, Steven Gordon has had a prolific and varied recorded output captured with various other noteworthy collaborators including the likes of Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, Gordon Pryor, Paul Mimlitsch and for this show, Karen Sheridan formerly of all-female deathrock band 1980s Denver band Your Funeral, experimental rock band Corpses as Bedmates and R.O.C., a kind of deconstructionist pop band that incorporates elements of electronic industrial music and sampling. Over the weekend Sheridan did vocals for an incantation at Steven Gordon’s art show at Vertigo Gallery. So tune in to KGNU for this special performance from one of Denver’s great experimental bands.

Who: Lo Moon w/Kraus
When: Tuesday, 04.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lo Moon spent a great deal of time developing and percolating its sound and then waiting for the right opportunity and format to even let out its September 2016 single “Loveless.” A little under a year and a half later, the full-length self-titled album comes out on on Sony. The single came out at a time when many of the dream pop and neo-shoegaze bands were not drawing on the same inspirations as Lo Moon so it seemed especially sophisticated and sonically and emotionally deep by comparison. The full-length album including “Loveless” doesn’t capitalize on the promise of the single so much as showcase a sound the band had cultivated and perfected in this first stage of its development as a band. The record didn’t exactly blow the minds of critics but it was interesting to see a band not succumb to the pressure of putting out its music as quickly as possible, given the avenues in which to do so, before developing that music to the point it needed to be and without fully submitting to the de-mystifying tendency of the social media game most bands use to garner any excitement for its new material these days. Lo Moon distinguished itself playing larger venues when it toured with Ride in 2017 and getting to see a band with this large a sound on the small stage now would be a great time to see a group that may not be regularly playing such small clubs in the future.

Who: Timber Timbre w/Thor & Friends
When: Tuesday, 04.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Timber Timbre has been described as psychedelic folk. But if that’s the case then its 2017 album, Sincerely, Future Pollution is more brooding and darker than that designation would suggest. More akin to Midlake’s artistically ambitious compositions or those of Six Organs of Admittance than Vetiver and early Animal Collective. Thor & Friends is a band lead by Thor Harris who some may know from his stints in Shearwater, Swans and Bill Callahan. Though largely known for his skills with a broad spectrum of percussion instruments, Harris is a multifaceted artist and multi-instrumentalist and this band displays that especially well with creative use of marimba prominent in the mix of percussion heavy, yet gently beautiful and atmospheric music.

Wednesday | April 11, 2018

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Ethan McCarthy of Vermin Womb performing as Many Blessings in 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Wake, Vermin Womb, Call of the Void and Full Bore
When: Wednesday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Wake is a deathgrind band from Calgary, Canada. Currently on tour in support of its towering, brutal 2018 album Misery Rites, Wake is joined on this Denver date by like-minded locals. Vermin Womb is a band that includes Ethan McCarthy from Primitive Man as well as former Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire drummer J.P. Damron. Call of the Void took the blunt, abrupt, savage dynamic of deathgrind to another level of creative sonic violence.

The Dozens: Steven Gordon of Animal / object

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Animal / object (Steven Gordon 2nd from left) on October 18. Photo by Tom Murphy

This is the first in a series of mini-profiles of musicians and artists, mostly from Denver for now, called The Dozens where the interviewer asks, as the name suggests, twelve questions. For the debut we posted some questions to Steven Gordon, a Denver native, and a significant local artist whose sculptures and visual work demonstrate a simple but unmistakable style and whose relatively-late-in-life immersion in improvisational music through his playing in avant-garde band Animal / object has earned fans among Reed Fuchs of Moon Magnet and Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes who now regularly performs with the group. Gordon as a musician and as an artist seems to be someone who quietly lets the work speak for itself with a grace and humility not common enough in the arts.

Over the last few years Gordon has experienced the death of his mother and his own battle with health issues and this Saturday there will be a benefit show to help Gordon in his dealing with his illness (discussed below). The show will include performances by local and non-local musical luminaries such as Animal / object, Gordon Gano, Perry Weissman 3, David Dinsmore and Lynn Baker-Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Jazz Duo. There will be a silent auction with donations from various local artists and businesses. Those unable to attend the event and/or wanting to donate directly to Gordon as he is needing to take a leave of absence from his job for the duration can do so through his Paypal account here.

Queen City Sounds and Art: Most kids do some kind of artwork growing up whether or not they think of it that way. What got you to keep doing art beyond childhood where everyone had art classes and were more or less forced to do something they do naturally?

Steven Gordon: Honestly, mostly album cover art and drafting classes. Studying the different techniques and trying to mimic those, for instance, with markers and hair spray. Library books. Auto shows.

Being from Denver, what and where were your first experience with art and music outside the more formal (Denver Art Museum, shows at McNichols and Red Rocks etc.) context?

I’d say early MTV, then MusicLink and Teletunes. Westminster was not exactly an art Mecca.

When did you have your first art show and where was it showcased? If this has not happened yet somehow let’s make that happen. But I’m assuming it has.

Not a solo show, but it was around 1991at a Westminster gallery called Ec-Lec-Tic Art, a tiny space run by Mark Oeser.

Was there anyone in your life that fostered your love of art? Mentored you in any way? How did that person or those people do so in a way that you felt cultivated your creativity or helped you to cultivate it yourself?

After leaving engineering, before I had shown anywhere, I had a job as head artist at Ocean Pacific Childrenswear, which, with no actual experience, enabled me to develop myriad techniques and styles. What a thing to get paid for! They had some really great art directors, and I am grateful for the experience.

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Pottery/sculpture by Steven Gordon

I’m mostly familiar with your sculpture and pottery (which I suppose is a form of sculpture). What about that medium do you feel appeals to you most? What about pottery do you find interesting as it is more a reproducible work as opposed to a a piece made not with the intention of being reproduced?

I didn’t get into ceramics until about 8 years after I opened my studio. Once I was surrounded by ceramicists, I absorbed their influences. I started out doing small to large-scale flat wall installations. Now, I’m fascinated with the possibilities of slip casting, though to do multiples of custom assemblages is a daunting task.

When did you start playing music? Do you have formal training in it and if so where did you get your start in terms of instruments?

I started playing around with music pretty late in life, around age 47, after a lesson in surface mic building at Titwrench. I was hooked on the possibilities of captured noise for life after that. I have absolutely no formal training in music at all. Three things nurtured me: Classical music, becoming the bass drum player in that weirdo marching band here in town, and a 4-track recorder and some Danelectro pedals to feed the surface mics through.

As a member of Animal / object you perform sometimes improvised pieces, sometimes spontaneous compositions. What do you find interesting and satisfying about that way of making music? A lot of musicians can’t really operate in that context because of its off the cuff quality.

As a self-taught musician, there’s really no other way for me to play. I don’t read music, and when I’m using homemade instruments, there are no formal rules, so I have no choice but to learn those instruments and make it up as I go. There’s a strange freedom in that pressure. Playing that way actually informs the ear in many ways the rigidity of a composed piece may never do. It causes you to listen to the space and the mindset of the other players, their timing, their intensity, that would usually be missing in most forms of composed pieces.

I’m under the impression, for whatever reason, that you had a span of years when you weren’t involved in music or making art. Is that true? What was occupying your time? If so, what brought you back to it or into getting into playing music either for the first time or again?

I had reached a point where I just couldn’t do another corporate art commission, so I kind of broke away, but that really gave birth to the whole music thing. I was still doing art, but just letting myself experiment without the pressure of showing or selling. The marching band and Animal / object really drew me back into society, which was ultimately very good for me.

I believe that after a certain age most people know what their life is about or what they want it to be about. What would you say your life is about or what you want it to be about? Do you know what made you realize those things?

Right now life is all about survival. As much as I enjoy helping other people, being forced to focus on my own well being is fairly alien, so ultimately I hope to come out of this with a renewed spirit of inspiration and giving to others.

You recently spent some time for for a serious ailment. What was the nature of the ailment and what was done to deal with it?

It’s pancreatic cancer, and it sneaks up on you. I’m in Stage 2, so we’re attacking it with chemo for now, and they will reapproach the surgery in January.

You’ve dealt with some major, life-changing experiences over the last several years. Beyond being devastating in a way that many people may not yet be able to relate to, have these experiences caused you to reevaluate aspects of your life for the better? Or at least to redirect your energies in a way maybe you didn’t think you would in years past?

After looking over my mother the last few years until her passing in February, I went in to caregiving full time. I figured it was the best way to use what I had been learning over that time. I discovered that the more I can give of myself, the more I can make a difference to others. I don’t think I can give that up anytime soon.

What is one or a few things in life that you have yet to accomplish or do or experience that you’d still like to and why so?

One major thing I want to do is a tribute album to my mother. She sang with Antonia Brico back in high school, so I’d like to hunt down a recording of her and work it together with the field recordings of her hospital machine noises and the oxygen pump sounds from her last weeks at the house.

Steven Gordon painting
Painting by Steven Gordon