What:Michael McDonald w/Strange Americans When: Thursday, 07.18, 5:45 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens – York Street Why: Michael McDonald’s smooth and soulful vocals have been a part of American rock and pop music for over four decades now. Whether as a singer in Steely Dan (both live and in studio), The Doobie Brothers, as a solo artist and in his numerous collaborations including with the likes of modern hip-hop/jazz genius Thundercat, McDonald brings a deep musicality and keen ear for melody that transcends genre. This concludes his run of shows in Colorado over this past week.
What:Usnea, CHRCH, Zygrot and Limbwrecker When: Thursday, 07.18, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Kind of a funeral doom show at Rhino tonight w/Portland, Oregon’s funeral doom juggernauts Usnea and the transcendental occult feral drone of CHRCH from Sacramento.
Friday | July 19
What:We Are A Glum Lot and Spirettes dual album release w/Turvy Organ When: Friday, 07.19, 8 p.m. Where: Lulu’s Downstairs – Manitou Springs Why: Dream pop band Spirettes and neo-math-emo-indie rock band We Are Not a Glum Lot are releasing their new albums simultaneously this evening at Lulu’s Downstairs in Manitou Springs. Spirettes’ album being Esoteria and We Are Not a Glum Lot’s titled The Price of Simply Existing.
What:Hammer’s House Party: MC Hammer, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Sisqo, Biz Markie, 2 Live Crew, The Funky Bunch When: Friday, 07.19, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: At this show you can party like it’s 1992 or 1999 depending on who you’re going to see. MC Hammer was ubiquitous in the early 90s with multiple hit songs that helped to put hip-hop into the mainstream. Sir Mix-a-Lot is perhaps best known for his hit song “Baby Got Back” but he was a big deal in Seattle before that and his records worth listening to generally for their swagger and sly and pointed humor. Biz Markie is a character in hip-hop who burst the boundaries of what was acceptable by owning being a little rough around the edges in his rapping and his outlandish performance persona. His 1989 song “Just a Friend” is a classic of the genre. 2 Live Crew traded in x-rated rap for years and garnered attention for its high profile lawsuit regarding its 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be over the record’s alleged obscenity. Seems quaint and inconsequential now considering how the President of the United States has and continued to talk about women but back in the day it made the news and catapulted the underground group into the national consciousness. Sisqó is the lead singer of Dru Hill but in 1999 he had hit songs like “Thong Song” and “Incomplete.” So you’ll get to take in a good swath of 90s mainstream hip-hop in one concert if you go.
Saturday | July 20
What: Flipper 40th Anniversary Tour with David Yow When: Saturday, 07.20, 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: David Yow of The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid will front the notorious San Francisco post-punk band Flipper for this tour and he’s one singer who still seems to have some disregard for his personal safety as a performer.
Sunday | July 21
What:Elizabeth Colour Wheel w/Drowse, New Standards Men and BleakHeart When: Sunday, 07.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s ritual drone, blackened shoegaze, mystic doom, pagan crust sound on its 2019 album Nocebo is Diamanda Galas-esque in its cathartic intensity and SubRosa-like in its sense of mystery.
Tuesday | July 23
What:Beck w/Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler When: Tuesday, 07.23, 4:30 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Beck went from eccentric underground artist with releases on K Records and Flipside early in his career to late-era alternative icon in the mid-to-late 90s with hit songs and videos on MTV to mature singer songwriter with a gift for inventive soundscaping. All the while Beck’s genre-bending instincts and disregard for expectation and convention has meant all of his albums are worth a listen. Cage the Elephant has made a bit of a name for itself by mixing together punk, psychedelia and bluesy garage rock. Even though Spoon has hit the greatest hits compilation (minus tracks from great albums like Girls Can Tell and Hot Thoughts), the Austin-based, arty post-punk outfit has raised its songwriting bar with every album since its 1996 debut Telephono bringing in electronic elements more to the fore on 2017’s Hot Thoughts and always with the rhythm anchoring and guiding the music. That politicians and public radio station managers cite Spoon as a favorite band shouldn’t be held against them. L.A.’s Starcrawler opens the show with its mélange of punk, 70s glam and stoner rock. Which might get the group lumped in with the recent wave of 90s fuzz rock worshippers. But Starcrawler’s songwriting tends to unironically embrace the swagger of yesteryear and take inspiration from the bands that influenced grunge rather than simply the 90s amalgamation of all of it.
Who:Empath, Shiii Whaaa and Surrender Signal When: Thursday, 07.05, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Empath’s 2018 EP Liberating Guilt and Fear (on Philadelphia-based queer DIY label Get Better Records) is a good reminder that not every younger band disappeared into any kind of boring and creatively stultifying/ossifying morass of subgenre aspirational adherence. Some of its closest sonic cousins of a decade ago might be No Age and Ponytail for the sheer enthusiasm and willingness to embrace raw noise as part of its songwriting. Don’t expect the band’s songs to fit comfortably within the box of noise rock either. Empath doesn’t worry over boundaries like that and you can bet part of its show will be a float into organic sounds, ambient aesthetics and an environmental approach to composition well outside rock-ist and pop-ist aesthetics. Angular noise rock outfit Surrender Signal from Denver is on the bill as well as post-Reatards/noise surf weirdos Shiii Whaaa from Colorado Springs.
Who:Jeremy Enigk w/Chris Staples When: Thursday, 07.05, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Jeremy Enigk is the singer/guitarist for Sunny Day Real Estate, the Seattle band that in the early 90s helped to establish the aesthetic and sensibilities of emo before it morphed into the version most people came to know in the early 2000s. When Sunny Day broke up in 1995, Enigk embarked upon a distinguished solo career beginning with his 1996 album Return of the Frog Queen. Its sound, while a logical next step from SDRE, was even more meditative and introspective. Sonically it had more in common with the pop-songcraft and sound experimentation heard in artists affiliated with the Elephant 6 collective than anything else going on around that time. Not psychedelic so much as emotionally tender and not hiding behind loud sounds to mask genuine feelings, rather, an embrace of them. For this tour Enigk is celebrating the twenty-second anniversary of that debut solo record so expect to hear all or most of it at this show.
Who:The Rememberables, Blacksage, Pearls & Perils, Zealot and Broken Record When: Thursday, 07.05, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Baltimore’s Blacksage paired the singing chops of folk vocalist Josephine Olivia with the electronic music compositional and technical prowess of producer Drew Scott to make the kind of minimal synth dance pop that should be dominant in mainstream music since Lorde, Grimes and Purity Ring have already made inroads that way. But for now, the band bridges the shortening chasm between modern darkwave and indie pop. Currently the duo is on tour with Washington D.C.’s The Rememberables. Sure, the guys look like they are in some kind of hip motorcycle gang that maybe listen to Catherine Wheel and Smashing Pumpkins instead of only Skynyrd and the Nuge. And its huge, fuzzy riffs bear that out a bit as evidenced by its self-titled 2017 album rememberables.bandcamp.com. However, the vibe is more self-aware and melancholic in a way that makes one wonder how members of noteworthy DC hardcore band Coke Bust went from that blistering, noisy discharge of anger and outrage to this more nuanced music and yet liking the change all the same. Also on the bill is Denver rock band Zealot which deserves a longer mention as it includes former members of The Don’ts And Be Carefuls and Ideal Fathers. And Pearls & Perils is the best solo soul/downtempo project in Denver with the mighty Olivia Perez who used to front the experimental prog/hard rock band Gloam a decade ago. Her music is as soothing as it is hypnotic and riveting.
Friday | July 6, 2018
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Strange Americans When: Friday, 07.06, 6 p.m. Where: Levitt Pavilion Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club will bring its curiously bright and lively yet haunted cowboy punk/Gothic Americana glam show to the outdoor theater Levitt Pavillion tonight. In an Auto Club show you will experience the broad spectrum of the human emotional drama with a triumphant energy born of knowing life’s low points. Without the hokey-ness, SCAC’s musical output is an acceptance and embrace of life as it is.
Who:Roka Hueka w/Los Mocochetes and Blue Kings When: Friday, 07.06, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Fortunately the Afrobeat and Latin funk bands in Denver tend to be pretty legit. Granted, Roka Hueka is a ska band it’s style is more in line with the world of jazz and Los Mocochetes may be a funk band but it isn’t just about the party and a good time, though that is certainly part of its appeal, its songs integrate so many styles of art and music into presenting vibrant ideas that challenge the dominant paradigm.
Saturday | July 7, 2018
Who:Brother Dege When: Saturday, 07.07, 6 p.m. Where: Broken Shovels Farm Why: At first blush Brother Dege can seem like any other modern blues artist but give the guy’s songs a chance to work and ride with him a little and you’ll discover he’s someone that actually takes the form and the sounds of blues and does something affecting and magical with them. This could be that he’s from rural Louisiana and went through his own real life travails long before, you know, writing “Too Old To Die Young” for his 2010 album Folksongs of the American Longhair, which was included on the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film Django Unchained. But Brother Dege’s tonal shifts and song dynamics elevate his music to the mythical level at which the most interesting blues artists have always operated. Brother Dege is now touring in support of his thought-provoking 2018 album Farmer’s Almanac. This show is at Broken Shovels Farm on the edge of Denver metro yet still in city limits but it’s going to feel like you’re seeing this music in the rural west and given the weather in Denver of late, with a lightning backdrop.
Who: Sailor Records 7 Year Anniversary
When: Saturday, 07.07, 2 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Heavy music imprint Sailor Records is celebrating its seventh year with a showcase of many of its artists at this event. On tap for the occasion will be Native Daughters, Dreadnought, Muscle Beach, Greenbeard, Fathers, Joy Subtraction, Abrams, Plastic Daggers, Sugar Skulls and Marigolds, Low Gravity, Unicorn Pussy, It’s Just Bugs and Oscar Ross
Sunday | July 8, 2018
Who:Cowboy Junkies When: Saturday, 07.08, 1 p.m. Where: Twist & Shout Why: Cowboy Junkies formed in 1986 in Toronto, Canada and quickly recorded its first album, a collection of mostly covers, called Whites Off Earth Now!! In the era, the band struck a chord on the college rock circuit where it remained a staple of college radio for over a decade. For the 1988 album The Trinity Session the group recorded, as with its first record, live with a stereo mic to a 2 t-track RDAT as a reaction against the humanity seemingly having been produced out of then commercial music. And that’s been the band’s consistent appeal—moody, sometimes brooding music, a mixture of blues, country and folk but rendered into a form and style that didn’t sound like it was adhering too much to the past. In that way, what Cowboy Junkies and like-minded bands of the era were doing is not unlike what many modern avant-bluegrass and mutant Americana bands have been doing for the past two decades and putting the human element to the forefront as a means of immediate connection. This show at Twist & Shout can be attended in its full glory can be attended with a wristband you can get with a pre-purchase new album at the store. The band will perform its full set with full sonic definition this night in Boulder.
Who:An Evening With Cowboy Junkies When: Sunday, 07.08, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: See above for why this show might be of interest to you. Also, Boulder Theater, a beautiful room with solid acoustics and the full set from this noteworthy band.
Who:Carry Illinois w/Brianna Straut When: Sunday, 07.08, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: See our interview with Lizzy Lehman here. But otherwise, Carry Illinois is an Austin-based pop band whose emotionally stirring, sometimes harrow, always healing songs tap into Lehman’s specific struggles with mental health issues and loss but whose expression renders those struggles into a vivid sonic experience that anyone with any sense of self-awareness will find relatable and illuminating.
Tuesday | July 10, 2018
Who:Carry Illinois When: Tuesday, 07.10, 8 p.m. Where: Magic Rat Why: See above for Carry Illinois and our interview with singer Lizzy Lehman here. This is the band’s only other show in Colorado.
Who:Invertebrate, Grimy and Berated When: Tuesday, 07.10, 6 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: It’s not so common to find a grindcore show in Denver these days outside of Mutiny Information Café and Seventh Circle Music Collective. This one will include Oakland’s grind-powerviolence trio Invertebrate, Denver’s Grimy (which includes former members of Doperunner) and Denver-based power violence act Berated.
Who:Das Ich w/The Midnight Marionettes, DJ Katastrophy When: Tuesday, 07.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Germany’s Das Ich brings together the aesthetics of electro-industrial dance music, cabaret theater and an occult horror movie down to the demonic stage personae of Bruno Kramm and Stefan Ackermann. It’s the kind of music and show you’ll either love for the camp or find silly. But Kramm has been an active participant in humanist leftist politics in Germany and Das Ich’s music often reflects this perspective with 2002 album Anti’christ a pointed critique of world politics of the time.
Wednesday | July 11, 2018
Who:Quicksand w/Glassjaw and Spotlights When: Wednesday, 07.11, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Quicksand and Glassjaw are two of the giants of 90s New York post-hardcore. Both established a hard-edged, emotionally harrowing sound delivered with an expert use of a song dynamic that utilized a hovering/hanging delay of the most crushing and driving aspects of the songs. Quicksand, which formed earlier in 1990, have an elastic groove in its specific style, a sinewy rhythm the likes of which some later nü metal bands used with often less interesting results. That because with Quicksand while the lyrics are a discharge of anger and anxiety it’s about a place in life and not a celebration of that anger aimed squarely at someone the singer believes wronged him. After splitting in the 90s, Quicksand returned in 2012 seemingly better than ever with a new album, Interiors, released in 2017.
Glassjaw’s sound by comparison wasn’t a groove so much as a steady, relentless burn with a pause for breath between layers of blistering guitars, echoing yet urgent vocals balanced by drums providing a relatively fluid and nuanced flow of percussion intertwined with fast and dub-like bass lines. Often enough the guitars are used in a way that sound more like musical sound effects giving the band a broad range of sounds and moods for a group playing heavier music. Glassjaw, too, released a 2017 album, Material Control, its first in fifteen years.
Who:Neko Case w/The Space Lady When: Wednesday, 07.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Neko Case has lead quite a storied life as a musician and hopefully a book is coming out someday. Most people rightfully know her as a writer of poetic, emotionally nuanced and powerful pop songs the likes of which can be sampled well on her new album, 2018’s Hell-On. But early in her life in music, Case was a drummer for several punk bands as an art student in Vancouver, British Columbia. She also played in various other projects and perhaps most notably with indie rock band The New Pornographers (with whom Case still occasionally records). As a solo artist, Case has shown an uncommon arc of personal growth and artistic development across her whole career as someone who seems to want to explore beyond previous parameters. While it would be inaccurate to say her body of work is avant-garde it is illuminating and inventive. On this date of the tour Colorado-based outsider musician The Space Lady is opening with her otherworldly synthesizer pop including her unique group of covers of classic songs.