What:The Shivas w/The Savage Blush and Slynger When: Thursday, 2.27, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Shivas were pushing the modern garage psych aesthetic forward before it became a played out quantity in the 2010s. But because the band was always weirder and willing to explore the noisier, more extreme ends of the style its music has remained refreshingly different and genre bend-y up to and including its 2019 album Dark Thoughts.
What:Susto w/Whitacre and Molly Parden When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Susto’s 2019 album Ever Since I Lost My Mind finds the indie rock band branching into more urgent and gritty songwriting territory without losing the thoughtfulness. Maybe the tenor of the times has seeped into the drive behind the new material but the band’s gorgeously languid vibes seem ticked more than a bit toward a focused intentionality with the music. Not that it lacked intensity at moments before, it’s just palpable this time out. Also on the bill is Denver-based band Whitacre. Paul Whitacre has made a name for himself since moving to the Mile High City in 2016 for his introspective yet brightly upsweeping songs. The group’s new album Seasons, out on April 17, finds its songs, produced by Joe Richmond (who has worked with Tennis and Churchill), polished and shining with a warmth and sincere optimism.
What:Modern Leisure w/Ashley Koett and Big Dopes When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Modern Leisure’s Casey Banker’s keen ear for dynamic and entrancing pop melodies is matched only by his similar gift for sharply observed turns of phrase. Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude is brimming with vivid portraits of life in a generation whose future has been compromised but trying to maintain a sense of hope for better times ahead without succumbing to nihilistic despair.
What:Chuck Prophet When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall Why: Chuck Prophet was one of the pioneers of alt-country as a member of Green On Red from its genre-defining 1985 album Gas Food Lodging through the early 90s. During his career as a solo artist his knack for crafting poetic imagery and dusty power pop has seemed endless. His most recent record, 2017’s Bobby Fully Died for Your Sins is a meditation on the passing of musical giants and maintaining a vision for hope in dark times.
What:Howard Jones acoustic Trio performance w/Rachael Sage When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Synth pop pioneer Howard Jones will perform as part of an acoustic trio for this show interpreting his iconic hits of the 80s in a format that will likely surprise. Anyone that has witnessed Jones in the more electronic incarnation of the music knows that his songwriting is at the heart of the appeal of his songs. Opening the show is Rachael Sage. The New York City-based artist has been releasing music on her own MPress Records for two decades including fourteen of her own albums distinguished by an eclectic range of sounds and styles that have informed her imaginative pop songs. He latest album Character, out March 6, came out of her time recovering from endometrial cancer throughout 2018. The record is informed by a sense of humility, realistic yet poetic assessments of life’s possibilities and horizons when facing your own mortality. Sage discards the bravado we hear too much in American music in the face of adversity, it acknowledges the frailty and fragility of the situations we may find ourselves when you can’t just magically snap back and be okay. It wisely takes a sensitive and deeply compassionate yet honest approach to every subject and reveals itself to be a deep record about life’s challenges in general whatever your situation.
What:SPELLS (record release) w/Drakülas and People Corrupting People When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Denver’s SPELLS is releasing its new record Stimulants & Sedatives on Chuck Coffey’s Snappy Little Numbers imprint. In the past one might have described SPELLS as essentially a pop punk band. But on this album there’s more dissonance and grit to the music to go along with the rambunctious tunefulness that has been the hallmark of the band’s sound from the beginning. The lyrics are a sharp mix of self-awareness and self-deprecation with stories of realistic expectations rather than bullish bravado, a very adult approach that contrasts well with the raw energy of the performances.
What:Ceschi and David Ramos w/Gregory Pepper, Midwife, Damn Selene and CFX Project When: Tuesday, 3.3, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Ceschi Ramos is the co-founder of Fake Four, a label putting out some of the most forward thinking hip-hop of the past decade and a half. The confessional intensity of his rapidfire vocal delivery wrapped in atmospheric beats is reminiscent of Sole, with whom he has worked, and his vivid, personal storytelling issues forth in almost pointillistic couplets like a mosaic establishing an informal, organic narrative. On the bill also is experimental hip-hop artist Damn Selene and ambient folk phenom Midwife who is set to tour the US in March and April as well an appearance at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands.
Wednesday | March 4
What:Weird Wednesday: DA’AN, Corey Daggers and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Wednesday, 3.4, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: This typically eclectic line-up for Weird Wednesday includes a mix of electronic dance music, punk Americana and soulful hip-hop. DA’ANS is a new project that brings together the luminous vocals of Glynnis Braan of Lady of Sorrows and the electronic production and beat-making genius of Lawrence Snell, drummer of Meet the Giant, with songs and a theatrical performance that is a true synthesis of rave and darkwave. Corey Daggers often performs by himself with a guitar and on occasion with a full band. But either incarnation is a vital flavor of what might be described as dark carnival emo Americana. R A R E B Y R D $ bring a swagger, sensuality and emotional warmth to ambient beats and lyrics that are at turns playful, earthy and deeply, transformatively vulnerable.
Who:Speakeasy Series opener: Demoncassettecult When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Glasss Records is kicking off the 2019 edition of its experimental music showcase the Speakeasy Series at Hooked on Colfax tonight. The artist ringing in the season is Demoncassettecult, Glasss’ Vahco Before Horses solo loops, noise, sample and and synth based soul project.
Who:A Light Among Many w/Ghostsong Elegy and Endless, Nameless, Causer When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Abstract doom juggernauts A Light Among Many returns from its latest tour with this show with experimental guitar/prog band Endless, Nameless, South Dakota post-rock band Ghostsong Elegy and the debut of Causer.
Who:Kyle Emerson w/Anthony Ruptak and Modern Leisure When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Three of Denver’s great songwriters on one bill. Kyle Emerson’s pastoral psychedelia has enough interesting musical flourishes in each song to elevate his work beyond most of his peers. Anthony Ruptak’s conceptual songwriting steeped in his sensitivity to the world around him and deeply informed by his compassion for his follow living creatures, human beings most certainly not excluded, gives his compositions a warmth and richness of emotional expression. Casey Banker of Modern Leisure has been writing insightful and well-crafted pop songs with an undercurrent of intensity and self-awareness that has made his songs going back to his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls incredibly compelling.
Saturday | April 6
Who:Doo Crowder w/Rachael Pollard When: Saturday, 04.06, 9:30 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Doo Crowder, former member of indie pop orchestra Pee Pee and indie rock/punk band The Dinnermints, is finally releasing his album One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims). His earlier releases have all been insightful explorations of the human experience in its myriad manifestations. The new album sounds like he took the Harry Nilsson route and added great production flourishes and imaginative treatments to solid yet minimal foundations of song. He does not spare himself self criticism (listen to “Doo Crowder Song”) but as with every Crowder record there’s much more than meets the eye while not hiding the essential meaning. It’s made to be able to be taken on and comprehended at one’s leisure and in the ways that suit you. The first truly great indie pop record of 2019 and one of the best of the past decade by virtue of sounding effortless while clearly being the product of much work, much soul-searching, much refinement and in the end something that feels like it manifested like a perfect backed good that is delicious and nutritious and makes the labor that went into it part of one’s appreciation of it.
Who:FAVX w/Ned Garthe Explosion and Total Trash (tape release) When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: FAVX from Madrid aren’t easily musically defined outside of rock. But it’s sometimes noisy, sometimes driving, sometimes poppy, sometimes heavy, sometimes whimsical but always emotionally nuanced music is performed with great enthusiasm. Good thing because Ned Garthe Explosion, for a bunch of guys who have been playing for “10 trillion years,” you know, since the Big Bang or whatever has happened several times, they’re able to muster some verve in humorously delivering their surreal punker than punk and psycher than psych songs. They’ve been road dawgz since before there were roads and after people didn’t need roads where they were going and back to no roads and then roads again. The never ending cycle. Seems legit. Total Trash is comprised of current and former members of Lil’ Slugger, Eye Beams, Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Quantum Creep. Which means nothing if you’ve not been steeped in Denver underground music for the past decade and a half but it does mean that the band’s music and songwriting has the level of sophistication and sonic inventiveness that is immediately striking and, well, it doesn’t sound much like any of the aforementioned. It is more melancholy but the sonic details and evolving dynamics across each song of its debut album Field Guide (released this night) give the music a sonic depth, diversity and emotional complexity that seems rarer than it should be these days.
Who:Dirty Few “Losing Our Minds Farewell Show” w/Gymshorts, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Lloyd and Saviour When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Sure, sure, “party rock” and the Stone twins raise hell, cans of beer tossed on stage and off, rowdy, nearly unhinged performances, some of them sloppy and chaotic. But always performed with heart with songs that are fun, surprisingly well-written and which encapsulate an era of Denver music that all but began and ended with Dirty Few. So the group will probably pull out the stops for this final rager with some of its friends and peers including the great power pop band Bud Bronson & The Good Timers from Denver and Lloyd and Saviour from Boise.
Who:Kero Kero Bonito w/Jaakko Eino Kalevi When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Kero Kero Bonito sounds like its music is made in the early morning as the sun is rising and also as the sun is setting. That sometimes hazy quality of light that can blur the landscape some as the sun comes to dominate the sky or retire for the night over the horizon, burning away fog and casting colorfully through the dusk pollution. Even from its earlier more straightforward electropop phase its lush production and fluid dynamics has given the band’s songs an air of self-awareness that feels futuristic while tapping into the cooler end of classic commercial pop sensibilities. The band’s producers, Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, were influenced by Japanese hip-hop and pop and found Sarah Bonito, herself half-Japanese, who could give voice to a synthesis of cultures particularly since Bonito sings and raps in both English and Japanese. The group’s 2018 releases, the TOTEP EP and the album Time n’ Place, displayed the influence of rock bands, at least according to interviews with Fader and i-D, like Mount Eerie and My Bloody Valentine who are no strangers to creating and sculpting atmosphere in ways that feel entirely organic. Formerly pretty much all electronic instrumentation and vocals, for its current tour Kero Kero Bonito is bringing on board a guitarist and a drummer. Difficult to pigeonhole, one might even clumsily call it indie dream jazz, Kero Kero Bonito’s international flavor of the amalgam of hip-hop, dance music, J-pop, downtempo lounge and melancholic guitar rock is undeniably interesting.
Opening the show is Finnish multi-instrumentalist and producer Jaakko Eino Kalevi whose 2018 album Out of Touch could be a cousin to the aforementioned Kero Kero Bonito’s album Time ‘n Place. Its tone has a liminal quality that allows for the melodies to operate at an almost subconscious level, dream-like. A decade ago maybe someone would have called it “chillwave” and it resonates with the better end of what made 80s synth pop bands and their own production methods so compelling and ultimately influential.
Who:Bad Sounds and Broods When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Bad Sounds are opening for the great electro pop band Broods. But its blend of R&B and hip-hop beats, like a modern take on the rich musical hybrids that were part of the 70s Stax roster, will probably win over more than a few fans. The duo’s 2018 album Get Better goes beyond mere throwback imitation and with expert production and attention to sonic detail it attains the soulfulness of some of its influences.
Who:An Evening With Spiritualized When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Even at his most soul-and-R&B-inspired moments, and there are many on Spiritualized’s 2018 album And Nothing Hurt, J. Spaceman brings to bear a broad range of subtle emotional expression and its counterpart as a controlled tidal wave of feeling. The shows also tend toward a well-selected set list that gives the performance a dynamic quality that somehow feels just right. Folk, soul, R&B, ambient space rock from across Spaceman’s career in Spiritualized. Maybe you’ll even get to see the band cover Laurie Anderson’s “Born Never Asked” as its been known to do well beyond the 1995 touring cycle for Pure Phase.
Sunday | April 7
Who:SUSTO w/Whitacre and Frances Cone When: Sunday, 04.07, 8 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: SUSTO’s new album Ever Since I Lost My Mind has all the sophistication and beautiful subtlety of instrumentation of its previous records. But this time it sounds like the band has added a layer of atmosphere that gives the typically affecting and introspective lyrics a more focused immediacy that can be a bit slow slipping into your mind but when it hits it strikes deep. SUSTO excels at giving the songs room to breathe and manifest and bringing listeners in with a warmth of tone and a sense of understanding.
Monday | April 8
Who:Acid Mothers Temple w/Yamantaka//Sonic Titan When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple may “only” have been around for nearly a quarter a century but its rotating and core membership, including band leader guitarist Makoto Kawabata, has roots going back to Japanese folk, psychedelic, noise, punk and prog bands of the 70s and 80s. With AMT the musicians create a mind-bending sonic experience that blurs the lines between the aforementioned genres of music to make the kind of space rock that should inspire a generation of manga artists writing stories in a future where interdimensional and intergalactic communities are interacting, thriving and exploring worlds and cultures as yet unimagined by our current creative collective unconscious.
Who:Mdou Moctar w/Galleries and Kwantsu Dudes When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: It’s incredibly rare to get to see a musician from Africa in Denver much less a Tuareg phenom from Agadez, Niger like Mdou Moctar. The guitarist is an early adaptor of traditional Tuareg guitar pop into the electric context. As with the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baaba Maal and, of course, Fela Kuti before him, Moctar’s lively and fine crafted songs (steeped in folk music of Africa and the Islamic world) garnered fans outside of Africa. Because of that touring has been a viable prospect including his current run through the USA. His latest album is 2019’s Ilana.
Tuesday | April 9
Who:WaZeil & UaZit w/Claudzilla, f-ether and Kandin When: Tuesday, 04.09, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: UaZit’s music is like if alternative hip-hop got even weirder and more experimental. Working with WaZeil the production and sound design is even more unusual like what Harmony Korine might make if he went into creating music after Mister Lonely. F-ether isn’t quite as much of a weirdo but his original and playful take on electronic music craft is decidedly outside the conventions of that broad genre. Claudzilla, though, full-on weirdo since its “keytar rock” with surreal lyrics and let’s just call it eccentric picks of covers but surprisingly solid renditions of the originals through her peculiar lens of interpretation.
Who:Erik B & Rakim w/Stay Tuned When: Tuesday, 04.09, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Erik B & Rakim are clearly one of the most influential duos in hip-hop. Rakim’s rhyming had great versatility and range because he broke with the simple rhyme schemes of early hip-hop and had more in common with free jazz and free verse poetry. So while not sounding too avant-garde the duo’s music could be as out and fluid in its rhythms as its presumed jazz influences. Eric B’s heavy use of sampling and creatively crafting and sculpting the sounds could also be heard echoed in most hip-hop since the 1987 release of the Eric B & Rakim album Paid in Full. Splitting in 1993, Eric B & Rakim reunited in 2016 to perform live in 2017. Will there be a new record? We can only hope but for now catch one of the legends of hip-hop on this tour.
Wednesday | April 10
Who:HXXS w/Church Fire, Morlox and Feigning When: Wednesday, 04.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: HXXS from Portland, Oregon make a kind of dance-dub darkwave with glitchy edges. When minimal synth was all the rage in various corners of the American underground, HXXS seems to have taken that foundation and the sort of 8-bit crushed beat-making to make a surprisingly playful, surreal form of synth pop. Good match with Denver’s Church Fire whose tribal industrial dance music came out of similar impulses toward melding hip-hop beat production with dark, noisy pop informed by insightful, sociopolitical commentary. That the group worked with gifted producer Morlox whose career has been steeped in the noise, glitchcore and underground hip-hop scene in Denver and beyond makes this booking perfect. Haunted, dark drone project Feigning is just a bonus.
Who:DeVotchKa When: Wednesday, 04.10, 6 p.m. Where: Twist & Shout Why: It would help if you bought a copy of the 2018 DeVotchKa album This Night Falls Forever in order to get first entry into this intimate show at Twist & Shout. Otherwise, the Denver-based gypsy-punk chamber pop group usually doesn’t play places smaller than The Gothic. The following night the band will perform at e-Town in Boulder.
Who:Boy Harsher w/Special Interest and Poptones DJs When: Wednesday, 04.10, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Boy Harsher show is sold out but if you can get in you can see the fog-shrouded, enigmatic, New-Order-gone-full-dub-minimal-synth duo Boy Harsher at a small club before its crowd expands to larger venues.
Who:Glasss Presents: Freak//When//Scene and Lost Dog Ensemble When: Thursday, 08.2, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Freak//When Scene is not a band so much as a collection of musicians given a theme or a concept and, collectively, they interpret it how they will and, in the spirit of, say, Miles Davis in giving loose guidance to the members of his band to synergize and let their talents and instincts and ability to flow with one another to produce something they could never accomplish individually. Sometimes this works out beautifully, sometimes it’s just interesting to witness. For this debut of the project there will be about fifteen musicians participating including local jazz and hip-hop legend Venus Cruz, Drew Miller (of Brother Saturn), Wesley Davis (bios+a+ic), Michael Blomquist, KoKoLa and Khey-Lady (all three of experimental hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $), Kevin Richards (Equine), Robin Walker (Shocker Mom), Liv Perils (Pearls & Perils), Vahco Before Horses (Gold Trash), Daniel Farrand, Doron Rediscovering, David Clay Bridges, Machete Mouth and David Dinsmore (Judge Roughneck, The Horns of Dilemma). Dinsmore will also perform with opening act, Lost Dog Ensemble, Denver’s premiere Tom Waits cover band.
Who:The Psychedelic Furs w/X When: Thursday, 08.2, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Two of the great bands of the 80s on one bill representing different countries and moods. The Psychedelic Furs hit the mainstream early on with its moody yet melodic post-punk with its second album, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk. Something about the way The Psychedelic Furs mythologized the zeitgeist of the era of the first generation of musicians inspired/creatively liberated by punk and taking in diverse influences and interests to make sophisticated and literate yet accessible guitar cemented it as one of the most popular acts of the era. Its song “Pretty In Pink” was adopted as the title of John Hughes’ 1986 movie about authenticity, class struggles, the vagaries of romance and friendship—all of which can be heard in the Furs’ song. But also to not let your dreams be limited by what you’re told is the horizon of expectation.
X began simply enough when John Doe and Exene Cervenka met in poetry circles and brought that sensibility to a punk rock band with roots in country and the blues. X may not have been as commercially as successful as The Psychedelic Furs but its impact on popular music since is undeniable as its imagery was striking and both Doe’s and Cervenka’s lyrics captured a Southern California, and an America, in crisis for its very soul in the 80s in the face of creeping fascism during the Reagan administration which sought to subvert official channels in funding the Contras and, as has been suggested during those investigations, manipulating the American electoral system. All while rank materialism and greed became very much a feature of the culture. X’s music, like that of the Furs, represented a romantic rejection of those questionable values, embracing instead a humanism and freedom of the human spirit that could never really manifest as wealth for the sake of wealth at the expense of the unfortunate.
What:Stomping Ground Thursdays: Deadline, Visc, Pragmatist, Ilind and Retina When: Thursday, 08.2, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: This Stomping Ground Thursdays includes sets from 8-bit composer, one might say progressive dubstep producer Deadline, Pragmatist’s broken beat techno, Retina’s propulsive and textured, dark bass music and Ilind’s avant-garde/abstract electronic dance beats.
Who:American Aquarium w/Jaime Wyatt When: Thursday, 08.2, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Named after that line in Wilco’s “I’m Trying To Break Your Heart,” American Aquarium from Raleigh, North Carolina is definitely worth more than a cursory listen. Like Wilco, it’s not just a band writing music with roots in various musical traditions. American Aquarium, sure writes songs about the travails of everyday life and being a working band. But it’s 2012 album Burn.Flicker.Die may be one of the most poignant and insightful depictions of trying to be a working artist in a culture that generally treats creativity like a disposable commodity as well as the people involved in those industries. The group’s latest record, Things Change, is a uncommonly focused confrontation of personal challenges and doubts as well as providing one of the most direct criticisms of Trump’s America in the song called “The World Is On Fire.” No platitudes, no didactic utterances, just down to earth observations about what the future under the Drumpf might hold for us all.
Friday | August 3, 2018
Who:Susto w/Whitacre and Down Time When: Friday, 08.3, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Named after a folk illness in which one’s soul is separated from one’s body through emotional trauma, Susto is an Americana band from Charleston, South Carolina. Songwriter Justin Osborne had spent the years between 15 and 26 being in bands and releasing albums when he decided to quit music for a while and moved to Cuba with the intention of creating a new life for himself. But like many people who run off from their lives abruptly, Osborne found himself hanging around with musicians in Cuba and seeing live music there. He’d already started conceiving of songs when his Cuban friends encouraged him to go home and make a go at being a musician. A full band line-up and two albums later and Susto has garnered a bit of underground following for its sparkling, introspective alt-country songs. Also on this bill is Denver based American act Whitacre and indie pop group Down Time. The latter is a bit more experimental than many of its peers with a combination of delicate, finely textured songs and rich atmospheres. Will David Weaver play both drums and bass for this show? You’ll have to show up to find out.
Who:Dick Dale w/Kerry Pastine & The Crime Scene When: Friday, 08.3, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Dick Dale is the godfather or surf rock. He influenced The Beach Boys. He influenced Jimi Hendrix. Modern guitar amplification is now a thing thanks to his unique relationship with amp makers before the modern rock era by blowing the amps with his guitar until an amp could be built that was suitable for delivering electrified rock and roll. He lives on a plot of land in the desert with his own runway reachable by plane. These things are all probably true. What is true is that Dick Dale is a a true pioneer of rock and roll and one of the few living legends from that early era that you can still see play live.
Saturday | August 4, 2018
Who:Chastity w/MOURN and American Culture When: Saturday, 08.4, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Chastity is a post-punk band from Whitby, Ontario and its recently released album Death Lust distills the isolation, fatalism, desperation and hope for connection that comes from being a creative and imaginative person in a small city. Its incandescent, fuzzy tones recall the mood, tenor and urgency of the likes of Quicksand and Swervedriver. Its catharsis of modern anomy feels as though it is coming from deep within. On this same tour is Barcelona-based post-punk/noise rock band MOURN. Its own new record Sopresa Familia is brimming with a bright energy modulated by angular rhythms. Its unconventional dynamics might be compared to that of Portland, Oregon’s Lithics in how it drives the momentum of the music and gives it an irresistible drive. American Culture from Denver has been through a variety of changes since its inception. Drawing upon the ethos of punk and 90s indie pop, American Culture’s songs are about and are an apt soundtrack to disaffected working class youth navigating a rapidly changing culture and economic landscape and the struggles endured and the joys to be savored in the face of an uncertain future.
Who:Dylan Carlson w/Mary Lattimore When: Saturday, 08.4, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Dylan Carlson is the guitarist for doom pioneers Earth. He is currently touring in support of his 2018 solo album Conquistador. In typical fashion, it is a masterful evocation of a time and frame of mind. Considering the titles of songs, Carlson seems to invoke a time when the whole dream of wealth for the average Spanish conquistador was over on the fringes of New Spain, only the reality of the reaping of the backlash of the hubris of conquest and overextension. Much more Aguirre the Wrath of God than Apocalypto. Opening for this show is harpist Mary Lattimore whose own elegant yet deeply evocative melodies and loops, captured on her own 2018 album Hundreds of Days, suggest a mythical narrative of their own.
Who:The Giraffes with Throttlebomb When: Saturday, 08.4, 9 p.m. Where: Bull & Bush Brewery Why: Brooklyn’s The Giraffes occupy an unusual place in hard rock and post-punk. Like Unsane, its blunt, dark storytelling is akin to something out of an Abel Ferrara movie—sludgy, borderline nihilistic yet it sticks with you for a while afterward. Denver sludge metal band Throttlebomb opens. Not many shows in Cherry Creek and that this one is happening there is definitely out of the ordinary.
Who:The Union w/eHpH and Faces Under the Mirror When: Saturday, 08.4, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This electro-industrial show includes metallic industrial duo The UnioN, EBM/experimental electronic project eHpH and darkwave/industrial two-piece Faces Under the Mirror.
Sunday | August 5, 2018
Who:Deafheaven w/Drab Majesty and Uniform When: Sunday, 08.5, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Deafheaven’s 2013 album Sunbather seemed to be indie rock fans’ gateway to transcendental black metal if they weren’t already on to that introduction through Wolves in the Throne Room. Absurd and inaccurate comparisons to My Bloody Valentine were made. And sure, MBV may have been A influence of Deafheaven but guitarwise one might even look more to the aforementioned WITTR or Krallice. But at the heart of the band’s songwriting is a kind of pop sensibility making what could be forbidding music accessible. Its latest album, 2018’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love has even more flourishes of combining even power pop structures and melodies with the more thorny sonics of black metal and the animalistic vocals. On this tour is darkwave alien stars Drab Majesty. Deb Demure used to tour solo early on but these days tours with Mona D on keyboards and backing vocals. The project’s 2015 Careless was an entrancing trip to a futuristic world perhaps best exemplified in the writings of Thomas R. Disch, J.G. Ballard and Pat Cadigan—not fully dystopian, not utopian, just imperfect with its own challenges imagined by some of science fiction’s most accomplished world builders. Musically think a dreamy shoegaze band and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry got together and you’re in Drab Majesty’s wheelhouse.
Monday | August 6, 2018
Who: CHVRCHES w/Pale Waves ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/353496 When: Monday, 08.6, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: For its third album Love Is Dead, Glasgow, Scotland’s CHVRCHES worked with outside producers for the first time. And although working with David Stewart of Eurythmics, Matt Berninger of The National and album producer Greg Kurstin (who also produced music with Adele, Pink and Lily Allen), the new albums sounds oddly less produced than even the band’s first two records. This works to its benefit because the band has already proven it can put on the gloss and high production on its own and Love Is Dead sounds more textured, more organic and though high energy, upbeat pop, more intimate without sacrificing the bright and and larger-than-life sound of its earlier work. CHVRCHES, like any great pop band, takes subject matter relatable to just about anyone and makes it mythical with words that give it the poetry and the music that sets the emotional tenor that lift the drab everyday into the realm of imagination and transcendence thereby.
Along for this tour is up-and-coming synth pop band Pale Waves from Manchester, UK. The quartet garnered a bit of buzz in 2017 for its singles “There’s a Honey” and “Television Romance.” Looking like a post-punk band from the 80s but with exuberant pop songs, Pale Waves cast an interesting contrast of image and content that suggested to fans that one needn’t let preconceived expectations determine what you can do with your art and your life. 2018 has been an active year for the band with the February release of its All the Things I Never Said EP and the forthcoming full-length My Mind Makes Noises due in mid-September. Anyone that saw the band playing small clubs in the USA in spring 2018 got to see a group with no small amount of chemistry and confidence.
Who:Geoff Tate’s 30th Anniversary of Operation Mindcrime When: Monday, 08.6, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Queensryche’s 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime was a poignant and, so it seems, semi-prophetic tale of a man disillusioned and disgusted with the economy, political corruption and hypocrisy in the world who gets recruited into becoming a political operative and assassin for a secretive organization supposedly dedicated to overthrowing the system by the demagogic Dr. X. In a complex and dark story, that man, Nikki, is introduced to a former prostitute turned nun Sister Mary by one of Dr. X’s associates and his relationship with and affection for Mary brings him to question the nature of the organization and his own identity. Things end tragically in one of the most fascinating rock operas of all time. Very classic Frank Miller-esque. Geoff Tate, the band’s former lead singer, will perform the album in its entirety for its 30 year anniversary.
Who: T-Rextasy w/Blacker Face When: Monday, 08.6, 9 p.m. Where: Was at Your Mom’s House now at TBA (ask a punk) Why: T-Rextasy is referred to as pop-punk often enough but don’t go in expecting the usual three chords and interchangeable songs about teenage heartbreak. Of course most pop-punk is about more than that as well, but T-Rextasy’s songs use the format of catchy songs, fun and humor to make poignant commentary on identity, sexism and all the things that plague the psyche no matter who you are. Its 2016 album Jurassic Punk is a collection of great pop songs informed by a radical political perspective. Soon the New York band will release its new album but you can catch that stuff live before it’s officially released in full on its current tour.
Tuesday | August 7, 2018
Who:Dentist w/Pout House and Hairclub When: Tuesday, 08.7, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Dentist’s 2018 album Night Swimming is refreshing proof that a band can grow beyond the music trends that shaped its earlier creative development. It’s still fuzzy surf punk at its root but the riffs and experiments with atmosphere and dynamics signal a major step forward for Asbury Park trio.
Who:CHVRCHES w/Pale Waves When: Tuesday, 08.7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: See 8.6 entry above for CHVRCHES and Pale Waves.
Who:Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.
Who:Prayers When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.
Friday: December 15, 2017
Who:Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.
Who:Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m. Where: Deerpile Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.
Saturday: December 16, 2017
Who:Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.
Who:Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.
2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.
Who:Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.
Sunday: December 17, 2017
Who:Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.
Monday: December 18, 2017
Who:Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1 When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.
Tuesday: December 19, 2017
Who:Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m. Where: The Black Sheep Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.
Who:An Evening with Todd Rundgren When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.
Wednesday: December 20, 2017
Who:Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.
Who:Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.