There’s something about Bad Flamingo’s “Rolling Around In It” that sounds like something you’d hear in the opening sequence of an animated film version of a Daniel Clowes graphic novel. The eccentric elements of sound from the use of instrumentation in the guitar and bass and almost Bossa Nova rhythms in minimalist arrangements coming together in peak moments and quickly dissolving into the background to accent and frame a series of images in the lyrics that seem to follow a symbolic dream logic. Words about how a cold glass of water will turn someone into mud, the chorus of “a seven a seven a cherry a cherry a cherry a pit” suggesting the outcome on an unusual slot machine, a lighting rod that can actually be surprised it got struck. Is that really what we’re hearing? What does it all mean? That everyone and everything has unexpected vulnerabilities and outcomes and best to take a Zen approach to this built in element of chaos in a world of complex dynamic intersections? Who can say but this song that comes off like one of Suzanne Vega’s more idiosyncratic and meditative pop compositions but even weirder has an undeniable hook like much of the output of Bad Flamingo. Listen to “Rolling Around In It” on Spotify and follow Bad Flamingo at the links below.
Colorado-based darkwave band Married a Dead Man takes ‘Til Tuesday’s 1985 hit song “Voices Carry” and interprets it as a baroque pop, Gothic ballad. A fitting treatment for a song about emotional abuse through gaslighting. Aimee Mann’s lyrics vividly describe a relationship in which one person dominates the other through making only the emotions he wants to see expressed as the only ones valid. It was a song like Suzanne Vega’s 1987 hit “Luka” about child abuse and Martika’s 1988 single “Toy Soldiers” about drug addiction and mental illness that put such heavy subject matter to what seemed like light pop songs. It wasn’t the first time pop artists did such a thing but it was the specific framing and context that made those songs and “Voices Carry” so disarmingly resonant. Married a Dead Man with this version of the song emphasizes the dark side and the unvarnished emotions as almost musical textures that are uncomfortable yet accessible. Megan Kelley’s vocals are rich and soaring much as are those of Mann but parallel with her piano work are ethereal guitar highlights, gritty bass lines and gentle flourishes of percussion giving the cover a unique flair. Though these days we have the vocabulary to identify that dynamic of way too many relationships and describe it with clarity, the song and Married a Dead Man’s version take some buzz words and concepts and humanizes them with dramatic tension and poetry and rescues them from the realm of abstraction to place them with immediacy in lived experience. Listen to “Voices Carry” on Spotify and follow Married a Dead Man at the links provided.
Friday | July 26
What: Built to Spill – Keep It Like a Secret tour w/Orua and Dirt Russell
When: Friday, 07.26, 6 p.m.
Where: Mishawaka Amphitheater, Bellevue, CO
Why: Built To Spill bridged the gap between free improvisational rock, psychedelia and post-punk at a time in the 90s when so much of that was, barring Neil Young, was considered quaint unless you were a fan of wack, mid-90s alternative rock. Built to Spill was very different from some of that more mundane music because when it had album titles like Ultimate Alternative Wavers and songs called “Randy Described Eternity” and “I Would Hurt a Fly” the language of an underground, alternative culture with irreverent humor and an unabashed embrace of the weird and unconventional and out of step with mainstream normality was mincing no words but also not trying to alienate any potential comers. This year the group is touring for the twentieth anniversary of its monumental fourth album Keep It Like a Secret.
What: The Psychedelic Furs w/James and Dear Boy
When: Friday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Psychedelic Furs are apparently on the verge of giving us their first new album in nearly thirty years sometime in the next year or two. While the group did take a hiatus in the 90s its iconic 80s albums aged well because while the band had hits it never really made concessions to trends and Richard Butler’s scrappy yet soulful voice and thought-provoking lyrics and the band’s brooding melodies and expansively energetic live show reconciled the thoughts and emotions everyone has into memorable songs. Since the Furs reconvened in 2000 it may have been skating on its back catalog but its shows felt like they were channeling from a time when they first wrote the music and they didn’t waste our time by trotting out material unworthy of its earlier music. The career of Mancunian rock band James was almost in direct parallel with The Psychedelic Furs with its own history of high emotive and idiosyncratic rock songwriting that evolved considerably across time and recent performances displaying the verve and power of its early days as well.
What: Anne Waldman (w/Adam Baumeister and Roger Green), Wymond Miles, Jeff Suthers and Max & Toni
When: Friday, 07.26, 8-10:30 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: Anne Waldman is one of the surviving leading lights of the Beat Generation who is also currently involved with running the Naropa Institute (also Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics) of which she was a founder in 1974. Her poetry has a force and consciousness resonant with the rhythms of music and on this evening she will be joined by Meep Records head Adam Baumeister and experimental guitar composer Roger Green formerly of Idle Mind and The Czars. Also on the bill are Wymond Miles of The Fresh & Onlys in San Francisco and prior to that various Denver bands including Pinkku, and Jeff Suthers, the iconic guitarist of Pale Sun, Bright Channel, Volplane, Moonspeed, Pteranodon and other projects.
What: MDC/Verbal Abuse and Round Eye
When: Friday, 07.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: When you call your band Millions of Dead Cops in 1979 you’re already courting trouble. But MDC has also been taking it on the nose and writing hardcore classics with a righteously political edge from the beginning having penned songs about animal rights, LBGTQ issues, racial issues and invective against capitalism with humor and conviction. Lead singer Dave Dictor is proudly a weirdo who is confrontational with his anti-establishment stance in a creative and engaging and often humorous fashion.
What: Amon Tobin presents Two Fingers DJ Set w/Tsuruda, Keota, Seied and GTillDawn
When: Friday, 07.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Amon Tobin is a versatile composer whose electronic music runs the gamut of dance, jazz and the avant-garde. Tonight he is performing a DJ set so it’s hard to say exactly what he’ll throw into the mix but given his proclivity for imaginative production it won’t be entirely predictable yet a display of great taste.
Saturday | July 27
What: Black Pistol Fire w/Thunderpussy
When: Saturday, 07.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Black Pistol Fire is a likable enough bluesy garage rock band. But the reason to go is to see opening act Thunderpussy who may in some ways share Black Pistol Fire’s affection for driving, blues-based punk riffs but its deft songwriting is a bit like if The Dead Weather took more than a few cues from T. Rex and the mirrored sides of Zeppelin’s hard rocking and contemplative, introspective songwriting. The Seattle-based group’s 2018 self-titled debut is more than a cut above the relatively recent spate of bands that are tapping into inspiration from hard rock’s 70s heyday by not merely trying to rock but not being willing to push the songwriting beyond the clichés. Thunderpussy is willing to get weird and take you into outer space with its music the way Heart, Cheap Trick and David Bowie were more than able to as well.
What: Anklepants and Electrocado
When: Saturday, 07.27, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Anklepants is what happens when a guy working in the special effects industry makes an outfit in which a phallus attached as the nose of an alien is a controller for the music which is very sophisticated and experimental dance music in the vein of more adventurous house or techno with elements borrowed from the full spectrum of modern dance styles. If you want to see something you’ll never forget this is the show to go and see because while the visual side of the project is entertaining and unusual enough the music stands on its own with no need for gimmicks—the costume is just a bonus over seeing some guy holding headphones on and waving one hand above his head to hype the crowd.
What: The Appleseed Cast w/Young Jesus and Weathered Statues
When: Saturday, 07.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: The Appleseed Cast might be the most well-known band out of the under celebrated Lawrence, Kansas music scene. Its own contribution to the development of 90s emo and beyond has been its exquisite, borderline dream pop that bridged the gap between midwestern emo and post-rock. Its luminous melodies and richly expressive and nuanced vocals have given the band a cross genre appeal. In 2019 The Appleseed Cast released its most recent album The Fleeting Light of Impermanence.
Monday | July 29
What: Frank Iero and the Future Violents w/Geoff Rickly
When: Monday, 07.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Frank Iero is probably known to most as the guitarist in My Chemical Romance. But seven years hence from that group’s dissolution Iero and his band the Future Violents released their album Barriers produced by Steve Albini. Iero sounds like he dug deep to reinvent himself a little for this new music as it feels raw and heartfelt and even confessional in a way that wasn’t as obvious as his work with MCR. When the songs aren’t brimming with effusive energy there is an introspective mood with music that demonstrate Iero’s keen ear for crafting rock songs with emotional and sonic nuance.
Tuesday | July 30
What: Bad Cop / Bad Cop w/Dog Party and Pity Party
When: Tuesday, 07.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Los Angeles-based punk band Band Cop/Bad Cop have a clever name but one that also reflects its politically and socially subversive lyrics. Its massive hooks and pop punk sound is a perfect vehicle for laying out ideas and concepts in a personal and accessible way without coming off preachy. With any luck the band will have a new album soon but its most recent record is 2017’s Warriors put on Fat Wreck Chords.
Wednesday | July 31
What: Suzanne Vega w/Siobhan Wilson
When: Wednesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Suzanne Vega is perhaps best known by most people for her 80s singles “Luka” (an unabashed song about child abuse that made the Top 40) and “Left of Center” but her eclectic and varied career has included collaborating with Philip Glass for his weirdo jazz record Songs from Liquid Days and her own impressively broad range as a songwriter with a knack for writing thoughtful, literate songs that have long found a place in college radio and “modern rock” playlists and occupies a similar place in popular music as people like Robyn Hitchcock and Jane Siberry.