Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 11/7/19 – 11/13/19

Frankie Cosmos
Frankie Cosmos performs at Bluebird Theater on November 7, photo by Jackie Lee Young

Thursday | November 7

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Stephen Steinbrink circa October 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Frankie Cosmos w/Stephen Steinbrink and Ashley Koett
When: Thursday, 11.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The latest Frankie Cosmos album is called Close It Quietly (out on Sub Pop) which is a title reflecting the tender, sensitive and utterly sincere quality of Greta Kline’s songwriting and psychologically insightful lyrics. Stephen Steinbrink’s golden voice and talent for inventive soundscapes in his pop songs has been brewing for more than a decade while he toured regularly in the DIY world. His 2018 album Utopia Teased is a pinnacle of his recorded output with a diverse array of moods and textures.

What: Juan MacLean DJ set w/boyhollow and Retrofette (DJ set)
When: Thursday, 11.7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box

What: HXXS (KC), Luxury Hearse, Kid Mask, Blood Wolf (NM)
When: Thursday, 11.7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

Friday | November 8

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Kyle Emerson, photo by Rett Rogers

What: Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. For this set of shows he’s opening for bluesy indie rock band Houndmouth from Indiana.

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FILTH circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ultra Metal 2 Night 1
When: Friday, 11.8, 5 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since Denver Noise Fest isn’t happening this year, Johnathan Cash of Sunk Cost is picking up that slack again with the biggest noise festival in Colorado across two nights at Rhinoceropolis bringing together a wide range of artists from Colorado and well beyond. Go expecting the broad spectrum of noise from the presumed harsh noise, to prepared environment soundscaping, ambient, beat-driven industrial drone, noisy post-punk, glitch, weirdo techno, post-metal, organic sound composition, sound collage, field recording processing and more. Honestly, greater diversity here in purely sonic terms than any other festival in Colorado since the last Ultra Metal. See the schedule below.

5pm – doors open
5:40pm – J. Westerman
6pm – Blarney Mumble
6:20pm – Harms
6:40pm – Kid Mask
7pm – Dragging
7:20pm – Voight
7:40pm – Pat Hopewell
8pm – Genital Stigmata
8:20pm – Culled
8:40pm – John Ingram
9pm – Sounding
9:20pm – Ritual Chair
9:40pm – Developer
10pm – Kiran Arora
10:20pm – Xome
10:40pm – Conscious Summary
11pm – Baby Daddy
11:20pm – PCRV
11:40pm – Scathing
12am – VX Bliss
12:20am – GNO
12:40am – FILTH
1am – H Lite x Techno Allah
1:20am – Clutch Plague
1:40am – J. Hamilton Isaacs

What: Clan of Xymox w/The Bellweather Syndicate and The Siren Project
When: Friday, 11.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox is a Dutch post-punk band that influenced a generation of second wave Goth bands with its imaginative and bracing sounds and imagery. Adam Wingard featured Xymox tracks in his 2014 action thriller The Guest.

What: Codename: Carter w/SPELLS and Zephyr
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: The Roots
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium

Saturday | November 9

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Pedestrian Deposit circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ultra Metal 2 Night 2
When: Saturday, 11.9, 5 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: See above regarding Ultra Metal. Schedule for night 2 below.

5pm – doors open
5:40pm – ilind
6pm – French Kettle Station
6:20pm – Goo Age
6:40pm – Earth Control Pill
7pm – Pet Sounds
7:20pm – Rush Falknor
7:40pm – Illicit Relationship
8pm – Sunk Cost
8:20pm – A Fail Association
8:40pm – Primordial Wound
9pm – T.E.F.
9:20pm – Sects
9:40pm – Jackson Pratt
10pm – Sissisters
10:20pm – Blind Date
10:40pm – Circuit Wound
11pm – Ancient, INC.
11:20pm – Tralphaz
11:40pm – Pedestrian Deposit
12am – Dromez
12:20am – Purism
12:40am – Blank Hellscape
1am – Total Mom
1:20am – Many Blessings
1:40am – Page 27

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Necropanther, photo courtesy the artists

What: Necropanther w/Methane, Incarnit, Draghoria
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death/thrash metal band Necropanther from Denver is celebrating the release of its latest album The Doomed City although it has those great, distorted vocals that you’d expect from a black metal outfit there’s always been something tuneful and catchy about the band’s output.

What: Pink Hawks’ Scorpio Party: Pink Hawks, Los Mocochetes, Brothers of Brass, DJ A-L
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s

What: Zebroids, Mr. Pacman, The Half Hearts, Ladies Night
When: Saturday, 11.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Integrity w/Limbwrecker, Victim of Fire and Clusterfux
When: Saturday, 11.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

Sunday | November 10

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Pile, photo by Elisabeth Fuchsia

What: Pile w/Slow Code and Moon Pussy
When: Sunday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Pile formed in 2007, the same year as the Canadian band Women, and has exerted a similarly strong influence on underground guitar rock by going off the map of conventional structure, dynamics and tone. Its new album Green and Gray has all of its signature contorted and noisy angularity. Opening is Denver noise rock Moon Pussy whose Big Black-esque bluster is a revelation.

What: Vincent Comparetto Going Away Party
When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Vincent Comparetto has been calling Denver home for over 20 years and is now moving to New York City. He got involved in the skating community in the 90s and discovered the local world’s punk and post-punk communities and has been avidly documenting the music scene and the cityscape for years as can be found in his ‘zines Follow Focus, particulary #2 in which he shared several of his shots of shows and the arts world in Denver. Here’s a public chance to say farewell to one of local cultures most cordial and thoughtful preservers of what has been and advocates for what is going on.

What: FUTUREBIRDS w/Rowboat and Paul DeHaven
When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Monday | November 11

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Hippo Campus, photo by Pooneh Ghana

What: Hippo Campus w/The Greeting Committee
When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Hippo Campus released two albums in 2019 as Demos I and Demos II. While they sound a bit like the titles suggest and recorded between 2017 and 2018, the spare, raw quality of the recordings actually serve to highlight the band’s songwriting further. Its 2018 album Bambi showcased its knack for expertly produced pop songs while the new batch of material is almost the polar opposite like the experiments Magnetic Fields have engaged in over the years with its creative and varied use of technology in songwriting and processing sounds. But whatever its approach, Hippo Campus has proven its mastery of dynamics and tone.

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Aquabats, photo courtesy the artists

What: The Aquabats
When: Monday, 11.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: It’s odd to think that The Aquabats has been around for over twenty-five years now. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the quintet’s mixture of ska, punk and pop is as surreal as it is playful. Its singer The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) is better known for his involvement with the kids’ show Yo Gabba Gabba! these days but The Aquabats was a good natured send-up of the Orange County punk scene as the opposite of a macho, violent band. Instead The Aquabats have assumed the personae of super heroes and its multi-media presentation through its own TV shows and sillymusic videos has allowed the band to transcend not just genre appeal but appeal beyond the realm of punk and ska, which the group has long since left behind in favor of greater musical diversity in its songwriting. Go expecting more than just a musical performance, expect the full integration of that with theater and comedy routines and special guest performers along with its usual incorporation of the audience into the proceedings as well.

What: RAREBYRD$, Staple (WI), Gone Full Heathen, Heathen Burial and Denizens of the Deep
When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Ulthar w/Nightfell, Malum Mortuus and Saeva
When: Monday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Decide Today (ex-Realicide), Watabou, Church Fire and Techno Allah
When: Monday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Tuesday | November 12

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Emerald Siam, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Elephant Stone w/Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Emerald Siam
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Elephant Stone’s psychedelic pop songs have weathered the glut of wannabe psychedelic rock of the past several years by going beyond the tropes and creating transcendent melodies incorporating traditional Indian musical styles and methods for a sound that seems to drift in from some brighter realm than our own. Frankie and the Witch Fingers is a little more traditionally garage psyche but the sheer momentum of its performances elevates it beyond the languid pace and laid back style we’ve come to expect all while maintaining a delicacy of feeling. Emerald Siam from Denver has some of that psychedelic garage rock in its musical DNA but is more like a moody, dark, post-punk band that discovered that musical catharsis comes from overcoming one’s personal momentum rather than sinking deeper into it.

What: FKA Twigs
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: FKA Twigs brilliantly fuses downtempo with experimental electronic music. Her new album Magdalene is basically an environmental noise record with elements of R&B and soul in a pop format in the foreground.

What: Big Freedia w/Low Cut Connie
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Big Freedia’s “sissy bounce” is like some hip-hop performance art spell-casting that is disorienting yet utterly riveting.

What: At the Heart of the World w/Lowfaith and Polyurethane
When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Wednesday | November 13

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The Coathangers, photo by Jeff Forney

What: The Coathangers w/Control Top and Rocket Dust
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Coathangers have evolved a lot since the incendiary and thrilling chaos of their earlier punk rock without losing any of that raw power. Now touring for The Devil You Know, The Coathangers have completely integrated its instinct for tearing down convention with sharply focused songwriting.

What: Sun Seeker w/Duncan Fellows
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Duncan Fellows from Austin unexpectedly makes a blend of Americana, psychedelic pop and 2000s indie rock work through creative layering of instrumentation and vocals giving its songs great dynamic range and an element of unpredictability. There’s a lot of imitation in music at the moment and while Duncan Fellows may not strike some as incredibly original, give them a good listen and it becomes obvious they’re at least following their musical instincts where the mood flows rather than where pre-existing style suggests. In that way the group is a bit like Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra without sounding like either. Its use of synths as a full compositional element sets it apart from most of its peers as well as heard put to full effect on the group’s latest release the Eyelids Shut EP.

What: MONO w/Bell Witch
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s

What: The Get Up Kids w/Kevin Devine and The Whiffs
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Mr. Phylzzz w/Simulators, Church Van and Moon Pussy
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Red Aunts Never Let Rock Tradition Get In the Way of Its Noisy Punk Fun

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Red Aunts, photo courtesy Red Aunts

Red Aunts are headlining Fem Fest at the MCA Denver on Saturday, May 12. While the punk band, formed in Long Beach, California in 1992, isn’t as well known as some of its contemporaries, it was certainly one of the most original and beloved by those that came under the band’s spell of chaos and playfulness before it split around 2001.

The last time Red Aunts performed in Denver was on July 17, 1998 at the Bluebird Theater. The band had already come through Denver and Boulder in early April of that year playing with King Rat and Necessary Evils at Lion’s Lair and Electric Summer at Club 156. At the Bluebird show, the roots punk King Rat and the garage rock Down N Outs warmed up the crowd with impressive sets of their own. But when Red Aunts took stage, the group had an excitingly unpredictable quality that perfectly suited its its unique sound, a kind of blend of noisy punk and garage rock. Then, at one point in the set, either Kerry Davis or Terri Wahl broke a guitar string and announced, “You’d think that in seven years of being in a band that I would have learned to change my strings but I didn’t. Is there anyone that can come up here to help me with that?” Someone did. Perhaps that moment, that likely happened periodically in the band’s career, struck some as unprofessional, but to others it showed that you didn’t need to have complete expertise or mastery of all areas of one’s art all at the same time in order to do it with credibility or at all. Clearly the members of the Red Aunts weren’t letting what some might perceive as shortcomings get in the way of being a band. “Oh yeah, nor did we care,” says Wahl. “I think that was more the thing. We just didn’t give a fuuuck.”

That creative spirit liberated from the confinements of conventional thinking was part of the band from the beginning. Wahl had moved to Long Beach from Anaheim, after a stint in Fullerton, with her vintage clothing business. But she’d always loved music and as a teenager had seen and been inspired by the likes of X, Social Distortion, The Mau Maus and Christian Death.

“I would sneak out my bedroom window and drive with my friends from Anaheim to Los Angeles to see bands,” recalls Wahl. “That’s what opened my eyes to punk rock. But I didn’t start a band until ten years after that.”

In Long Beach, Wahl came upon the idea of starting her own band with her friend Debi Martini, who was already doing a music ‘zine with her now ex-husband, Edwin Lecher, called Read Life In The Big City. The latter helped put the fledgling band in contact with several other musicians around the world over the years. Before starting Red Aunts, though, Wahl and Martini had already been around musicians but decided not to be bound by the same perceived barriers to entry in starting a band.

“We all had boyfiends that were in bands and we’d end up at these parties and all they could do was talk about their stupid bands,” says Wahl. She decided she would play guitar “because it’s the coolest” and Martini said she would play bass because she thought her boyfriend had one. A friend told Wahl that his friend Kerry was moving to Long Beach from New York and wanted to be in a band as well. With the addition of drummer Lesley Ishino, Red Aunts was born, a band formed by people who hadn’t really played music before. Developing chops and honing of craft in a traditional and creatively stultifying way before getting out and playing shows was not to be part of the history of Red Aunts. “We wrote songs and learned to play our instruments as our band was going,” says Wahl. “It was awesome.”

Red Aunts wasted no time in playing live, “Right off the bat, whether we should have or not,” quips Wahl, and one of its earliest shows was with respected 80s and 90s Illinois punk band The Didjits.

“They were coming through town and the venue that they were going to play at got shut down and we were like, ‘Oh, let’s have the show in Debi’s garage and the Red Aunts will open for you!’” recalls Wahl. “It was on the Fourth of July. The only reason I remember that is that I found a miniskirt made out of an American flag and I was like, ‘Oh! That’s what I’m wearin’ for the Fourth of July! That’s the perfect outfit!’ Because you always have to pick your outfits too. That’s half the fun!”

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Red Aunts live 2017, photo courtesy Red Aunts

Early on, though, Red Aunts, like most bands, played a lot of local shows and mostly with all male bands some of whom, especially then, even now, were skeptical of an all female band, especially one like Red Auints who made no bones about their emphasis on creativity and songwriting over technical prowess. Long term having its own sound and aesthetic worked out for Red Aunts but its early peers perhaps didn’t give it the respect it would eventually earn. “In my opinion I don’t think they received us well because we couldn’t play very well,” says Wahl. “And so they were just like, ‘Oh, stupid girl band.’ As soon as we started going and touring we became way more popular than them. That ended a lot of relationships—marriages and others.”

As in much of music, many musicians forget that some of the most interesting music is made by those who are not cognitively or culturally bound by the “rules,” especially the supposedly anarchic roots of punk rock and rock and roll itself. The willingness to play and write songs without having classic skill is often key.

“Punk rock made it okay to not have to play that well,” says Wahl. “We always used that as, like, ‘Well, who cares, man? Close enough for punk rock.’ Then, as we were touring for months out of the year we got really good at playing—we got really good at our songs at least. We also got more confident and it was fun.”

Fortunately, Red Aunts found support in the local community and the larger punk scene. Some of its early releases were put out by Long Gone John on his Sympathy For the Record Industry imprint, which was then based in Long Beach. “[John] gave us that first chance of actually putting something out and he was really supportive and just a really good guy.”

Within a few years Red Aunts had built up enough of an audience and reputation to draw the interest of Epitaph Records and signed with the imprint before the release of its third full-length, 1995’s irreverent #1 Chicken as well as its subsequent records, 1996’s Saltbox and the 1998 swan song Ghetto Blaster.

“[Signing with Epitaph was] when thing really happened because being on that label meant we could go on tour because we got tour support,” says Wahl. “We took full advantage of that and we went out quite often. How you became popular was touring a lot. Before then we didn’t tour nationally. We would go up the coast a little bit but when we got on Epitaph, that’s when were able to really get out there.”

In the second half of the 90s, Red Aunts were inspired by the noisy punk bands that were signed to labels like Amphetamine Reptile, Touch and Go, Thrilljockey, Estrus Records, Empty Records and In the Red Records. At that time, as now, indie labels were the home of music that probably wouldn’t be given the time of day by major labels, especially after the early 90s when the music industry snapped back to a more conservative mode of operations rather than take chances as it had when alternative music forced a sea change in the early 90s. Certainly a band with a gift for noisy punk, wild energy and an irreverently surrealistic sense of humor like Red Aunts wouldn’t have fit in with being groomed for mainstream stardom.

One of the main ingredients in the Red Aunts sound was its willingness to throw together seemingly disparate ideas in music and lyrics, written by various band members, and make them work even when the styles and ideas seem to clash. It’s a method that has more in common with the avant-garde than punk but in itself more punk than a band making music trying to fit into someone else’s formula. For example, from #1 Chicken, the song “Detroit Valentine” sounds completely insane in the best way and its lyrics shift between cartoonish violence and romantic obsession.

“That was about Mick Collins,” says Wahl. “We became really good friends with him. Kerry had a crush on him, on his voice, you know? It was called that because he was from Detroit. Debi’s part of the song ‘I’m bound for Black Mountain me and my razor gun I’m gonna shoot him if he stands still and cut him if he run.’ I don’t know what she was talking about. But the part Debi sings and the part Kerry sings are about different things. The part Debi sings she wrote and the part Kerry sings she wrote and we just kind of jammed them together. That’s how a lot of our songs are, actually. That’s why there’s so many time changes and weird progressions and changes.”

While this method of songwriting came naturally to Red Aunts, the band, Davis and Wahl in particular, were big fans of noise punk legends Pussy Galore. “Their songs were so weird with so many time changes and chord progressions,” says Wahl. “We wanted to be like that.”

When Red Aunts split up near the turn of the century it wasn’t a dramatic blowout. Davis and Martini moved to New York and Wahl decided to focus on her catering company, which prevented any kind of touring. Wahl pretty much stopped playing music but Davis and Martini continued to play music, Davis notably as Two Tears, and Ishino went on to perform in various bands including Alaska! from Los Angeles.

Then in 2016, In the Red Records head Larry Hardy issued a “greatest hits” compilation called COME UP FOR A CLOSER LOOK subsequent to which the band approached Hardy to play the label’s 25th Anniversary Festival on July 15, 2016. Wahl had to re-learn how to play the bands songs from the group’s friend and guitar tech Zack Malner but the show proved to be so much fun that Red Aunts decided to continue and play occasional dates, life demands permitting, including, as mentioned previously, at Fem Fest in Denver on May 12, June 1 at Boot & Saddle in Philadelphia and at Rough Trade in New York City on June 2.

It’s difficult to say if Red Aunts have been directly influential on other bands but one hears that spirit of faith in one’s inherent creativity to guide one’s art as well as a wild noisy punk in the likes of Atlanta, Georgia’s The Coathangers, but certainly the band has been a good example of how originality will always be more interesting than following the beaten path. For her part, Wahl is finding satisfaction in this new chapter of the band’s history.

“I kind of feel like we’re better now,” says Wahl. “It could just be me. We’re not as drunk and I’m just having a lot of fun.”