Gateway Drugs look like they filmed the music video for “Wait (Medication)” in a neglected office in a building abandoned since the 1990s with the drop ceiling utilizing a few surveillance video cameras to catch the band in action. The song has a dynamic like a sustained blues riff blown out to hypnotic, dreamlike proportions. The vocal duet lends the song an emotional vitality that contrasts with a song about romanticizing one’s own loneliness and malaise. The effect is something like writing a song to embrace those feelings as something genuine and deeply felt while dancing out of that seductive death spiral. Fans of The Brain Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols and The Warlocks will appreciate the way Gateway Drugs transform personal darkness into psychedelic, musical poetry while singing out the heartache just a little at a time. The single is part of the band’s sophomore record PSA produced by Sune of The Raveonettes at Josh Homme’s Pink Duck Studios. PSA dropped on May 8, 2020 through Future Shock Records. Watch the video for “Wait (Medication)” on YouTube.
The Dandy Warhols are celebrating their twenty-five years together as a band with its current tour with a date on Tuesday, May 14, at The Gothic Theatre in Denver. In the 90s, The Dandys were undeniably one of the hippest bands in the American indie/underground whose imaginative records were always decidedly outside prevailing trends with a keen awareness of what was already being overdone. The band had then and has now a knack for discovering methods and sounds that could inspire themselves into consistently creating music that combined experimental elements with solid pop songcraft. Its psychedelic glam sound fused with electronic composition catapulted the band into the mainstream abroad and indie success in the USA by the turn of the century. Who hasn’t heard “Bohemian Like You” at some point? But the group’s entire catalog is worth exploring as the band has always tried to do something different with each album rather than stick with the dubious virtue of duplicating a previously successful formula.
The group’s new record, 2019’s Why You So Crazy, finds the band pushing its boundaries in an even more experimental direction with the electronic side of the songwriting taking center. At times the songs sound like a weirdo 70s library music funk track, other times like country folk rendered in futuristic tones, then minimalist ambient post-punk and all around one of the band’s most rewarding listens. Perfect for a band over two decades into its career and still endeavoring to forge new paths.
We recently had a chance to speak with the band’s frontman, the engaging and thoughtful Courtney Taylor-Taylor while he was at the 930 Club in Washington DC ahead of the group’s gig there. As you’ll read below, we talked about his days as a young musician and developing his craft of recording. We also discuss the inspirations behind the band’s recording/production space The Odditorium, how Why You So Crazy is a departure from earlier records, how the 70s was an era where no one seemed to know the rules of what was acceptable as widely accessible weirdness in music, film and television and Courtney’s thus far only graphic novel, the Baader-Meinhof and German art noise inspired One Model Nation.
Tom Murphy: You had bands before The Dandy Warhols.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor: But none that toured or released anything. I was a drummer who produced recordings and I would produce and write songs sometimes. So I learned to do all this stuff from the position of being a drummer. Pete moved back from New York City and moved in with me and talked me into making a band where I was singing, finally.
Did you grow up in Portland?
Yeah, we’re all Portland kids.
Where did you go to see stuff coming up?
Satyricon and Starry Night. Which is now called Roseland Theater. There was a great club called the Pine Street Theater which became an internationally known club called La Luna in the 90s during the grunge and indie era.
Did you see the Wipers.
No, I never saw the Wipers. Or maybe I did and didn’t remember. As a kid I was going downtown at fifteen at the time. It was a blur trying to get in and not get carded, sneak in the back. Just hanging out. So many bands, constantly seeing bands. My whole life has been devoted to rock and I have a lot of back stage and club…a whole lifetime. If I counted up the hours it would probably be fairly gross.
Obviously your band started up the Odditorium awhile back. Was it inspired in any way by DIY spaces in Portland?
That was completely inspired by two things. Andy Warhols Factory and Trent Reznor’s studio in New Orleans.
What about the Factory that inspired you?
When you know about the Factory it’s in your head forever. We had an apartment, Peter and I, that pretty much had people in and out of it all the time. Our freaky friends and our whole team was very Andy Warhol Factory-like, which is why we named our band that in the first place. So you always think of that, “We’ll have a Factory one day too.” When we went to Trent Reznor’s studio I was expecting some kind of really freaky, tripped out design. I walked in and it looked kind of like a suburban dentist’s office. Periwinkle trim and light mauve, beige and gray patterned wallpaper. Went into the kitchen and it definitely had a real suburban hotel-ish look to it, fluorescent lights. Except there’s all these dudes covered in tats with shaved heads wearing cowboy hats and black camo pants. They’re all just sitting on the counters and talking in super angry voices. That’s how they chit chat—angry, pissed off. I was like this is the most laden with irony rock and roll mullet I’ve ever experienced.
Just to be funny to break the ice with these guys, because I was introduced like, “Hey man, this is Courtney from The Dandys, you guys.” They look and don’t say anything and look back at Trent and keep barking at each other. I said, “Jeez, man, this is really nice, I wasn’t expecting this, did your mom decorate this, do the décor?” He said, “No, my girlfriend’s mom.” So I knew I that if I ever did have my own Factory going it was going to look like something off a 60s Star Trek set. I wanted extreme, I wanted super intense style in each room. That’s kind of what we did. The gray all lit by red rectangles set in the walls and hanging from the ceilings was my mixing room and I always referred to that as The Trent Reznor Room because I thought that would be his ultimate mixing room. The roof fell in on that a few years ago and I redesigned it to have amazing features in the geography of the room. It’s a lighter color because Zia was like, “Okay, that was fifteen years of that. Can I have a room that I can walk into and not go immediately to sleep?” “Oh, alright, I’ll lighten it up a bit.” So now it’s gray lit by amber rectangles of light. It’s a more clement shade of gray for getting things done in the afternoon.
You’ve opened the space to bands that aren’t famous.
Yeah, if they’re poor and cool and local. The Strokes have practiced there and recorded there. New York Dolls, Sylvain has recorded there. It’s just a place to go if you’re a band and you come through. A rock band. I don’t think a lot of pop bands have ever heard of us. Cage the Elephant and Foster the People were there on the same night. All the rockers from The Black Angels, obviously The Jonestown, Dinosaur Jr—everyone hangs out there. I also built a wine bar. We haven’t had in house management for a decade and I noticed the management offices had access to the sidewalk so I built a wine shop in there so that I have a place to go get drunk every once in awhile if I want to because I don’t waste my liver on hard spirits or beer. You’ve only got so much time in your life for alcohol in your body. I get wholesale prices and people bring me catalogs hoping I’ll buy wine from them at half of what it costs at the store so that’s been fun.
What part of town is it in?
It is in the Pearl District. I’m a West side kid and never really had a residence on the East side. It’s different over there. It’s where suburban kids’ bands come from so really not a lot of really great bands have come the West side. Back in the day the Hell Cows and Heatmiser and all those East side bands, Spinanes, the bands that would have most likely been on Kill Rock Stars. When those guys wore makeup they would have eyeliner and lipstick and smear it to be ironic. On the West side boys wore makeup to be pretty. I’ve managed to keep my life on that side. It’s sweet and cute and it’s safe for grandmas to retire there. I’m in the industrial part of it which has gone through a big change. Now it’s condo world around me. So instead of it’s the only building that looks like it’s kept up at all and now I look like the ghetto building compared to these new buildings, the Rock Gym, the space age event space and of course the massive, towering condos.
Portland probably looks different now compared to when I was last there a decade ago.
I think everywhere does. I’m sitting at the 930 Club now [in DC] and I don’t think we’ve been here for two years. This is sketch. I’ve seen really horrible fights between cabbies and pedestrians here. Now it’s condo world.
You’ve probably seen cities change a lot across your career.
Yeah, it’s our twenty-five year anniversary so I’ve seen the world grow more intensely upper middle class, it feels like. The Western world. London is so much nicer. New York is so much more cleaned up. I don’t know if the Midwest…I’ll see Chicago and Minneapolis soon.
Chicago is very different. I was there a few years back on tour with a band and they played at a place near where Cabrini Green used to be and it’s been torn out.
And they put up condos.
Yeah and I was thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
I probably never would have gone to Cabrini Green right because you’d get a cap busted in your ass.
Denver’s been going through something similar for awhile now too.
Denver got Portlanded really bad because you were the first state to have weed legalized. So you got hipstered super hard. Which is great because you have hipster food and hipster style. Unfortunately, finding an old cool house for $180,000 and rehabbing it is just not ever going to happen ever again in the United States unless you move to Tulsa.
Why You So Crazy seems fairly electronic in a lot of ways with almost sound design elements.
For sure. Peter and Brent have gone slowly deeper and deeper into super modern laptop methods of recording. We haven’t had a really electronically driven record since Welcome to the Monkey House. That, besides The Faint, Monkey House was the first major label kind of 80s throwback in the age of The White Stripes, The Strokes, Jet and The Vines and those great guitar bands going on. I was feeling a little tired of that so I went 80s electronic and really got into Gary Numan and Duran Duran’s first record. This record, Fat Head showed up with a bunch of songs that had Dr. Dre elements and Scientist dub electronic elements. We work the song for months or years and we’re always working in the studio. And we got to where it started to look like a record. I laid down the classical instruments with horns and lots of string instruments and hand drums and took it in a more organic direction. Then Pete came in and he had a bunch of new pedals that were super futurism in them and dirty as well. I guess the icing on the cake was going to be electronic too. It’s interesting how it made it possible to remove tons of redundant guitar tracks. Our record doesn’t sound like anybody else even though everybody is using electronics and real bass and guitar. We somehow managed to have a very outside the box sound.
With the band you’ve managed to stay ahead of the curve and even with mixing the electronic with the rock in the past. This is like a really different permutation of that.
Yeah, and I’m very excited that it wasn’t me doing it. Zia also playing real bass on half the record was great. She’s in a band with three pretty sick bass players for her to pick up the real bass and coming up with bass lines for these songs she had to be awesome at it. She just laid down the sickest bass lines of her life. Having sick bass lines makes mixing so much easier. You let the bass line carry it. You can thin out all the other instruments and you can really gauge what it’s going to sound like other stereos if it’s driven by nice, and tidy low end. If you have to bury the bottom end and if you’re using for warmth the low end of guitar or string pads or cellos or whatever it doesn’t tend to reproduce on the stereos of the world and the ways people listen to music is infinite. Also a synth bass is very uneven. When she plays the Korg it’s a beautiful sound but it’s fairly uneven sound and that’s a bear for me to get even mixes. The prime directive of the band is to not do or reflect anything that’s idiosyncratic of the current era. During the Jack White era with The White Stripes you listen to the radio and everyone sounds like The White Stripes. Wolfmother, everyone’s doing The White Stripes. And we didn’t really want to sound like that or The Strokes. Or The Shins—make sure you avoid any Shins-like elements at all. The Strokes provided a very difficult hi-hat couple of years for us. We can’t have a hi-hat because people will think The Strokes.
We didn’t want to have current references in our music. And you still have to create emotional power. It’s the other side of same side of the coin of the need to be unique, it dulls the emotional power when you hear something else current. At least for me it does and I’m pretty sure it does for Peter, Fat Head and Zia too. It makes you go, oh, you hear music and it immediately engages you and the guy comes on and he sounds like another famous singer and the guitar comes in and it sounds like someone else’s guitar. I don’t know who would have a huge guitar sound now except maybe Greta Van Fleet but then of course you think they’re just doing Jimmy Page. If it’s keyboard-y it’s like “That’s Imagine Dragons” because of the vocal production. Everyone’s a producer now having grown up with Garage Band and having access to powerful recording equipment.
I grew up with a cassette four-track as a teenager and that’s how I learned the job of making cool records. Just finishing a song at three in the morning and taking a huge bong rip, rewind and hit play and lay on my bed and close my eyes and have this perfect song that made me feel elevated, pure and clean of any problems or mistakes that I’ve made or are making or social foibles and resentments—that all went away. I could get five or seven minutes out of that with songs with vocal harmonies, doing that from fourteen-years-old to twenty-five when I formed The Dandys is why we had a completely developed sound out of the box with our first record. Clearly somebody knew their way around a studio. Back then it was myself and we built our own studios and recorded in them. We’ve never really made a record in a real studio. We mix in them but we never bothered to waste money to record in them. We cobbled together the gear would need and we used to find an empty warehouse and rent it for a grand a month and just start recording and spend a couple of years recording in there.
In ’02 we built our own studio. I bought a quarter of a city block in the homeless, shitty, no sidewalk part of town then remodeled it and that’s The Odditorium. We did videos in it, photo shoots, all the installations you need to get the job done—studio, recording rooms, mixing rooms, a bar, a smoking room, green screens, live performance room. We have an industrial kitchen and a dining room that seat about twenty so if we have friends over we have some chefs we can draw from.
Like a far more expanded version of what you were doing as a teenager.
Yup. Oh yeah, that is interesting. I remember taping sheets together to get a white, psych background. When I was in college I took dark room photography and studio photography and I did film and all that stuff so I kind of knew what I needed to do this job. Particularly for back then TV era when you needed to make a video for cheap that they would play on their alternative late night show. You need to be able to make a record that didn’t sound like it was trying to be slick and failing. If you were going to fail at being slick because you didn’t have the gear then great! Then you don’t have a choice, you can only be expected to make a cool record that you think is cool and have a strong opinion involved in the sound and that worked. It got us exactly where we wanted to be in the late 90s with bad kids staying up late watching MTV shows.
120 Minutes or whatever.
Yeah, those were the days.
You probably remember Night Flight as well.
Night Flight was great because they would show indie movies. So you could get more culture than just, “Oh, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Awesome.”
That and stuff like Fantastic Planet.
That was cool. A mind fuck.
Maybe something like Night Flight exists now but I don’t know about it.
Well, you have to dig. Dig through all the YouTube. Fortunately there is the genius connector elements that if you put in “Heavy Metal” you’ll also find Fantastic Planet which will come up underneath it. Do you remember Twentieth Century Oz? It’s The Wizard of Oz as an indie, 1976 Australian film. I think it’s this chick goes to see a local band and gets in the Volkswagon bus with them and she hits her head and the band is gone when she wakes up. She walks down the street trying to get back to where she’s from and she goes into a second hand clothing store and this big, queenie guy tells her she has to go see Oz because he’s playing his last concert and he can get her home. So she has to travel across Australia to see this guy called The Wizard, that’s his name. This trucker is trying to rape her the whole time trying to get her into his truck. She hitchhikes with this mechanic who’s the Tin Man and they accidentally run into this biker’s bike and he’s a nasty guy and she slaps him and he cries. It’s amazing. There’s something almost heartbreaking about the production level. Bruce Spence is the main guy she’s traveling with and he’s the scarecrow. He played the guy with the whirly copter in The Road Warrior. It’s a really interesting little peek into what the 70s were in a way I haven’t really seen ever.
It’s hard to convey exactly what it was like back then to anyone who grew up with having a lot of access to so much on the internet. Yellow Submarine would come on TV on one of maybe four or five television stations or Sid and Marty Krofft shows being so out there.
Right, Sid and Marty Krofft, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Nobody knew what the rules were. In the early 70s you had AC/DC and you had disco. You had Bowie, The Sweet. It was fucking pretty wacko. You’ve seen The Warriors? A queer gang movie. A hairdresser’s fantasy of what New York City gang world was like. How did that get made? And how did it get huge? It’s awesome. It’s more camp than a tent. It is unbelievable. There’s nothing else at all like it. Was it because of the cult of success of Rocky Horror Picture Show? Somehow gangs were a hot item and so “Rocky Horror Gangs.”
It is that level of weird. Like bizarre gangs that would never work in the real world.
Yeah, no. The Orphans. They’re all weak and pathetic and emaciated. I would hang out with that gang, I would go play Dungeons & Dragons with them.
You did a graphic novel called One Model Nation in 2009?
Me and my friend Donovan Leitch invented a German, art noise band that disappeared in 1978. Have you seen Rosencrantz & Gildenstern Are Dead? I took that theory, I told the story of the arc of the demise of the Baader-Meinhof Gang from the point of view of a rather insignificant or not remembered, historically forgotten band that was involved with them. And what their lives were like because of the existence of the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the increased government and police control over Germany because of it. They were like an industrial, electronic and noise band and they’re constantly being hassled and harangued and they start to believe they’re public enemy number one. They start to make decisions in the decisions they make because now they’re not just trying to be a band and artists and fulfill their vision of what they want themselves to be and how they want to be perceived. It’s sort of my “Here’s what I’ve learned as an artist” on a big scale. Just don’t listen to anyone else. Don’t try to control the press. You can’t control what other people do so don’t really get involved. Don’t let people make movies about you. Don’t do interviews with big press which has an ax to grind against you. It’s a lot of that stuff and lessons for life and how to make decisions about what’s really impossible. Is your ego and ambition getting the best of you or is it not? I let this band to be a platform to launch a subtext about how one should live if you’re a committed artist for life.
I did a good but spotty job on the dialogue and adapting it to graphic novel form. A lot of the quips come off pretty ham fisted. But I tried to have little dialogue and no exposition at all. No, “Meanwhile, blah blah blah.” No, fuck it, let the subtext do the talking. I wanted the thing to be told in pictures mostly and it has to be in a graphic novel. The version that came out on Titan Books is the good one. It’s the better one that got a little tighter with the dialogue and it has a lot of great extra stuff. That is all exposition, it’s just me stoner blabbing how it went down, why we did this and what was going on in my life. I’ve been told that’s more fun to read than the dialogue in the book. But the story is phenomenal and historically accurate too, the end of the terrorist era in Germany.
It’s also Nina Hagen, Klaus Nomi, Kraftwerk, Can, Neu, all those guys. We made the record as well. We went out to my country house and set up a lot of bicycle frames, pots and pans and hammers and made this clangy, bangy electronic record that’s supposed to be “The Collected Known Works 69-77” [released as Totalwerks, Vol. 1 (1969-1977)].
I read reviews of the record and I thought, “Did these people get it at all?” I thought it was pretty good.
Yeah, I listened to it the other day and its so good! The reviews from ten years ago? Now the dude from Thee Oh Sees made an electronic record, Malkmus just made an electronic record, The Decemberists. Everyone knows about German, electronic art noise now. Back then it was “Ten minutes of a bicycle going around and Russian numbers being randomly spoken into a microphone? This record sucks!”
One Model Nation’s music has some resonances for the new record with how electronic and different it was.
Definitely. When we made that record ten years ago no one was making anything noisy. A lot of people were sounding like Coldplay. I guess they still do if you listen to commercial radio. Coldplay is probably the biggest influence on how light in the loafers guitar bands have become now. A friend of mine, who is an engineer, calls it The Generation That Never Rocked. There is no Sabbath or Priest or not even cheese metal like Motley Crue.
I think there is a generation of musicians who have embraced that but it’s not too much in the more mainstream music realm.
I do love that. That anyone who’s good at a certain sound can make enough fans around the world to get in the van and go see it, go rock it, or trance it or house it or whatever they do. Coldplay it.
There’s a whole swathe of music that’s very polished in a way that I wouldn’t expect to come out of someone working on music in their bedroom.
Bedroom music, it’s taken over.
Friday | May 10
What: FEELS w/Midwife, Sweetness Itself and The Lifers
When: Friday, 05.10 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: FEELS recently put out its sophomore effort Post Earth. Like its 2016 self-titled debut, the new album makes it obvious the group was the next step in musical evolution out of the garage, psych, fuzz rock era of a few years back that had grown stagnant and utterly predictable. FEELS has always been too weird for that seeming to be rooted in a style of songwriting that was more introspective and bedroom confessional punk poetry than trying to fit into some scene. Unless that scene was one where your eccentric, authentic self was cultivated and nourished. So yeah, while Post Earth may have some familiar elements it just comes off like a band trying to figure out what it wants to be by trying a lot of different things and thing coming back to embracing what makes its individual members shine in sync with each other to make the kind of punk that has more in common with the first wave where almost anything goes and no one is insisting on aesthetic orthodoxy than the niche subgenres that have come in between then and now. That uniqueness translates to a uniquely energetic live show as well.
What: Call of the Void w/Green Druid, Casket Huffer and BleakHeart
When: Friday, 05.10, 8 p.m.
Why: Call of the Void celebrates the release of its new album Buried in Light with this show with some of Denver’s heaviest. Call of the Void has been, no pun intended, grinding it out since 2011 when it was called Ironhorse. But the quartet has always been more than grindcore and more than death metal. Its song dynamics, its lyrics and vocals are closer to bands like Neurosis and Isis than some of its more obvious peers and influences. Buried in Light feels like more of a science fiction album about life post impending human colony collapse.
Saturday | May 11
What: GYES 6: Gort Vs. Goom, How to Think, Lady of Sorrows and Full Bleed
When: Saturday, 05.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: There are no “cool” bars nearby, the neighborhood is still sketchy sandwiched between CU Medical Centroplex, rapid development sprawl stumbling in from the west, the dystopian built-on-flight-fuel-soaked-ground of the Stapleton Development to the north and to the south the part of Aurora that is largely forgotten. Northwest Aurora, one of the few parts of central-ish Denver metro that has stubbornly resisted the influence of Nü Denver because it’s not along easily accessed by main arterial streets beyond Colfax. And yet, due to not predatory development The People’s Building exists and has events that you might want to go to including Get Your Eyes Swoll. Because of the booking involved it’s usually something very underground and definitely outside the mainstream. There’s probably literally no branch of Denver Metro underground music happening in public spaces in Aurora in general much less the Northwestern portion of the city tucked into Denver’s armpit like an infected splinter some fool has been trying to ignore for years until it became in demand once the vultures swooped in to buy out all the lower middle class homeowners with their dubious offers about buying ugly houses and the like. So for now, head east and maybe, just maybe, see prog punk weirdo duo Gort Vs. Goom and Lady of Sorrows who will bring her operatic, darkwave soundscaping to Denver’s dankest suburb.
What: Velveteers vinyl release w/The Kinky Fingers and Television Generation
When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Silo Sound
Why: Velveteers thankfully came along a few years back to save rock and roll from its tired tropes and cartoonish, patriarchal clap trap with a buzzsaw, thunderous vengeance and fiery live show. And you get to see The Kinky Fingers who make a great case that even when most bands are boring us with trendy post-psych burnout bullshit, one can take a style and inject it with elegance and imagination and make it worth our while to continue to go and see. Television Generation is the greatest power pop, grunge-not-throw-back-but-throw-forward wiseacre cultural commenting smart snark band in Denver. And that’s saying something.
What: iZCALLi album release w/Don Chicharron and The Hollow
When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: You could do worse with your Saturday night than go see iZCALLi celebrate the release of its latest album. The band is fairly straight ahead rock and roll but with personality and some warped tones and dangerous flourishes in its party time jams. Good thing because otherwise Don Chicharron would wipe the floor with them with their own celebratory psychedelic room-wreck-ed-ness. Both have plenty of Latin music influence built in to keep going wack-full-gringo with Stevie Ray Vaughan worship or some shit. The Hollow doesn’t suck either. They’ll bring some of the metal and scrape the earth with it but Spencer Townshend Hughes and company know how to sculpt a tune with more grace and artfulness than a bunch of the clumsy metaphors in this write-up.
What: Disposal Notice, Eraserhead Fuckers, Wolfblitzer, hxcmidi
When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m.
Why: hxcmidi may look like she’s about to get up and throw down some yikes-level bedroom hip-hop but Aisha has a lot more in common with Realicide and thus the name—psyche sundering, harsh electronic beat and samples backed hardcore that shatters gentrified consciousness. Eraserhead Fuckers, now that guy looks like he’s going to show us all how to make a sweet Power Point and use FTP to load it to our pathetic starter websites and then laugh about it all later while getting “crunk” with his friends (a term about which they will all laugh like meme-lord gamers). But his lyrics shit through with incisive sounds and ideas are the shank the MAGA-hat wearing lunkheads and their cross-generational brethren need in this time of crisis.
What: DJ & Live PA sets by: Trisicloplox, $addy, Kid Mask, TimeLord SFX, Blank Human
When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Okay, so you don’t want to have your mind blown by any of the above in their specific ways yet you want to get out to the chillzone without being put soundly to sleep. Technically this is a noise show but one with a stacked line-up of people who know how to transform the whole genre into mind-altering realms of sound and beat-driven injections of inspired strangeness. None of the acts are alike but share the same spirit of being furiously against boredom and musical mundanity.
Sunday | May 12
What: Tim Hecker & Konoyo Ensemble
When: Sunday, 05.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: For this first show in Colorado (probably) since March 2012 when Hecker performed in the Odd Fellows Hall in Boulder at an event sponsored by Communikey (now mostly defunct, boundary pushing electronic music group and festival), there will probably be more illumination than at an Autechre show or even the aforementioned performance where the light came from Hecker’s gear and the fire “Exit” sign. If footage of recent shows are any indication, it’ll be a fog-enshrouded affair with beams of light but none of it distracting from Hecker’s deep soundscapes and imagination-stirring, environmental drones. His recent Konoyo and Anoyo albums are less relatively pop-oriented than their immediate predecessor and not granulated like a sonic fog-sandstorm of the 2011’s Ravedeath, 1972. More like Hecker is giving us modern music with a similar mindset that informed the KPM 1000 catalog and Harold Budd and Eno collaborating again to go full abstract journey into sonic analogs of conscious awareness beyond the Bardo Thodol.
What: Cowgirl Clue, Venus305 and EVP
When: Sunday, 05.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Forget the pictures of Ashley Rose Calhoun holding a BC Rich guitar. You could make something better at home with the proper routing tools, some basic electronic skills, soldering and some YouTube tutorials. And let’s hope she did and she’s using it as some kind of controller at some point. Kudos to her for putting on the cover of her album something colorful and strange. At any rate, her free-associating samples/synth track dance pop is playfully and unabashedly eccentric and like an update on electroclash. The local openers, Venus305 and EVP are like-minded weirdoes with confrontational performance styles that bring some edge to industrial dance and hip-hop-inflected pop.
Monday | May 13
What: Julia Jacklin w/Black Belt Eagle Scout
When: Monday, 05.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Julia Jacklin’s vocal style is reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s Marianne Faithful with the sort of controlled, breathy yet tight and directed couplets. On her 2019 sophomore album Crushing, Jacklin evokes a smoky atmosphere enshrouding an introspective meditation on existential independence and rankling at the social expectations that undermine one’s sense of self. As facile as it is to say considering both songwriters are from Australia but fans of Aldous Harding will find much to appreciate with Julia Jacklin’s delicate and nuanced hand at songwriting and creatively poetic sensibilities. That and Jacklin just lays out how people need to step off and stop trying to make her fit into some mold that makes them feel comfortable with their own shortcomings and vices and let her figure out who she wants to be and where she wants to go on her own terms. Crushing is a heartfelt declaration of independence in one’s own heart and mind.
Tuesday | May 14
What: The Lemonheads with Tommy Stinson
When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Like other bands of the era, The Lemonheads predated the alternative music eruption of the early 90s and were part of it on its own terms. Even though the band had signed to Atlantic for the release of its 1990 album Lovey it didn’t strike it big like it might have had the record come out a year or two later. The mixture of Americana, hard rock and punk coupled with Evan Dando’s gift for writing hooks and melodic songs with some bite and personal insight was very much what would be in great demand from 1991 onward but somehow The Lemonheads were never fully able to capitalize on what was becoming a trend but was also the group’s signature sound and sensibility. And yet, Lemonheads garnered some modest mainstream popularity before going on hiatus with Dando embarking on a solo career in 1998. The band has reunited as of 2005 and the songwriting has become tighter with essentially an edgier power pop sound but with Dando’s typically thoughtful, self-effacing words about heartache and loss. Tommy Stimson you should know from being the bass player of The Replacements but he also did his time in Guns ‘n Roses as well. As a solo artist, he’s a songwriter of no small gifts himself.
What: The Dandy Warhols w/Cosmonauts
When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Dandys always put on a lively and emotionally and sonically engulfing live show. Read our interview with Courtney Taylor Taylor here.
What: Garbage w/Pleasure Venom
When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: One of the great bands of the late alternative rock era that managed to remain great through to now. Shirley Manson is truly one of the most commanding singers fronting any band now and often disarmingly so because is able to belt out the tunes but with a nuance and delicacy of feeling that makes her performances so powerful.
Wednesday | May 15
What: Hatebreed w/Obituary, Madball, Prong, Skeletal Remains
When: Wednesday, 05.15, 5:30 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Hatebreed is well known for being one of the torchbearers of 90s metalcore with its aggressive tones and spiky grooves. But one thing that seems obvious taking a sampling of its music throughout its career is that there’s a bit of the influence of Mike Scaccia-period Ministry. The willingness to let sounds hang atmospherically over the top of a driving, splintery, industrial riff. It’s an interesting contrast to the sort of tough guy image projected into the songwriting and presentation. In some ways Hatebreed is an interesting bridge in sound between Obituary’s driving death metal and Prong’s clipped dynamics and industrial dance/death disco sensibilities.
What: Walk Off the Earth w/Matt and Kim, Gabriela Bee of the Eh Bee Family
When: Wednesday, 05.15, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Walk Off the Earth isn’t for everyone—that kind of folksy pop/indie rock/self-aware humor, posi-tip, quirky songwriting with elevated moods and a penchant for doing covers of songs that one would assume done out of a sense of irony but not so with Walk Off the Earth. At the end of 2018, though, the group lost its longtime member Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor due to natural causes and there was some speculation that the band was going on hiatus. But the quartet is now devoting the tour in honor of the memory of Taylor. Knowing the group, it’ll be as joyous as it has ever with a similarly exuberant set from indie rock party band openers Matt and Kim.
Thursday | July 12, 2018
Who: Yob, Bell Witch and Primitive Man
When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Yob’s sludgy doom has always been accompanied with a healthy sense of play. Yes, the crushing heaviness of the band’s music is undeniable but so is the group’s obvious self-awareness. It’s latest record, 2018’s Our Raw Heart subverts doom conventions with almost buoyant melodies and dynamics and a layering of conventionally pretty sounds and gritty, deeply textured atmospherics. It’s only fitting that the trio is touring with fellow Pacific Northwesterners in the duo Bell Witch from Seattle. The latter has crafted majestic and minimalist soundscapes since its 2010 founding. With the tragic death of former drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra in 2016, bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond recruited Jesse Shreibman to continue with the project. The first album with Desmond and Shreibman, 2017’s Mirror Reaper, is both a continuation of the colossal sonics of the band’s first two albums but also a step further into a powerful and moving expression of grief and despair as well as an evocation of cosmic time and our place in it. Conceived of as a single track at over eighty minutes, Mirror Reaper may move slowly and employ repetitive dynamics but it never seems to overstay its welcome. Opening the show is Denver’s own juggernaut of death metal and doom, Primitive Man.
What: Musical Mayhem: Spyderland, Enji and Snaggletoothe
When: Thursday, 07.12, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Musical Mayhem had a home for quite some time at The Skylark Lounge. But now the night curated by Claudia Woodman is happening at Lion’s Lair. Spyderland is a weirdo music duo including Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth and Drew McClellan of Archipelaghost. Enji is TripLip bassist Kevin Schultz doing solo material that sounds like Hella doing music for an 8-bit video game. Snaggletoothe is a noisy, improvisational rock guitar and drum duo.
What: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Fringe Class and Dorian
When: Thursday, 07.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: How Portland, Oregon’s synth pop dance band Fringe Class is going to play at Hooked On Colfax is anyone’s guess. But paired with the more ambient Denver project Dorian maybe the group will do a more stripped down set than it will do in other rooms during its trip through Denver.
What: Lou Barlow
When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Bruz Beers
Why: Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh playing a solo set at Bruz Beers? Given Barlow’s love of brilliantly unusual guitar styles like those of Joni Mitchell, it could be a chance to see something unlike anything you’ll see from Barlow in Denver again.
What: The Dandy Warhols w/Uni
When: Thursday, 07.12 and Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Dandy Warhols are still kicking along and remain one of the great live bands that came out of the alternative rock milieu that’s still around and not milking some nostalgia circuit. Normally the band plays much larger venues making this string of shows at Ophelia’s a rare chance to catch the band in an intimate environment.
Friday | July 13, 2018
What: A$AP Ferg w/IDK and Buddy
When: Friday, 07.13, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For a guy that did visual art and fashion before doing music, realms in which he excelled, A$AP Ferg has done well for himself. While not a pioneer of trap, which had its roots in music that came out before he was born, Ferg nevertheless became one of the genre’s most skilled practitioners in the 2010s. Having the nerve to name his 2013 album Trap Lord, Ferg could at least back-up the bravado and embody the claim. What has kept the rapper interesting is the fact that there’s an unmistakable unusual quality to his beats and wordplay. Perhaps grittier than the work of his A$AP Mob cohort A$AP Rocky, Ferg nevertheless shares a sensibility that aims beyond genre and beyond hip-hop. Even when he engages in lyrics rife with hip-hop tropes, Ferg uses them as elements rendering them meta and more like musical elements than anything to be taken at face value. 2017’s Still Striving showcases the artist’s ever-evolving incorporation of musical elements that give his songs a layered dimensionality.
What: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Timmy The Teeth
When: Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Why: Sarah Shook’s country songs of survival and struggle reflect her upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian family that made the town elders in the movie Footloose seem open-minded by comparison. The video for “New Ways to Fail” (doesn’t the title tell a lot already) shows some everyday urban rebels skateboarding as Shook lays out immediately relatable, self-deprecating lyrics. But every song on the band’s 2018 album Years is, as Henry Rollins once said of early Black Flag records, a direct line to what the fuck it’s all about in America for anyone that can’t expect much out of a society and a culture built on getting us to neglect ourselves and each other on a rat race to nowhere. But there’s an inherent hope in Shook’s music because she’s out there touring and expressing so eloquently and understanding of the everyday lives of anyone that might come to catch one of the band’s shows.
What: Compost Heap Day 1
When: Friday, 07.13, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: The first day of a festival that is to some extent a celebration of the more folk end of punk and bands within that general realm of music. Schedule for today: Real Lyin’ Rohr 4, Just Hanging Out (TX) 4:40, Violet Valentine 5:20, Fire Ant Season (TX) 6, Marissa 6:35, Paul Ski & The James Joyce Letters 7:15, Bird Teeth (WA) 7:55, Long Sought Rest (WA) 8:35, JSR 9:15, Whistlepig (AZ), Crow Cavalier 10:35
What: Quintron & Miss Pussycat w/Phallic Meditation
When: Friday, 07.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Quintron & Miss Pussycat from New Orleans somehow combine a high energy weirdo cabaret/psychedelic rockabilly show with a mind-altering puppet theater performance. Always entertaining and it will transport you outside your everyday life if you let it.
Saturday | July 14, 2018
Who: Great American House Fire
When: Saturday, 07.14, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Ross Cherry Creek Library
Why: Someday more bands will figure out that the emotional rawness of emo, the diverse songwriting methodology of 2000s indie rock bands, Americana’s textures and warmth and soulful vocals are completely complementary elements for a band. But for now you can catch a group that excelled at that going back to the days of Denver’s Spokeshaver, from which Great American House Fire draws some of its membership. Now presented on a Saturday morning at the Cherry Creek branch of Denver Public Library,
Who: Rowboat, Wild Call and Grass
When: Saturday, 07.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Sam McNitt’s roots in folk music and literature probably account for some of the sophistication and poetic sensibility to his music. When he was writing music with his old space rock band Blue Million Miles he met the challenge of amplifying his expressive and emotionally taut vocals. Rowboat is more an expression of McNitt’s more sonically gentle work but the emotional colorings are still vibrant and complex. Wild Call is one of Denver’s best psychedelic rock bands because it’s gone beyond the whole psychedelic bandwagon of the past decade with grittier sounds and lyrics that tap into psychological spaces that can’t be reduced to a celebration of mind altering chemicals and partying. Grass is a noisy shoegaze band from Boulder whose 2016 album Dragwire is pleasantly reminiscent of Night Beats and the more dirty dream pop acts on the Siltbreeze label.
What: Compost Heap 3 Day 2
When: Saturday, 07.14, 3 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Schedule for day 2 of Compost Heap 3, a kind of folk punk festival (Sliver isn’t folk punk unless someone wishing they were Bad Brains is folk punk–the argument could be made) featuring artists from Colorado and far beyond: open mic 3, Murder Person For Hire (IL) 4, Sliver 4:40, Old Fox Road (IL) 5:20, Rascal Mikes (OR) 6, Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists 6:35, Hello Darkness 7:55, Human Behavior 8:35, Shooting Tsars (TX) 9:15, Fun Abuse (CA) 9:55, Suspicious Activity 10:35.
Who: Modern Leisure album release w/Down Time and shark dreams
When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Indie pop band Modern Leisure is celebrating the release of its new album, Super Sad Rom-Com. As usual, Casey Banker’s songs are well crafted pop gems with lyrics that are self-deprecating but never maudlin. This time around Banker seems to have a chuckle at the excesses and absurdities of life in America now and navigating interpersonal hurdles while finding it all a bit wearisome. Banker’s employment of melancholic tones has always been good but with Super Sad Rom-Com he’s taken it to places he hasn’t before with his keen ear for emotional and tonal nuance. Also on the bill is Down Time who have quietly been one of the most interesting pop bands out of Denver since its inception two or three years ago combining the intimacy of folk, rock and an experimental streak born of needing to do things in your own way with available equipment and personnel like a drummer/bassist at one point. Not unlike a Young Marble Giants but one that could only have happened in the Twenty-First century.
Who: SPELLS (album release) w/Cheap Perfume, Future Perfect, People Corrupting People
When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m.
Why: SPELLS is putting out its odds and sods album Loose Change, Vol. 1 at this show. The band’s joke, and song, is “80% is Good Enough” and isn’t it really? Forget that oh so American overpromising, boastful nonsense that seems to be an angstrom of our president’s ego and narcissism. Trying too hard without adequate compensation makes chumps of everyone. At any rate, the Denver-based punk band is releasing the compilation through guitarist Chuck Coffey’s scrappy little label Snappy Little Numbers as well as Chicago imprint Anxious and Angry. On red vinyl. So get them while you can. The other bands on the bill are pretty alright too including Colorado Springs’ unabashedly fun feminist punk band Cheap Perfume. At this point having to say a band is feminist seems redundant and regressive because it’s a perspective that should be the part of the thinking and ethos of anyone in America in this century and if not, do some catching up. Maybe start slow and check out some bell hooks, Betty Friedan, Adrienne Rich, Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Inga Muscio. It could happen.
Sunday | July 15, 2018
Who: Jackie Cohen w/Jobless and Hillary Susz
When: Sunday, 07.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jackie Cohen just put out her first proper music EP, 2018’s Tacoma Night Terror Part 1. If you’ve spent any time in Tacoma this might be a truthfully humorous exaggeration of a memory from time spent there. For a Colorado specific reference, big stretches of Tacoma are a lot like Commerce City and Thornton but even more worn out with blocks of dubious legitimacy. Cohen’s songs may have some connection to that vibe on some level. The recordings sound older like finding a well-listened to pop cassette from the 70s including the hiss. But none of these songs could really have come out back then. It’s the post-jaded self-discovery vibe that Cohen nails that makes the best Fleetwood Mac songs worth listening to after enduring repeated broadcast of those songs on the radio or friends who never had to experience that music the first time getting obsessed with entire too much music that came out of artists who were entirely too familiar with cocaine and quaaludes. Cohen’s performance isn’t jaded and that’s what makes the difference. She sounds like she’s been through it, man, but finds that dulled emotions don’t work for her and that life must go on even if you’re not over the pain of a bad experience in relationships and other disappointments in life. That you get to see Denver’s great folky, experimental indie rock trio Jobless is more than a bonus, it would be reason enough to go.
What: Compost Heap 3 Day 3
When: Sunrday, 07.15, 3 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is the third and final day of Compost Heap. Less on the folk punk side this day with the likes of hip-hop artist Adam Selene, noise punks Plasma Canvas and hard rock band The Velveteers but the ethos is one shared between the artists. Today’s schedule (all times being p.m.): open mic 3, Patrick the Pirate 4, Adam Selene 4:40, Queen Ren Faire Dance Party (TX) 5:20, Davey Dynamite (IL) 6, Bert Olsen 7:15, Wayfairy 7:55, Ludlow 8:35, Dandelion Massacre (CA) 9:15, Plasma Canvas 9:55, The Velveteers 10:35
What: Final Show at The Climax Lounge
When: Sunrday, 07.15, 4 p.m.
Where: The Climax Lounge
Why: A Taste of Denver to most 80s punks, The Raven to punks in the 90s and in the 2000s mostly The Climax Lounge (its original name), this building at 2217 Welton Street was one of the most important venues for a real underground music world in Denver. It will be knocked down to build yet another shitty, cheaply built condo that downtown doesn’t need or maybe yet another brewery or some other Nü Denver crap that has become the inevitable for all the cool, historic buildings that made Denver a worthwhile and interesting place to live and make art and music for decades. It’s not the nail in the coffin by any means and it hasn’t been a terrible active music venue in years but for many it’s like seeing your favorite high school hangout get the axe. The bands playing on such short notice include the following: Sputnik Slovenia, Scooter James, The Narrow Down, Bourbon Brawlers, Dangerous Friends and National Blues Arsenal.
Monday | July 16, 2018
Who: Marisa Anderson w/Howling Hex and Cuckoo
When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Marisa Anderson’s masterful, expressive, guitarwork, on mostly instrumental songs, evokes moods, landscapes and memories in a way more vivid and emotionally immediate than many artists. One might consider her music in the realm of folk but in the more experimental vein of a John Fahey or Michael Hurley. Her 2018 album Cloud Corner finds Anderson sketching in different ways with her guitar, more impressionistic than solid, if intricate, lines. She shares the bill with Colorado-based Howling Hex whose music is a hypnotic, for lack of a better word, avant-garde Mariachi/norteño band led by Neil Michael Hagerty whose legacy of experimental guitar music includes his stints with influential bands like Pussy Galore and Royal Trux as well as noise super group Dan’l Boone. Cuckoo pretty much blurs the line between noise rock, punk and mathy-folk.
Who: Unknown Mortal Orchestra w/Shamir
When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Ruban Nielson probably could have enjoyed a respectable career in music in his home country playing in his Flying Nun-signed band The Mint Chicks. But New Zealand is a small place and Nielson relocated to Portland, Oregon as he and his brother Kody have dual citizenship with their mom having been a hula dancer from Hawaii. Their new band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, formed in 2010, had that quality of just off of standard guitar rock that seems to be the hallmark of all New Zealand Bands but it also introduced a kind of psychedelic flavor that wasn’t basically following what would become a popular musical trend in America and elsewhere. UMO had crafted its own flavor of transporting music that suggested a parallel dimension where pop music could reconcile atonality, unusual shifts in rhythm the likes of which one might expect out of one of the weirder prog bands like Can or Faust. UMO has done well enough and produced a solid body of work up to and including the 2018 album Sex & Food. Lead single “Hunnybee” with its yacht rock leanings probably confused some fans because it sounds a bit like an old Foxygen track but the whole album has plenty of UMO’s wonderful weirdness.
Wednesday | July 18, 2018
Who: Neurosis w/Converge and Birds in Row
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Neurosis evolved out of the San Francisco Bay area’s post-punk/hardcore scene and its earliest albums have more in common with the likes of English anarcho punk bands like Amebix and Crass than perhaps some of their hometown’s well-known punk luminaries. Yet by 1992 the group had garnered the interest of former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra who mixed that year’s Neurosis record, the decidedly more metal Souls at Zero. Neurosis has since then established itself firmly as a powerful live act whose records have pushed the boundaries of metal, hardcore and psychedelic music more than almost another other single band. Most of the truly interesting and innovative modern extreme metal bands can trace a strand of influence to Neurosis. Tourmates Converge were pioneering their own form of metal and hardcore crossover in Salem, Massachusetts. By 2001, the group had developed a particularly savage and precise form of posthardcore whose sound and aesthetic permeates a good deal of the extreme metal of today as well as any hardcore band that wants to taken seriously. Its live shows are legendarily intense and be prepared for the cascade of would-be stage divers and crowd surfers.
Who: Greg Hill presents the Zebra Skin Shirt release
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Tattered Cover – Colfax location
Why: Former Six Months to Live and current Manotaur frontman Greg Hill will present the release of his latest novel, Zebra Skin Shirt, the third and final installment in the Stratford County trilogy all set in Colorado (including 2012’s East of Denver and 2015’s The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles). Hill’s gift for incorporating the supernatural and even science fiction concepts into deeply personal novels about people struggling with their personal shortcomings in life and in their relationships or attempts thereof are always incredibly engaging and entertaining brimming with Hill’s vivid descriptions, sense of humor and attention to detail whether that’s in recreating past Denver and Joes, Colorado locations or intricacies of plot. Zebra Skin Shirt may be Hill’s most unusual novel to date and his best. If you have to miss the release it’s easy to find the book online including at Amazon.
Who: Chief White Lightning w/Keef Duster
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 9 p.m.
Why: Josh Logan may be cultivating that look somewhere between Elvis, Zach Galifianakis and Joaquin Phoenix from I’m Still Here, but seeing as he is a member of Austin stoner rock band Blind Pets, his music pleasantly flies in the face of the expectations one might have just looking at his stage persona. The band’s fuzzy, poppy punk and country mix shouldn’t work and the kitsch should render it difficult to take seriously but the group’s new self-titled album is impossible to dismiss as anything but a great rock and roll album with more diversity of sound and songwriting style than a lot of bands who have delved into modern rock and roll.