What:The Ocean Blue When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m. Where: Soiled Dove Underground Why: Dream pop band and precursors of modern indie pop, The Ocean Blue, makes a stop in Denver in support of its new album Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves. Read our interview with singer/guitarist David Schelzel here.
What:Dog Basketball and Dry Ice album release When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m. Where: Old Main Chapel CU 1600 Pleasant St. Boulder 80302 Why: Dual album release show from experimental pop band Dog Basketball and “psychedelic dream punk” band Dry Ice from Denver. A rarity to see any show at Old Main much less something this underground and experimental.
What:She Past Away w/Radio Scarlet and WitchHands When: Friday, 12.6, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: She Past Away is the Turkish post-punk band from Bursa that began in 2006 and making them early adopters of the current darkwave movement. Its synth and bass-driven songs have a different quality than its Western European and American counterparts while sharing that dark, introspective quality that is clearly descended from the likes of D.A.F., Depeche Mode and Clan of Xymox with an aesthetic that isn’t so far removed from its punk roots. The group’s third and latest album 2019 Disko Anksiyete saw a dual release on Fabrika Records and Metropolis Record and with a US tour currently under way it’s proof that its music transcends barriers of language.
What:Altas with Tiffany Christopher When: Friday, 12.6, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Open Media Why: Instrumental rock band Altas performs at Denver Open Media for a free show with Tiffany Christopher. Altas released the powerfully cinematic All I Ever Wanted Was in June 2019.
What:May Erlewine w/Dango Rose When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m. Where: Tuft Theatre (Swallow Hill) Why: May Erlewine is a prolific blues folk artist from Big Rapids, Michigan with fifteen albums under her belt since 2003 including 2019’s In the Night. Erlewine cut her teeth as a live performer, according to a piece on MTV.com, while hitch hiking across North America and performing on the streets. For In the Night Erlewine picked herself up from the state of despair that hit many people in the wake of the Trump presidency and use her music as way to address 45’s ignorant and hateful and destructive remarks and behaviors with thoughtful commentary and observations on life and the American culture she and many of us know to be much more authentic than the spewage from a pampered, narcissistic child of privilege. But expect that music to be delivered with Erlewine’s usual warmth, nuance and strength with her dynamic and elegant voice.
What:Lettuce w/Antibalas and Chris Karns When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Lettuce is an experimental funk band that has crossed over into the realm of jam bands and EDM even though its music has ranged far afield of that for years including its 2019 album Elevate. The group freely borrows from styles and sounds to craft its signature synthesis of funk, Afrobeat, jazz and electronic pop.
What:Anamanaguchi w/Default Genders and Nullsleep When: Sunday, 12.8, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Mix an anthemic J-pop band with an 8-bit glitchcore project and a progressive rock/jazz fusion band and task it to make dynamic and engrossing video game music with an uncommon sense of space, composition and emotional impact and you have Anamanaguchi. Particularly on its 2019 album [USA]. Seems gimmicky at first but the New York-based band doesn’t get stuck in the hyperactive songwriting that plagues a lot of “Nintendocore” acts or the dull focus on displays of technical prowess and knowledge of theory that is behind a lot of prog. Just well crafted, expansive pop songs that feel like endless possibilities and the positive ghosts of childhood reverie manifested in sound.
What:Alex Cameron w/Jackladder and Emily Panic When: Monday, 12.9, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Alex Cameron’s 2019 album Miami Memory is like a set of vignettes about people in crisis. But the take is one of compassion and understanding without trying to underplay or make light of the struggles. At a time when a lot of synth pop is generic, Cameron’s eccentric and psychologically insightful take on songwriting is strikingly different with a knack for changing up the vibe, texture and tone of his songs throughout an album. Just watch the video for “Far From Born Again” for a bit about Cameron’s keen understanding of the human condition.
What:Earth w/Helms Alee When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Earth is as much an influential and pioneering drone metal band as it is an avant-garde blues folk group imbued with mystical overtones. It’s 2019 album Full Upon Her Burning Lips finds the trio channeling more than the usual measure of its crawling, Black Sabbath-esque gloom. Seeing the live show it’s always fascinating to see how Adrienne Davies moves in an orchestrated string of slow sweeping moves and fast, accenting flourishes as Dylan Carlson and their collaborators of the moment drone with a smoky fluidity.
What:Meet the Giant, The Jinjas, Monty O’Blivion and Zealot When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Zealot would be a Mountain Goats cover band but Luke Hunter James-Erickson would find that too rote so he injects his own eclectic tastes into the songwriting. Recently released the “Snake Goddess” single, a typically eccentric, high energy, angular indie rock gem. Meet the Giant, informed by electronic music and hip-hop beat-making, write and perform deeply evocative, brooding rock songs that maybe now would overlap with the whole darkwave thing except that Meet the Giant often crosses over into the realm of hard rock in a way most of those bands don’t.
What:Cholo Goth Night featuring Dave Parley of Prayers When: Thursday, 06.27, 9 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Just like it says, Cholo Goth Night at Streets Denver with Dave Parley of Cholo Goth and spinning Darkwave and Goth for the evening. When this event happens in the Los Angeles area and select other cities Parley brings in other darkwave musicians of note to guest a set but not for tonight.
Friday | June 28
What:The Kinky Fingers w/Vic N’ the Narwhals and Colfax Speed Queen When: Friday, 06.28, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Now that the Denver “party rock” scene has withered away and garage psych/surf is going the way of pop punk in the early 2000s only the strong and more interesting survive. In the case of these three bands it’s partly because their songwriting was always good and their individual sounds not so susceptible to the blowout of trendiness. Each has also evolved.
What:Tyto Alba and Steele Douglas When: Friday, 06.28, 5 p.m. Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver Why: Tyto Alba is always surprisingly evocative with music coming from the tender places of the psyche and coloring the tones in warm, incandescent tones and hypnotic rhythms. Seeing them on a rooftop while a thunderstorm threatens to hover in but never does? Seems symbolic and entirely appropriate.
What:Blue October w/Mona When: Friday, 06.28, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Blue October has been around for nearly a quarter of a century now and its career has crossed over from the old way of major labels and the album release cycle to the modern mess and disarray of the industry now that offers bands to connect directly to an audience more so than ever before but to earn far less for their efforts. That the group has weathered that period is impressive itself. Oddly enough its own style of power pop seemingly inspired by late 80s proto-alternative rock like Icehouse and The Outfield and their dramatic presentation of being a bit on the outs of true emotional fulfillment but yearning for that special connection with another human with music that is a little too triumphant in tone and uplifting to be sad bastard music. But Blue October didn’t stay trapped in a past style and its newer music reflects a diversity of newer influences.
What:Westword Music Showcase When: Saturday, 06.29, 12 p.m. Where: Golden Triangle Neighborhood Why: This is the longest running music festival of its type in Denver. Held on just one day in the Golden Triangle neighborhood near the Westword offices off Tenth Ave and Broadway, it is arguably the most concise way all year to see a broad spectrum of the local scene without having to walk too far. This year’s line-up includes several of the local luminaries. Here is a list of see-if-you-can acts at each of the stages and a given set time. Tastes will vary and I’m certainly no expert on big chunks of the local music world.
Breckenridge Brewery Stage
6:10 Jai Wolf
White Claw Stage
12:50 Techno Allah
2:30 Erin Stereo
12:50 Venus Cruz
6:40 Lady Gang
7:30 RARE BYRD$
12:35 Gora Gora Orkestar
5:35 Wes Watkins
7:15 Roka Hueka
8:05 Los Mocochetes
12:50 Hail Satan
2:30 Ghosts of Glaciers
6:40 Plasma Canvas
7:30 Cheap Perfume
1:40 Brianna Straut
2:30 Bevin Luna
5 Vic n’ the Narwhals
6:40 The Hollow
1:40 Bret Sexton
5:50 Los Dog Ensemble
6:40 The Maybe So’s
7:30 Joshua Trinidad Trio
What:PUP w/Ratboys and Beach Bunny When: Saturday, 06.29, 9 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: PUP started making waves a handful of years ago outside its hometown of Toronto, Ontario among aficionados of pop punk and emo who missed that brashly confessional style of songwriting before the music hit maximum saturation level in the early-to-mid 2000s. When the band began in 2010 a quasi-movement was under way across the North American continent in making fun, melodic punk that was raw and expressive. With PUP and others the key difference was embracing the relatively unrefined side of that songwriting and how that opened possibilities for the music to go where it will rather than fall directly in a worn out style. This has given PUP’s songwriting a freshness that even if at first it seems completely within the realm of standard pop punk. Its new record, 2019’s Morbid Stuff, arguably its best to date, revealed the influence of the more vital garage punk and 2000s lo-fi noise rock on its sound. Like the Reatards and perhaps No Age. Its irreverent spirit and deft local cultural references that are relatable to people who experience similar social phenomena in their own cities makes for a consistently endearing listen.
What:Luxury Hearse, Timelord SFX and blank human When: Saturday, 06.29, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: Luxury Hearse combines the forces of blank human’s ambient/noise sound sculpting and Psychic Secretary’s beat-driven experimental electronic music. What to call it? Some might think industrial because of its sometimes sharp edges but it’s more in the vein of edgier yet dream-like dance music.
What: Blue October w/Mona ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/369899
When: Saturday, 06.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: For Blue October see above for 6.28.
Monday | July 1
What:Culture Abuse w/Tony Molina, Young Guy, Dare, Regional Justice Center and Cadaver Dog When: Monday, 07.01, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Culture Abuse has big melodic hooks for a band that came up through the milieu of garage punk. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream greatly expanded its range as a band both tonally, dynamically and emotionally as it’s informed by a sensitivity to the inevitability of the death of those close to you and a wry sense of humor and irony. After all Culture Abuse has a song called “Dave’s Not Here (I Got The Stuff Man)” referencing the classic Cheech & Chong skit. While there’s plenty of wiry punk energy behind the material, especially live, it’s really more of a great power pop record. Tony Molina got started in music playing in hardcore bands but his solo work is more in line with jangle pop and C86 with a sprinkling of The Byrds. His own 2018 record Kill the Lights wouldn’t have been out of place in the same musical realm as Teenage Fanclub circa 1992. Except with more folk-inflected, introspective songwriting throughout.
What:Muscle Beach, Buildings (MN) and Simulators When: Monday, 07.01, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Buildings form Minneapolis is a vital cross between a math-y noise rock and post-hardcore. Muscle Beach is of similar mind but its own version of post-hardcore is a splintery assault on the senses that drags you down emotional pathways that purge angst and personal darkness – all done with a cathartic sense of joy. Simulators are an angular noise rock duo whose music is both cutting and unhinged yet mathematically precise. It’s always an interesting contrast.
Wednesday | July 3
What:Bud Bronson + the Good Timers, The Right Here, Bad Licks, DJ Sara Splatter When: Wednesday, 07.01, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bud Bronson + The Good Timers are always surprisingly good. Its earnest power pop sounds like it’s of today but has a quality and a vibe that is reminiscent of the stories and sentiments one heard in the music of late 70s/early 80s Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Also on the bill is Bad Licks who somehow do a kind of psychedelic blues rock that is legitimate and high energy because good songwriting transcends pre-conceptions.
What:Weird Wednesdayl: Total Trash, Pretty Loud, Klaus Dafoe When: Wednesday, 07.01, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl Why: Total Trash is a band comprised of luminaries of Denver’s indie rock scene going back nearly two decades and yet it’s not all middle aged people. If you remember Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Lil’ Slugger, it’s people from those bands. It’s psychedelic, shoegaze-y jangle pop is transporting yet relatable and down to earth. Klaus Dafoe is an instrumental band that collides together 2000s math rock, weirdo punk and indie pop for a sound that is familiar yet unusual.
What:Pale Sun, Palehorse/Palerider, Random Temple and Grass When: Wednesday, 07.01, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Palehorse/Palerider’s drummer Nathan Marcy said to bring earplugs. Good idea, because his own group is the kind of doom/shoegaze/dark desert psych band that makes beautifully dark, atmospheric, consciousness expanding music with ritual/tribal flourishes that is, yes, in fact, quite loud. In good company with gritty psych band Grass and Pale Sun. The latter’s dreamy yet dense rock music will take you to a different psychological space than the one with which you walked into the show. Includes former members of Bright Channel, Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.
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. Where: Hi-Dive 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. Where: Rhinceropolis 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: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.
Who:Midge Ure and Paul Young w/Kayla Marque When: Thursday, 09.6, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Midge Ure is perhaps know to most for his bright and ethereal vocals and guitar work for new wave/synth pop pioneers Ultravox. With hits like “Vienna” and “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes,” Ultravox was one of the defining bands of the era. But Ure’s career has been broad, varied, lengthy and distinguished as a participant in a particularly creative era of music with stints in Rich Kids with former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and with influential but not oft-cited early synth pop band Visage. Ure was a touring guitarist and keyboard player with Thin Lizzy during its Black Rose era and his solo career has been quite respectable with collaborations with, among others, Kate Bush and Mick Ronson. For this tour, Ure is playing from across his discography including classic Ultravox cuts.
Friday | September 7, 2018
Who:Killing Joke and <PIG> When: Friday, 09.7, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Killing Joke’s stark apocalyptic death disco was basically the template for industrial rock. Its fervid and unblinking depiction of an international industrialized economy destroying the planet and our humanity in the process had a great deal of appeal when the band started in 1978 and seems even more relevant forty years hence when the proof of the destructive nature of late capitalism on the entire planet, including human society, is manifest. Depending on the era of the band in which you checked in or will check in, its live act is a tribal experience with frontman Jaz Coleman a figure channeling the fears and anxieties of the moment and transforming them into inspiration through a shamanic performance. The last time Killing Joke came to Denver in November 2003, Coleman took stage dressed in an outfit that looked like he’d crafted it after ekeing out a living on a remote tundra hunting wild bison with wooden spears, two large pieces of leather sewn together with thick thread made from sinew. He carried a wooden staff like some Celtic mystic, face smeared with dark ash to emphasize the whites of his eyes. When the music started it was like primeval human experiences and those borne of industrial civilization came together. Most bands can’t pull that off. This tour is likely to be just as gloriously weird and inspired.
Also on the bill is <PIG>, the project fronted by Raymond Watts. The latter’s résumé reads like a who’s who of industrial music history. Sure, he’s been an essential member/collaborator of KMFDM since that band’s easliest days. For example, he also worked with Psychic TV in the 80s, he was a touring soundman for Einstürzende Neubauten in the 80s, and he’s worked with Foetus. Watrs’ own music has explored realms of industrial music that expands what it is and what it can sound like. Watts somehow makes music that contains elements of ambient, noise, industrial beats and guitar without sounding like he’s trying to fit in with a trend or “genre” industrial music of any kind. As an artist he’s consistently explored different avenues of sound including Japanese experimental rock band Schwein. In recent years, Watts composed music for the fashion world, perhaps most notably for Alexander McQueen. In 2018 <PIG> released the “That’s The Way (I Like It)” EP which is a small collection of remixes and the cover of the K.C. And the Sunshine Band classic in collaboration with Sasha Grey who has been making a bit of a name for herself as a maker of music and an actress beyond the adult film world. Because of the latter, the song’s video debuted on Pornhub, a first for Watts.
Who:Option4 and Friends w/The Juan Maclean When: Friday, 09.7, 9 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Brennen Bryarly became one of the biggest independent promoters of electronic dance music in the country in the past decade. But when he’s had time to indulge making music of his own under the Option4 moniker it’s always been worth a listen. This night he shares the stage with associates as well as The Juan Maclean, the influential neo acid house/nü disco project started by John Maclean, the former guitarist for noise rock legends Six Finger Satellite. These days Maclean does his sets with collaborators Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem fame and Nicholas Millhiser of synth pop band Holy Ghost!
Who:Dead Kennedys w/T.S.O.L., The Dwarves, Runaway Kids and Reno Divorce When: Friday, 09.7, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Don’t go expecting Jello Biafra fronting Dead Kennedys. Ron “Skip” Greer, formerly of East Bay punk and Wynona Riders, has been in the frontman role since 2008. Do go expecting to hear plenty Dead Kennedys classics performed by the classic lineup minus Biafra. Also on the bill are other punk greats like T.S.O.L., the band that refused to just stick with punk musical and sartorial orthodoxy when it dropped the usual hardcore imagery and sound and adopted glam and drag and moody post-punk. And whatever T.S.O.L. wanted, which is pretty punk.
The Dwarves spent a lot of years on the intentionally offensive tip in the vein of G.G. Allin minus the more unsanitary performance stunts. In 1993 the band announced that its guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed had been stabbed to death with a hoax that went so far as to list the HWCBN as The Dwarves’ “late” guitarist on the 1993 release of Sugarfix. That stunt lost the band its label signing with Sub Pop. Four years later the group reconvened and proved it was always more than a campaign to alienate everyone with pushing the extreme stunts envelope and has produced a solid body of garage punk including its 2018 album Take Back The Night on Burger Records. Not for everyone but if you have a wicked and irreverent sense of humor you have to appreciate a band willing to call its 1999 compilation Free Cocaine.
Who:Venus Cruz & Friends When: Friday, 09.7, 9:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Venus Cruz is a multifaceted talent and multi-instrumentalist who on her own or in collaboration with other musicians or in an ensemble finds the sweet spot at the intersection of soulfulness, innovation and accessibility. As the host of Jazz Odyssey on KVUO on Wednesday nights 10 p.m. to 12 a.m., Cruz champions the most forward thinking artists under a broad umbrella of what jazz can be conceived of being.
Saturday | September 8, 2018
Who:The Verve Pipe w/The Hollow and Citra When: Saturday, 09.8, 6 p.m. Where: Levitt Pavilion Why: The Verve Pipe is most well-known for a handful of singles in the mid-90s with “Photograph” and “The Freshmen” and in 2001 with “Colorful,” which introduced them to an even wider audience on the soundtrack of Rock Star. Even though the band’s songs were uncommonly thoughtful and discussed topics like addiction, suicide, sexual abuse and issues of social justice in a sensitive way one might not expect from a rock band then with radio hits. But when The Verve Pipe didn’t score a big hit its excellent self-titled 1999 album and when its 2001 album Underneath, despite its having a hit song, didn’t move millions of units either the major label world lost interest. Fortunately, fan interest remained and when the possibility of crowdsourcing became an option for a band that had ably managed its own business affairs and marketing before ever signing to a big label, The Verve Pipe returned to having a viable music career again by simply picking up where it left off when the label was taking care of everything. The result has been a fruitful second, or even third, chapter for the band including its 2017 album Parachute, which is a fine example of how a band can reconcile the idealism of its early career with evolution into adulthood without getting boring.
Who:Wovenhand w/Echo Beds When: Saturday, 09.8, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Wovenhand was a reincarnation of David Eugene Edwards as a songwriter from 16 Horsepower into originally more familiar, Gothic folk territory but in increasingly divergent directions including the adoption of Middle Eastern musical ideas with 2008’s Ten Stones and more immersion in Eastern European and Balkan musical forms. With 2012’s The Laughing Stalk, though, Wovenhand sound was harder, darker and more in the realm of fiery post-punk. Was it his new bandmates including former Planes Mistaken For Stars and current Git Some guitarist/vocalist Charles French bringing in that sensibility or a natural evolution of Edwards’s songwriting? Likely a combination as Edwards even covered the likes of Joy Division and The Gun Club while in 16 Horsepower. Whatever the catalyst for the change in sound, Wovenhand remains a haunting and powerful live band.
Denver’s Echo Beds came together out of the local punk and experimental music scene with principals Keith Curts and Tom Nelsen having put in their time make more conventional music and crafting music on the outer edge of accessibility. As Echo Beds the duo has worked with other collaborators over the years but the core of the band has been one to explore the possibilities of unconventional percussion (organic and electronic), harrowing textural noises as compositional elements and a charged emotional delivery it metes out in small, incredibly intense doses. This past summer the group released the nightmarishly beautiful full-length Buried Language through The Flenser.
Who:1476 w/Alterity, Oblivion Her Majesty, Feigning, No Roses When: Saturday, 09.8, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: 1476 from Salem, Massachusetts is fairly impossible to pin down to any narrow genre as its body of work encompasses neo-folk, post-punk and black metal without its music sounding like a song-to-song exercise in either. Fans of Neurosis, Coliseum and Wipers will find something to like about 1476, especially its 2017 album Our Season Draws Near.
Monday | September 10, 2018
Who:Mac DeMarco w/Noname, Free Nationals, DJ Jonathan Toubin When: Monday, 09.10, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre Why: Mac DeMarco is a modern guitar hero to some, a retro indie punchline to others. What’s missed in the overblown fandom and uninspired dismissal of an artist one hasn’t taken the time to delve into is the fact that DeMarco has evolved significantly since his time in Makeout Videotape a decade ago. His songwriting has also been more than any easy genre designation, more sonically and emotionally rich than any movement with which he might be lumped. The songwriter has described his own music as “jizz jazz,” whatever that’s really supposed to men, but jazz is the underlying aesthetic and structure to his songwriting.
Demarco’s new album This Old Dog sounds like he spent some years brushing up on his Steely Dan-isms without ripping off the band. There is an introspective lushness to several of the songs not to mention the chutzpah of a twenty-six-year old (at the time of the songwriting anyway) writing a record filled with songs written from the perspective of looking back on what feels like a long life. And to be fair, with as much touring, songwriting, life experience and hustling that DeMarco had to have packed into his life thus far it probably does feel warranted to take stock through one’s art. This Old Dog bears that out and it’s often languid pace feels like he’s felt that in a way that only someone who is a bit world weary would know. Not that DeMarco’s been beaten up by the hammer blows that life deals you as you get toward double his age now but he’s managed to articulate the feelings of wondering what this is all signifies, the self-doubt, the realization of mortality and trying to cope with the loss of key people in your life as well as someone with a decade or more hence on him. Will this translate to a large format performance? One can hope and that Red Rocks is a place where people can take in some of this material with the thoughtfulness that went into its making.
Tuesday | September 11, 2018
Who:Dark Tuesdays: Juliet Mission with DJs St. Evil and Fernando When: Tuesday, 09.11, 9 p.m. Where: Blue Ice Why: Juliet Mission was born out of the early days of Denver post-punk/alternative rock band Sympathy F when Andre Lucero, Anthony Morales and Doug Seaman were weaving threads of inspiration from the pall of gloom over Denver’s sprawl of urban decay and post oil industry bust decades into darkly beautiful melodies. In the 2000s the band finally released a collection of songs but has more or less remained dormant, playing occasional shows, for the past decade. Now on the cusp of releasing its latest albums, Juliet Mission has been playing live including this rare appearance at Blue Ice for the Dark Tuesdays event that brings together some of Denver’s better darkwave, industrial, Goth and post-punk DJs.
Who:Acid King w/Love Gang and Keef Duster When: Tuesday, 09.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Acid King emerged from San Francisco in the early 90s when its amalgam of heavy metal and psychedelic rock wasn’t exactly in vogue. That just meant the band could develop its sound and aesthetic without that being co-opted by any mainstream movement or corporate record labels looking to cash in on a then potentially commercial trend. The group, still fronted by guitarist Lori S., took its moniker from the nickname of a serial killer and its songs are not short on themes of the occult, and evil after the manner of a horror writer, of course, resulting in a body of work that would be a great companion to the comic art of Richard Corben and Erol Otus or a movie based on the story by Laird Barron. Long before “stoner rock” became a thing, Acid King was in there doing their own pioneering work in that realm alongside the likes of Sleep, Kyuss and St. Vitus. Yeah, all the creative descendents of Black Sabbath but also some of the best.
Wednesday | September 12, 2018
Who:Mike Krol (Merge) w/Shiii Whaaa and Super Bummer When: Wednesday, 09.12, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Mike Krol’s new seven inch “An Ambulance” / “Never Know” out on Merge Records is an immediate no-brainer-love-it for fans of late 2000s lo-fi noise punk/pop stars like Times New Viking, The Reatards, No Age, Psychedelic Horseshit, Eat Skull and Pink Reason. The shitgazers, the bands that celebrated exuberance and coloring outside established lines even for punk and more consciously experimental rock with garbage distortion and pegging the needles on the recording console, the bands that found homes on forward thinking labels like, yes, Merge, and Siltbreeze. Mike Krol is from that lineage of sonics but charting his own flavor. More contemporaneously, if you’re a fan of Clarke & The Himselfs don’t sleep on Mike Krol.
Who:Warm Thoughts, Obtuse, Candy Apple, Old Haunts, Incontinuity When: Wednesday, 09.12, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Warm Thoughts from Los Angeles used to be called Dad Punchers and who doesn’t love a name like that? But Warm Thoughts is probably a better long term name for a band you want to take places where “Dad Punchers” might not read too well. Or, you know, you find yourself being a dad and you’re in the band. At any rate, the emo-inflected pop punk band recently released its latest album I Went Swimming Alone and is making a stop in Denver playing with like-minded bands including Obtuse whose anthemic lo-fi pop punk might be described as defiantly self-loathing underlined with a spirit of accepting that for many of us life isn’t exactly overflowing with glamour and validation.
Who:Surfacing: Seal Eggs, Bluebook and Pearls and Perils When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m. Where: Europa Coffeehouse Why: This is the latest edition of Surfacing, the music showcase put on by the Titwrench Collective which, of course, throws the Titwrench Festival in late summer in Denver. The festival focuses on women and LGBTQIA makers of music, generally in an experimental vein. This night is certainly well within that realm with Seal Eggs from Colorado Springs who performs a kind of ambient/experimental electronic music with operatic vocals. Bluebook is Julie Davis and her commanding use of cello, loops and her powerful voice. Pearls and Perils is sort of an experimental hip-hop/downtempo project from Olivia Perez whose dark, cool vibe is a departure from her old band Gloam, which was more in the vein of an noisy alterna-prog band. Perez has been a member of Key Lady & The Frontstrangers, which mostly evolved into RAREBYRD$ and some of that mysterious production quality is present in the soundscapes of Pearls and Perils.
Who:Bison Bone w/The Reals and Larry Nix When: Thursday, 11.02, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Bison Bone masterfully blends alt-country with experimental guitar rock with thoughtful, evocative storytelling. One is struck by how Courtney Whitehead and the rest of the band make their take on country and rock very much their own thing. You hear nods to Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and others who connected the rootsy warmth of country with an otherworldly energy except that Bison Bone is connected to another realm of the cosmos and the songs transform intense, potentially soul crushing pain into inspiration and catharsis.
Who: Ultra Metal Pre-Show When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m. Where: TBA Why: Johnathan Cash aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan moved to Denver in 2017 after having performed at Denver noise events and Denver Noise Fest several times over the years. Now he has put together the sort of event he used to put on while living in Austin with Ultra Metal. It’ll include legendary noise/industrial acts like The Haters, Page 27 and Anime Love Hotel as well as noteworthy local staples of the noise world like Morlox, Solypsis, Blarney Mumble and Acidbat. Tonight’s opening ceremonies of the festival also includes Scammers from Kansas City. Phil Diamond of Scammers usually performs solo with his signature crooning voice sounding like he could have been a studio singer for Motown. But he also generally aims for whatever creative music strikes him and has toured on a Harry Potter-inspired electro pop album. Best believe that said album is as interesting and sonically adventurous as anything else Diamond has done. 2017’s Love is a Rough Cut Stone is Diamond’s take on modern R&B-inflected synth pop. Think in the vein of Purity Ring if they collaborated with Drake. Anyone interested in attending any of the three nights of Ultra Metal, or has other questions about the events, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.
Friday: November 3, 2017
Who:A$AP Mob w/Key! and Cozy Boys When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m. Where: 1stBank Center Why: A$AP Mob is the New York City-based hip-hop collective that, along with Odd Future from Los Angeles, have taken a more commercial hip-hop sound and aesthetic and injected it with innovative musical ideas, adopting sounds and styles of music that were before only really embraced by “alternative” hip-hop groups. The result has been, whether among individual artists like A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Twelvy, or as a collective, a more sonically interesting listening to go along with the usual, clever wordplay commenting on the vagaries of various kinds of relationships, life in urban America and popular culture and where all of those intersect and inform one another. The collective’s latest release, 2017’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, is not as strong as albums released by individual members of A$AP (including Twelvy’s debut solo effort, 12) and it’s still steeped in trap production but still worth a listen and certainly the live show will be visually dynamic and include material from across the collective’s career.
Who:Cocordion album release w/Copyleft and Ancient Elk When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Why:Expectations is the first full-length album from Cocordion, a self-proclaimed lo-fi indie rock band based in Colorado Springs. Though the second release from the band, it is the product of a great deal of creative exploration and honing and refining musical instincts and chops playing in other bands—most notably, perhaps, is Mitchell Macura’s playing keyboards in Eros and the Eschaton. Expectations is an fitting title for an album whose themes include the various demands, welcome and very much otherwise, placed on us by society, the people in our lives and by our own psyches. It also references the concept of creative collaboration and what everyone brings to a project and expects of each other and themselves in that potentially precarious relationship and how such experiments can yield something greater than can an individual effort that depends on the dreams, energy and drive of an individual.
According to a recent interview we conducted with Mitchell (his brother Mason is also in the band) he believes that great creative work can come out of an individual vision that is strong and guides the work. Certainly the history of music bears this out and as a musician he has certainly contributed to realizing someone else’s creative vision. But for this new album, Macura decided to further push the project out of being a solo project, where it started, and allow the music to cohere between the three musicians (the Macura brothers and Thom Spano). For a lo-fi band the record is beautifully detailed with tones, flowing/intersecting atmospheres and textural percussion. Also on the bill is folk-inflected, experimental psychedelic rock band Ancient Elk.
Who: Ultra Metal Night 1 When: Friday, 11.03, 6 p.m. Where: TBA Why: This is the official first night of Ultra Metal, the noise festival being thrown by Johnathan Cash of Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. Cash recently relocated to Denver from Austin but he’s no stranger to Denver or the Mile High City’s noise scene as he’s performed locally regularly for years including sets at various editions of Denver Noise Fest. Tonight you can see the infamous noise project The Haters who have roots in Denver but affiliation with noiseniks and performance art legends Survival Research Laboratories. Also, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan will do a collaboration set with Chicago’s The Rita, hip-hop beatmaker/breakbeat phenom Morlox will play in the late hours and ambient maestro Solypsis will perform earlier in the evening. Plus much more. Those interested in attending or anyone with any questions of the festival should contact the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.
Who:The Hollow “Sleep Talkin” video release w/Silver & Gold and Post Paradise When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: The Hollow is a rarity in Denver. The group is almost as straightforward rock as you can get without being boring. They’e absorbed what works for a lot of modern rock bands that aren’t tapping into a classic rock vibe. Its hard-edged yet melodic songs are atmospheric enough to escape being mundane and they don’t run from writing hooks. The group is celebrating the release of its video for “Sleep Talkin’”. The band’s music isn’t for everyone and its message of positive mental attitude may strike some as odd but at least it’s not phony and neither are the sentiments in its songwriting.
Who:The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Cold Cave When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: The Jesus and Mary Chain is basically the foundational band for the shoegaze genre. Okay, JAMC, Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3. But JAMC is the band that pushed the use of fuzz in a popular music context to newer extremes than before but wedding those massive sounds to classic pop songwriting. When the JAMC were coming together, they rejected the musical tropes of the day, choosing instead to embrace 60s pop music as produced by Wall of Noise pioneer Phil Spector, much as did the Ramones. But JAMC needed to do something that would be purely easily absorbed and co-opted by music even from the underground. Because of that, the band’s music has aged well and doesn’t sound dated. By carving out their own classic sound, steeped in an older classic sound, the Mary Chain has retained its mystique and its cool well past what might be predicted to be its sell-by date. Opening is Cold Cave, the project of Wesley Eisold who has explored a variety of musical ideas in his career including his former musical life playing in hardcore bands. Cold Cave is more in the darkwave vein of synth-driven post-punk reminiscent of pre-Technique New Order but with a modern flavor revealing Eisold’s deep familiarity with 21st century electronic music production.
Saturday: November 4, 2017
Who:Rowboat, The Raritans and Jukebox Spiders When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Denver’s Rowboat doesn’t play many shows these days. Its primary songwriter, Sam McNitt, played in space rock/indie rock band Blue Million Miles for several years in the late 2000s through the early 2010s. Rowboat was initially McNitt’s outlet for continuing to write his more directly folk-influenced music. Not the usual folk sort of thing because McNitt’s highly emotional, introspective songs have a haunted intensity that gives his music a force a lot of folk simply doesn’t have.
Who:The Corner Girls, Surf Mom, Gamma Death Wave and Phallic Meditation When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: The Corner Girls play a social critically informed surf rock with punk attitude. And, unlike way too many bands in the last two decades, it’s not a “clever” name as it’s an all female band. Maybe it’s been done before but one noteworthy thing about The Corner Girls is that the band isn’t trying to come off tough and aggo but doesn’t mince words either. It’s like a reinvention of punk for many of us that get bored with the hypermasculine model of a style of music that had in its heart in the beginning the detournement of outmoded social conventions. Plus the songs are good, catchy, well-crafted pop music that doesn’t bother with dumbing down. Similar things could be said about Surf Mom except Surf Mom sounds nothing like The Corner Girls. Molly McGrath’s guitar work is more abrasive at times and her expressions of anger have a thoughtfulness and sensitivity to them without blunting the sometimes pointed rhetoric.
Who: Ultra Metal Night 2 When: Saturday, 11.04, 6 p.m. Where: TBA Why: Second and final night of noise festival Ultra Metal. Tonight you can catch 8-bit grindcore band Rainbowdragoneyes, the mighty Novasak and what one might hope is his amp setup aimed at realigning the molecules of your body back to the proper place through sheer low end sculpting, Sheet Metal Skingraft’s industrialized, ambient harsh noise and an early set from the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27. For more information on and questions about the event, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.
Who:Brother Sister Hex (EP release), Jane Doe and Granny Tweed When: Saturday, 11.04, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Brother Sister Hex is releasing its third, and latest, EP End Times tonight at Lion’s Lair. The band combines elements of bluesy sludge rock with a touch of moody, perhaps brooding, atmospheres. Difficult to compare the band with anyone else without getting a little clumsy like Dead Weather, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age. Heavy but without sounding beholden to the classic rock era like a lot of modern rock and roll bands seem to be. Also on the bill is Jane Doe, the noisy, experimental rock band fronted by Becca Mhalek who has played saxophone with avant-jazz dub noiseniks Nightshark, a bit with Nels Cline and in Denver’s free jazz weirdo combo Aenka. In Jane Doe she doesn’t play any instruments, instead demonstrating singing and poetry chops as a cathartic frontwoman.
Sunday: November 5, 2017
Who:Jay Z and Vic Mensa When: Sunday, 11.05, 7 p.m. Where: Pepsi Center Why: Before becoming one of the most commercially successful hip-hop artists in the history of the artform, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter paid a lot of dues playing support to Big Daddy Kane, working with DMX and Ja Rule in their respective careers and before that getting by however he could growing up in a single parent household in pre-gentrification in Brooklyn. But out of all of that came his 1996 debut full-length album Reasonable Doubt, which included contributions from Biggie, Mary J. Blige, DJ Premier and other hip-hop luminaries. Since that time Carter has worked with most of the big names in the world of hip-hop and has had plenty of beef with various artists, but up to and including his 2017 album 4:44, Jay Z, like most great songwriters, uses the medium of music to use autobiography as a vehicle for commenting on culture and social issues from a deeply personal perspective. In his case, despite his wealth, it is a perspective that distills common experiences from a broad spectrum of the urban American experience into something in the grand tradition of creative social commentators like Mark Twain.
Vic Mensa dropped his debut full-length album The Autobiography this past summer. The title could be seen as a bit premature for an artist who turned 24 in June. But Mensa has been on a steep and ambitious trajectory in his career. Which would mean nothing if his energy and talent weren’t there as well as taste and imagination. All of that is evident on The Autobiography. Mensa’s songs combine beats seamlessly with what sound like either instrumental sections or samples that don’t try to transform the source material into having a different sonic quality. In that way there is an organic, human quality to the record that plays to the opposite instincts of the boastful end of hip-hop. The album has a large sound and Mensa’s confidence contagious but it sounds like you’re hearing the stories of people you know with all the grounding details that renders the mundane mythical.
Tuesday: November 7, 2017
Who:Beach Slang – Drunk of Lust tour w/Dave Hause and The Mermaid and Hannah Racecar When: Tuesday, 11.07, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Why: James Alex sure doesn’t play the shows in Beach Slang like he’s two going on three decades in music. As a member of post-hardcore band Weston from 1990 to 2011, Alex had to sustain a level of enthusiasm that would burn out most people two or three years in. But he seems to have brought that energy into Beach Slang when that band got going in 2013. Alex’s schtick probably strikes some as forced or phony but the thoughtful and emotionally stirring words whether in lyrics or its various shared words seem poignantly sincere. Part lo-fi indie rock, part unabashed power pop-flavored punk, Beach Slang has always had a vibe like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Clash without sounding like either. The group’s latest release is the Here I Made This For You: Volume 2 EP.
Wednesday: November 8, 2017
Who:Night Shapes, Body Meat and Natural Violence When: Wednesday, 11.08, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Night Shapes is a gritty post-punk band from Oakland. Its latest cassette, Wake Up, is being released on Denver’s Heavy Dose Records imprint. It’s sound is more like the noisy, warped, serpentine rhythm type that you hear in bands like Pop. 1280 and Protomartyr rather than the bands that are clearly tapping into Joy Division and the Cocteau Twins (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That the band is sharing the bill with the math-rock-esque Body Meat and the dark synthwave Natural Violence from Denver is only fitting, especially considering Heavy Dose also released the latter’s excellent 2017 release, Synthetic Peace.
Who:Tyler the Creator w/Taco When: Wednesday, 11.08, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: As one of the co-founders of the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator has been involved in making some of the most innovative hip-hop of the past decade. His wordplay is genuinely clever if perhaps the language isn’t for everyone (throwing f-bombs and not as in “fuck” and the n-bombs are understandably tricky to defend). But the beats and his willingness to draw on some truly unexpected corners of music and sampling from musicians other hip-hop artists generally don’t are what make Tyler’s albums so consistently interesting. For example, 2017’s deeply and colorfully atmospheric, jazz-inflected Flower Boy includes elements of “Spoon” by psychedelic prog band Can.
Who:Shigeto w/Ela Minus and Lemon Future When: Wednesday, 11.08, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall
Why: Zachary Shigeto Saginaw writes the beat-driven, melodic kind of abstract hip-hop that synthesizes the aesthetics of that form of music, techno, house, jazz and ambient. More so on the house end with his most recent record, 2017’s The New Monday. But Shigeto uses live percussion to craft samples in the live setting and on recordings that give his beats an organic feel that would be difficult to fully execute with pure electronics. Thus his music is more suited for an intimate, small venue environment rather than stadium EDM like some artists who are mining similar, if not as fascinating, sonic landscapes.