Best Shows in Denver and Beyond December 2022

Palm performs at Larimer Lounge on December 6, 2022, photo by Eve Alpert
Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | 12.01
What: Wild Pink w/Trace Mountains and Knuckle Pups
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Wild Pink’s John Ross wrote one of the great story albums of recent years with 2021’s A Billion Little Lights and its themes of coming to terms with adulthood while staying connected with one’s creative life and navigating the temptations to ditch music as the occupation of adolescence. And how through creative work one can explore an evolving sense of meaning that hits you throughout your thirties and the rest of your life. 2022’s ILYSM (an acronym for “I Love You So Much”) takes that perspective to examine the details of life that deepen one”s bond with the people in your life. Knuckle Pups in from Denver released a deeply self-reflective album with 2022’s TV Ready in which the ambitious pop band fuses radical vulnerability with a compassionate honesty that is not nearly common enough in the realm of indie rock or any form of music today. Sometimes earnestness can seem like a pose but with Knuckle Pups it seems inspirational in its lack of pretension.

Cold Cave in 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.02
What: Cold Cave w/Voight and Hex Cassette
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Wesley Eisold of Cold Cave has been mostly been releasing singles and EPs since the most recent full length album Cherish the Light Years came out in 2011. His most recent Fate in Seven Lessons (2021) is well within the realm of modern darkwave post-punk with his usual gift for teasing grit and darkness out of the songwriting although plenty of the music has a beautifully melodic melancholia reminiscent of New Order. Eisold has also been involved in a bit of writing including his work with the late, great Mark Lanegon on the book of poetry Plague Poems (2020). Opening the show are two Denver acts. Hex Cassette’s confrontational industrial dance music challenges notions of the role of artist and audience and breaking that barrier for a collective experience. Voight seems to be making good on its threat of completely injecting techno into its own searing shoegaze-infused post-punk and emotionally intense music.

Cannibal Corpse, photo by Alex Morgan

Friday | 12.02
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 1: Cannibal Corpse, Dark Funeral, Immolation, Black Anvil, Onyx and In The Company of Serpents
When: 5
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: This unique event includes some pretty extensive beer tasting for those so inclined but the real reason is to get to see some of the great extreme metal acts of today. That includes death metal legends Cannibal Corpse whose over the top gory lyrics have been banned in various countries despite how obviously absurd they are in the vein of the most demented horror movies of the 80s but really just more creative than a lot of those films. And the music itself stands up well in upholding the brutality of the lyrics with a technical proficiency worthy of the name of the band. Get there early to catch the bluesy, cinematic doom band from Denver In the Company of Serpents who don’t play Denver as much as they once did these days.

Wayfarer, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 2: Pig Destroyer, Skinless, Wayfarer, Of Feather and Bone and Wake
When: 4
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Day two of this event includes more noteworthy acts out of the broad world of extreme metal including performances from Denver’s masters of cinematic doom, Wayfarer, the caustic death grind onslaught of Of Feather and Bone, the blackened grind of Calgary’s Wake and grindcore legends Pig Destroyer whose contorted and savagely brutal music is a fitting companion to JR Hayes’ darkly incisive lyrics about human experiences on the edge.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Sophie Hur

Saturday | 12.03
What: Soccer Mommy w/TOPS
When: 7
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Sophia Allison has been writing music and performing as Soccer Mommy since she was in college before dropping out and moving back to Nashville to pursue her career as a musician full time. It helped that she had a record deal with Fat Possum which released her debut album Clean in 2018 before she turned twenty-one. The album’s emotional openness and unabashed embrace of unconventional melody and song structure while crafting undeniable hooks garnered the record widespread critical acclaim. The most recent Soccer Mommy album Somtimes, Forever (2022) was produced with Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never and the team-up brought to Allison’s particularly confessional lyrics and always imaginative guitar work an experimental edge and sound design element for the songwriter’s most musically adventurous recording of her career thus far. Additionally, the lyrics probably startled listeners that expect artists to be vague in their sentiments in a pop song setting but hasn’t Allison been poetically pointed and vivid in her words all along? Opening the show is Montreal’s indie pop band TOPS whose gentle yet passionate compositions seem like they’d be pretty light and airy live as well but at the show the band seems to exude an unexpected vitality.

HaemoGoblin, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: HaemoGoblin and Fast N Loose at L. Lazer art opening
When: 9
Where: The Crypt ($10 cash)
Why: HaemoGoblin is an electronic duo that will be performing what it calls a ritualistic invocation. Calling the performance “Inauguration” what you will see is a “mini stage play set to music, designed to disorient, disturb and ‘shake awake’ the audience for a half hour or longer.” What will this look like? Well, veteran carnie frontwoman Ortenzia von Deadworry and S.S.G. her “summoned demon” synth player will definitely bring some theater to an often very predictable local music scene. Also on the bill for this art opening featuring the work of L. Lazer is Fast N Loose is a Motorhead tribute band.

The Soft Moon in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 12.04
What: The Soft Moon w/Nuovo Testamento and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Luis Vasquez was a little ahead of the curve when he launched The Soft Moon in 2009. Originally a solo project, The Soft Moon evolved to become more of a live band that brought Vasquez’s songs of nervy energy and anxiety-purging urgency to life. His most recent album is 2022’s Exister which in the wake of one of the most challenging periods in recent world history on a wide scale is a catharsis of overcoming the enervating influences that come your way and considering the mere continuation of existence a triumph in itself. The songs seem to have leaned more into the industrial side of Vasquez’s songwriting with some real visceral power driving the moody atmospherics. Los Angeles-based darkwave/synth pop band Nuovo Testamento opens the show.

Hembree, photo by Jonny Marlow

Sunday | 12.04
What: Hembree w/Little Hurt, False Report and Mae Mae
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Hembree from Kansas City, Missouri that formed in 2015 and its big break to a national audience was the placement of its single “Holy Water” in an Apple ad during Super Bowl LII. The group’s tight rhythms serve as a foundation for the rest of the songwriting to stretch out whether into focused, unadorned rock songs or expansive, moody pieces and the techno-underpinned indie funk that is at the core of its sound. The group’s new album It’s a Dream! is a record tinged with nostalgic examinations of the roots of current anxieties and insecurities expressed in hazy melodies and resonating tones driven by a hypnotic beat. On the surface it may sound like another current indie rock offering with more than its fair share of more imaginative songwriting but Hembree really charts an internal journey in which one is prepared to exit the gauntlet of lucid dreams trapped in feeling everything until it makes sense and after one is able to move through tangled emotional memories.

The Lemonheads, photo by Barry Brescheisen

Monday | 12.05
What: The Lemonheads w/Bass Drum Of Death and On Being an Angel https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/443688
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Lemonheads are one of few still extant bands to have come to prominence during the alternative rock era that didn’t quite fit in with the more trendy subgenres that made that era one of the most vibrant in the history of popular music. Its own brand of power pop was a vehicle for the songwriting of only constant member, singer and guitarist Evan Dando. The latter seems to have an ability to look into situations and people and extrapolate poetic insights with a compassionate perspective. The title track of the group’s 1992 breakthrough album It’s A Shame About Ray isn’t just about a troubled person who doesn’t fit in with any school and its politics, it’s about feeling like a perpetual outsider and the rest of the songs on the record are vivid stories about people we all know and might even be in a way that didn’t comport with the tales of desperation one heard in a lot of grunge and too “dark” for more faux posi faire of that era to now. Ever since The Lemonheads went on hiatus in 1997 and returned to operations in 2005, the group hasn’t been prolific with original material but Dando’s interpretations of artists that have influenced him on Varshons (2009) Varshons 2 (2019) have been a peek into what Dando’s brain has latched onto for inspiration and perhaps for this performance we’ll get to hear what the veteran songwriter has been up to in recent years. One thing is for certain his own songs have aged far better than those of many of his contemporaries owing in part to the gentle but raw honesty of the songwriting. Also on this bill is Bass Drum of Death originally from Oxford, Mississippi whose blues tinged noisy garage rock has a refreshing level of grit and menace befitting the name of the project.

Monday | 12.05
What: W.A.S.P. w/Armored Saint
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: W.A.S.P. is the kind of band out of the glam metal era in Los Angeles of the 1980s that more than any other group out of that world that courted controversy. Its music was and is a spirited, melodic hard rock with a strong sense of theater even in the songwriting. Sure its cover art for its debut single “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” with the circular saw codpiece offended people that took it more literally than could even remotely be intended. Certainly former guitarist Chris Holmes looked the buffoon drunk in a pool with his mother sitting by in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years seemed to affirm the extreme and self-destructive hedonism associated with the band. But at its best W.A.S.P. were avatars of a music scene that could be cartoonish, bombastic and puerile while offering an alternative to a conformist puritanical culture with its lurid and triumphant storytelling. Perhaps co-headlining though less notorious is Armored Saint who also started in 1982 in Los Angeles and also pre-dated glam metal though often associated with that world of music due to the big hair and knack for solid melodic hooks. But like W.A.S.P. there was something with more edge than most of its glam rock contemporaries. While never quite having any mainstream breakthrough hits, Armored Saint was a staple of 1980s metal that has held up better than much of the music out of the 1980s Los Angeles heavy metal scene has.

Water From Your Eyes, photo by Ana Fangayen

Tuesday | 12.06
What: Palm w/Water From Your Eyes
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: As Water From Your Eyes, Nate Amos and Rachel Brown have made a career of using an eclectic and ever evolving palette of sounds to explore ideas and concepts through what could be considered dance pop. That is if your frame of reference might be the experimental electronic and punk out of New York and Los Angeles of the last fifteen years. Its 2020 album 33:44 is something you’d expect more out of a band on the Northern Spy label with its beautifully dire, ambient and modern classical soundscapes that are almost an homage to Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” crossed with Howard Shore’s work for the films of David Cronenberg. But the duo’s most recent album Structure at times sounds like what might have happened if Aphex Twin in writing Selected Ambient Works Volume II had decided to turn those into pop songs. Except that Water From Your Eyes inserts enigmatic spoken word elements that serve as a a meta narrative that re-configures traditional album structure and gives the whole album a non-linear quality made cohesive by reimagining the nature of how creative work is structured. Fitting that this arty yet incredibly accessible group is sharing the stage with Philadelphia’s art rock weirdos Palm touring in support of Nicks and Grazes, an album that sounds like the band challenged its members to go on separate retreats to clear their minds of contemporary influences and to immerse themselves in non-musical art forms and come back to make the kind of psychedelic rock record that comes across like a collage of playful daydreams and arranged in a way that brushes aside conventional structure itself.

OFF! photo by Jeff Forney

Thursday and Friday | 12.08 and 12.09
What: OFF! w/Zulu
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: OFF! is of course the newer hardcore project fronted by legendary vocalist Keith Morris formerly of Black Flag and of Circle Jerks. The current lineup includes founding member Dmitri Coats of Burning Brides on guitar and as of 2021 Autry Fulbright II on bass and Justin Brown on drums. After an eight year hiatus on releases, OFF! released Free LSD in 2022. It’s still the searing hardcore sound you’d expect from the group but there are some clear differences with what sounds like synth and other ambient sounds giving the songs a psychedelic feel that wasn’t so much a part of its earlier sound. A refreshing update for a band that still maintains the intensity and edge without being stuck in a stylistic rut. Opening both dates at the Hi-Dive is anti-racist powerviolence band Zulu which injects its music with R&B samples and eschews the tough guy stance of hardcore.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 05/10/19 – 05/15/19

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Tim Hecker performs Sunday May 12 at The Bluebird Theater

Friday | May 10

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FEELS, photo by Shervin Lainez

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

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Lady of Sorrows, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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EVP, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Julia Jacklin, photo by Nick McKk

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

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Evan Dando of The Lemonheads, photo by Michel van Collenburg

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

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Hatebreed, photo courtesy the artist

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.