Jim Ward is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of art punk band Sparta which releases it’s new album, self-titled, on October 14, 2002. Ward first came to the attention of many while a member of post-hardcore legends At the Drive-In. Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Ward came up through the underground music scene and hung out in the same social circles with Foss whose membership included then future At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Beto O’Rourke who went on to be a U.S. Representative and at this writing is a candidate for the governorship of Texas. Ward had been impacted by a wide variety of underground rock bands of the 80s and 90s including, of course, Fugazi and the energy and political consciousness informed his own thinking and creativity as a musician and songwriter. When At The Drive-In split the first time in 2001, Ward formed Sparta whose music was sonically closest to the sound of his former band than other post-ATDI projects but with more of a focus on texture and melody and maintaining the sharply observed yet nuanced social critique. Sparta has undergone its own periods of hiatus and has stayed together since 2017 but whether in Sparta or with Sleepercar or his own fairly prolific solo career, Ward has consistently delivered a body of work that is both thoughtful and visceral. This interview was conducted next to the parking lot south of The Gothic Theatre within an hour before Sparta took the stage on September 4, 2022, a testament to how Ward keeps it real and down to earth.
Listen to the interview on Bandcamp and pre-order the new Sparta record at the appropriate links below. And to keep up to date on Sparta tour dates and available merch visit sparta.band
Saturday | 10.01 What:Amyl and The Sniffers w/Boby Vylan and Cleaner When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Amyl and The Sniffers may be named after amyl nitrate aka poppers as well as a humorous nod to singer Amy Taylor’s name but its own buzz has lasted much longer than thirty seconds. The group’s early EPs Giddy Up (2016) and Big Attraction (2017) garnered the group an avid cult following in its hometown of Melbourne, Australia as well as abroad where its fuzz-infused proto-punk sound felt like a stripping back of even punk to its essentials. The band’s 2019 self-titled album and fiery live shows cemented its reputation as one of the most exciting live bands of recent years. In 2021 Taylor guested on the song “Nudge It” by influential UK duo Sleaford Mods and Amyl and The Sniffers released the sophomore album Comfort to Me. As noteworthy as the earlier records were, Comfort to Me has the group sounding as massive as the furious energy that seems to be fueling its performances this year thus far.
Saturday | 10.01 What:Abrams album release w/Lost Relics, Vexing and Lord Velvet, poster art by Mhyk Monroe When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Calling Denver metal band Abrams doom has never quite fit the group even though that’s roughly where maybe its music has landed in terms of framing. Its new album In The Dark has such an expansive spirit and deep atmospherics that its surging melodies and weighty hooks might be compared with those of Baroness, especially the newer offerings from that band. But this new record also has a touch of psychedelia on its fringes. The vocal harmonies sound and the incandescent guitar riffs somehow complement each other perfectly guided by elegantly interlocking rhythms. Live the band’s raw power feels almost as much punk as it does metal with turns of musical phrase that take the music into sonic realms beyond both making Abrams one of the most interesting bands in heavy music out of Denver right now.
Saturday | 10.01 What: Daniel Avery When: 9 Where: 1134 Warehouse Why: Daniel Avery is poducer from Bournemouth, UK whose work with the likes of synth pop artist Little Boots and nu disco project Hercules and Love Affair garnered him no small amount of cache in the world of electronic music. His latest solo album Ultra Truth is reminiscent of late 90s Underworld but more ambient, more progressive/ethereal deep house.
Saturday | 10.01 What: TheAfghan Whigs When: 8 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Afghan Whigs have long fused R&B and rock in powerful, poetic ways since the late 80s. Early comparisons to the Replacements seem a bit obvious because of the group’s passionate performances even decades later. But there is also in its music a soulful core that offers great distillations of universal human experiences and an evocation of emotion that especially live is irresistible. The group’s 1993 album Gentlemen put it on the map nationally and internationally and even now it sounds like something fairly timeless when a lot of 90s music sounds of the period. The 2022 album How Do You Burn? feels more dark and electronic than previous records but in being so like its expanding on its core sound in a bold way that it began on 2017’s In Spades.
Monday and Tuesday | 10.03 and 10.04 What: black midi w/Quelle Chris When: 7:30 (10.03), 8 (10.04) Where: Fox Theatre (10.03) and Ogden Theatre (10.04) Why: For connoisseurs of highly imaginative art rock, London’s black midi has been a go to for finding some of the most wild dynamics and musical ideas this side of Frank Zappa for many years. Its much more than its truly creative and unique guitar and bass compositions and performances its like these guys tap into various sounds in orchestrating a musical experience that exists outside normal time. Its new album Hellfire (2022) feels like a lounge jazz variety show as curated by Anthony Braxton, Zappa or Zach Hill. The group uses its hyperkinetic maximalist approach to songwriting in ways that clearly aim at producing compelling songwriting and not just as an exercise in superior musicianship. Like a Can having come up after being influenced by Women and Hella.
Monday and Tuesday | 10.03 and 10.04 What: Iceage and Earth When: 7 (10.03) and 8:30 (10.04) Where:The Marquis Theater (10.03) and Fox Theatre (10.04) Why: Danish band Iceage had an immediate cult following with the release of its 2011 album New Brigade and its tour of small clubs DIY spaces including Rhinoceropolis in Denver, Colorado that year revealed a band that sat at the nexus of hardcore and moodier yet cathartic post-punk. But as the band developed its sound it grew into a brilliantly decadent art rock that might have had more sonic kinship with 80s Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and with its most recent studio offering Seek Shelter it reconciled its various creative instincts for music that had both the forcefulness of its early music and the sophistication of what came after. In September 2022 Iceage released Shake The Feeling: Outtakes & Rarities 2015-2021 including songs that could have easily have been on the records of that time period but which didn’t quite fit in and showcased how Iceage had absorbed power pop and the noise rock of the likes of Dinosaur Jr. Also on this tour are doom legends Earth whose visionary heavy blues psychedelia has been an influence on most doom bands since its own 1989 inception whether they know it or not. Its soundscapes and use of drone has an almost ritualistic, mystical quality that utilizes slow, hypnotic progressions to build dramatic tension and release in a way that draws you further into emotional spaces maybe you had shuffled to the side in the headlong pace of everyday life but are better off experiencing and processing in the ways Earth seems so adept at facilitating with its gorgeous layers of psychedelic heaviness.
Wednesday | 10.05 What:Ceremony w/Spy, Restraining Order and Candy Apple When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Ceremony was considered one of the great bands of 2000s hardcore with its 2008 album Still Nothing Moves You standing as one of the most potent examples of that music of that decade. But its own musical ideas were progressing rapidly out of hardcore and 2010’s Rohnert Park contained experiments in sound and songwriting that were well out of the hardcore frame. Zoo (2012), though, had Ceremony well into post-punk territory and though its tour for the album had the band in high, ferocious form it was a fascinating contrast with music that seemed to be more in tune with its atmospheric potential rather than merely the visceral. Since then the group has gone straight into arty almost glam rock territory with its most recent album In the Spirit World Now (2019) making Ceremony a band that is forging a creative path that is yielding fascinating results with every release.
Wednesday | 10.05 What:Broken Social Scene w/Jasmyn When: 7 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Broken Social Scene is a bit of a supergroup making glorious and epic art pop whose membership has included musicians from Do Make Say Think, Metric, Feist, Stars and other notable Canadian musical projects. For this tour the group is celebrating the twenty year anniversary of the release of its monumental 2002 album You Forgot It In People. While orchestral in its arrangements the album’s lush sound felt like an intimate exploration of personal aspirations, identity and culture through an eclectic run of songs that could be awash in nostalgic ambient pop haze and urgent rock songs that harnessed an exuberant energy that seemed to drive the whole album underneath its inspired moments of reverie. The original record featured eleven members and its tour at that time delivered on the seemingly daunting promise of the recorded album and this is a chance to catch that moment in the group’s development one more time.
Thursday | 10.06 What: Night Moves w/Free Music When: 7 Where: Globe Hall Why: Night Moves is a rock band from Minneapolis that has been honing its blend of power pop, psychedelia and Americana since forming in 2010. Across three albums and now two EPs Night Moves’ eclectic style with one leg in modern American indie rock and the other in soul and R&B has evolved and refined to produce the expansive and bright yet introspective moods you hear in its 2022 EP The Redacted. Its its flow of melodic layers and sonic detail one might hear the touch of the more cosmic end of Gram Parsons and Spirit as well as some resonance with what more modern artists like Whitney and Foxygen have done in melding a classic songwriting sensibility and modern use of electronic production in achieving a depth of atmosphere but accomplished with more tangible instrumentation.
Thursday | 10.06 What: Pusha T w/IDK When: 7 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: On his fourth studio album It’s Almost Dry, rapper Pusha T puts his usual commanding string of bars over beats that are a mixture of inspired sampling and deeply evocative and atmospheric melodies. The title of the album he said in an interview with Rolling Stone references the making of a painting and thus an album as it’s being finalized. But also drug culture when you have to wait on the product to dry before it can be distributed. And the album walks those boundaries in terms of them and metaphors brought to bear. Once again, like Pusha T’s 2018 masterpiece Daytona, this new record sounds like a journey through the labyrinth of aspirations and personal ghosts that require creativity and boldness to navigate without getting sunk by the trappings of the former and the enervating power of the latter.
Friday and Saturday | 10.7 and 10.8 What: Viagra Boys w/Shame and Kills Birds When: 7:30 (10.7) and 7 (10.8) Where:The Fox Theatre (10.7) and The Gothic Theatre (10.8) Why: Viagra Boys are a Swedish rock band that has defied easy categorization going back to its audacious 2018 debut album Street Worms. Like if a post-punk band embraced the more glam and art rock roots of that music while giving it a raw edge. With the release of 2022’s Cave World the group seems to have let go of any stylistic restraints that have guided it in established directions. The brash and irrepressible energy heard on the record has garnered comparisons by critics to Iggy Pop and one would presume to IDLES. But Viagra Boys more than dabble in electronics and “Troglodyte” sounds like Devo pushed through a garage rock lens. And live Viagra Boys have earned the Iggy-esque reputation with exuberant performances that sound and feel like they could collapse or go off in unexpected directions at any moment. Co-headliners Shame from South London have had a similar creative trajectory as Viagra Boys. Its own first album, Songs of Praise, also dropped in 2018 to great acclaim. But its much-anticipated sophomore album Drunk Tank Pink more than delivered when it was available in mid-January 2021 during a period when live music was basically at a standstill due to the pandemic but anyone that pre-ordered the record got to see a stream of an intimate and emotionally stirring performance of the songs not only revealing how Drunk Tank Pink was a leap into new directions for Shame but how it was able to take its own raw energy and channel that into sensitive and nuanced yet powerful takes on the sense of desperation and and pent up frustration with nowhere to go but plug those feelings into a rare depth of personal reflection, in particular the track “Human, For a Minute” and its perfect and poetic encapsulation of a kind of emotional solidarity based in universal human experiences that anyone can identify even beyond the circumstances of the enforced life limitations of the pandemic and the emergent sense of personal dignity discovered by most people that had been covered over by the headlong momentum of the fraud that was “normal life.” And if two of the best bands out of the wide realm of post-punk wasn’t enough Kills Birds from Los Angeles is a noise rock trio whose own scorching and unrelenting songwriting has garnered great critical acclaim and fans like Kim Gordon and Dave Grohl. Its 2021 album Married is obviously informed by music from the grunge era but also oddly reminds one of the youthful energetic outburst of Minor Threat combined with the elegant and gritty moodiness of Live Skull.
Friday | 10.7 What:Suzanne Vega When: 7 Where: Boulder Theater Why: The a capella recording of “Tom’s Diner” was used as a test track during the development of the MP3 digital audio format. The track was at the end of Suzanne Vega’s 1987 breakthrough album Solitude Standing, bookending one of the most sensitive and knowing and clever records of the 1980s with “Luka,” a song about child abuse, an unlikely mainstream radio hit. But Vega’s idiosyncratic, folk rock songs had already made waves in college radio and would continue to do so long after the mainstream no longer seemed to shine its light on the talented songwriter’s career. Vega perhaps became known to a wide audience with her song “Left of Center” as it appeared on the soundtrack to the 1986, John Hughes penned coming of age film Pretty In Pink.
Saturday | 10.8 What: Verhoffst, KNEIFFII, Laudanum_quilt, ET Mac & the Alien, DJ URSA and No More Cheering When: 6, $10 cover Where: Glob Why: This is fundraiser for Puerto Rican mutual aid group Brigada Solidaria del Oeste featuring some of Denver’s finest industrial noise and experimental sound sculptors.
Saturday | 10.8 What: Kid Bloom w/Wizthemc and All Things Blue When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Kid Bloom’s style of indie pop seems to be inspired by the sort of chillwave and hip-hop production that The Weeknd has perfected up to this point. But his new album Highway sounds like an introspective journey (street sounds included) through a mood that feels like he’s trying to leech out a malaise and spiritual exhaustion that sits deep inside through a radically self honest look at his own ways of conducting himself and his life from often subconscious and almost always else unexamined motivations as tied with life experiences that can tumble by you into a dark place in your head left neglected in the headlong pace in modern life. In the song “Cowboy” alone when Kid Bloom sings “when desperation pulls me closer” its obvious that he’s become very familiar with a deep place in his own psychology and took the opportunity to explore that territory in his music with an aim to soothing and letting those personal demons go. It’s just that the lush synth work and production like an even more luminous early Twin Shadow makes these feelings seem possible to process with success.
Saturday and Sunday | 10.08 and 10.09 What: DaiKaiju w/TripLip When: 7 Where:The Squire Lounge (10.08) and 715 Club (10.09) Why: DaiKaiju is the legendary surf and psychedelic kabuki theater and kaiju themed rock band from Alabama. Its shows involve fire and wildly energetic performances and a transformation of the venue into a ritual space of fun and rock and roll myth come to life. Opening the show as usual is Denver dup TripLip whose fusion of experimental prog, weirdo jazz, funk and punk with elements of performance art is the perfect complement to the strangeness that is a DaiKaiju show.
Saturday and Sunday | 10.08 and 10.09 What: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets w/Acid Dad When: 8 (10.08) and 7 (10.09) Where: Globe Hall Why: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets from Perth, Australia have certainly chosen a surrealistic and absurd name for the band but it’s one that you don’t forget despite its three words and multiple syllables. It makes no sense and therefore doesn’t automatically suggest an aesthetic or a sound other than something colorful and certainly its brand of fuzzed out guitar atmospherics and sublime vocal melodies swimming in a wavy, expansive dynamic embodies what modern psychedelia should be more like. Its 2022 album Night Gnomes has song titles worthy of Black Moth Super Rainbow and an unabashed playful trippiness in its tonal choices and the visual representation of the music akin to early Mercury Rev. Also on the bill is the surprisingly original and not at all style victim psychedelic rock band Acid Dad whose elegant compositions are enveloping and hypnotic with irresistible whorls of transporting soundscaping.
Sunday | 10.09 What: Cyclo-Sonic w/The Valve When: 1 Where: Wax Trax Why: Cyclo-Sonic is an always forceful post-grunge punk band comprised of members of local punk legends like Rok Tots, The Choosey Mothers, Fluid and Frantix. The quartet recently released its most recent album Everything Went Stupid on Big Neck Records and may be available at the show ahead of the official October 21, 2022 release date.
Sunday | 10.09 What:Melt-Banana w/Quits and Wiff When: 7 Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Melt-Banana is a ferocious ball of sounds and ideas that seem to erupt in multiple directions at the same time live on stage so that its manic energy and dazzling array of noises fits nicely in the realm of noise rock, grindcore, glitchcore, math-y hardcore and really like no other band even from the very rich world of Japanese experimental rock. That the group was inspired by the raw originality of the bands on the No New York compilation as the baseline starting point in being able to carve out its own sound should come as no surprise. Quits from Denver might be simply described as noise rock as well but there is something also primal in its angular and unpredictable musical and emotional trajectories that makes it sound dangerous from the beginning of a song to the end.
Sunday | 10.09 What:MAITA w/Allison Lorenzen and Moodlighting When: 7 Where: The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Club Why: MAITA released one of the most poignant and astute set of songs on the deleterious effects of overstimulation through the bombardment of information and the demands of that constant flow on psyche with I Just Want To Be Wild For You (2022). But the songs hit deeply personal notes with a gentleness of spirit that also conveys a coherence of creative vision that comes from serial realizations about the world around you. MAITA’s pairing of exquisite vocal melodies and evocative counter melodies in the music lend the music an intimacy of tone that feels like MAITA has given voice to some of your own anxieties and discovered a way to make them explicable and easier to untangle. Allison Lorenzen has created some of the most compellingly and emotionally stirring ambient and experimental folk of recent years out of Denver. Moodlighting’s blend of shoegaze and dream pop is delicate and vulnerable and in being so draws you into its poetic commentary on life in this tentative and confusing era.
Sunday | 10.09 What:Front 242 and The Revolting Corpse When: 7 Where: The Oriental Theater Why: This is the final North American tour for the foundational, influential and legendary EBM band Front 242 who despite some of their martial sounds and hard industrial visual aesthetic have made songs about the human condition with humor and insight. The Revolting Corpse is a bit of an industrial music super group that for this iteration, the last of its kind, will include founding Revolting Cocks members Paul Barker and Chris Connelly.
Monday | 10.10 What: Kaelan Mikla w/Kanga and Midnight Marionettes When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Icelandic post-punk trio Kaelan Mikla returns to Denver following the release of its 2021 album Undir Köldum Norðurljósum. Its suffusion of the otherworldly and ethereal into its primal sound gives its melodies a visceral quality that renders its signature styles in cool colors and tonal stark yet bleeding contrasts. The sublime and the feral in its vocals playing off each other gives it the flavor of a Viking epic that wouldn’t be out of place in a future show about Vikings that are versed in magic and mysticism.
Tuesday | 10.11 What:The Mars Volta w/Teri Genderbender When: 7 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Mars Volta is the influential art rock band that formed after the split of the also impactful arty post-hardcore group At the Drive-In. The Mars Volt combined the angular dynamics and raw power and energy of punk with the creative ambition and histrionics that informed Led Zeppelin and the progressive rock of King Crimson. With a new, self-titled album out that reveals an outfit that has pared back some of its inspired, sprawling workouts of politico-mystical poetry and elongated phrasings in favor of songs that cut with the intro and get into the heart of the songwriting and seem to have incorporated more straightforward pop songcraft and gentleness of textures into its soundscapes. It doesn’t sound like a group of artists that are trying to recapture previous glory but pushing forward toward musical ideas that may once again be ahead of the tastes of previous fans.
Tuesday | 10.11 What:Otoboke Beaver w/Cheap Perfume When: 7 Where: Globe Hall Why: Otoboke Beaver from Kyoto, Japan takes cultural references, tropes and frustrations and shreds them and reassembles them in a surrealistic yet cathartic bursts of mutant punk rock fury. That this process is set to hypermanic melodies that are undeniably catchy and even infectious is a testament to their deep resonance with anyone that has had to tangle with the alienation of modern hypercapitalism and the way it warps culture and consciousness unless you make a break with it and turn it in on itself the way Otoboke Beaver has done not just with that particular brand of psychological conditioning but also with the baked in misogyny of Japanese and Western culture. But this band makes it seem fun and revolutionary by virtue of making that critique seem exciting. None more so than on its 2022 album Super Champon. It’ll be in good company with the radical yet immediately relatable subject matter and the energy of Colorado Springs punk band Cheap Perfume who mince no words in their deconstruction and dismantling of sexist tropes.
Tuesday | 10.11 What: Superorganism w/Blood Cultures When: 7 Where: Meow Wolf Why: Superorganism’s 2022 album World Wide Pop is another exploration of the outer edges of where accessible pop song can occupy in its ever-expanding aesthetic. From the beginning it has a production style and pacing that feels like constant weirdo advertisement for some strange variety show with a level of sampling and manufacturing of samples nearly on par with a hip-hop record of old. To merely dub what the band does as psychedelic pop doesn’t do justice to how genuinely strangely its songs come across. Like if Elton John co-wrote an album with Cut Copy as produced by Charli XCX inspired to make an album that tapped into the cheesiest of 1980s synth pop and turned it inside out. It’s the kind of music that washes through your brain and lingers for longer than average with so many unusual song ideas it might take your brain a minute or ten to catch up and appreciate what you’ve just heard.
Tuesday | 10.11 What: Kris Baha w/Mvtant, Modern Devotion and DJs Moody and Wngdu When: 9 Where: Glob Why: Kris Baha got his start in the Melbourne, Australia club scene with the industrial weekly event Power Station. But these days Baha calls Berlin home but his crafting of dark, hard techno with a leg in EBM has been on a steady arc of development that these days intersects aesthetically with the likes of darkwave artists likes Kontravoid and hardware-based industrial techno like Mvtant who is also on the bill and Modern Devotion, which is the techno project of Adam Rojo from post-punk group Voight.
Wednesday | 10.12 What: Alex G w/Barrie https://www.ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/434815 When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Alexander Giannascoli aka Alex G is one of the most gifted pop songwriters of his generation with a respectable track record of orchestral indie folk that is sharply observed and widely eclectic and inventive in production and swapping and collaging styles. This unorthodox aesthetic is very much to the fore on the new Alex G record God Save the Animals where the songwriter free employs processing on all sounds and at times casts his voice in different modes including some of the only cool use of autotune in “Cross the Sea” where he also uses surreal and bizarre tones to establish a mood of resigned melancholy. But the whole record sounds like an exercise in fascinating experiments making catching him on this tour look promising in getting to see a lot of the new material live.
Thursday | 10.13 What: Clutch w/Helmet, Quicksand and JD Pinkus When: 6 Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Over thirty years into its career Clutch continues to defy easy categorization in being too close to the spirited drive of punk to be strictly metal, too sludgy and groove oriented in its riffs to be punk. Too charged with momentum to truly be a “stoner rock” band and too willing to experiment with its core sound and ideas to stay stuck in the same musical rut for decades because something worked with commercial success years ago resulting in an ossified style. Its new album Sunrise on Slaughter Beach doesn’t reinvent Clutch’s aesthetic so much as show how the band still knows how to write hard rock with a clarity and economy of style without compromising its ability to stretch out and get weird, the title track being a prime example. Also on the bill are noteworthy practitioners of sludgy heaviness from the alternative rock era with Helmet and Quicksand who on their own would be worth catching live. And JD Pinkus who some may know for his tenure in Butthole Surfers on Honky.
Thursday | 10.13 What: The Peculiar Pretzelmen, Vampire Squids From Hell and Plastic Rakes When: 8 Where: Jester’s Palace Why: The Peculiar Pretzelmen from Los Angels is a band that took the challenge of making its own instruments sometimes parted out from other instruments or from everyday objects in order to craft music so idiosyncratic yet accessible one wonders how there hasn’t already been an eccentric documentary about the band. Musically its somewhere betwixt Bob Log III, Flat Duo Jets, a steam punk version of Dead Moon and Pere Ubu. Fitting enough that psychedelic, noisy surf rock weirdos Vampire Squids From Hell are opening as are prog pop trio Plastic Rakes.
Thursday | 10.13 What: Om w/Zombi When: 7 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Om might be described as ritual doom as its songs combine sonic elements you might more readily associate with devotional music. Compound time signatures that make the music resolve in ways that sink into the mind and move you in ways that feel like they’re coming from a primal place and processed drones that serve as a meditative preparation and backdrop to the direct action of each song. With the high volume of the live setting Om’s music comes off both cosmic and channeling the energies of an ancient and largely forgotten mother civilization to those we know now. Pittsburgh’s Zombi is perhaps best known for its true fusion of heavy rock with synthesizer music in crafting music that at times might remind one of the psychedelic progressive rock of Goblin who composed music not only for Dawn of the Dead (named Zombi in Italy from which this project borrows its own moniker) but multiple Dario Argento horror classics. Chances are this performance will feature that end of the group’s music. The duo’s most recent album is Zombi & Friends Vol. 1 which is a set of fairly faithful covers of songs by The Eagles, Alan Parsons Project, Dionne Warwick, Eddie Rabbit, The Doobie Brothers and more soft rock and pop artists whose work primarily emerged prominently in the 1970s. Somehow it works and the record itself includes appearances from members of The Sword, Trans Am, Pinkish Black, Zao and others. Maybe you’ll get to see some of that too.
Friday | 10.14 What:Honey Blazer vinyl release w/Body and Jasper Adkins When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Denver’s Honey Blazer is the kind of band that seems to have unabashedly come out of that flood of indie psych and 1970s folk rock revival of the 2010s. But like many of those bands at least the songwriting is deeply attentive to craft and tight performances that give its sound great range and nuance. Its debut album Lookin’ Up has an elegance and poetry of composition that transcends any of the aforementioned considerations like if a group of guys took threads of the Dead and The Velvet Underground at their most pop and countrified and absorbed late 60s Flying Burrito Brothers along with Joni Mitchell of that same era and infused it with a touch of Bob Dylan with The Band and Fairport Convention but all translated through the lens of modern sensibility. Like what indie Americana wants to be but rarely achieves.
Friday | 10.14 What: Maude Latour w/Charlie Hickey When: 8 Where: Globe Hall Why: Since 2019’s Starsick, Maude Latour has been releasing a series of inventive pop EPs including her latest, 001 from 2022. Her take on indie R&B and dream pop has an layer of complexity with thoughtful personal observations and her willingness to experiment with the composition of her beats and melodies freely borrowing from experimental electronic music and vocal processing. At times her music is reminiscent of what Alice Glass has been doing since going solo but Latour’s vocal style is very much her own and wide-ranging and inventively eclectic.
Saturday | 10.15 What: Guerilla Toss w/Forty Feet Tall and Hex Cassette When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: For the past decade Guerilla Toss has been pushing the envelope of the fusion of experimental electronic music and art rock. From its artwork to its music videos and stage show, Guerilla Toss has always put a personal touch to how it engages with a potential audience. In putting forth an idiosyncratic creative vision the band has in its way encouraged anyone encountering its music to forge their own path whether as fellow creatives or someone just getting through life and resisting a beige compliance with a standard issue existence. The latest Guerilla Toss album Famously Alive is somehow simultaneously its most adventurous and accessible album to date with songs that sound like they’re coming from the edges of dreams and expressive of a spirit of hopefulness and acceptance, of a will to use imagination to explore the potentials life has to offer if your existence wasn’t limited by practical considerations.
Saturday | 10.15 What:Church Fire album release w/Xadie James Orchestra, Dragon Drop and Sell Farm When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Wildly energetic and intense industrial dance trio Church Fire is celebrating the release of its album puppy god on Witch Cat Records with this show sharing the stage with like-minded weirdos and comrades in deconstructing popular musical styles and infusing it with a social analysis that is both inspirational and in which its easy to get swept up in the moment. The new album itself is like a science fiction novel in which one imagines a better future in spite of the time of troubles we’re experiencing at this moment. It’s an embrace of a perhaps foolish hope that the collective us can endure the onslaught of authoritarian politics and culture and outlast its momentum.
Saturday | 10.15 What:Metric w/Secret Machines When: 7 Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Keeping your band going for twenty-four years is challenging enough but even more so is to sustain a band with some artistic ambition and inventiveness across a similar period but that’s what is obvious from Metric’s 2022 album Formentera. The dream-like atmospherics and lush soulfulness of the music is still there. But this time around, perhaps more so than on previous albums, Metric takes aim at some of the serious issues that are coming crashing into human civilization that are impacting us all in a direct and personal way. The band is calling this tour the “Doomscroller Tour” after the first song on the album and how the very common habit of scrolling through social media and the news and being confronted with the horror, oppression, violence, despair, deprivation, disaster and much more that has come to be considered the norm and a generalized dissociation seems like a feature of modern life as a coping mechanism that can be psychologically paralyzing when it becomes a generalized state of mind. The album in its grand vistas of beauty and menace aims to disrupt that process with some choice commentary and music that inspires movement and challenges complacency in listeners as well as in the creation of the songs that seem to mark a new era for the long-running band.
Saturday | 10.15 What:Meet Me @ The Altar w/MUNA at Boulder Theater When: 7 Where: Boulder Theater Why: Synth pop trio MUNA could have gone a different route since two of the three members are guitarists but having met in college at the University of South California they decided on taking a different route. And the result is an electronic pop sound with great momentum in its rhythms and vocal harmonies that soulful and vital. Opening act Meet Me @ The Altar is a pop-punk group from Florida that is really combining musical styles in an exuberant mix that takes that emotionally expansive and open and self-affirming spirit of pop-punk and blends it with joyful pop production for a sound that is genuinely exciting and uplifting. Earlier in the year the group released an acoustic version of its 2021 EP Model Citizen.
Sunday | 10.16 What: Taleen Kali w/Tuff Bluff, Galleries and Princess Dewclaw When: 7 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Taleen Kali spent the early part of the 2010s in the experimental, exuberant garage/shoegaze outfit TÜLIPS. But for the past few years with the project under her own name, Kali has been establishing her own sound that draws on some of those early influences but might be considered in the realm of post-punk, raw psychedelic rock and dream pop in a vital fusion of elements. Her forthcoming album Flower of Life is an emotional and musical journey from a fiery and direct energy to something more contemplative and tranquil. This tour may feature a good deal of that material before you can hear it in full in early 2023 and the group has a certain forceful and charismatic quality that makes the music hit harder than one might expect. Also on the bill is s Sarah Fischer’s latest project Tuff Bluff and noisy and political post-punk group Princess Dewclaw.
Sunday | 10.16 What:Molly Nilsson w/Water on the Thirsty Ground and French Kettle Station When: 8 Where: Glob Why: Molly Nilsson is a Swedish born electronic pop artist now based in Berlin. Since 2007 she has been creating a rich body of work including ten albums starting with These Things Take Time (2008) which yielded her first widely recognized single “Hey Moon” and covered by experimental electronic artist John Maus on his 2011 album We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. The introspective sounds and luminous melodies with measured yet accented beats of Nilsson’s early work and her poetically illustrative lyrics brought to the songs a mystique that has endured throughout the songwriter’s career. Her embrace of a lo-fi aesthetic and organic noise in her songs also gives the music a sense of immediacy and intimacy that other artists at her level of accomplishment, development and influence might have chosen to edit out in pursuit of a kind of fictional purity. This core humanity to Nilsson’s work is one of its perhaps often unspoken appeal and it helps to ground some of the heady concepts she infuses into her lyrics. There is a political element in much of her music that explores concepts of power, our notions of identity and the foundation of what we aspire to achieve and do with our lives and how that is so often driven by the prevailing economic system controlled by the interests of elites until we learn to disentangle our dreams and psychology generally from the ongoing process of commodifying every aspect of our lives. This examination always seems to be carried out in a compassionate and imaginative way and never comes across in didactic fashion. Her 2022 album Extreme brings together Nilsson’s various impulses and instincts as a uniquely creative musician who imbues accessible pop songs with rich conceptual content that most directly yet not explicitly explores the place and role of power in the world and how it manifests in society and in our own consciousness and how we can challenge the less savory aspects of it in the world and in our own hearts. It’s a thematically deep record that works on the level of a poignant social critique and as pure pop songcraft. It is yet another chapter in Nilsson’s ever-evolving artistic journey and one worth taking in from beginning to end. This marks her first performance in Colorado.
Saturday and Sunday | 10.15 and 10.16 What: The Wrecks w/CARR When: 7 both nights Where: The Black Sheep (10.15) and Fox Theatre (10.16) Why: The Wrecks are a pop band from Los Angeles, California that formed in 2015 when Nick Anderson and Aaron Kelley put their pop-punk band Coastbound on hiatus in favor of a more straight ahead pop project they would call The Wrecks. Though technically more of an alternative rock band the pop sensibility of what The Wrecks have put into the world across its two albums including the 2022 offering Sonder is undeniable even though one is reminded of the better end of late 90s alternative rock with some taking of those threads further and genre bending in the modern mode of blurring genre lines to keep the sound from getting stale and aging better rather than getting pigeonholed to a particular era of music.
Monday | 10.17 What: King Princess w/Em Beihold https://www.missionballroom.com/event/428147-mission-ballroom-denver-tickets When: 7 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: For her sophomore album Hold On Baby, King Princess (aka Mikaela Straus) dispenses with the pretense of pretending everything is okay or going to be okay as one often hears in pop music. She also leaned into an eclectic and instrumentally rich songwriting and recording process that somehow also didn’t hamper how raw the record feels because it is artfully truthful about the struggle of dealing with the world as we have it and if you’re a touring musician that depends on live music and the industry for your livelihood the past three years and really much longer have been challenging as evidenced by Santigold’s recent statement on why she canceled her upcoming tour. Santigold, a very established and respected artist. Straus captures that moment in multiple ways on the new record and the fact that the late, great Taylor Hawkins played on the pointed social critique of “Let Us Die” is particularly poignant. Seems that song might be hard to play live but it’s such a powerful song hopefully Straus doesn’t skimp on it for this tour.
Wednesday | 10.19 What: L7 – Bricks Are Heavy 30th Anniversary tour w/FEA When: 7 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: L7 benefited from the alternative rock explosion of the early 90s without really sounding much like any of the more popular styles. Its mix of metal and punk with a irreverent sense of humor and ferocious energy paired with sensitive takes on subjects that might not be obvious from the band’s image as hard rocking hellions but a deep dive into its catalog reveals some choice moments of poignant character portraits and social commentary against war, sexism, abuse and psychological turmoil. Its 1992 album Bricks Are Heavy catapulted the band briefly into mainstream radio and certainly stations catering to the alternative music format at a key time when the music industry was in disarray in trying to keep up with the flood of music rock and otherwise becoming popular beyond what was already calculated to perform well in a commercial sense. Bricks Are Heavy yielded at least two stone classics of the alternative era with “Shitlist” and “Pretend We’re Dead” but you’ll get to see probably the whole album live for this show.
Wednesday | 10.19 What: Napalm Death w/Brujeria and Clusterfux When: 6 Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Napalm Death is one of the foundational bands of grindcore but its music imbued with always on point political and socially critical content. It also has to be admitted that Napalm Death doesn’t just have brutal, noisy music, it’s catchy and isn’t short on hooks and melody for one of the bands who has a reputation for pointed and electrifyingly challenging music. Brujeria is also a sort of death metal and grindcore band that has a wicked sense of humor and political commentary couched in the character of some kind of revolutionary drug gang writing songs in Spanish about illicit substances, Satanism, the occult and populist politics aimed at authoritarian impulses. Clusterfux is one of the absolute classic Denver skate punk and hardcore bands still in operation since 1995 and still putting on a spirited live show.
Thursday | 10.20 What:Antibroth w/Supreme Joy, Pink Lady Monster and Endless Nameless When: 7 Where: Lost Lake Why: Sometimes an all local bill can be a bunch of the same thing or not all excellent bands but fortunately that’s not the case for this show. Endless Nameless blurs the line completely between math rock, emo and death metal in an impressive display of musical chops with an equally impressive emotional range. Supreme Joy’s lo-fi psychedelic garage inflected post-punk sounds like something that had to have come out in Los Angeles’ weirdo art punk world of the early 80s but having landed in the 2020s absorbing the influence of decades of experimental pop. To say its music is reminiscent of Savage Republic gone psychedelic pop Americana or The Feelies having done the same might be a bit much but it gives you a sense of what you’re in for. Pink Lady Monster appears to have skipped trendy sounds of the past decade and crafted a deeply imaginative style of music that is rooted in more left field rock but comes off like an indie pop version of Broadcast and thoroughly entrancing because of that. Antibroth is definitely in the broad galaxy of post-punk but freely associating ideas from No Wave, math rock and noise rock into the mix. Like they grew up listening to a lot of Protomartyr, Pere Ubu, Palm, Lithics and the Contortions but decided to make their own mutant version of the kinds of sounds that leaked into their brain in a society in which we’re constantly bombarded by content and doing something different was one way to be free.
Saturday | 10.22 What: Juliet Mission w/Plague Garden, SORROWS and DJ Katastrophy When: 9 Where: Broadway Roxy Why: Juliet Mission are still a bit of a secret great modern shoegaze band and out of Denver including current and former members of jazz-inflected dream pop rock band Sympathy F. This might be the first show for SORROWS, a downtempo duo with beautifully orchestrated soundscapes and deeply emotionally expressive songs that seem like a cathartic expression of just what the name of the band suggests without wallowing overlong in the dark end of that as the music is ultimately about embracing the broad spectrum of experiences life presents us. Plague Garden bridge the gap between death rock inflected post-punk and synth infused New Wave and full disclosure the author of this piece plays second guitar in the group.
Saturday | 10.22 What: Spacey Jane When: 8 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Spacey Jane’s 2022 sophomore album Here Comes Everybody is like the catharsis of the depression, anxiety and uncertainty everyone with any level of sensitivity has undergone in the last few years with of course the pandemic (ongoing) and really for a working musician the way things already felt precarious but were amplified by the various ways the pandemic has affected the ecosystem of the music industry from independent local artists and their own way of operating to even famous, commercially successful artists and definitely artists like Spacey Jane who are in that middle tier of renown where they can play middle sized theaters internationally but touring out of Australia to the rest of the world can be a dicey proposition. Musically its lightly psychedelic pop rock style makes that exploration of life challenges directly relatable even if you’re not a musician. Songs like “Lots of Nothing” are about self-acceptance of your flawed and what you might perceive as incomplete self and “Clean My Car” and “Haircut” point out some basic everyday things we must force ourselves to do to have a scaffold out of the emotionally paralyzing end of depression.
Sunday | 10.23 What: The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Scott Von Ryper When: 8 Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Indeed it’s The Jesus and Mary Chain performing in a fancier theater than usual for a Denver show. The legendary band predated and completely informed the sound of shoegaze in the 90s with its mastery of both volume and fragmented melodies that still hit a sweet spot so that it could never be saccharine nor dismissed as discordant. JAMC blurred that line completely with beautiful vocal melodies, emotionally intense yet nuanced songwriting and the ability to deconstruct musical conventions while reassembling them for the modern era in a way that reconciled a pre-classic rock 1960s pop era with the sonic possibilities open to a band from the 1980s willing to not follow prevailing trends to forge a vital sound often imitated, rarely if ever equaled. There is no A Place to Bury Strangers, no My Bloody Valentine, no modern dream pop and noise rock really without the root inspiration of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Sunday | 10.23 What:Spelling w/Ramahkhandra and BODY When: 7 Where: Bluebird Theater Why: In a 2021 interview in Under the Radar by Jordan J. Michael, Christia “Tia” Cabral who performs as Spelling cited her favorite albums were by artists as disparate as Minnie Ripperton, Kraftwerk and Iggy Pop. That tells you a lot about the kind of music and show you’re in for if you decide to come out to this show in support of her 2021 album The Turning Wheel. It’s baroque pop with an art rock underpinning. Opening is experimental pop/performance art band BODY from Denver and the eclectic psychedelic world music inflected jazz of Denver underground greats Ramakhandra.
Sunday | 10.23 What: EXTC featuring Terry Chambers of XTC https://www.eventbrite.com/e/extc-tickets-403543699067 When: 7 Where: Soiled Dove Underground Why: Terry Chambers was the drummer for the legendary pop/post-punk band XTC from 1972 until it stopped touring and playing live shows in 1982 though his work appeared on the 1983 XTC record Mummer. Afterward he ended up living in Australia for many years where he did session work behind the drum kit before returning to the UK and recorded an album called Great Aspirations (2017) with ex-XTC member Colin Moulding and another bandmate Steve Tilling under the project moniker TC&I. Shortly after Chambers and Tilling formed EXTC which performs classic songs by Chambers’ old band from the period in which he was an active participant. This is a rare opportunity to get to see any of this music live by one of the people who made it happen.
Monday | 10.24 What: The Chills w/Unwed Sailor When: 7 Where: Marquis Theater Why: The Chills are touring in support of the thirtieth anniversary of its album Soft Bomb. But regardless of the occasion it’s The Chills, the legendary New Zealand pop band whose songwriting helped to define the “Dunedin sound” branch of New Zealand rock music with jangle guitar sounds that one has to assume helped to inform what became C86 and thus indiepop as we know it. New Zealand bands rarely come through Denver much less a foundational group like The Chills whose leader Martin Phillipps has made such a deep impact on popular music his influence would make an interesting book or documentary.
Monday | 10.24 What:Bit Brigade w/Mr. Pacman and Adam Newman When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bit Brigade performs on somewhat standard instrumentation very legit renditions of the music from various 8 and 16-bit video games. So who from Denver makes sense to open the show but Mr. Pacman whose own musical connection to video games is not so obvious except for the name and how its members dress up as characters from a long lost super hero team cartoon themed after Pacman but the music is like a fusion of punk, performance art and synth pop in a way that is intense and mysterious and always entertaining.
Tuesday | 10/25 What: Dayglow w/Ritt Momney When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Sloan Struble of Dayglow got his start recording and producing music at eleven years old with Garageband. While still a teen he had a project called Kindred that released one self-titled album in 2016 and in that music you hear his knack for crafting electronic pop with a sense of vulnerability and self-awareness. A lot of bedroom pop is fairly lacking in production chops but even that Kindred record though fairly minimal and lo-fi demonstrates a clear working within the limitations of available resources to make something that is clearly more ambitious. So when Struble began his next project called Dayglow by the time of his second release Harmony House (2021) there is of course the creative growth but also much more development in how the music is recorded. All of that evolution as an artist can be heard and pushed further in terms of songwriting and sound palette on the 2022 album People In Motion. The blend of R&B, psychedelic pop and indie rock on the album sounds like the modern equivalent of yacht rock but with a much more expansive array of sounds and an accessible immediacy. It may sound like the opposite of a focus on the conflicted energy and tragedy of the current period in human history but having a respite from that heaviness and intensity is what you need at least once in a while and Dayglow offers that aplenty for the duration of a show or an album.
Tuesday | 10.25 What: Minuit Machine and Priest When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Minuit Machine is an industrial darkwave duo based in Paris, France. Its particular brand of brooding dance music is a modern take on EBM with soulful vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the 90s era of downtempo and trip-hop or on a The Crystal Method record. Priest includes former members of the Swedish heavy metal band Ghost but this project is not some campy prog metal. But the sense of theatrical presentation of the music is very much there including costumes. And the music is infused with a futuristic aesthetic akin to Nitzer Ebb if that band made industrial disco for cyborgs. Its 2022 sophomore album Body Machine fuses beautiful synth melodies with hard edged, almost martial rhythms like the equivalent of Kraftwerk having emerged in the world of The Terminator and operating in secret underground dance clubs for the discerning cyborg.
Wednesday | 10.26 What:Peel Dream Magazine w/Calamity and Duck Turnstone When: 7 Where: The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Room Why: Joseph Stevens has released three fine full length albums over the past few years under the moniker of Peel Dream Magazine including the 2022 record Pad. The 2018 debut album Modern Meta Physic presented a sound that had obvious musical touchstones in My Bloody Valentine, Velvet Underground and Stereolab as well as their own sources of inspiration. The hypnotic drones and fuzzy melodies over steady beats an obvious ear for crafting textural aesthetics that helped to shape the structures in the music. 2020’s Agitprop Alterna cemented Stevens’ reputation as a songwriter and artist who could combine heady atmospherics and widely dynamic music with poetic and insightful personal and cultural commentary. With Pad Stevens broke his own mold by swapping in a different sound palette including banjo, chimes, vibraphone and more extensive use of keyboards to create a softer sound that is more reminiscent of Harry Nilsson’s early 70s psychedelic pop albums and like those records there is a creative concept that runs through the album which is a journey in which Stevens is ejected from his own band, which is in most ways a solo project, and undertakes a journey to find a way back in. Though the soothingly dreamlike melodies and free weaving in elements of Bossa Nova and ambient folk gives the album an immediately palatable quality it is about the disconnect and anxieties that have careened into the general culture while taking a chance in finding ways to make connections again and to process the anxiety and trauma in a way that lands us in a better place. It reflects Stevens’ own journey from being a bit of a New York-based outsider to a member of the Los Angeles creative community. The album is worth a deep dive and allow its retro-futuristic sounds and style to sink into your brain with its therapeutic frequencies.
Wednesday | 10.26 What: Eliza & The Delusionals w/BODY When: 6:30 Where: Lost Lake Why: Australian pop band Eliza & The Delusionals release its debut full length album Now And Then in May 2022. The album came along as many have in the wake of the recent and ongoing global pandemic. The songwriting had begun in various stages of development prior to the pandemic and some prior to the group having embarked on the first leg of a big tour of North America in January and February 2020 with The Silversun Pickups. But the period of lockdown and then the prolonged time of not being able to tour with anything resembling reliability left the band with time to hone the songs and create an album that is brimming with a sense of nostalgia and reconnecting with a time in life and a time period in the early 2000s when perhaps if you were a kid in Australia or the USA, depending on life circumstances, you had the time and the ability to allow your imagination and your heart to take in experiences that stimulated both. Connecting with that headspace lending your current self the tools to navigate bringing a bit of that mindset into life today. In the fuzzy and chiming guitar work and singer Eliza Klatt’s melodious and exuberant vocals one hears an introspective articulation of a desire to liberate one self from one’s own limitations and of those imposed on you by circumstance. Opening the show is experimental psychedelic pop band BODY from Denver which includes former members of Ned Garthe Explosion but in a band that is fully embraces its chops and songwriting craft as well as its idiosyncratic sensibilities.
Thursday | 10.27 What: Turnstile w/JPEGMAFIA and Snail Mail When: 6 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: This is a very eclectic bill of all bands from Baltimore. Lindsey Jordan as Snail Mail has been writing some of the most heartfelt and vulnerable, even raw and honest pop songs of recent years as heard perhaps most powerfully on her 2021 album Valentine. Jordan takes painful experiences and transforms them into the kind of songwriting that normalizes the struggle and the will to persevere. JPEGMAFIA is one of the most boundary pushing artists operating today whose work can generally be described as hip-hop but in his beats there is a spirit of experimentalism so that it can weave in the elements you might expect but also industrial music and noise. Turnstile manages to blend what might be described as nü metal and hardcore in a way that is incredibly accessible and subverts the tropes of those genres. Sure there’s the electronic component and aesthetic in its beats and angular guitar riffing and vocals that are melodic even in the shouting. But Turnstile delivers it with more imagination and genuine excitement than most bands coming out of those realms of music in many years.
Thursday | 10.27 What: The Chameleons w/Shadows Tranquil and Emerald Siam When: 7 Where: HQ Why: The Chameleons are the post-punk band that emerged out of the 1980s with a unique and atmospheric guitar sound that one assumes plugged more directly into the sound of groups like Slowdive and Kitchens of Distinction and other shoegaze bands than other groups of the era. For years a version of the band that included only singer Mark Burgess from the original lineup. But this time out brilliant guitarist Reg Smithies is back in the mix so expect some of those classic Chameleons dreamlike guitar wizardry.
Thursday | 10.27 What: Free Music (Minneapolis), Dubble Trouble (cassette release), Yenan Form (debut performance), Goo Age (Orange Milk Records) When: 9 Where: Glob Why: This is going to be the kind of experimental electronic show that is part glitchcore and part that Orange Milk weirdo ambient and New Age strangeness. But it’s also the cassette release of dub and free jazz/glitch/ambient duo Dubble Trouble.
Friday | 10.28 What: Wngdu, Ray Diess, Church Fire and special guest When: 8 Where: Jester’s Palace Why: Denver Blood Cult is presenting this Halloween show featuring charismatic industrial dance group Church Fire who recently put out their powerful new album puppy god. Ray Diess will deliver his sincere and thought-provoking synth pop. DJ Wngdu will officiate the music outside the live music sets proper and likely a surprise guest. All at one of the weirdest newer venues in Downtown Denver.
Friday | 10.28 What: King Bee’s METAMORPHOSIS w/The Milk Blossoms (duo) and DJ Camp Love When: 7 Where: Mercury Café Why: King Bee is the latest project of Fox Linnea Drickey from high concept art pop band Chimney Choir. This current performance is the fifth installment of a multi-episode semi-autobiographical allegory called “Tugboat vs. Tidal Wave” and involves Greek chorus-style theater, performance art, costumes and DJ dance party afterward. Includes David and Carl from Chimney Choir and Cassidy Bacon from The Whimsy of Things/Ghost Tapes and Ben Weinrich of Dandu/Retrofette. Expect inspired and insightful storytelling and a theatrical performance unlike most things most other bands have to offer. Opening is the duo version of experimental pop band The Milk Blossoms whose music makes a true virtue of vulnerability when channeled through richly imagined songwriting.
Friday | 10.28 What:Captured! By Robots w/Axeslasher and Valiomierda When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Captured! By Robots is a grindcore band unlike any other in that the vocalist is human (JBOT) but the musicians in the band are all robots built by JBOT after other human musicians failed him in putting together a reliable project.
Friday through Sunday | 10.28-10.30 What:Front Range Noise Fest When: 6 p.m. each day Where: Glob Why: This is the closest Denver is going to get to one of the noise and experimental electronic festivals that used to happen in the Mile High City regularly. It would be too much of an undertaking to write a blurb on every artist performing but below are the dates with the artist lineups each date. Friday Oct 28th @ Glob Caged Grave Mumble Foans A Light Among Many Solypsis (AZ) New Aged Karen Night Grinder Granular Breath (IA) Lore Saturday Oct 29th @ Glob Boar (IA) Compactor (NY) Demonsleeper (CA) Fleeting Breath (KY) Ghost Dance (MI) Man.Moth (MI) Scuzz Nun (WA) Fresh Bait Maltreatment Many Blessings MPW Sunday Oct 30th @ Glob Rush Falknor (IL) Magical Mind (IL) 0rgan Sounding Gate Fog May Leitz Bunny Showstopper Staff of Loss Herpes Hideaway
Saturday | 10.29 What:Scream Screen with Carbon Dioxide Orchestra When: 5:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: Carbon Dioxide Ensemble (CO2 Ensemble) is an avant-garde trio from Denver composed of the electronic music composer and the Mile High City’s premier Theremin player Victoria Lundy, her husband and mathematician Thomas Lundy and fellow practitioner of the electronic music arts Mark Mosher whose work in electronic music technology and visual synthesis has been a part of local music and art culture for over a decade. The three met through Mosher’s Rocky Mountain Synth Meet-Up events around 2012 where enthusiasts of that technology and methods for utilizing it in making music would meet up to network and share their passion for synthesizers generally. Shortly into their friendship the Lundys helped to organize an event called Concrete Mixer that has happened a handful of times over the past eight or nine years and a showcase for musique concrète, a type of music composition pioneered by French composer Pierre Schaeffer in the early 1940s with that term coined by Schaeffer in 1948. Those theoretical principles Schaeffer put into practice attracted the interest of composers Pierre Henry, Edgard Varèse, Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen and others including a popularizer of the art form with one of Schaeffer’s students, Jean-Michel Jarre. The technique of manipulating recorded sound can be heard in looping techniques and the use of samples. CO2 Ensemble hearken back to the earlier method but utilize unconventional sound sources including a large, copper heart that Thomas Lundy rubs with pieces of dry ice to generate frequencies that Mosher processes to enhance and render into different musical forms. Victoria Lundy playing Theremin utilizes one of the oldest electronic music technologies having been patented by Leon Theremin in 1928 with a device that is controlled without physical contact by the performer. Everyone has heard one if they’ve watched any 1950s science fiction film with a spooky soundtrack. Working in tandem the CO2 Ensemble generate highly evocative compositions that suggest textures and primal emotional experiences. Victoria Lundy co-founded what was called the Carbon Dioxide Orchestra in the mid-90s employing similar methods but with less emphasis on the electronic production end and in the 2000s and 2010s she was the Theremin player in experimental pop band The Inactivists who are currently, what else, inactive. The Carbon Dioxide Orchestra concept she revived when Concrete Mixer started up. Mosher was the keyboard player for New Wave cover band Head Full of Zombies based in Colorado Springs from 1989-2003 before branching out into making his own music. The group’s current performance will be the live musical portion of Noche de Terror, a double feature of Rubén Galindo Jr’s Cemetery of Terror (1985) and Don’t Panic (1987) presented by Scream Screen creator and host Theresa Mercado. The trio has a shared affection for B science fiction and horror and cult movies as well as the musical avant-garde and their piece prior to the film screening suits well the Halloween season and the films at hand.
Saturday | 10.29 What:Julian Street Nightmare, The Savage Blush and Voight When: 8 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Julian Street Nightmare is a post-punk band from Denver whose sound draws not just on recent darkwave but surf rock and psychedelia. But its songwriting has developed into its own flavor that has a freshness and intensity colored by a moodiness and energy that lends it an edge of unpredictability. The Savage Blush is a local psychedelic garage rock band. Voight bridges the gap between dark, industrial post-punk and techno with a pointed yet self-effacing sense of humor.
Saturday | 10.29 What:Pinkshift w/Jigsaw Youth and Yasmin Nur When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Baltimore’s Pinkshift recently released its debut full-length album Love Me Forever. The record sounds like a lifetime of frustration and processing trauma and oppression put into songs that sound like something Sleater-Kinney might have put out had its members come up a couple of decades later and influenced by the riot grrrl bands that existed prior to and in parallel with S-K as well as early 2000s post-hardcore and emo. There is an irresistible emotional vitality and joy of release of pent up feeling on the record and a directly relatable yearning for a life in a world where you can live free of the yoke of a pervasive authoritarian patriarchal culture. Also on the bill is NYC’s Jigsaw Youth who last came through Denver as an opener for art noise metal group SASAMI. It felt like seeing a band that absorbed the irreverent humor and scorching guitar anthemics of L7 and Betty Blowtorch in finding a true fusion of punk and metal that isn’t rooted in crossover or metalcore. Feral and electrifying stuff.
Sunday | 10.30 What: Smokestack Relics w/White Rose Motor Oil When: 1 p.m. Where: Wax Trax Why: Smokestack Relics are a bluesy Americana duo whose vagabond honky tonk aesthetic that seems obviously influenced by Tom Waits, likely a bit of Hasil Adkins is in there and Scott H. Biram. But the presentation is so eccentric and energetic its definitely not mere imitation. White Rose Motor Oil somehow makes a kind of Americana that isn’t tied to any particular strain of the Colorado variety and for that alone always worth a lisen. But its shows have a warm energy and its music is more akin to country punk-esque bands like Lone Justice and The Beat Farmers. Its beautifully atmospheric 2021 album Oh Lucretia was recently re-released and on cassette.
Monday | 10.31 What:Vision Video w/Radio Scarlet, Redwing Blackbird and Witchhands When: 8 Where: HQ Why: Vision Video is a post-punk band based out of Athens, Georgia whose self-styled Goth pop is infused with gorgeous melodic hooks and emotionally raw and honest lyrics. Visually the band looks like what you might imagine a Goth band from a movie might look like with the appropriate make-up and sartorial flair. But there is something darker and different yet also welcoming about that appearance and in performance, reflecting the ethos of the members of Video Vision who recognize the band and fan dynamic as being one of community. There is disarming earnestness in the songwriting coupled with a clear sense of humor and self-awareness in how Video Vision conduct themselves as people that signals an approachable quality that doesn’t undermine the serious and meaningful content in what the band is putting into its art. In recent years frontman Dusty Gannon has been releasing videos on the Video Vision TikTok in which he adopts the persona of “Goth Dad” who presents information about the Goth subculture in which he came up as well as real life issues with a sense of humor, affection and sincerity in a way that comes across as wholesome, a quality one doesn’t always associate with Goths. In 2022 Vision Video released its second album Haunted Hours, the much anticipated follow-up to its 2021 debut Inked in Red. Fans of The Cult and The Cure will find much to like about the flavor of both records as will anyone looking for modern post-punk with solid production, urgent dance rhythms and songs that really tell it like it is with the state of the world and the importance of embracing your own humanity and that of those around you even and especially as the world seems to be crumbling.
Maxx Gawd’s fusion of trap and metallic post-hardcore on “Coercion” brings a surprising emotional power and depth to bear in a song about not being able to trust anyone and betraying yourself by pursuing the wrong things. The song is melodramatic but not overwrought and at its core is a desire for having real connection and not fucking yourself over so often through talking yourself into things that part of yourself knows aren’t good for you. The back and forth of male vocals from Maxx Gawd and female from Lil Uwu creates a gripping contrast of perspectives, a dialogue, that illuminates a way out of that mess or at least a glimmer of hope. The production by Rayless and The Venus De Melos’ guitar work sync well to create a dynamic backdrop of melody and atmosphere that perfectly compliments the alternately emotionally charged and ethereal vocals. Fans of The Mars Volta will appreciate the poetry of the lyrics and the authenticity and emotional power of the sentiments expressed as well as the masterful, elegant melding of electronic and rock elements. As the final track on the band’s album Delete Everything the song sounds like it’s drawing to close a time of great personal struggle and coming to a place of catharsis and, in the end, healing, erasing the pain and psychic torture of the past. It is a genre-bending, genre-expanding song that is much more than the aforementioned genre designations. Listen to “Coercion” on Soundcloud and follow Maxx Gawd there as well at the account linked below.