Best Shows in Denver 11/15/18 – 11/20/18

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Gouge Away performs at the Hi-Dive on Friday, November 16, 2018. Photo by Ron Yamasaki

Thursday | November 15, 2018

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Daughters, photo by Reid Haithcock

Who: Daughters w/Echo Beds
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When noise/experimental rock band Daughters reunited in 2013 there was no guarantee the group would do more than play a limited number of shows before going on hiatus again. Its first attempt at a record was scrapped because it didn’t feel, according to vocalist Lex Marshall, authentic to what the band was about. Its music was confrontational and visceral, executed with a savage precision and it didn’t fit too well into the boxes in which the group was often thrown: grindcore, math rock, art-metal, post-hardcore. Daughters bridged the gap between the disorientingly surreal and amped emotional immediacy. Its 2018 record You Won’t Get What You Want pushes the band’s sound into greater vistas of experimentation with its core sound, coming upon what sounds like some forgotten chapter of an industrial, post-punk and noise hybrid from the 80s. The words and the sounds of the record, however are very much of the now with a world teetering on the brink of chaos, a darkly liminal period that might make for the perfect backdrop to a J.G. Ballard novel. That Echo Beds, which recently released its own similarly-minded record, Buried Language, will open the show and set the stage for the sonic mayhem to follow.

Who: Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin created some of the most iconic horror movie soundtracks of all time having done those for Dario Argento’s Deep Red as well as the European release of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. But perhaps the group’s crowning musical achievement was the score for Argento’s 1977 supernatural horror classic Suspiria. The haunting music and unsettling vocalizations (often done by Simonetti himself) was the perfect companion to a movie not short on rich color and deeply affecting atmosphere. This version of Goblin lead by Simonetti will perform the soundtrack live during a screening of Suspiria with what Simonetti jokes about as Goblin’s other “greatest” hits following the film.

Who: Galleries, Grass and Wild Call
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: There was a time not so long ago that Denver had, to put it charitably, way too many “psych rock” bands in the trendy mold. But lurking around in that world and a step or more apart from it were bands developing decidedly in their own directions while still rooted somewhat in the realm of psychedelic rock. Wild Call’s gritty, atmospheric, emotionally-charged songs seem like something from another era when subgenre’s didn’t matter so much as ethos and approach, finding your own voice rather than operating in a style even if you pulled from various styles in your songwriting but having something meaningful to say and an interesting way to say it. Grass borrowed a bit of that warped warble from My Bloody Valentine but sounds more like it learned a lot about edgy and nearly unraveled sounds from some of the more blustery bands on Siltbreeze in the 2000s like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit. Maybe a few nods in the direction of the Reatards. A maximalist lo-fi. Galleries is more like a band re-imagining classic rock through the lens of the influence of grunge and 2000s garage rock so it sure does sound a little different from any of that.

Friday | November 16, 2018

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Escort, photo by Tom Edwards

Who: The Flux Crew in concert
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Pine Street Church Boulder 1237 Pine Street
Why: Dino J.A. Dean will be the conductor of this fifteen piece ensemble that will engage in, according to the Facebook event page “real time collaborative composition.” What this means is essentially improv in the overlapping contexts of jazz, contemporary classical and the avant-garde. The musicians performing come from a broad spectrum of local artists from noise, jazz, classical, funk, folk, rock etc. all sonically synergizing toward a mutual musical goal. Dean’s illustrious career in theater, jazz, punk, dance and experimental music of a broad stripe from when he was in funk bands in the Los Angeles area, working as a sideman for Ike and Tina Turner and in the 80s playing trombone controlled synthesizer in the 80s with Jon Hassell. Dean has also worked with the late jazz great Butch Morris, acclaimed playright/actor/director Sam Shepard and modern dance choreographer Colleen Mulvihill. To name a few. Dean will bring that experience in collaborating with other artists in guiding the proceedings in this unique performance with his musical group The Flux Crew.

Who: Gouge Away, Drug Church, Heart Attack Man and Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Drug Church is an hardcore band from Albany, NY, but one that isn’t on the nostalgia trip that some hardcore has been on in recent years. Drug Church has more in common with IDLES from the UK whose own expansively sonic songs tackle personal and social issues with an unbeatable combination of wry wit and sheer emotional intensity. Gouge Away from Fort Lauderdale has been making some of the most powerfully compelling punk of the last few years. But, and especially on its 2018 album Burnt Sugar, Gouge Away brings a particularly imaginative approach to its headlong rush of energy by not just writing most songs with the same dynamic, injecting atmosphere into its sustained bursts of fiery noise. In that way it has more in common with 90s noisy punk bands like Unwound and Karp. Unabashedly political, minus any boring didactic perspectives, Gouge Away is one of the bands keeping punk relevant a quarter a decade after it seemed to have been co-opted by the mainstream.

Who: The Motet w/Escort
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: The Motet is celebrating its twentieth year as a band in 2018. Founded by drummer/arranger Dave Watts, the group’s blend of Afrobeat, jazz and funk may be something one would expect from a band from Boulder but it’s also surprisingly fresh and the musicianship legitimately respectable. Also joining the veteran Colorado band is Escort from Brooklyn. Like-minded in some ways, Escort performs music that one can trace roots to back to when 70s funk and disco met in fruitful rather than laughable ways. Think more in the vein of Commodores and Chic but updated after American musicians absorbed European influences and the resurgence of jazz reclaimed from academia and the ossified old commercial jazz market. The Motet performs same time same venue on Saturday, November 17 The Motet but with with Cory Wong who will include special guest Antwaun Stanley of Vulfpeck in the line up.

Saturday | November 17, 2018

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J Mascis, photo courtesy Sub Pop

Who: Wax Trax Fortieth Anniversary w/Slugger
When: Saturday, 11.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: Wax Trax might be the longest running record/music store in the Denver metropolitan area. While music stores might be considered a bit of an anachronism today they still serve an important function as a place to discover stuff you may not know about without the awkwardness of algorithms making suggestions based on what you view on a website. They are also places where you can meet other humans who might have a shared interest and where one might encounter something as quaint as a flyer for a show for bands you know nothing about and might find interesting. Also, not all local bands worth your time have a robust, easily found online presence. Besides, what music fan doesn’t enjoy organically finding something by browsing and not having something specific in mind? Wax Trax has been more than that. It has employed local musicians, one of its owners, Duane Davis, wrote incisive music reviews and other articles for several years and he and others at Wax Trax were involved in the local imprint Local Anaesthetic which put out records by some of the best punk and post-punk bands of the 80s. With the documentary about the store and the label that emerged out of that when the store’s founders moved to Chicago having screened in Denver last weekend it only seemed reasonable to have the actual celebration of the store’s first forty years at the Mercury Café. In the 80s both businesses were neighbors on 13th Avenue and Mercury Café was a hub for live, underground music—the relationship was somewhat synergistic. While there may not be a lot of live music for this event, aside from the psychedelic rock band Slugger fronted by current Wax Trax employee Gabriel Abelo, some of the memorabilia and stories shared will be worth attending to witness.

Who: J Mascis w/James Elkington
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: J Mascis is rightfully known as the influential guitar shredder extraordinaire of influential rock band Dinosaur Jr. His buried vocals amidst blistering yet melodic songs turned out to be perfectly capable of laid back utterances that articulated the feelings and thoughts of someone that was checked out of the sanitized insipidity of much of 80s popular culture, offering an alternative, more personal, and ultimately more truthful perspective of living as a kind of weirdo in Reagan’s/Bush’s America. Mascis wrote most of those songs and for years he’s established a solo career that parallels the subject matter he has explored with Dinosaur except he’s able to be more nuanced in his vocal delivery and in later years, his broad songwriting palette has become more obvious. The 2018 record Elastic Days is lush and eclectic with contributions from Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession, Miracle Legion’s Mark Mulcahy and Zoë Randell of Luluc. But on the road, and for this show, it’ll be J and what he describes as “a little fort around” himself of amps, various stands and other refinements. At Ophelia’s the intimacy of the room will surely make this a memorable show.

Who: Hive w/Weathered Statues, Rotstrotter, Aseethe and Vexing
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Hive from Minneapolis is a melodic crust band not to be confused with the band HIVE from Chicago who are also from the Midwest and no strangers to blackened metal. So the excellent Denver-based crust/grind band Rotstrotter is a good fit on the bill as is the like-minded Vexing. Iowa’s Aseethe is a doom band and not too far removed from the same milieu of heavy music. Weathered Statues, though, are a dark, post-punk band whose musical DNA seems to include Xmal Deutschland, The Cure and DA! But there’s an undercurrent of dance rhythms that thankfully are nothing like what all these post-punk revival era “dance punk” bands were peddling. Just a clear sense of rhythm and pacing that draws you into the song as surely as its dusky atmosphere’s and Jennie Mather’s commanding vocals. Weathered Statues plays first and may confuse some people expecting all conventionally heavy music for the night.

Who: Municipal Waste w/Toxic Holocaust and Haunt
When: Saturday, 11.17, 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: At a time when metalcore was reaching its apex, Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste was making the kind of crossover music that would come back into vogue again nearly a decade after its 2001 inception. For the uninitiated, that crossover meaning the kind of music that emerged around the mid-80s when bands like DRI, which may have started out as hardcore punk, fed into its metallic instincts and synthesized hardcore and thrash metal, which itself was informed by punk. Because it was an early re-adopter, Municipal Waste became a bit of a cult band. Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind was also someone who was tapping back into that crossover sound in the late 90s but injected into his songwriting some of the evil sound and brutality of black metal.

Sunday | November 18, 2018

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Wrong, photo courtesy Relapse Records

Who: Wrong, Portrayal of Guilt, Abrams, False Cathedrals
When: Sunday, 11.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Wrong is the kind of noise rock band that probably wouldn’t have quite happened in the 90s or earlier. While the Unsane and Helmet influence is there giving the music a precise yet savage edge, one can hear the stretch of sounds into distended otherworldliness as though steeped in the industrial psychedelia of post-Twitch Ministry and the haunted sludge of pre-Superunknown Soundgarden. It also has a bit of the near hysteria catharsis one hears in Daughters. The band’s 2018 album Feel Good has positive intentions but the songs themselves are all about feeling bad and purging that low end of one’s life.

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Portrayal of Guilt, photo by Adrian Glickman

Portrayal of Guilt’s 2018 album Let Pain Be Your Guide is a nightmarish set of pronouncements about the acceptance of life’s seemingly unacceptable but all too real aspects. It’s not all relentless, grind-y hardcore because there’s a nuance of sounds and dynamics that give harsh and brutal music a fascinating dimensionality that makes what might be forbidding music to many an accessibility built on how relatable the lyrics really are in the current social and political climate worldwide. Many songwriters express well the pains of some aspects of existence, Portrayal of Guilt’s songs sound like a direct line to that experience in case anyone is confused.

Tuesday | November 20, 2018

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Japanese Wallpaper, photo by Giulia Giannini McGauran

Who: Shallou w/Japanese Wallpaper
When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Japanese Wallpaper is Gab Strum who seems to be a bit of an electronic music prodigy. In 2014, when he was a mere 17 years old, his song “Breathe In (ft. Wafia)” was featured in Zach Braff’s film Wish I Was Here. Strum’s brightly ethereal compositions sound like the next two steps in the evolution of chillwave and informed by the same production methods born out of hip-hop that informed that musical movement. Soothing without being soporific, Strum’s songs would be perfect for when you want to take some time to contemplate something important with clarity of mood and mind. Some of his newer material like “Fooling Around” is celebratory yet introspective and reveals Sturm’s clear evolution as an artist into realms of music beyond the tranquil minimalism of his earlier offerings.

Who: Odonis Odonis w/Church Fire and Voight
When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Toronto’s Odonis Odonis sounds like DAF reborn in the techno/rave scene of Detroit 90s. At least on its latest album, 2017’s ominously luminous No Pop. The duo is joined this night by two Denver bands whose own music embody a similar wedding of darkwave industrial beats and a masterful command of incorporating noise with the more electro-dance-oriented Church Fire whose cathartic live show never disappoints and the post-punk/dark techno band Voight who are arcing out of a long period of legit A Place to Bury Strangers worship into more fascinatingly beat-driven territory.

Wednesday | November 21, 2018

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Kyle Emerson, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Kyle Emerson, Stelth Ulvang and Down Time
When: Wednesday, 11.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If Kyle Emerson isn’t already making waves on the indie touring circuit, he should be soon. The veteran Denver songwriter has been paying serious dues for a few years now touring small clubs and venues across America. His psychedelic folk pop are imbued with emotional warmth and insight as heard most recently in recorded form on his 2017 full-length album Dorothy Alice. The album closer “Post Egomania” is a perfect way to sum up the emotional and spiritual journey of the rest of the album. For this homecoming show from his most recent tour Emerson will share the stage with Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers and one of Denver’s best indie rock bands, the not-so-obviously-but-unmistakably experimental Down Time.

Who: Reverb & The Verse
When: Wednesday, 11.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Bonacquisti Wine
Why: Reverb & The Verse is one of the longer running hip-hop crews in Denver and one of the most diverse and boundary pushing in a way that’s difficult to say where the root of its music might lay beyond that of the breadth of palette that exists in hip-hop. Shane Etter, one of the band’s main producers from its early days is well-versed in a wide range of electronic music and recently did mastering on the 2018 album from literate documentarians of dystopian America, hip-hop duo Curta. Here is an infrequent opportunity to catch one of Denver’s finest live.

Meet the Giant’s Sublimely Moody Debut Album Was Worth the Wait

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Meet the Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

 

In an era when any musician, regardless of talent or ability, can release whatever, figuratively speaking, falls out of their head with no quality control impeding its release, Meet the Giant is a bit of an anomaly. The rock trio formed in 2009 and released its self-titled debut album on May 29, 2018. Most bands wouldn’t incubate for that long in any way. “Our first album from the beginning is basically ten years,” says bassist/vocalist Micaela Naranjo. “But we’re not on anybody else’s agenda. It’s tempting to fall into the traps of doing a genre based approach or marketing to people. But it’s not for us.”

“We were of the mindset of let’s just make music for us,” says guitarist Erin Cisney. “Keep it in the basement.”

The group germinated initially when drummer Lawrence Snell, whose shoegaze-rimmed Americana band Colder Than Fargo had recently split, talked to his friend Cisney about jamming for fun. The two would get together from 1 to 3 p.m. with electronics rigs set up facing opposite walls. In Colder Than Fargo Snell had triggered electronics as well as played drums and Cisney had extensive production work under his belt having worked for a label in England that did reissues and released albums by classic bands in their later era in which, say, the lineup might only include the original bass player. After several sessions jamming and creating some of the threads that would become Meet the Giant, Cisney mentioned he had a friend who was a bass player that might be interested in coming in to play. Naranjo heard some of the recordings, liked them and the three formed a band with no stated or unstated intention of making music to share with anyone else.

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Meet the Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

The English connection was something Cisney and Snell had in common. Cisney was born in Salida, Colorado but grew up in Littleton and had played in local bands like Whirling Dervish and Vena Cava before getting a production job overseas. Snell grew up near Leicester, England in a working class family but one that had an appreciation for music. Snell’s father was not into the Rolling Stones so much as American songwriters like Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. Though Snell’s family sold potatoes at nearby music festivals including one memorable year at Reading when the 1986 headliners were Killing Joke, Saxon and Hawkwind.

“My dad said the first night is going to be the punk rockers, the second night is going to be heavy metal and we’re going to have trouble,” recalls Snell. “The third night it’s going to be all peace and love. But people were on acid and they robbed my mom and dad’s potato wagon and lit the speakers on fire.”

Soon after, though, Snell was taken with American music in the form of hip-hop and Public Enemy and the art pop funk of Prince. It was a heady time in the late 80s and early 90s and Snell found himself swept up in the momentum of the cross-Atlantic musical co-influence as New Order borrowed hip-hop production techniques and the Manchester “Baggy” scene synthesized the aesthetics of dance music and post-punk. That music was in all the pubs on jukeboxes in a way that might seem odd to Americans. Britpop became almost ubiquitous. “ Everybody had that first Oasis album in their car,” quips Snell. “:Even your grandma had a Liam Gallagher haircut.” That monocultural wave is what made Snell appreciate America’s proclivity for regional scenes that weren’t so closely connected. Especially at that time when not all music and culture was so easily accessible as it is now.

Colorado in the 80s and 90s seemed pretty far removed from centers of culture in general. But as with many places so relatively isolated, idiosyncratic creative endeavors develop in spite of having not much support from the immediate culture and government. Cisney played in a band starting in high school called Guru Picnic that played pep rallies and football games. But after a few months that project dissolved and Cisney formed Wasteband, which recorded an album in 1989 at Freewheelin’ Recording Studio where Denver New Wave band The Corvairs had recorded its five song demo a decade prior.

It was during his college years in Boulder that Cisney played with Platypus and shared stages with the likes of Fat Mama and Chief Broom. Boulder funk/jam/rock band The Motet was just starting up. Soon enough Cisney joined Vena Cava and his circle of friend bands would play The Fox and come down to Denver to play The Bluebird thinking it was a common occurrence within the reach of any band. But he was soon disabused of such notions.

“One show it was half full and we thought that was a shitty gig,” says Cisney. “I’ve never had a gig like that since.”

Naranjo was later in life getting into bands than many people. Coming in and out of town during colllege, Naranjo became involved in what was called the “Broken Mic Scene” which included the venues The Bank, The Park Tavern and The Flying Dog. Naranjo, who grew up in a musical family but never considered themself talented enough to be in the music scene, joined The Late Jack Redell and played with Garrett Carlin, now in art noise rock band Jane Doe. Naranjo found playing with the band comfortable and that gig led to playing in other bands like Fallout Orphan, Legendary Beep Beeps and Penelope Project. “For me being in the local scene is more about people who have the same malfunction you do,” says Naranjo.

Around 2015, Meet the Giant had written and recorded various songs occasionally sharing them with close friends and the trio felt some momentum in the band that inspired an interest in playing a debut show. The proper environment for doing so came with two shows at Rocky Mountain Sound Garden, a now defunct recording studio and rehearsal space. It seemed safer to do that more DIY type of show before heading back into the waters of bar and small venue shows that is the common experience of most bands in any city. The opportunity to break that egg was a barbecue show on a Sunday at Larimer Lounge where Meet the Giant played after a jug band and a Christian worship band.

“I like getting on a bill like that to get exposed to different sides of the scene but sometimes its a shitshow,” says Naranjo. “We chased everyone out of the bar quickly.”

But Meet the Giant persevered and found appreciative audiences in the metal scene because its own sound has a bit of grit and heaviness to it despite being atmospheric, melancholic music. Then again, bands like Kylesa, True Widow, Emma Ruth Rundle, Myrkur and Chelsea Wolfe have a crossover appeal in that way. In fact, Bart McCrorey of Throttlebomb, offered to do some recording for the band at his Crash Pad studio where he is best known for recording hard rock, punk and metal records including the fantastic 2017 Weaponizer album Lawless Age.

“The metalheads were good to us on the scene,” comments Snell. “To me they’re the last people that are genuinely into music. It’s like ska, reggae, two-tone and punk. Different music but the same ideals.”

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Meet the Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

For the new record, the band recorded two tracks with McCrorey and others with Danny Ke at Orchid Studios and Dave Schleitwiler at Sunnyside Recording Studio. But the whole album was mastered by Brad Smalling who assembled the various recordings into a sonically cohesive whole at Evergroove Studio, the place where enigmatic, experimental, instrumental band Itchy-O has been recording of late. And it is with Smalling in a studio in Taos, New Mexico that Meet the Giant recently recorded its follow-up album prior to heading out on its first tour in spring 2018 spanning June 3 through June 8.

After years of playing in bands and spending over half a decade developing its music, Meet the Giant has no illusions of rock stardom in the making or hitting it big in the local scene either. Its dark, lush, sometimes scrappy music doesn’t fit in an easily marketable genre box. It reflects a hybrid rock and electronic aesthetic that happened naturally given the band’s musical interests going in. In fact, the group has an electronic side called Shadow of the Giant that is all electronic that it may someday unveil.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the rock and electronic blend in the dark, atmospheric way that Meet the Giant does so well was out of style in a climate where entirely too much dry earnestness. Modern takes on classic rock, garage rock, garage punk and pretty but not really mind-altering psych rock seemed fairly trendy not just in Denver but nationally. Odd for Denver which long had a tradition of moody, brooding, majestic, heady bands. Given the growing popularity of bands like Black Marble, Drab Majesty and Wye Oak those tides have been turning for a few years and Meet the Giant may be emerging in the right climate for its sound.

“We’re really into the Bristol scene and common elements and retrospectively there’s probably this sort of emotional expression that’s consistent in the music that we like,” says Naranjo.

“What we’re writing is dark, for the most part. There’s an introspection and tenderness there that we all like,” says Cisney. “The spectrum for us is typically on the sadder, darker side of things but we have some throw your fists in the air rockers.”

“We’ve been together nine years,” says Snell. “We’ve been through deaths, break-ups and a myriad of stuff and the thing that has kept us together is the music, even though that’s a bit of a cliché.”

Meet the Giant’s debut album is available digitally through the usual outlets including Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon. The band will have a vinyl release show on August 10, 2018 at Syntax Physic Opera where it will celebrate the occasion sharing the stage with Church Fire and The Patient Zeros.