Best Shows in Denver 11/1/18 – 11/7/18

tank_and_the_bangas_GusBennettJr_2
Tank and the Bangas will perform at The Ogden Theatre on Friday, November 2, 2018 with Big Freedia and Naughty Professor, photo by Gus Bennett Jr.

Thursday | November 1, 2018

The-Goon-Sax-by-Ryan-Topaz
The Goon Sax, photo by Ryan Topaz

Who: Holy Wave w/Pale Sun
When: Thursday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Holy Wave is a band from Austin, Texas that weaves together a kind of motorik beat driven, Krautrock wall of sound mixed with the sort of folk and rock and roll that produced the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. So sort of garage psych but more imaginative and with more nuanced, layered songwriting. With the band’s most recent album Adult Fear, it’s drifted in a more 60s futurist pop direction akin to Pink Floyd gone French pop akin to a psych garage version of Stereolab. Pale Sun’s dense washes of mind-bending tones and hypnotic rhythms will be a good match as its own atmospheric rock has some resonance with weirdo electronic music.

Who: Dia De Muertos Celebration with Altas, Plume Varia, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Church Fire
When: Thursday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Four of Denver’s best bands on one bill for this celebration of Dia De Muertos. Altas’s instrumental rock music conjures the visual element for you in your mind with its dynamic compositions and keen sense of texture and rhythm. Plume Varia’s downtempo dream pop is not something you get to see much live these days—an effective and evocative blend of R&B, synthpop and darkwave. Vic N’ The Narwhals found a way to keep surf rock vital and not another victim of genre oversaturation. Church Fire has long been the band to embody an instinct for great pop hooks, emotionally electrifying and confrontational performances, raw chaos and noise and making elements that aren’t often in one place work in a way that’s accessible and powerful. Church Fire will release an album at the end of the year and change up its direction so you may see hints of that in its upcoming live shows.

Who: The Goon Sax w/Teeth of the Hydra and Chromadrift
When: Thursday, 11.1, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Brisbane, Australia’s The Goon Sax harnessed the strong melodic lines and harmonic jangle one heard in C86-era pop bands and those on the Sarah Records imprint, or as heard by bands clearly influenced by that sound, into some surprisingly thoughtful and incisive songs for a trio of teenagers. The group’s 2016 album Up to Anything may sound like a new indie rock album on the surface but there’s something more durable about the compositions like The Birthday Present with less fuzzy edges. With the group’s 2018 album We’re Not Talking finds the band making exceptionally realized use of space and textural elements that give the emotional quality a surprising vividness while enhancing the impact of the introspective lyrics. Opening the show are two experimental bands from Denver, both more on the ambient end of the spectrum, including Chromadrift whose soft, post-rock-esque compositions capture the feeling of fall and winter with an uncanny accuracy. Teeth of the Hydra’s moody, organic drones feel like music for a Bela Tarr movie.

Friday | November 2, 2018

Surfbort_ReneeParkhurst
Surfbort, photo by Renee Parkhurst

Who: Black Lips w/Surfbort and Dirty Few
When: Friday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Lips are still that notorious garage punk band from Atlanta from whom you’re never 100% sure what you’ll get but the show will be energetic and border on the chaotic. Which suits the energy and aesthetic of Denver’s Dirty Few. But like Black Lips, the band has a gift for solid pop songwriting and Kim Phat’s vocals give otherwise fairly gritty songs an interesting combination of lightness and intensity. Surfbort from Brooklyn breaks modern punk convention in a variety of ways. Not with the music so much as it sounds a bit like 80s and early 90s punk as if the band cutting its teeth learning to play along to The Damned, Crass, Black Flag and Tribe 8. But Dani Miller looks like a real punk who has seen some rough days but is now channeling that into powerful vocals not unlike an American Eve Libertine thirty years hence. The band’s debut full length Friendship Music is everything punk should be—loud, sometimes obnoxious, irreverent and willing to experiment with sound as a complete and utter middle finger to convention and expectations. Miller is in her mid-20s and her bandmates in their 40s and 50s so there is a sensibility and dynamic that makes this band always a little different and for the better.
Who: Tank and The Bangas and Big Freedia w/Naughty Professor
When: Friday, 11.2, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Some of New Orleans’ finest will grace the Ogden stage tonight. Tank and The Bangas’ flavor of that hip-hop, jazz and R&B hybrid is deeply eclectic, gently lively, layered and uplifting in a way that feels sincere and wholesome without being hokey or self-righteous. It’s the musical equivalent of a nutritious meal with a perfect blend of delicious flavors that mutually enhance and satisfy all palates. Big Freedia is a pioneer of sissy-bounce but at this point really pushes hip-hop in interesting directions with his larger-than-life live show and refusal to be contained by an aesthetic that might contain the prodigious energy of his musical instincts. Live, Freedia’s songs can go off the rails in surreal and heady directions because of that more open-ended songwriting style and performance. Maybe now Freedia has honed the act and songwriting to be more precise in its effectiveness but one of Freedia’s main appeals is a nearly overwhelming sense of liberation from convention. Naughty Professor is a six-piece, improvisational jazz-funk band on the more experimental end of that sort of music—an example of when a real jam band can make some magic on stage rather than self-indulgently wank.

Who: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya w/Sen Morimoto and Triplip
When: Friday, 11.2, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is an artist everyone that think they’ve seen everything should check out because he is like a recombinant DNA mad scientist of musical genres. Punk spirit, sometimes sound, always that energy fused with hip-hop, avant-garde improv, weirdo funk, indie jazz and whatever else goes in to give life to his unusual song ideas and surreal-yet-meaningful-and-insightful-playful lyrics. Maybe he’s too weird to go to some bigger level of touring but don’t count on it and see him when he’s still playing these smaller rooms.

Saturday | November 3, 2018

Drahla_BiancaWallis
Drahla, photo by Bianca Wallis

Who: Quits w/Americas (Chicago), Reptoid (Oakland) and Arctobog and Bert Olsen
When: Saturday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Denver based noise rock band Quits shares the Seventh Circle stage with math rock/neo-emo band Americas from Chicago, Oakland’s menacing, industrial-esque, noise rockers Reptoid, poetry/avant-garde punk lo-fi act Arctobog from Denver and Folk Implosion-esque lo-fi rock project Bert Olsen.

Who: Hot Apostles, The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Crimson Days (Robin Heitman, Nathan King, Garrett McGaugh and Nicolas Kjolhede)
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Nicolas Kjolhede recently moved back to Michigan after around a decade in Denver where he performed in the rock band Cutthroat Drifters. His signature moves, his clear passion for the music and his affable nature made him a true fixture in Denver’s underground music scene. Tonight he’ll perform with one of his new bands, Crimson Days, at the Squire Lounge with other noteworthy rock bands whose own musical vision isn’t limited to simple subgenre convention and who managed to be straight ahead rock bands with personality and not miming past classic rock glory as has been the temptation, unresisted, among too many bands today.

Who: Tera Melos w/Rumble Young Man Rumble and Dandu
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Tera Melos definitely puts the weird in math rock with technically challenging song structures and dynamics. Radical shifts in direction like a post-hardcore Don Caballero gives Tera Melos’ songs a wiry momentum that one might expect an early band on the 31G imprint or out of late 90s DIY scene Providence, Rhode Island. Dandu from Denver can vibe with the math rock and angular jazz flow but its own music is also brimming with atmosphere.

Who: CT-X (Captured Tracks 10 Anniversary Tour) w/Drahla, Lina Tullgren, Wax Chattels
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Indie record label Captured Tracks is celebrating its first decade with tour featuring a fairly representative slice of it roster. Wax Chattels is what might have been called a dance punk band fifteen years ago but it’s far noisier and keys rather than guitar and reminiscent of 90s post-hardcore, synth heavy bands like The VSS and Milemarker. Lina Tullgren’s songs would fall within the realm of dream pop if they weren’t imbued with an urgency and sense of melancholy. Drahla from Leeds, UK is a post-punk outfit that has adopted a bit of the unpredictable guitar melodies one would have heard in Sonic Youth from the 80s or from northeast Canada’s noisier guitar bands like FRIGS or Preoccupations.

Sunday | November 4, 2018

WIldNothing3_Cara-Robbins
Wild Nothing, photo by Cara Robbins

Who: Love Hope Strength benefit w/The Alarm
When: Sunday, 11.4, 3:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: The Alarm may not have been as famous as U2 (in fact The Alarm toured as support for U2 on the 1983 War tour), The Call or The The but its music was within that wheelhouse of uplifting, melodic, thoughtful rock with songwriting that tapped into the brighter places in your imagination. Its 1987 hit “Rain in the Summertime” remained a staple of college radio and modern rock format radio stations for years. In 2005 singer and main songwriter Mike Peters discovered he was suffering from a form of leukemia which inspired him to start a foundation called Love Hope Strength which benefits those suffering from cancer and raises awareness of the issues those stricken with the malady face. It’s an afternoon show so you can catch the band and help out a good cause and, you know, have plenty of time for everything else on a Sunday that you might get up to.

Who: Wild Nothing w/Men I Trust
When: Sunday, 11.4, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: When Wild Nothing first emerged to a national audience, albeit on the more underground circuit, the group’s C86-inspired jangle rock seemed to incorporate post-punk moodiness and rhythms struck a sweet spot for a lot of people who maybe though the whole “chamber pop” thing and the wave of bands imitating 60s and 70s rock was wearing thin. That singer/guitarist Jack Tatum could convincingly evoke The Smiths without completely ripping off the Mancunians certainly had an appeal when the music industry seemed inundated with artists aiming for the mundanely rustic. The band’s 2018 album Indigo is a natural progression from its earlier records but its breezy melodies and synth washes are reminiscent of Kitchens of Distinction, The Teardrop Explodes, The Church and maybe even Soft Boys. And yet, Wild Nothing has added to the post-punk cannon by not at all sounding like a clone of any of its influences through finding consistently inventive ways of melding the aesthetics of electronic music, rock and pop.

Men I Trust from Montreal is a decidedly independent band whose DIY ethos one doesn’t often associate with a group making lush, jazzy, R&B-inflected dream pop. Fans of Toro Y Moi and Purity Ring will find a good deal to like about this trio.

Monday | November 5, 2018

MollyBurch_DaileyToliver1_web
Molly Burch, photo by Dailey Toliver

Who: Molly Burch w/Jesse Woods and Pure Weed
When: Monday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Molly Burch’s 2017 debut album Please Be Mine was remarkable not just for Burch’s delicately powerful voice and uncommonly superbly voiced instrumentals, but for how Burch can not only write from a place of hurt but doing so with an awareness of the humanity of those who hurt her and who she undoubtedly hurt in return. Her use of words honors the complexity of life and relationships with an immediacy and accessibility that usually comes a few albums in. Her sophomore effort, 2018’s First Flower finds Burch focusing more on exploring fraught moments of relationships outside the realm of the romantic as well as her issues with anxiety with the same insight and warmth that characterized her previous work.

Tuesday | November 6, 2018

AcidDad_DevonBristolShaw
Acid Dad, photo by Devon Bristol Shaw

Who: Acid Dad, Serpentfoot and Emerald Siam
When: Tuesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Acid Dad is one band that answered the question about whether a band could come out of the rock milieu/era when psychedelic garage rock and surf was the prevailing trend and still have something interesting to say using similar musical language. The answer is, of course, yes, and the band’s self-titled LP may be a nod to stuff like Wooden Shijps, Ty Segall and early psych classics but its subject matter is a refreshingly different take on social issues and personal travails. At times you’ll hear echoes of Madchester and Spacemen 3 as in the song “Marine” and early tracks like “Brain Body.” But even in their more languid moments there’s an energy to Acid Dad’s performances that makes them more than a cut above of the bands that sound like they listened to “Anemone” by Brian Jonestown Massacre too many times and made it their template except when they want to fuzz up some lazy surf rock licks. The local support for this show includes Fort Collins’ Serpentfoot who do that surf and psych thing better than most because there’s more than a little bite to its lively songs. Denver’s Emerald Siam draws on some of the same influences as Acid Dad but comes from a place of deep knowledge of garage rock, psychedelia and post-punk out of which it has woven a bright, sometimes brooding yet expansive, and uplifting yet gritty futuristic rock and roll.

Who: Jim James w/Alynda Segarra from Hurray For the Riff Raff and Andrea Gibson
When: Tuesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Jim James is of course known for his iconic work in My Morning Jacket. But his solo albums are always worth checking out and his 2018 album Uniform Distortion was, according to an April 2018 interview with NPR, inspired by his “fascination with The Last Whole Earth Catalog.” Whole Earth Catalog being the visionary publication that took emerging awareness of ecology, sustainability, DIY/self-sufficient culture and shared uncommon knowledge with anyone open to a counter cultural perspective grounded in fairly pragmatic information. The album itself sounds like James spent some time hanging out with 70s hippies who turned their idealism into informal institutions that still exist to this day. All the while absorbing musical ideas and translating them for the current era. It’s a fascinating aesthetic of retro-futurism that takes the concept of holism seriously and applies it to the music and how it’s presented.

Wednesday | November 7, 2018

DeathValleyGirls-Michael-Haight
Death Valley Girls, photo by Michael Haight

Who: Death Valley Girls w/Gymshorts and Keef Duster
When: Wednesday, 11.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: One of the Los Angeles band’s t-shirts proclaims that “Satan Worships Death Valley Girls.” And, really, wouldn’t love a group of lively hellions that so gloriously hurls together glam, punk, garage, psychedelia and shoegaze like a high camp Stooges. Iggy even appeared in the video for “Disaster (Is What We’re After),” a single from the 2018 album Darkness Rains, which is all the endorsement you need.

Best Shows in Denver 08/9/18 – 08/15/18

EchoBeds_Jan25_2018_TomMurphy
Echo Beds album release Sunday, August 12, 2018 at Mutiny Information Café

Thursday | August 9, 2018

Lady-Gang-HEadshot
Lady Gang, photo courtesy Jen Korte

Who: Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.

Who: Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray
When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.

Who: Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force
When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street)
Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.

Friday | August 10, 2018

MeetTheGiant3_Jun23_2018_TomMurphy
Meet The Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros
When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.

Who: Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.

ParkerMillsap2018-JamesCoreas
Parker Millsap, photo by James Coreas

Who: Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.

Saturday | August 10, 2018

Itchy-O-ChristopherCleary2
Itchy-O, photo by Christopher Cleary

Who: Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.

PrincessDewclaw_Aug12_2017_TomMurphy
Princess Dewclaw, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Washout Fest at Globe Hall: Muscle Beach, Rotten Reputation, Sliver, Moon Pussy, Princess Dewclaw, Sonic Vomit, Morlox, Ultraviolet, Eraserhead Fuckers, Bert Olsen, Juice Up, Lepidoptera, Fever Dreams, Saddy, Freak//When//Scene, Monty O’Blivio, Clutch Plague, Television Generation, King Slug and Wayward Sun
When: Saturday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Hands down the most eclectic music festival to happen in Denver in 2018. While many try to encapsulate too many genres with not enough interesting artists, others focus on indie rock and NPR-friendly pop, yet others an uninspired and obvious selection of popular artists and token local artists who aren’t going to ruffle any feathers, the organizers of Washout Fest have dug a little deeper. But more than that, not just artists on the Glasss imprint. It includes notable local noise artist Morlox, ambient project Lepidoptera, noisy psych punk group Princess Dewclaw, the industrial noise rock of Moon Pussy, dream psych pop group Fever Dreams, experimental metal band Sonic Vomit, unconventional punk bands Rotten Reputation and Muscle Beach, fuzz rock bands Sliver and Television Generation, noise hip-hop weirdo Eraserhead Fuckers and much more. The more conventionally-minded festivals have their place, especially when they have a local focus like The UMS and Westword Music Showcase, but this is one where radio-friendly wasn’t the consideration, just quality and putting one’s reputation on the line for declaring the bands as such.

Valley-Queen_by-Pooneh-Ghana
Valley Queen, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.

Who: Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.

Who: GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Aggie Theatre
Why: See above for 8.10 on Melvins.

Sunday | August 12, 2018

Cannons_Jan22_2010_TomMurphy
Cannons circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Goon, faim, Soul Vice
When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.

Who: Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents
When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.

Tuesday | August 14, 2018

TheChamanas_Perfiles_BrettMuñoz
The Chamanas, photo by Brett Muñoz

Who: The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.

Who: Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.

Who: Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.

Wednesday | August 8, 2018

Aseethe-by-Karlee-Barr
Aseethe, photo by Karlee Barr

Who: Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.

Who: Beach House w/Sound of Ceres
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.

Who: Father John Misty with TV On the Radio
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.

Best Shows in Denver 03/01/18 – 03/07/18

Melkbelly-2_LennyGimore_web
Melkbelly performs with Bully on Monday, March 5, 2018. ,Photo by Lenny Gilmore

Thursday | March 1, 2018

Oryx_AlvinoSalcedo2_web
Oryx, photo by Alvino Salcedo

Who: EyeHateGod w/Oryx, Tricoma and Blighter
When: Thursday, 03.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Oryx was a nearly ubiquitous name you’d see on the heaviest bills around Denver for a while. But the band seems to have hunkered down to write, refine and record its new album, 2018’s Stolen Absolution. Maybe “refine” is the wrong word as the record is a raw blast of rage and disgust with the bleak state of the world from the impending collapse of the natural environment as we used to know it and the utter shabbiness in the ways too many of us humans treat one another. It doesn’t sound despairing, it sounds more like a cry for humanity to get its collective shit together before we make one mistake too many. The crust/grind/black metal duo is releasing the album at this show in which its sharing the bill with like-minded, New Orleans sludge legends EyeHateGod, Denver purveyors of death doom Tricoma and Blighter, Colorado Springs’ titans of bridging the gap between crust punk and the heaviest of metal.

Friday | March 2, 2018

Briffaut_KittyColvin_web
Briffaut, photo by Kitty Colvin

Who: Briffaut album release w/Down Time and In/Planes
When: Friday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Briffaut’s new album, Helsinki, has a hazy lushness and freeform yet structured songwriting style that suggests jazz underpinnings. But mostly its soft tones and beats, its Mellotron-tinged and drifty atmospheres and idiosyncratic storytelling evoke imagery both surreal and all-too-real in the offhand everyday detail style employed by director Mike Mills. Musically it’s reminiscent of early The Helio Sequence and Animal Collective or even mid-2000s of Montreal—gorgeous melodies intertwined with noise and sound experiments to create a kind of pop music that pushes boundaries and has more long term durability as something you can listen to twenty or more years from now and still get something out of it that isn’t tied purely to nostalgia for one’s youth. In/Planes is apparently rooted in classic American pop meaning the duo has researched songwriters and music that has long fallen out of style but which never lost a certain emotional resonance and sophistication of craft that transcends time. The band’s refreshingly uncluttered songs are warm and soulful while not seeming to have done more than borrowed touches of doo wop and Brill Building-era pop. All of this can be heard on the band’s excellent 2017 EP Everything. Down Time reinvented indie pop in its brilliantly idiosyncratic style as heard on its debut 2017 full-length Good Luck!. Live the group has a striking freshness and inventive soundscaping that’s undeniably compelling.

Who: Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Friday, 03.023, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: As we mentioned last week this is a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 coming-of-age novel. So it’ll be storytelling and songs provided by the Grapefruit Lab collective and Teacup Gorilla who are bringing in noted local frontman and raconteur extraordinaire, Dameon Merkl who some may know as one of the vocalists in Lost Walks as well as his turns in 90s punk band Random Victim and noir rock phenoms Bad Luck City. Because it’s Teacup Gorilla, a band that has long developed a relationship with theater and writing experimental rock music that can only loosely be defined as post-punk or glam rock because its imaginative songwriting and musicianship is much broader than a single genre. The run of this production concludes this weekend with shows on Friday evening March 2 ( and will include a performance from Ersatz Robots), Saturday evening March 3 with a surprise musical guest, and Sunday for a matinee performance at 2 p.m.

Catch this one before it ends because as far as adaptations of classic novels go it’s irreverence and faithfulness to the spirit of the book is rivaled by, if not in budget, sheer spectacle huge cast and production values, Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films and Game of Thrones. But none of the sword and sorcery though with plenty of high drama and the supernatural. The live soundtracking and Merkl as the sound of troubled and tortured spirits helps to enhance the brilliant three cast-member presentation.

Who: Velvet Acid Christ at Purgatory 3-2 w/Offerings to Odin, DJ Mudwulf, DJ Bloodline, DJ Julian Black
When: Friday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Although in recent years Velvet Acid Christ has more than doubled the number of shows that he played in Denver in the first twenty years of the band’s existence, it’s not like he plays every week, every few months or even really every year. VAC began in the early 90s and became an influential and popular EBM act in its own right with a knack for surrealistic imagery and darkly humorous storytelling. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen any original releases from VAC so maybe in 2018 perhaps Bryan Erickson, the band’s sole full-time member, will put deliver a new set of dystopian future dance songs.

Who: R A R E B Y R D $, EVP, Bianca Mikahn, Giraft
When: Friday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: This is a Glasss Presents show three of the imprint’s best acts are on the bill. R A R E B Y R D $ is making the kind of hip-hop that is beyond conscious, beyond merely experimental but always human and thoughtful in its exploration of the impact of society and our own minds in how we navigate life. EVP is difficult to describe in simple genre terms. Part punk, part industrial, part pop, part noise. Bianca Mikahn…does she make hip-hop or super experimental, poetry driven R&B? Whatever it is, Mikahn’s insightful words weaves together her personal vision of a more loving and inclusive future. Giraft is Julianna Beckert and Chris White who make a kind of post-IDM downtempo. White some may remember for his masterful bass work in Alan Alda and Voices Underwater.

Who: Modern Leisure (album preview party) w/Kissing Party and Bark Wilson
When: Friday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Modern Leisure is previewing its forthcoming debut full-length album (set for a summer release). Good thing the band is joined by another that brings some dignity to the term pop when applied to a modern indie rock band. That being Bark Wilson. Layered atmospheres and rhythms that you don’t often hear in a pop band are Bark Wilson’s noteworthy hallmark. Kissing Party has a whole catalog of heartbreaking/heartwarming songs about love and disappointment. Don’t let the band’s sometimes irreverent and sardonic stage persona fool you, they mean those songs and that’s what saves them from being quaintly romantic because despite any flaws, the group performs the songs with a sincerity to match the sentiments.

Who: Adult Swim Presents: Mr. Pickles’ Trash-tacular featuring Exodus, Municipal Waste and Call of the Void
When: Friday, 03.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The nerd and metalhead world has a lot of overlap. Did Mr. Pickles exert his demonic powers to influence the choice of line-up? If so, he certainly has good taste. Exodus is the influential Bay Area thrash band that helped to establish the genre. After all, Kirk Hammett left Exodus to join Metallica so the thrash pedigree is undeniable. But it’s Gary Holt’s crunchy and driving, expressive, guitar style and his tasteful solo as lead is oft imitated by rarely equaled. Virginia’s Municipal Waste, though coming along in the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, has exerted influence of its own inspired by 80s crossover groups. Its guitars sound like the perfect blend of thrash and late-era first wave hardcore. But its rhythm, particularly the drums, sound borderline grindcore. But Municipal Waste is perhaps best known for its irreverent sense of humor. A band that calls one of its videos “Thrashin’s My Business…and Business is Good has to get some points for iconoclasm. Call of the Void you wouldn’t call a crossover band even though its grind and hardcore amalgam might give that impression. Its sound is more savage than the typical crossover band but its articulation of pushing the sound of despair and desperation to the extreme as a form of catharsis is often just what you need.

Saturday | March 3, 2018

Paperbark_Nov22_2017_TomMurphy_web
Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Centered Vol. 2: {arsonist}, C. Reider, Paperbark, Luxury Hearse
When: Saturday, 03.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Ubisububi Room
Why: This is going to be a kind of ambient/modular synth show in the basement of The Thin Man. With Paperbark, John Mulville uses his modular synth to make abstract sounds that capture textures and the feeling of being in the natural world even as it is completely unnatural, as it were, in generating his soundscapes. C. Reider’s vast catalog of fascinating sound experiments and compositions can be found most readily on his Bandcamp page. With releases going back to the late 80s, Reider is something like Colorado’s Aphex Twin except less on the glitch end and more on the avant-garde and ambient end of electronic music. Pittsburgh’s {arsonist} employs layered atmospheres, textures and strings to create otherworldly compositions reminiscent of The Future Sound of London side project Amorphous Androgynous. Luxury Hearse has a pretty diverse set of sounds but some of its best work sounds like a super chill, secret dance club for minimal synth heads.

Who: KGNU and Lion’s Lair Quarterly Showcase: Simulators, Mirror Fears, Joseph Lamar, Rich Jones and CRL CRRLL (DJ set after Rich Jones)
When: Saturday, 03.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: KGNU is one of the few legit radio stations taking real chances with its programming these days (having a community sponsored format probably helps). So every quarter the station has been working with Lion’s Lair to book a showcase of some of the more forward thinking and experimental music in various spectrums of the local music world. This particular event is also a Fasor Records mini-showcase. The label started by CRL CRRLL will probably include like-minded artists who push the boundaries of where electronic dance music and hip-hop production intersect. As indicated above, CRRLL will do a DJ set. Also on hand for this show are raw and spare post-punk duo Simulators, maximalist, deeply emotional and socially critical electronic artist Mirror Fears and Joseph Lamar who has found a sweet spot with his solid songwriting based in indie rock, jazz, experimental electronic music and a theatrical performance style.

 

Who: Pretty Mouth, The Patient Zeros and Kitty Crimes
When: Saturday, 03.03, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: This is going to be a different kind of show. Pretty Mouth is Marie Litton’s more Americana side of her songwriting. That said, there is a spiritual quality to Litton’s songs and performance even though she seems to be writing from a life that hasn’t been short on struggle, heartache and a deep love for people and of living like you mean it. The Patient Zeros are in a similar realm of songcraft but more in a rock and roll vein. Too many bands have tried to be “rock and roll” but The Patient Zeros’ songs don’t sound like they learned about Jack White a few years ago but have none of the poetry or genuine swagger. The Patient Zeros never come off like the second-rate Kings of Leon. Kitty Crimes…Maria Kohler has always been up to some noteworthy music including Science Partner and Mercuria and the Gem Stars. Kitty Crimes has been sort of a dirty rap project but in Kohler’s hands there’s an elegance and transformative quality that renders that sort of thing into something fun and worth your time above and beyond the appeal of anything transgressive but not inherently harmful.

Monday | March 5, 2018

Bully_AlysseGafkjen1_web
Bully, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Who: Bully w/Melkbelly
When: Monday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Bully’s first album, 2015’s Feels Like, polarized critics. Oh, sure, the band sounds like it was beyond influenced by early 90s alternative rock. When you grow up with some kind of music it’s bound to creep in there sometime. But the founder of the band, Alicia Bognanno got a degree in recording and did an internship at Electrical Audio—Steve Albini’s Chicago-based studios—before going on to working as a recording and live sound engineer and then establishing her own studio to record her own music. That’s a lot more dedication to craft than many musicians bother with learning or enduring. It doesn’t necessarily make for better music but deserves better consideration than outright dismissal. The follow-up record, 2017’s Losing, refines the jagged, angst-driven melodies that made the debut album worthwhile. In the past decade or so there has been a lot of safely celebratory music or the kind of music that hides raw feelings and outrage in palatable constructions. Any darkness and frustration you hear in Bognanno’s songs doesn’t feel manufactured or couched in some identity stereotype. Even if you feel like her music is a retread of 90s rock you have to give her credit for sincerity.

On the bill tonight as well is Chicago’s Melkbelly is roughly an exact contemporary of Bully and based in Chicago, where Bully recorded both of its full-length albums. Melkbelly’s music has often been referred to as noise rock, which fits well enough. But Miranda Winders’ voice is a consistently melodic focus amid the urgency of the beat and the pulsing, splintered sounds and sense that the song could fragment into burning chaos. Melkbelly has the spirit and energy of a punk band but its sounds are more experimental and more wide-ranging. More Live Skull and Melt Banana than Shellac or Daughters. The group’s 2017 album Nothing Valley is an auspicious debut full-length that signals throughout that Melkbelly isn’t going for just one or two sounds and dynamics. Also, a band that calls a song “Twin Lookin’ Motherfucker” has to be a bunch of glorious weirdos and cherished in a time when the music industry too often rewards easy marketability over outright quality and uniqueness.

Who: Alex Cameron and Molly Burch
When: Monday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Alex Cameron’s 2017 album Forced Witness sounds like it could have come out in the mid-80s and hit big alongside the likes of post-Squeeze Paul Carrack or Paul Young—new wave-y, well-crafted pop songs mixed with blue eyed soul. When a lot of other artists now are still tapping the classic rock sound or Laurel Canyon pop, Alex Cameron’s update on Icehouse sounds pretty fresh.

Molly Burch may be an artist whose sonic antecedents rest in Brill Building pop and soul singers but her smoky, hushed yet warm and resonant vocals and vulnerability have a mysterious quality that draw you in like Julee Cruise or Angel Olsen. Burch’s music has a familiar quality that waxes timeless rather than derivative. Her 2017 debut full length Please Be Mine sounds, track for track, like Godard’s 1960s films look—vivid yet dreamlike, emotionally tumultuous yet refined, a lyrical economy of style that uses space and silence to convey much more and much more effectively than clumsily spelling it all out.

Wednesday | March 7, 2018

BrotherSaturn_Feb25_2018_TomMurphy
Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Brother Saturn, Hello Darkness and Full Bleed
When: Wednesday, 03.07, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings
Why: The current edition of Weird Wednesday features a pretty broad mix of sounds. Hello Darkness is sort of a folk punk band without the de riguer labor struggle era folk covers. Rather, its use of various acoustic instruments in the mix makes Hello Darkness the folk pop equivalent of a chamber pop band. Except with more political content than most bands that can be described as “chamber” anything. Considering two thirds of the band used to be in Reality Show it should come as no surprise there’s some lively emotionalism on stage. Brother Saturn’s melodic soundscapes are reminiscent of the 90s period of guitar and beat driven instrumental ambient/abstract rock acts like Bowery Electric, Seefeel, Magnog and Stars of the Lid. Maybe even Flying Saucer Attack. There is an innocence and elegance to the composition that suggests Drew Miller has carved out a space in his heart and imagination for a pure and universal expression of the kind of transcendently tranquil energy he articulates in his music in general. Brother Saturn is just the more shoegaze-ish end of that.

Who: James Blood Ulmer
When: Wednesday, 03.07 (store.dazzledenver.com/EventTicket/EventDetail/3229/id0/james-blood-ulmer) and Thursday, 3.08 (store.dazzledenver.com/EventTicket/EventDetail/3230/id0/james-blood-ulmer), 7 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: James Blood Ulmer was one of the guitarists who was steeped in jazz but also helped to define fusion with his imaginative, textured guitar work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as the first electric guitarist to record and perform live with free jazz genius Ornette Coleman and his long time collaborations with Pharoah Sanders. Ulmer’s solo material tends to be a blend of styles with a rich mix of jazz, blues and brooding funk. Whatever Umer’s specific music alchemy of the moment, he brings more than dazzling technique and soul, he brings something otherworldly and riveting. The guitarist performs two shows in Denver. As indicated above, the evenings of March 7 and 8 at Dazzle.

Best Shows in Denver 11/30/17 – 12/06/17

Maria Bamford
Maria Bamford at Paramount Theatre on Friday, December 1. Photo by Natalie Brasington

Thursday: November 30, 2017

Charlie Parr
Charlie Parr, photo by Nate Ryan

Who: Charlie Parr w/Them Coulee Boys
When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Charlie’s stage banter is pretty much worth the price of admission. But his take on country and blues is so personal and individual that he leaps over expectations of the genre performed by modern musicians. You can start anywhere in his discography and it’ll be worth a listen. His latest record, 2017’s Dog, seems to capture this moment in American history where a lot of people are experiencing depression and despair and a need to catch a break from that wearying state of mind. In articulating that mood so well, Dog is actually a therapeutic record that actually finds a way to explore dark places without getting stuck in them.

Who: To Be Astronauts album release w/The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Flahoola
When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: To Be Astronauts is a psychedelic hard rock band that sounds like the main songwriter might listen to a whole lot of the Misfits and Clutch. Fortunately, on the band’s new album, indifferentstates, these tendencies are morphed into something more original and the songs seem to be about something substantive as in the songs “This Is Not Normal” and “Discontent.” The Patient Zeros are the kind of blues rock band that there should be more of instead those more easy to mock. Probably because CJ Kjolhede, younger brother of former Cutthroat Drifters frontman Nicolas Kjolhede, and Joe Schramm and Michael Raymond aren’t trying to be the next Dead Weather or whatever. Their songs sound more like they’re rooted in some kind of folk and country sensibility with a spooky edge. Add some grit, fuzzy melodies and excellent use of space and that’s a bit of what you get with The Patient Zeros.

Friday: December 1, 2017

SPELLS
SPELLS, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Maria Bamford
When: Friday, 12.01, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Maria Bamford spent the 90s honing her comedic craft and flew almost completely under the radar of everyone but fans of underground comedy. She got her start in stand-up in the late 80s at age 19 and by the mid-90s she had spots on various television comedy showcases getting a few minutes on screen here and there. But those sports were memorable and you could tell there was more going on with her comedy than the usual faire. During that time Bamford obviously made connections with other comedians and be her 30s she started to become known for her surreal, intelligent, thoughtful, brilliant comedy to wider audiences. Bamford has voiced various animated TV shows and films such as Stuart Little 2 and Barnyard because of her sheer versatility as a voice actor, her gift for tone, inflection and vocal texture, all features of her stand-up, a real asset for character acting. Her appearances on Arrested Development, Louie, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Kroll Show and numerous others have been standouts, taking all of those shows in more temporarily unusual direction than was already the case.

The Bammer now has her own comedy skit show called Lady Dynamite. As funny as the show might be, like George Carlin, who had a short-lived comedy series on Fox from 1993-1995, Bamford shines brightest in her stand-up where she can exercise her genius for free association storytelling, her illumination of ridiculous moments in all our lives, her sensitivity to the vicissitudes of the traumatized psyche and some of the most incisive social and political commentary of our time. Many don’t “get” Bamford but one might suggest these people take too much too seriously and handle all situations in the world with a shocking lack of nuance and subtlety. Bamford expertly treats subjects with the right stresses, the right pressures, the proper intensity, the appropriate tone and with a true appreciation for the humor inherent to almost every experience without unduly diminishing what really is important by, even in joking about it, not trivializing the truly weighty on the social and especially the personal level.

Who: SPELLS, Colfax Speed Queen, Cheap Perfume and Simulators
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: All four bands on this bill could be considered punk but also a step or more in a different realm of music from that. Cheap Perfume is a raw yet melodic punk band that minces no words about sexism, Nazis and El Presidente Cheeto. Stephanie Antillon is an electrifying and commanding front person and that is something not common enough in music. SPELLS has a motto. Something about “80% is good enough.” And sure they live up to that on average in that sometimes you see an unhinged show because Ben Roy is a madman singer and everyone else in the band doesn’t exactly hold back even in hook-driven, pop-oriented punk (though not pop punk, per se). Other times, it’s just a fun, energetic show. Sometimes you don’t need unhinged and thus, yes, 80% is indeed good enough. Stop going for broke all the time or telling yourself you need to do that with all things in life, America. It burns you out. SPELLS teaches us by example that something can be good even if you’re not giving it your all. Colfax Speed Queen didn’t get that memo, apparently, because the psyche garage act seems to play like they’re trying to set a new bar for what that music can sound and look like on stage. Simulators is a noise-punk duo that came about, in part, from wanting to get away from the ideas and sounds of the bands Bryon Parker and Brian Polk are in and have been in. But it still reminds one of Shellac as did Parker’s old band Accordion Crimes—truly no bad thing.

Who: Kacy & Clayton w/Many Mountains and Patrick Dethlefs
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Kacy & Clayton are kind of a vocal and acoustic guitar duo and while that can be one of the most boring things in the world, Kacy & Clayton are drawing upon the great British folk-rock tradition embodied by the likes of Fairport Convention. Resonant tones, spare arrangements that feel full. The duo’s latest record is 2017’s Siren’s Song, for which it is touring in support. Opening the show is Patrick Dethlefs whose own folk music is so richly developed, mastetrfully written and emotionally powerful yet finely nuanced that when you see him you kind of assume he should be the headliner.

What: Rubedo Album Release Popup Shop and Local Music Record Store Debut
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Understudy (890 C 14th Street)
Why: Rubedo’s full blown album release show for Vaca is scheduled for January 6 at The Bluebird Theater with iZCALLi, Wes Watkins and El Cro. But you can pick up the band’s latest record, a tribute to and meditation on the impact of friends and community on our lives. Over the weekend there will be a showcase celebrating the opening of a popup local record store at Understudy. Friday will celebrate the release of the record, Saturday there will be performances from Rubedo, Holophrase, Entrancer and many others. Sunday will continue live music performances with artists to be announced. For more information and more up-to-date schedules, please visit the link above or here.

Saturday: December 2, 2017

 

Alex Lahey
Alex Lahey, photo by Giulia McGauran

Who: Pink Hawks 
When: Saturday, 12.02, 11 a.m.
Where: Children’s Library at Denver Public Library Central Branch
Why: The sprawling afrobeat band from Denver finds a way to mix humanistic radical politics with high energy performances. And this time you’ll be able to catch the band in the Children’s Library at the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library in the morning. Yes, the content doesn’t mince words but it’s also safe for kids because Yuzo Nieto and his bandmates are brilliant that way in making accessible music with deep content designed to bring you in rather than alienate you.

Who: Alex Lahey w/Dude York and Porlolo
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Alex Lahey hails from Melbourne, Australia and over the last couple of years she’s garnered some attention for her spirited, fuzzy, pop songs. Lahey’s lyrics are tender, self-deprecating, often humorous tales of desire, angst, seemingly thwarted aspirations, and everyday struggle and misfortune. Lahey’s songs are usually upbeat but she seems to honor the downbeat emotions even as she transforms the experience into something with real fire and energy behind the delivery. Her debut full-length, 2017’s I Love You Like a Brother is brash yet sensitive and bluntly yet somehow thoughtfully honest.

Who: Rocky Mountain Low 2: United Mutation, Vile Gash, Cadaver Dog, The Pollution and Combat Force
When: Saturday, 12.02, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The second edition of Rocky Mountain Low, a mini-festival put together by Reed Bruemmer of Poison Rites and Heavy Dose Records head Brian Castillo. This time it’s mostly punk and hardcore including a rare appearance from United Mutation from Washington D.C.–a band that existed in the 80s alongside the bands on the Dischord imprint of that day. U.M. had incorporated psychedelic rock sounds into its songwriting so that it still has the bite and energy of hardcore while seeming to have learned a thing or two from Chrome and Hawkwind. Similar ethos, different side of the D.C. punk scene of the 80s. Jay Fox of United Mutation has lived in Denver for several years and his more overtly psychedelic punk band The Pollution will perform as well.

Who: Jed Kopp’s Birthday Bash: Pretty Mouth and The Sleep Escape
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Gary Lee’s
Why: Jed Kopp has been lending his drumming talents to several bands in Denver over the years and his clear musical talent plus his affable nature has made him a real fixture in Denver underground music. One band he plays with these days is the alt-country/punk band Pretty Mouth whose singer Marie Litton has an otherworldly presence as a front person, giving the songs and the performances an elevated and elegant quality.

Who: Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Savage Blush, Modern Leisure and Down Time
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Must be the top notch all local bill weekend in Denver. For this show Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, formerly from Fort Collins, will bring its literate yet gritty folk rock. The Savage Blush’s deeply reverby psychedelic pop will illuminate the stage. Modern Leisure’s superbly crafted pop songs graced with Casey Banker’s insightful lyrics and ability to truly capture a moment in time and tell a story will be on display. And Down Time is an indie rock band but it will demonstrate, as it always does, how you can work with familiar sounds and tools and by being willing to experiment with all elements make something incredibly compelling and original. The band’s use of percussion in a way that is very tied to the vocals and the use of synths in the mix brightens the sound and augments all the melodies in a way you don’t often hear.

Who: The Lollygags, Hot Apostles, Jonny Barber and The Ghost-Towners
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ Englewood
Why: Very mixed bill but no filler. The Lollygags is a power pop band that sounds like it’s listened to a lot of The Wedding Present and Elvis Costello. Hot Apostles is a hard rock band that sounds like its members worked all the obvious influences out of its sound. Like maybe the members were into 70s classic rock and glam rock of the 80s but ditched the gross trappings and held onto the solid songwriting and passion. The Ghost-Towners describe themselves as an outlaw country band, which could be more retro-mundane rip-off of better material but the band includes Dario Rosa formerly of Cabaret Diosa, his former Cabaret Diosa bandmate Kimmy Franco, Zack Littlefield who spent time playing with Supercollider, Greyhounds and Sonnenblume, Bobby Genser and Chuck Cuthill both of Slakjaw and Mark Aubie of The Jaguars. Not a supergroup, per se but the outlaw country claim is no idle boast because of that lineage.

Who: Blackcell with Solypsis, The Psybrid, DJ Hepster Pat
When: Saturday, 12.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: This will be a bit of a different show with Denver’s longest-running industrial/experimental electronic band Blackcell as the duo collaborates with ambient and industrial artist Solypsis. Whatever the exact nature of the set it’ll be an entrancing, enveloping sonic experience.

Sunday: December 3, 2017

Chella And The Charm
Chella And The Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chella and The Charm, Bryan McPherson and Sputnik Slovenia
When: Sunday, 12.03, 5 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Two of Denver’s great storytellers will be playing this show. Michelle Caponigro of Chella and The Charm, can write a song about situations and experiences pretty much anyone can relate to but in the telling take aim at larger issues and while thoughtfully unpacking what are often complicated subjects. Anyone can write a trite song about relationships for the gendered fist bump of solidarity. Caponigro gives us something much more profound and anything but rote. Jim Yelenick will perform his more or less solo material as Sputnik Slovenia but you may remember him for being the frontman of Nuns of Brixton, Pitch Invasion and Jet Black Joy. Among others. There’s a very self-conscious and irreverent humor in his show and in many of his songs. Amid that, and because of that, there’s an unexpected sincerity that you get when a natural born smartass gets real even using irony as an element in the art.

Who: Punk For Positive Change—Benefit for Northern Colorado AIDS Project: Discount Price, Equine, Smashy Claw, Plasma Canvas, Teacup Gorilla, Sinister Pig
When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: Obviously a benefit show for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, not so obvious is how, thank goodness, broad the sense of punk might be for this show. Kevin Richards, who is Equine, was once in experimental post-hardcore band Motheater even though his current project is more like an avant-garde guitar solo project that wends toward the realm of ambient. Teacup Gorilla is more like a post-punk-oriented glam band that doesn’t seem to be looking to any era or scene for inspiration and what’s more punk than that, really. If you mixed Weird Al with Dead Milkmen you might get something like Smashy Claw. Who knows what instruments they’ll use in the songs? Live, the band is probably more stripped down and will still probably confuse people who don’t get bands that don’t fit into a narrow genre. The irreverent, fuzz-fueled melodies of Plasma Canvas’s post-sludge-doom garage punk has more in common with Kyuss and Mudhoney than King Tuff. Not that this duo isn’t into King Tuff.

Who: Whitney w/Julie Byrne
When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchel’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.

Monday: December 4, 2017

Whitney
Whitney, photo by Sandy Kim

Who: Whitney w/Julie Byrne
When: Monday, 12.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchell’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.

Who: Grizzly Bear w/serpentwithfeet
When: Monday, 12.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Grizzly Bear’s 2017 album Painted Ruins sounds like it’s tapping into the same emotional states of fantasy, yearning, uncertainty, nostalgia and self-examination that Joe Walsh expressed in his 1978 album But Seriously, Folks… and the wistful, deeply atmospheric soundscaping conjured by Supertramp for the songs on 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments and 1979’s Breakfast in America. The melody is there, even the pretense of upbeat tempos and gestures of hope. But all are about anxiety in an age of fake plenty expressed with a sublime irony and compassion for all of us living through this moment. All those albums were written by relatively successful artists who may have fully indulged in the “good life,” to varying degrees, that music made possible for them but all of whom also saw the limitations of the hubris that commercial success and the privilege it provides engenders in many people and wrote existential songs to that effect. That’s not to say Grizzly Bear is “important” or that Painted Ruins is a masterpiece, certainly the other three records mentioned aren’t necessarily so for those respective artists, it’s just refreshing to hear a solid, thoughtful album that doesn’t give the impression that nothing’s wrong but also doesn’t try to offer shallow, pat advice.

Tuesday: December 5, 2017

Overcoats
Overcoats, photo by Anna Azarov

Who: Overcoats w/Sarah Jaffe
When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Electronic pop duo Overcoats released its debut full-length YOUNG in 2017. It has the kind of sonically rich production you would hope for from a band of its kind but where Overcoats truly distinguishes itself is in its willingness to incorporate fairly unconventional sounds and rhythms in its songs and the subject matter of the lyrics sound more like a worthwhile country or folk artist. The vulnerability and startling frankness may not be obvious amid ghostly atmospheres and lushly smooth low end pulses but if you take some time with the songs it’s striking. And who better to tour with Overcoats than Sarah Jaffe’s whose own 2017 album Bad Baby swims in bright yet melancholic synth tones and sweeping rhythms as well as thought-provoking words that unwind some of the complexity of mixed emotions everyone seems to navigate in modern life these days. Definitely for fans of St. Vincent and EMA.

 

Who: Supersuckers, The Bellrays, Bombpops
When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Supersuckers have tried on various sounds over the course of the last thirty or so years. But initially the band was kind of a garage punk band with an irreverent and ironic sense of humor. Probably too many people took their song “I Say Fuck” too much at face value, totally missing the significance of Daniel Clowes having done the artwork to The Smoke of Hell and Clowes’ own views on the lunkheads of the world. Whatever your takeaway from the band, its shows are energetic and celebratory even after it wisely progressed away from its roots a bit and became more of a gritty country rock band in recent years. Bellrays are a soulful revolution rock band fronted by the incomparable Lisa Kekaula. For its 1998 album Let It Blast, the band wrote a song called “Blues For Godzilla” and actually lived up to the title. That image should give you some idea about the live show.

Wednesday: December 6, 2017

Sheet Metal Skingraft
Sheet Metal Skingraft, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Sheet Metal Skingraft, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Universal Devils
When: Wednesday, 12.06, 9p.m.
Where: 3 Kings
Why: For this edition of Weird Wednesday you get to witness the noise-driven beatmaking of Sheet Metal Skingraft, the sinister one-man band folk-metal of Universal Devils as performed by Tricky Dick Wickett of Little Fyodor and Babushka Band and Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars which answers the question “What do you get when a noisy, experimental funk band makes music that J. Dilla might have wanted to sample while making a song that sounds like a lo-fi version of J. Dilla’s more out there beats?” Very meta. Thus, Weird Wednesday delivers another night of some of the most interesting and unusual music in Denver.