Best Shows in Denver August 2021

Princess Dewclaw (here performing at Wax Trax, April 2021) performs at The UMS on August 28

With live music coming back, we’ll see how robustly with the delta and other variants of the pandemic, we’re picking back up with listing some events that might be of interest to readers. Rather than a weekly show listing, this will be a monthly thing with highlights. If things pick up more in 2022 and 2023 maybe more events will be included once the pandemic ends but for now keeping things minimal.

King Crimson, photo by Dean Stocking

Monday | August 2, 2021
What: King Crimson w/The California Guitar Trio
When: 7 p.m. (6 p.m. doors)
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Since the its 1968 inception, King Crimson has been an innovative rock band whose imaginative blend of avant-garde jazz, classical music, folk and emergent musical ideas and styles across decades has garnered more than a mere cult following. Its 1969 album In The Court of the Crimson King has remained a highly influential work on progressive/art rock to this day. Certainly King Crimson’s music has the feel of composed for an orchestra but there is also a spontaneous spark to the music that has kept its songs fresh well after the first wave of progressive rock ended in the early 80s. The dramatic arrangements, intense yet fluid dynamics and fine emotional nuance of the songwriting demonstrates the inner workings of a band that is not, as is presumed with any band associated with the concept of progressive rock, on technique for its own sake so much as on the impact of the music which superior technique can lend a broad musical palette. Legendary guitarist Robert Fripp is the group’s sole original member and in addition to King Crimson, Fripp has performed on albums by, among many others, David Bowie and Brian Eno. Also on this tour the line up with include bassist/Chapman Stick player Tony Levin. Since the early 80s, Levin has regularly brought his own brand of musical imagination to King Crimson having been introduced to Fripp through working with Peter Gabriel and who has also been a prolific studio and live musician whose work can be heard in work by Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson as well as David Bowie. With the recent renewed interest in progressive rock seeing one of the pioneers in this incarnation with Fripp, Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk and Jeremy Stacey is a fine chance to witness one of the movements great live bands. In the coming days we will publish our interview with Levin and link that here when it’s live.

Friday | August 6, 2021
What:
NNAMDÏ w/Fresh Fruit!
When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors)
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose broadly eclectic songwriting and performance style has meant he is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole. One dub it the clumsily broad term indie rock but the execution is is often so unconventional and strange that it might be considered psychedelic and an amalgam of all of that with jazz and non-Western musical styles. But he manages to make it coherent and a product of his rich imagination that weaves together daydreams, surreal fantasies, social commentary and contemplation of the nature of human existence and his own place in it without really trying to impose answers to the questions he poses. Start anywhere with his catalog, it’s all wonderfully strange and accessible. Live, he performs with a paradoxical theatrical authenticity that can be off-putting for someone expecting their musicians to be not nearly as physically expressive. The band called NNAMDÏ is also opening for Sleater-Kinney and Wilco at Red Rocks the following Tuesday, August 10.

Saturday | August 7, 2021
What: Big Dopes w/Amazing Adventures and Luna Nunez
When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors)
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude was simply one of the most meaningful records out of the realm of indie rock and power pop that year. With tastefully fuzzy melodies the band’s poignant and touchingly poetic lyrics stripped bare the pretense that coats too much modern popular music. This is the band’s first live show since the beginning of the pandemic.

Small Black, photo by Caroline Mathis

Tuesday | August 10, 2021
What: Small Black and Korine
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: As the modern roots of chillwave were congealing into a cohesive musical aesthetic, Small Black was there playing DIY spaces and small clubs in the late 2000s. Its visceral performances paired with transportingly gorgeous, freeflowing song dynamics gave the band an appeal that transcended any trend from early on. Its latest album Cheap Dreams finds the band using its fine tuned crafting of electronic pop songs to suss out, identify, feel fully and process feelings most of us have felt this past decade of needing to settle for a cheapened sense of our own life’s horizons as if those are the only options open to us. It can be a crushing realization and there is a bit of that in these songs too but also a sense of hope and resistance to this death before death if we can be bold enough to cast aside conventional wisdom and cultivate a deep sense of affection for ourselves and others as a bulwark to the narratives that get us to erode our own power. Korine is a great partner for this bill because its own flavor of dream pop evokes a similar sensibility but in a way that might appeal to fans of recent darkwave artists like Choir Boy and Lebanon Hanover. Its 2020 album The Night We Rise sounds beautifully like a musical postcard from 1985 synth pop via Russian post-punk and 2000s electronic artists like Robyn.

Tuesday | August 10
What: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco w/NNAMDÏ
When: (6 p.m. doors)
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco are two of the most influential and most interesting bands that came out of the mid-90s, both having formed in 1994. S-K came up in the musical milieu of the Pacific Northwest in the context of K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Mr. Lady Records, Chainsaw Records, Riot Grrrl, the International Pop Underground festival, around artists like Unwound, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Wipers, Mecca Normal and all of that great ferment of ideas and music of that time. Its early albums dared to imagine a present and a future in which feminist ideas their critique of culture and society was the norm and not something to resist and grounded in lived experience expressed straight from the heart. Though the band has experimented and refined and expanded its sound the base line of compassion and honesty has kept the band from waxing into a more watered down version of itself. Its 2021 album Path of Wellness expands on the electronic textures and soundscapes that made The Center Won’t Hold (2019) so evocative. Wilco emerged out of Chicago, Illinois when alternative country band Uncle Tupelo split and Jeff Tweedy continued in a similar musical vein that he and the rest of the band have evolved in fascinating ways every since to the point that it would make as much sense to refer to Wilco as alternative county as it would to call Beck indie folk. Wilco’s big breakthrough creatively and commercially came with the release of its 2001 opus Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wherein its embrace of production and processed sounds as part of its core of songwriting resulted in a classic of modern pop music that rewards repeated listens some twenty years onward. Both Sleater-Kinney and Wilco have also managed to remain powerful live acts as well and getting to see modern experimental pop weirdo NNAMDÏ is just a bonus.

Oko Tygra at Boulder Theater in 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Voight w/Oko Tygra and Chuch Fire
Where: HQ
Why: If you were to try to put together a bill of the three of the best, most representative bands of Denver’s darkwave/post-punk/dream pop scene, such as it is, you couldn’t do better than this. Voight’s intense, noisy, industrial-tinged shoegaze is always surprisingly gritty and moving. Oko Tygra’s refined emotional colorings and R&B inflected dream pop never fails to captivate. Church Fire somehow makes pointedly poetic socio-political commentary deeply emotional, personal and swirling with dreamy production and powerful dance rhythms.

Thursday | August 12, 2021
What:
Radkey
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Radke is a garage rock trio of four brothers Isaiah, Solomon and Dee Radke from St. Joseph, Missouri. Slapping a genre tag on the band, though, doesn’t do it justice and these guys have been called proto-punk and psychedelic rock as well. But its hard hitting rock and roll the brothers Radke play with an undeniable conviction and flair that is undeniably effective.

Oblio Duo in 2006, Steven Lee Lawson on right, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 19, 2021
What: Steven Lee Lawson with The Dark Wolf Rises Band album release w/Doo Crowder and Disinherited
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Steven Lee Lawson recently released his 2021 self-titled album on Snappy Little Numbers. Lawson played music for years in Denver and elsewhere and his thoughtful lyrics and poetic commentary on human existence with a particular knack for giving form to frustrations, despair, joy, affection and excitement have always made his work noteworthy. But Lawson took seemingly several years off playing music because it can be an unrewarding grind in so many ways with not nearly enough rewards for innovators and those with something unique and interesting to say. Whether in art rock band Zubabi, Americana groups Oblio Duo and Los Dos and the New American Ramblers or even Ross Etherton and the Chariots of Judah, Lawson really brought some passion and creativity to his bands. The self-titled album is an extension and evolution of the songwriter’s prior work and one in which he seems to illuminate and clarify aspects of American culture the past several years that have seemed confusing or tangled. If you go to this show you also get to see Doo Crowder who is like a modern day Harry Nilsson.

Tuesday | August 24, 2021CANCELLED
What: The Residents
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Residents are a legendary multimedia and avant-garde band whose membership is largely unknown since they started recording and performing under that name in the early 70s. The group’s music and history is storied and fairly well documented for those curious but lest the designation of avant-garde tuns anyone off, The Residents’ music has almost ways been pretty accessible and an experiment with the format of popular music and the experiments coming in with specific sounds used and the content of the music—the lyrics, the visual style, the presentation, the experience of what’s been created. The band has been on the forefront of multimedia performances, set and costume design, video releases, what one might even deem early alternate reality games involving a concept that informed an album and even blurring the line between it all. The Residents’ cover songs by artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Elvis Presley and numerous others as well as unusual takes on traditional folk songs are something that simply must be heard to fully appreciate how strangely brilliant the interpretations. In recent years the band has been touring more widely and it appears that this tour is in support of the 2020 album Metal, Meat & Bone – The Songs of Dyin’ Dog.

Gila Teen at Lion’s Lair in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday and Sunday | August 28 and 29
What: Glasss Records Stage at the UMS
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Underground Music Showcase is a sprawling affair and returns in 2021. There may be many fine performances to catch but the best bet to find acts that aren’t playing a bunch of clubs because they are just that underground and likely not to see at many DIY spaces since there aren’t many of those anymore is to spend some time at Mutiny Information Café throughout the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 20 for the Glasss Records Stage. Not all of the artists are on the local independent imprint but all fit in with the label’s cultivation of various sides of the local experimental music scene. So you can catch the heartfelt post-punk emo of Gila Teen, Princess Dewclaw’s gritty industrial, feminist punk, Blackcell’s maximalist minimal industrial synth noise, R A R E B Y R D $’s soul wrenching/soothing ambient hip-hop, the colorful and imaginative glitchore of Morlox and Kid Mask, the noisy, psychedelic hip-hop of Joohs Up, Shocker Mom’s tender and daydreamy soundscapes, Gort Vs. Goom’s weirdo prog-punk-art rock and numerous other artists. Can’t go wrong no matter when you check in. Pluse it’s at Mutiny so you can get something to drink that isn’t alcoholic and pick up a book you’re not expecting to find, a fine selection of comics, find a record not everyone has on their shelves and maybe even play pinball. The choice pick of the entire festival. Tentative (because day of show things always seem to change) schedule included below.

Best Shows in Denver 04/13/18 to 04/18/18

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Sharone & The Wind, photo by Nic Smith Photography

Friday | April 13, 2018

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Fever Dreams, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Fever Dreams, Galleries, Baby Baby, Hair Club
When: Friday, 04.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The psych rock and neo-classic rock wave that energized and later burned out in an underground music world in America and beyond perhaps inadvertently spawned a post-wave of rock bands who took those roots and did something more interesting and original. That’s what this show represents. Fever Dreams is a noisy psychedelic band in a gentle mode. Not dream pop because it’s more gritty than that, but fans of that music will find much to like with Fever Dreams. Galleries came out of some guys who listened to a whole lot of Led Zeppelin and fuzzy 90s rock but through the process chamber of imagination and practice Galleries manages to not really sound like their forebears.

Who: Sharone & The Wind album release w/Mr. Atomic, The Undertakers and Amalgam Effect
When: Friday, 04.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Sharone & The Wind releases its powerful sophomore album, Enchiridion of Nightmares tonight. Check out our interview with Sharone here.

Who: Diva 93 (Minneapolis), 269 Bone (Minneapolis), Merma & Roberta (ABQ), Polyurethane
When: Friday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Diva 93 sounds like a combination voice sampling, tape collage infused minimal synth band. What public access stations were to cable conglomerates in the 80s and 90s, Diva 93 is big, synth pop bands—making a virtue of lo-fi, low budget sounds with sheer creativity.

Who: Big City Drugs, DJ Erin Stereo, Mara Wiles, Louis Johnson and Adam Cayton-Holland, benefit for Corey Rhoads who needs a new kidney
When: Friday, 04.13, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Some heavy hitters in the local comedy and music world are coming together for this event to benefit Corey Rhoads who needs a kidney transplant. In a sane world, events like this wouldn’t be necessary but we haven’t lived in one for a long while now. So if you show up you get to see Denver-based comedy stars Adam Cayton-Holland, Mara Wiles and Louis Johnson as well as DJ sets from Erin Stereo and a musical performance from Big City Drugs, a band that is comprised of comedians but whose take on punk rock is cathartic and not trying to fit into some subgenre of punk with riveting results.

Saturday | April 14, 2018

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Jonny Fritz, photo courtesy jonnyfritz.com

Who: Meet the Giant, Plastic Daggers, Dead Orchids
When: Saturday, 04.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Meet the Giant is releasing its “Drive” single this night. The Denver-based post-punk band makes some pretty lush and moody music for a three piece. “Drive” in particular is reminiscent of the criminally overlooked L.A. 80s post-punk world and bands like 3D Picnic and Opal. Except that Meet the Giant doesn’t sound dated or retro. Also on the bill are Plastic Daggers, a punk band with a drop of rockabilly in its sound without sounding like they’re trying to cop some neo-classic rock vibe, and Dead Orchids. The latter has a kind of chamber pop quality except the music sounds more like the members of the band are more than passingly familiar with Crime and the City Solution and its raw emotional quality is enhanced, not tempered, by melancholy melodies and introspective atmospherics.

Who: The Residents
When: Saturday, 04.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Residents have been outweirding most other bands since 1969. This is the legendary avant-garde pop/performance art troupe’s first time in Denver and you can read more in our interview with The Residents’ art director Homer Flynn here.

Who: The Still Tide (EP release) w/Panther Martin and Bluebook
When: Saturday, 04.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Still Tide have long been one of the most interesting pop bands in Denver. So it comes as no particular surprise that the band has developed a bit of a following outside the Mile High City as well. Anna Morsett’s voice, seemingly well suited to Americana as well as rock, with her widely expressive intonations is immediately striking but inside the context of well-crafted melodies that balance a sense of yearning and acceptance. The group’s new EP, Each, After is more introspective and sparse than 2017’s Run Out but not short on that EPs energetic quality. Since art-folk band Bluebook is also on the bill, perhaps Julie Davis will join The Still Tide on a number or two.

Who: Amigo the Devil w/Jonny Fritz, Hang Rounders and DJ Brian Buck
When: Saturday, 04.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Amigo the Devil took the Gothic Americana thing and focused on the murder ballad tradition of the blues that influenced that music to produce a pleasant-sounding but disturbing body of work about the musings of serial killers and the like. Denver’s Hang Rounders aren’t exactly mining similar thematic territory, it’s just a legit country band from people who aren’t short on a healthy sense of humor and irony. But there’s really no irony here. 2017’s Outta Beer, Outta Here may have an amusing title and maybe the musicians don’t take themselves too seriously but it’s a refreshingly not pop-country or overly retro country offering. Jonny Fritz is to modern country what Ray Stevens was to an earlier era of country. That is to say he takes anecdotes and stories from life most other songwriters among his peers wouldn’t use for fodder for songs. Also, an impeccable sense of melody and the ability to engage the audience with a truly idiosyncratic performance in an established musical style. Turns out Ray Stevens is not just the novelty songsmith for which many may remember him, he’s a talented songwriter with an interesting body of work and the same could be said of Jonny Fritz.

Who: Trevor Green
When: Saturday, 04.14, 12-4 p.m.
Where: Mile High Spirits
Why: Trevor Green is a multi-instrumentalist solo songwriter who performs with a brace of guitars, some didgeridoos and various other instruments that he brings into the mix as he performs. He looks like a guy who wandered into town from looking for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine but got mixed up with Native American mystics in the desert and decided to seek his fortune in making music that reflected the sounds and ideas he learned there rather than delusions of some modern day quest for Cibola. All fanciful references aside, Green’s 2016 album Voice of the Wind is a rewarding hybrid of New Age world music and Americana-inflected rock. That Green can pull this music off live with some creative stage set-up is impressive in itself.

Sunday | April 15, 2018

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Trevor Green, photo by Will Thoren

Who: Trevor Green
When: Sunday, 04.15, 10 p.m.
Where: Mountain Sun
Why: See above for 4.14.

Who: The Jinjas, JINMO (Tokyo) and Gothsta
When: Sunday, 04.15, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: JINMO is a prolific avant-garde guitar and synth composer from Tokyo who is currently touring throughout the US with musical performances and demonstrations of the methods and technology he uses to make his often ambient and soundtrack-y songs. Denver’s The Jinjas is a synth/dance rock duo. Who even knows what exactly to call Gothsta except anti-climate and environmental destruction and how she more or less describes herself as “Depression melodica, polka Euroamericana.” Which tells you you’re in for something different than any one of those singly could completely encompass.

Monday | April 16, 2018

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Cradle of Filth, photo by Artūrs Bērziņš

Who: Cradle of Filth w/Jinjer and Uncured
When: Monday, 04.16, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Cradle of Filth has been placed in various heavy metal subgenre buckets. But it doesn’t really fit the black metal mode because Dani Filth has never taken the Satanic imagery itself too seriously—it’s part of the theater and it’s amusing to somehow still rankle stuffy, conservative religious folk without really trying. Maybe Cradle of Filth was in the beginning and certainly now more akin to the kind of Gothenburg death metal sound. Except Cradle of Filth is from England and not tapping into that whole “viking metal” thing either. Is it Goth metal? What does that even really mean? Cradle of Filth is also part punk and the political subtext of much of the band’s music along with its embrace of the feminine in spirituality from its 1994 debut album The Principle of Evil Made Flesh to its most recent record, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay from 2017. But whatever one might think of the music, Cradle of Filth brings theater to all its shows in a way that some of its more commercially successful peers don’t.

Wednesday | April 18, 2018

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The Breeders, photo by Marisa Gesualdi

Who: The Breeders w/Flasher
When: Wednesday, 04.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Kim Deal of Pixies started The Breeders in the wake of the release of Surfer Rosa as an outlet for releasing music she wrote. Early on she recruited Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses and various other musicians to record the first album, 1990’s Pod, and the follow up EP, 1992’s Safari. While the records found an audience on college radio it wasn’t until the 1993 post-Pixies album that The Breeders found a wide audience with the release of Last Splash and its hit single “Cannonball.” While, in terms of publically-released music, The Breeders haven’t been the most prolific band all of its albums have been imbued with a swagger, honesty and sense of humor along with finely crafted, fuzzy rock songs that have a warmth and relatability that many rock bands lack. All Nerve, the group’s 2018 release, its first in a decade, is surprisingly vital and a showcase for Kim Deal’s ear for expressive nuance in tone and creative song dynamics. It’s a mature record without sounding like Deal is toning things down.

The Residents Bring Their Weird and Wonderful Multimedia Show to Denver

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The Residents photo for In Between Dreams Tour, image courtesy Homer Flynn

The Residents | Saturday, April 14, 2018 | Bluebird Theater | 8 p.m.

Most people have never heard of The Residents. The band has had no commercial hits and arguably its most famous, iconic song is a cover of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” a 1953 novelty hit by Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon. Founded in 1969, from the early days, The Residents have performed in various costumes—most notably wearing giant eyeball masks with a top hat. The speculation on the identity of the members of the band have included people “knowing” Frank Zappa, Les Claypool and Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo are members of the band. There is a rumor that Homer Flynn, the band’s longtime art director, and designer of most of the album covers, is in the band as well. All of which has been denied or ignored by representatives of The Residents.

Whatever the identity of the band members or its relative obscurity, its deconstructing and reconstructing of American popular music has given the world some of its most unusual, fascinating and brillint music of the modern era. For example, The Residents have done albums dedicated to American composers like John Philip Sousa and George Gershwin. The Residents have reworked songs by Elvis and James Brown and, as on its 1978 classic Duck Stab, traditional songs like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” as a warped and spooky song called “Farmers” which weaves in “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Three Blind Mice.” By following their creative instincts, The Residents, whether as interpreters of song, a long tradition in American music, or in crafting original songs, have established themselves as one of the most original and unusual bands on the basis of their recordings alone.

Live, The Residents always incorporate multimedia elements from costumes to video projections and stage sets if the tour, such as the disastrously expensive 1983 The Mole Show tour whose production cost and execution nearly did in any other touring for the band.

“They lost so much money and it was so difficult they said they would never tour again,” says Homer Flynn. “They definintely ranged it back, otherwise they wouldn’t have lived this long. That idea, though, has always been part of their planning for a show.”

The most elaborate shows Flynn says require a more stable setting with a production company coming in to help with the execution in a setting that wouldn’t really work for a touring show. But even the more scaled back presentation is striking and on the highly theatrical 2002 tour for Demons Dance Alone and even the more modest set of 2016’s Shadowland tour it was obvious that you were witnessing a band whose storytelling and persona mythmaking involves a rich creative exercise that most other bands don’t undertake.

The Residents have several high profile fans including their friend Penn Jillette, Simpsons creator Matt Groening and the aforementioned Les Claypool whose band Primus has covered Residents songs including “Sinister Exaggerator” on the 1992 Miscellaneous Debris EP. Even though such deeply imaginative music and shows rarely result in mainstream success, The Residents remain a much respected group to those who have had a chance to delve into any of their albums and seen a show. In an age when there seems little mystery left in art and music, The Residents have retained the mystique and not just because the identities of the members of the band remains a public mystery.

No one writes albums quite like 1988’s lurid yet mystical God in Three Persons or any of The Residents’ several story style albums since the 80s. In the mid-90s few adopted new technology and utilized it as fully as The Residents did for the 1994 CD-ROM edition of 1990’s Freak Show. Podcasts are a common thing of the past several years but The Residents released a noir story album as a podcast in 2006 with The River of Crime. In 2015 a documentary film about The Residents called Theory of Obscurity told the band’s story using previously inaccessible archival footage and interviews with Flynn and other partners in The Cryptic Corporations as well as many of the band’s fans, famous and otherwise.

Currently the band is in the middle of its In Between Dreams Tour making its live debut in Denver at The Bluebird Theater on Saturday, April 14. We had the chance to talk with Flynn about the band, its inspirations in some of America’s most flamboyantly theatrical performers, how The Cryptic Corporation was essentially saved by fans of the band and Flynn’s early experiences with finding music in suburban Shreveport, Louisiana, where the band started before relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Queen City Sounds and Art: Did you have access to non-mainstream music or art when you were growing up?

Homer Flynn: Basically, no. I grew up in pretty straight, white, middle class suburbs. I was always a music fan and I was always seeking out new music. At that time radio was really the best exposure that you had. So I had a handful of stations that I would listen to. Back then there were certain stations you could listen to late at night. It has something to do with atmospheric conditions after a lot of other stations signed off. I would listen to stations like WNRE in New Orleans that I listened to regularly. Also WLOS in Chicago and XERF, which was Wolfman Jack, from Mexico. For me that was the only way I could get exposed to new stuff. There was a very mainstream culture at that time.

Some people take for granted that didn’t exist back then like any viable alternative kind of radio station. Although, until the early 90s, late at night some stations relaxed their control over what DJs played so you could hear a very different kind of programming than the normal faire.

Exactly. When I first came to San Francisco it was wide open. It was just as FM was starting to take off. The reality is that the corporate powers that be hadn’t figured out how to make a lot of money at it yet. So you would have a DJ that would be on for four hours playing whatever seemed cool. In a lot of ways FM at that time was kind of like how the Internet is now—more open with a lot more stuff available.

What prompted you to make the move

There were two things going on for me. One, those were George Wallace times back in the South—the original Trump. Most of the people I knew at that point had escaped or left. For me, I’d always said that I was ready to get out of the South. The main thing upon leaving is that you have to have a landing spot. I had a good landing spot in the Bay Area. If I’d had a landing spot in New York I could easily have gone there.

The Residents have deconstructed and reconstructed Western popular music for much of its career. Overtly with stuff like The King & Eye from 1989, [1984’s George and James and “Farmers,” with traditional songs. Why was that important to the band?

The Residents have always had a great love for music. All kinds of music. Even though they’ve been mainly marketed as a rock act, their taste has always been much broader than that. Things like the American Composers series allowed them to stretch out in ways that weren’t necessarily expected.

Many of The Residents’ albums from the 80s going forward seem like fascinating and imaginative works of fiction presented in a multimedia format rather than through prose.

I think that’s true. I think for The Residents they always felt like there were stories inherent in the lyrics. The lyrics would be sung by characters The Residents had in mind and those characters would have a whole story. As they matured, they started developing those stories more and more. In a lot of ways that became more full with their CD-ROM stuff in the mid-90s which offered so much in the way of presenting that storytelling.

One person that influenced them is Sun Ra. I got to see toward the end of his life and found out about him around the same time I learned about The Residents. Did you get to see Sun Ra perform?

I was a huge Sun Ra fan and the first I saw Sun Ra was at the Berkeley Jazz Festival sometime in the early 70s. This was at a small amphitheatre in Berkeley and he blew that place off the planet. Everyone else seemed like they were totally straight and going out there playing their jazz stuff and improvising or whatever. All of a sudden Sun Ra came out and it was like the whole stage levitated. I saw him several more times. I’m a huge Sun Ra fan but I can’t say I’m a huge fan of all the recordings because some of these recordings sound like, “We just did a gig, we’re all high so we’re going to go back to the hotel room and play some more and turn on a cassette recorder in the bathroom.” While a lot of that music may have been great if you were there with them it doesn’t translate well to the recordings.

Definitely. I remember seeing him on an episode of Sunday Night with David Sanborn hosting that a friend had recorded and shared trying to convince me to go to the show in Chicago and thinking, “Who is this guy? He looks like a wizard throwing glitter!”

Right, and wearing a hubcap for a belt buckle.

You have to love that. Why do you think he had such an impact on The Residents?

One of the things that had such an impact on The Residents, and I could say exactly the same thing about Liberace, not many people would compare Liberace and Sun Ra but the cool thing is that they’re both incredible showmen at a time when so many people felt like, “We’re a band and we’re going to go up on stage with just our blue jeans and t-shirt on.” And they’re indistinguishable from the audience. The Residents felt that if you’re a performer you should look like a performer. Nobody ever mistook Sun Ra for a guy that came up out of the audience and got behind the keyboards.

For the Demons Dance Alone tour in 2002 it seemed like there was a lot of production for that show and then for the Shadowlands tour was a smaller scale production. Now it’s a four member band rather than that three-member?

They’ve kind of reconstituted the current version as a classic four-piece: guitars, drums, keyboard and vocals. It’s almost like a modern retro. It’s all very electronic, as you might expect, the drummer who is an excellent drummer is playing electronic drums. He looks like he’s playing drums but they’re really MIDI triggers and can make any sound in the world.

On the Shadowlands tour in 2016 there was an object on stage like a sculpture or sphere-topped pedestal on which to project images. Has 3D mapping become part of the show?

No, I don’t think they’ve actually done any 3D mapping. They’ve done several projections the last couple of [tours]. There’s nothing particularly unusual about the projections. Probably the most interesting thing is that for the “Talking Light” show they used a small, handheld projector and they had three circular screens on stage. So the singer would kind of go to one of those circular screens to another projecting mainly short videos of stories told by the characters. Various characters told ghost stories on those three screens. What was nice about the three screens is that the light people love them because special light things could happen when there’s not a projection so it becomes another nice visual exclamation point on the stage.

The Ghost of Hope was from 2017. Are most of the albums put out through Cryptic Corporation these days?

I had a partner, a guy named Hardy Fox, that I worked with for about forty years. He and I kind of formed the Cryptic Corporation together with a couple of other guys. Hardy decided he’d had enough and wanted to retire a couple of years ago. So ultimately he wanted me to buy him out but I couldn’t afford to do that so I had to look for new partners. I found two new partners, one was MVD, Music Video Distributors. We worked them in the 80s, they sold lots of Residents VHS cassettes in the 80s, DVDs in the 90s and CDs and LPs more recently. I talked to them two or three years ago saying I was having these problems with figuring out how to do it and they said they might be interested in doing it. They said they had another partner that might be interested, which ended up being Cherry Red Records in London. Each of them bought half of Hardy’s half of The Cryptic Corporation. I still own 50%. Most of the product that is coming out at this point is being created by Cherry Red and being marketed and distributed mainly by MVD in the United States and Cherry Red in Europe. The real stroke of luck in the whole thing is that there’s a guy there named Richard Anderson who’s a project manager at Cherry Red. Turns out Richard is a huge Residents fan so it’s been a real pleasure working with him on the new material and all the back catalog that’s coming out. Richard brings a huge amount of care to the product so things are going really well at this point.