What:Frankie Cosmos w/Stephen Steinbrink and Ashley Koett When: Thursday, 11.7, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The latest Frankie Cosmos album is called Close It Quietly (out on Sub Pop) which is a title reflecting the tender, sensitive and utterly sincere quality of Greta Kline’s songwriting and psychologically insightful lyrics. Stephen Steinbrink’s golden voice and talent for inventive soundscapes in his pop songs has been brewing for more than a decade while he toured regularly in the DIY world. His 2018 album Utopia Teased is a pinnacle of his recorded output with a diverse array of moods and textures.
What:Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. For this set of shows he’s opening for bluesy indie rock band Houndmouth from Indiana.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 1 When: Friday, 11.8, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Since Denver Noise Fest isn’t happening this year, Johnathan Cash of Sunk Cost is picking up that slack again with the biggest noise festival in Colorado across two nights at Rhinoceropolis bringing together a wide range of artists from Colorado and well beyond. Go expecting the broad spectrum of noise from the presumed harsh noise, to prepared environment soundscaping, ambient, beat-driven industrial drone, noisy post-punk, glitch, weirdo techno, post-metal, organic sound composition, sound collage, field recording processing and more. Honestly, greater diversity here in purely sonic terms than any other festival in Colorado since the last Ultra Metal. See the schedule below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – J. Westerman
6pm – Blarney Mumble
6:20pm – Harms
6:40pm – Kid Mask
7pm – Dragging
7:20pm – Voight
7:40pm – Pat Hopewell
8pm – Genital Stigmata
8:20pm – Culled
8:40pm – John Ingram
9pm – Sounding
9:20pm – Ritual Chair
9:40pm – Developer
10pm – Kiran Arora
10:20pm – Xome
10:40pm – Conscious Summary
11pm – Baby Daddy
11:20pm – PCRV
11:40pm – Scathing
12am – VX Bliss
12:20am – GNO
12:40am – FILTH
1am – H Lite x Techno Allah
1:20am – Clutch Plague
1:40am – J. Hamilton Isaacs
What:Clan of Xymox w/The Bellweather Syndicate and The Siren Project When: Friday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox is a Dutch post-punk band that influenced a generation of second wave Goth bands with its imaginative and bracing sounds and imagery. Adam Wingard featured Xymox tracks in his 2014 action thriller The Guest.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 2 When: Saturday, 11.9, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: See above regarding Ultra Metal. Schedule for night 2 below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – ilind
6pm – French Kettle Station
6:20pm – Goo Age
6:40pm – Earth Control Pill
7pm – Pet Sounds
7:20pm – Rush Falknor
7:40pm – Illicit Relationship
8pm – Sunk Cost
8:20pm – A Fail Association
8:40pm – Primordial Wound
9pm – T.E.F.
9:20pm – Sects
9:40pm – Jackson Pratt
10pm – Sissisters
10:20pm – Blind Date
10:40pm – Circuit Wound
11pm – Ancient, INC.
11:20pm – Tralphaz
11:40pm – Pedestrian Deposit
12am – Dromez
12:20am – Purism
12:40am – Blank Hellscape
1am – Total Mom
1:20am – Many Blessings
1:40am – Page 27
What:Necropanther w/Methane, Incarnit, Draghoria When: Saturday, 11.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death/thrash metal band Necropanther from Denver is celebrating the release of its latest album The Doomed City although it has those great, distorted vocals that you’d expect from a black metal outfit there’s always been something tuneful and catchy about the band’s output.
What:Pile w/Slow Code and Moon Pussy When: Sunday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Pile formed in 2007, the same year as the Canadian band Women, and has exerted a similarly strong influence on underground guitar rock by going off the map of conventional structure, dynamics and tone. Its new album Green and Gray has all of its signature contorted and noisy angularity. Opening is Denver noise rock Moon Pussy whose Big Black-esque bluster is a revelation.
What:Vincent Comparetto Going Away Party When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Vincent Comparetto has been calling Denver home for over 20 years and is now moving to New York City. He got involved in the skating community in the 90s and discovered the local world’s punk and post-punk communities and has been avidly documenting the music scene and the cityscape for years as can be found in his ‘zines Follow Focus, particulary #2 in which he shared several of his shots of shows and the arts world in Denver. Here’s a public chance to say farewell to one of local cultures most cordial and thoughtful preservers of what has been and advocates for what is going on.
What:Hippo Campus w/The Greeting Committee When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Hippo Campus released two albums in 2019 as Demos I and Demos II. While they sound a bit like the titles suggest and recorded between 2017 and 2018, the spare, raw quality of the recordings actually serve to highlight the band’s songwriting further. Its 2018 album Bambi showcased its knack for expertly produced pop songs while the new batch of material is almost the polar opposite like the experiments Magnetic Fields have engaged in over the years with its creative and varied use of technology in songwriting and processing sounds. But whatever its approach, Hippo Campus has proven its mastery of dynamics and tone.
What:The Aquabats When: Monday, 11.11, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: It’s odd to think that The Aquabats has been around for over twenty-five years now. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the quintet’s mixture of ska, punk and pop is as surreal as it is playful. Its singer The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) is better known for his involvement with the kids’ show Yo Gabba Gabba! these days but The Aquabats was a good natured send-up of the Orange County punk scene as the opposite of a macho, violent band. Instead The Aquabats have assumed the personae of super heroes and its multi-media presentation through its own TV shows and sillymusic videos has allowed the band to transcend not just genre appeal but appeal beyond the realm of punk and ska, which the group has long since left behind in favor of greater musical diversity in its songwriting. Go expecting more than just a musical performance, expect the full integration of that with theater and comedy routines and special guest performers along with its usual incorporation of the audience into the proceedings as well.
What:Elephant Stone w/Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Emerald Siam When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Elephant Stone’s psychedelic pop songs have weathered the glut of wannabe psychedelic rock of the past several years by going beyond the tropes and creating transcendent melodies incorporating traditional Indian musical styles and methods for a sound that seems to drift in from some brighter realm than our own. Frankie and the Witch Fingers is a little more traditionally garage psyche but the sheer momentum of its performances elevates it beyond the languid pace and laid back style we’ve come to expect all while maintaining a delicacy of feeling. Emerald Siam from Denver has some of that psychedelic garage rock in its musical DNA but is more like a moody, dark, post-punk band that discovered that musical catharsis comes from overcoming one’s personal momentum rather than sinking deeper into it.
What:FKA Twigs When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: FKA Twigs brilliantly fuses downtempo with experimental electronic music. Her new album Magdalene is basically an environmental noise record with elements of R&B and soul in a pop format in the foreground.
What:Big Freedia w/Low Cut Connie When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Big Freedia’s “sissy bounce” is like some hip-hop performance art spell-casting that is disorienting yet utterly riveting.
What: At the Heart of the World w/Lowfaith and Polyurethane When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis
Wednesday | November 13
What:The Coathangers w/Control Top and Rocket Dust When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Coathangers have evolved a lot since the incendiary and thrilling chaos of their earlier punk rock without losing any of that raw power. Now touring for The Devil You Know, The Coathangers have completely integrated its instinct for tearing down convention with sharply focused songwriting.
What:Sun Seeker w/Duncan Fellows When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Duncan Fellows from Austin unexpectedly makes a blend of Americana, psychedelic pop and 2000s indie rock work through creative layering of instrumentation and vocals giving its songs great dynamic range and an element of unpredictability. There’s a lot of imitation in music at the moment and while Duncan Fellows may not strike some as incredibly original, give them a good listen and it becomes obvious they’re at least following their musical instincts where the mood flows rather than where pre-existing style suggests. In that way the group is a bit like Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra without sounding like either. Its use of synths as a full compositional element sets it apart from most of its peers as well as heard put to full effect on the group’s latest release the Eyelids Shut EP.
What:Drab Majesty w/Body of Light, Xeno & Oaklander and DJ boyhollow When: Thursday, 08.22, 7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: The darkwave show of the summer. Drab Majesty is a transgender, glam, post-punk, space alien duo that has been instrumental in making the new post-punk/Goth wave popular outside the usual circles and within the old school scene. The 2019 album Modern Mirror reveals the group’s for well crafted songs beyond the entrancing, atmospheric mood that could overshadow Deb Demure’s writing in the past. Body of Light has synthesized the minimal synth influences descended from early Depeche Mode and EBM into a dynamic, darkly ambient synth pop. Xeno & Oaklander’s minimal analog synth compositions suggest a foundation in cinema and it’s own 2019 album Hypnos takes the listener on a journey into a journey into a desolate and eerily lonely future where alien archaeologist/anthropologists study what happened to us foolish humans in the Twenty-First and Twenty-Second centuries with an emphasis on the art and music created around the turn of the Twenty-First century.
What:The Yawpers w/CITRA When: Thursday, 08.22, 6 p.m. Where: Leavitt Pavilion Why: The Yawpers bring their unhinged blues punk to Leavitt Pavilion for a free show. The trio’s most recent album, 2019’s Human Question, really does delve thoughtfully and urgently into what this whole mess of humanity is about and what we can and should be doing in this life individually and collectively given our flaws and deficits of feeling, of cognition, talent and capability. But The Yawpers suggest we can’t just quit as past civilizations faced similarly destructive situations politically, economically, spiritually, environmentally and culturally.
Friday | August 23
What:Big Dopes album release w/Spirettes and Whiskey Autumn When: Friday, 08.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Big Dopes releases its new album Crimes Against Gratitude tonight at the Hi-Dive. The trio’s songs combine a rich, moody low end courtesy Justin Catanzaro’s bass and Eddie Schmid’s rich vocals. Intricate melodies and dynamic rhythms with the band, including drummer Ricky Brewer, giving the songs a rare expressiveness and vibrancy. Schmid’s lyrics seem to come from poignantly observational biographical snapshots. In telling these stories the band tells the story of a generation coming to terms with diminished future possibilities but refusing to give into despair yet finding a way to cope with creativity and empathy rather than callousness. It’s guitar-based indie rock of a sort but one that seems as informed by the emotional resonance of R&B as by left field alternative rock.
What:The Bellweather Syndicate w/The Siren Project, Autumn and Julian Black When: Friday, 08.23, 7 p.m. Where: Herman’s Hideaway Why: The Bellweather Syndicate is William Faith and Sarah Rose. The former was a bassist in later era Christian Death with Rozz Williams as well as a longtime member of Faith & The Muse and playing in Sex Gang Children and The March Violets. The dark post-punk band has a driving low end and a sense of urgency to its ethereal yet gritty melodies. Autumn’s dream pop sounds like someone in the band, or everyone, listened to a whole lot of the Stone Roses, Chameleons and Kitchens of Distinction and took that as a launching point in crafting what is its own sound. The Siren Project from Denver is a synthesis of European post-punk sensibilities and emotionally expansive trip-hop.
What:Solypsis, Blackcell, Acidbat and Kid Mask When: Friday, 08.23, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: A more experimental take on electronic music, noise and the avant-garde all around at this show including Denver Goth-industrial/noise legends Blackcell, Kid Mask’s disregard for specific style in making his deeply emotional and affecting soundscapes, Acidbat’s glitchcore industrial ambient and Solypsis which is almost as much performance art as ambient industrial.
Saturday | August 24
What:The Pamlico Sound vinyl release w/The Soltones and Cosmic Joe When: Saturday, 08.24, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Pamlico Sound is releasing its new album The Funk is Not For Sale on vinyl for this show. The Boulder-based group is lead by Will Baumgartner who has played in various funk bands in Denver for years but whose roots are in New York where he, as a young kid, went to Woodstock (the original) and who moved about and played in the No Wave scene of late 70s and early 80s NYC. So The Pamlico Sound, which is very much a funk band in the traditional ways has a little different flavor in its exuberance and weirdness. The Soltones also have some funk in its sound but its smooth songwriting is steeped in jazz and R&B and its lushly composed songs have a soothing mood that doesn’t wax into the soporific, just emotionally refined and transporting.
What:Lily & Horn Horse, Banny Grove, French Kettle Station, Petite Garçon and Egg Walk When: Saturday, 08.24, 9 Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Lily & Horn Horse is a New York duo that would be difficult to define except to say that its horn, vocals and beat combination is jazz, dream pop, downtempo hip-hop and avant-garde. Which is just as well given the eclectic sounds on the rest of the bill including French Kettle Stations neo-No Wave, adult-contemporary pop and performance art and Petite Garçon’s own post-garage indie pop. Supposedly the latter has a new album out tonight as well but we can neither confirm or deny so best to bring some money to buy a copy anyway.
What:Oko Tygra w/Bluebook, Hifi Gentry and Cuckoo When: Saturday, 08.24, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Oko Tygra is the perfect blend of R&B and dream pop in the grand 4AD label band mold. Bluebook is an interesting hybrid of downtempo, Americana and the avant-garde. Cuckoo is like if a math-y indie band merged with a garage rock band and then forged a musical identity beyond that but rooted in the best aspects of both.
Sunday | August 25
What:Shibui Denver #5: The Vagrant Sea, Tokyo Rodeo and DJ Couchman When: Sunday, 08.25, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This edition of our monthly series at Mutiny features DJ Couchman of the band Total Trash and the DJ night Interesting Times spinning songs before the show and between sets. It will be the debut of The Vagrant Sea which includes former members of Tarmints, The Dirty Lookers and The Symptoms (among others) and rock and roll band Tokyo Rodeo will put in a performance fresh off the road.
What:Bryan Ferry w/Femme Schmidt When: Sunday, 08.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Paramount Theatre Why: Bryan Ferry is the charismatic singer of pioneering glam rock/experimental band Roxy Music. The latter was a huge influence on punk and alternative rock and whose music has managed to remain somewhat timeless as its classic songwriting style and willingness to go off the deep end into adventurous sonic territory has endured as captivating and relevant. Ferry’s solo work has a similarly creatively refined sensibility and flair for thoughtfully poetic lyrics.
What:KRS-One w/Righteous Revolution and illosophy When: Sunday, 08.25, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: KRS-One was the thought-provoking MC who was the frontman for influential hip-hop crew Boogie Down Productions. His whole career KRS-One has shined a light on society’s ills with an incisive and creative critique.
Monday | August 26
What:Mogwai w/Papa M When: Monday, 08.26, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Scottish instrumental rock band Mogwai play majestic, even epic journeys into rock music’s outer edges informed by a healthy sense irreverent humor. Papa M is the long running experimental guitar and atmospheric moods project of David Pajo. You know, the guy who brought so much imagination and genius guitar work to Slint, Stereolab, Will Oldham, Royal Trux, The For Carnation, Zwan, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dead Child and Interpol.
Tuesday | August 27
What:The Vibrators, Filthy Hearts, Cyclo-Sonic and The Pollution When: Tuesday, 08.27, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: The Vibrators were an early English punk rock band who managed to stay around and still write worthwhile punk in the classic vein. If Stiff Little Fingers name themselves after one of your songs and go on to be a seminal influence on bands like Green Day your legacy is secure and yet The Vibrators bring a spirited live show that is worthy of that legacy as well. Its debut album Pure Mania should be in the library of any true punk connoisseur.
Wednesday | August 28
What:Black Flag w/The Line Cutters When: Wednesday, 08.28, 8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: It’s not the classic line up of Black Flag but Greg Ginn still rips out that iconic guitar work like he wrote it last week with the unalloyed joy of a young buck. Seeing Ginn lay waste to the room that way alone is worth the price of admission.
Who:Glasss Presents Speakeasy Series Season 2: Atari and Pythian Whispers When: Thursday, 04.19, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This latest edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 will be an early and short show from Denver ambient artists Atari and Pythian Whispers. Being in the latter, no comment. Atari, though, is David Bridges, a DJ who manufactures records to create truly unique beats in an analog format. He uses some electronic components in his beatmaking but its that he has been known to cut records apart and put them together in different arrangements for a show or recording. The result sounds like tape collage, ambient industrial but the craft involved is a step beyond what most musicians making similar music would be willing to undertake.
Who:Glasss Presents: Gold Trash, Church Fire, EVP and Mirror Fears When: Thursday, 04.19, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Sort of an all-star experimental electronic pop lineup. Mirror Fears set a high bar for emotional intensity and a complete synthesis of dream pop, industrial and noise with her 2018 album Eaten. Church Fire similarly doesn’t skimp on the emotional singing in its live show and on its albums but its style is more embodied in the band name because Shannon Webber has a fiery performance style that is impossible to ignore. EVP channels a lifetime of anger into its music even though some of it sounds like it could be a companion piece to what Grimes has been up to lately. Gold Trash sounds a bit more raw and chaotic than the other acts on the bill, it’s sound seeming to have been informed by the sonic brutality and, yes, trash culture embrace vibe of both Atari Teenage Riot and Royal Trux.
Friday | April 20, 2018
Who:Front 242 w/Blackcell, EVP and DJ Slave 1 When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Front 242 was the first band from Belgium most people outside of Belgium had ever heard about. Which is interesting because Front 242 remains a bit of a cult band. But the group pioneered the style of electronic industrial music called Electronic Body Music, or EBM. Developing alongside peers like Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, D.A.F. and Front Line Assembly, who were making likeminded music from the early to mid-80s going forward, Front 242 enjoyed a brief period of commercial success by the early 90s. Its single “Rhythm of Time” appeared in the 1992 thriller Single White Female boosting the band’s profile at a time when alternative rock had opened the doors into the mainstream for all sorts of leftfield music that could fit under that umbrella including Front 242.
After 1991’s Tyranny For You, Front 242’s musical style evolved rapidly and dramatically as embodied on a twin 1993 release of both 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09: 12 Off. The big beats that were the driving engine of the band’s earlier music seemed gone but not the robotic, distorted vocals. The tracks seemed less stark and revealed the influence of more sample based composition. Through the rest of the decade and into the 2000s, when Front 242 released music it was obvious the group was learning from the new electronic groups or the era including the IDM, “Big Beat” and house/techno/rave artists that dominated the electronic music world of the 90s and 2000s. Front 242 hasn’t released a new full album worth of material since 2003’s excellent Pulse, its then first album in a decade. But that means that if you’re going to the show you’ll probably get a nice slice of its classic material.
Who:Afroman w/David Frederick, SwizZy B and guests When: Friday, 04.20, 4:15 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Since April twentieth in Denver is basically a punchline for a fake holiday there are too many events “celebrating” legal recreational cannabis. Afroman, more than many artists of the past two decades, made more of his 2001, what might be considered a novelty, hit “Because I Got High” than anyone had in years. Since then Afroman has been kind of a mascot for legalization of cannabis so even if this show is basically about that it should be entertaining anyway.
Who:Zigtebra, Gort Vs. Goom and f-ether When: Friday, 04.20, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Chicago’s Zigtebra has blended the aesthetics of 8-bit video game music composition, EBM and indie pop. It’s the sophisticated lo-fi musical equivalent of inspired collage art. Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums prog punk band. Probably sounds counterintuitive but this duo makes it work and comes off more like Minutemen than Primus. F-ether’s musical output is fairly diverse. But one might describe the overarching sound as one of minimal synth environments reminiscent of a less abstract Pole or of early IDM artists. Except there’s more modern glitchcore to some of his denser songs. But all within the realm of modern underground dance music.
Who:Coastlands w/Altas and The Leshen When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Coastlands is a Portland, Oregon-based post-rock band. It’s sound is more melancholy and downtempo than its more rock-oriented kin. More Hammock than Explosions in the Sky. Also playing this show is Denver’s Altas. The instrumental rock band is like its own traveling sonic cinema rooted in guitar and synthesizer music. The group’s 2014 album Epoca De Bestias was full of songs that suggested short, epic science fiction films in miniature themselves. As in not inspired by film but inspiring them. We’ve heard lots of post-metal/heavy post-rock and The Leshen fits under that umbrella fine. But intentionally or otherwise the duo has brought in elements of industrial and sludgy blues rock without compromising an interesting sound.
Who:Cigarettes After Sex When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Despite a completely underwhelming showing opening for Garbage in the summer of 2016 and a fairly sparse eight years of output prior merely hinting at what was ahead, Cigarettes After Sex released a respectable self-titled full-length in 2017. It can sound of a piece and yet the dusky tone and Greg Gonzalez’s androgynous vocals are engaging and interesting enough to warrant repeated listens. Even if the live show hasn’t improved, but chances are it has, being enveloped in the ghostly embrace of this music should reward the effort to show up.
Who:4/20 Funk Fest: Rowdy Shadehouse w/Log and DJ Lucky Luck When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: At least if you come to this show, overtly state them aside, it’ll be enough of a celebration of the bombastic and absurd to be fun. Jon Thursday’s melodramatic, hypersexualized stage persona may split the crowd but at least it won’t be boring or forgettable. His band Rowdy Shadehouse has been through some lineup changes but Thursday is able to bring together some real talents to execute his version of funk.
Who:Esmé Patterson w/Slow Caves and Silver & Gold When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: Downtown Artery | Fort Collins Why: Esmé Patterson will bring her literary and penetratingly insightful pop songs to the Downtown Artery for a show with hometown heroes, the surf-y garage rock band Slow Caves and Greeley’s Silver & Gold, a band that sounds like it worked through its emo, alt-country and neo-classic rock roots to make a the kind of alt/indie rock band with an earnest energy and big hooks.
Saturday | April 21, 2018
Who:MC Chris w/Bitforce and An Hobbs When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: MC Chris and his music has been a part of a certain segment of modern American counterculture through his association with Adult Swim through the Aqua Teen HungerForce, Sealab 2011 and The Brak Show. Among other projects. Though MC Chris is with some people synonymous with nerdcore, his music goes beyond nerd culture and the nerdly events at which he has performed. Yes, there are 8-bit sounds all over his music and references to video games and RPGs but his production and songwriting is much broader and sophisticated than a narrow subgenre straightjacket could fully encompass. In that way his songs have more in common with other hip-hop than nerdcore. MC Chris’s music may be steeped in and a product of nerd culture but not limited by it. His most recent album, 2017’s Marshmellow Campground, is an irreverent collection of songs about the perils and challenges of childhood and its rituals and experiences that many of us share.
Who:Sugar Skulls & Marigolds album release w/Muscle Beach and Cult of the Lost Cause When: Saturday, 04.21, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds is celebrating the release of its new record, ‘Til Death Do Us Part on Sailor Records. The hard rock duo would probably be considered metal by most people that see them but for the past few years, and probably from the beginning, the band has created some songs that transcend limiting genre labels by taking the harder edged sounds into more atmospheric vistas. When Sugar Skulls & Marigolds opened for Xasthur in 2017, it was supposed to be an “acoustic” show but it just sounded like a great shoegaze or dream pop band with more grit than usual and revealed these guys had more to offer than being just a talented extreme metal band. The new record is finds both creative impulses informing each other for one of the most interesting heavy albums of the last few years. Also, two of the best heavier bands in Denver or anywhere share the bill with the more punk oriented Muscle Beach and the more instrumental metal/posthardcore Cult of the Lost Cause.
Who:The Book of Love w/Eloquent and The Siren Project When: Saturday, 04.21, 7 p.m. Where: Herman’s Hideaway Why: The Book of Love is a band from the 80s and early 90s synth pop world that like groups from that era like Let’s Active and Game Theory who were maybe big on college radio with flirtations with mainstream success, including two tours with Depeche Mode in the mid-80s, but never quite broke through to the audience one might think would be obvious. It wasn’t for lack of quality material and its music was not even as dark as that of Depeche Mode. So The Book of Love became a bit of a cult band in the Goth world of the 90s even after its initial 1994 breakup. Since 2013, The Book of Love has been touring on the strength of its back catalog. Joining The Book of Love for this show is Denver-based Euro-dream-pop-post-punk band The Siren Project, a band that has also yet to garner the attention it richly deserves for its body of work that conjures imagery of hanging out in a fog-enshrouded café in some romantic city on the Continent contemplating the meaning of life and dreams of the future.
Who:Diners, Dingbat Superminx, Petite Garçon, Wrinkle and The Tickles When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m. Where: Dateline Gallery Why: The term indie pop may have lost some of its meaning or significance since the early 2000s when some of the most inspired and idiosyncratic pop music made was coming out in the underground. Well, these bands all embody that spirit of not looking to the mainstream to define what makes pop music and Wrinkle, even though clearly a punk band, is not short on hooks. Denver’s Petite Garçon is mostly difficult to categorize except that its songcraft is a not so self-conscious to be a deconstruction of pop but a use of that structure employing sounds in a way most bands in the classic mold would not. It’s also a chance to see a show at the excellent Dateline Gallery so it is for sure all ages.
Who:Oddfellas, Drink Drank PUNK, Sliver, The Pollution and Church Van When: Saturday, 04.21, 9 p.m. Where: Bar Bar Why: Is this a punk show? Pretty much except that Sliver draws a great deal from DC posthardcore and late 80s and early 90s grunge and northwest punk in general: Nirvana (from whose song the band got its name, natch), Tad and Wipers. And The Pollution includes DC punk band United Mutation’s bass player Jay Fox and thus an unusual and interesting mix of punk, psych and krautrock.
Sunday | April 22, 2018
Who:3Teeth w/Ho99o9 and Street Sects When: Sunday, 04.22, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: 3Teeth wears some of its influences on its sleeve pretty heavily: Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Stabbing Westward and Marilyn Manson. But it lacks the utter camp of Manson and KMFDM. Just abrasive, crunchy industrial rock guitar and a bit of a throwback to the 90s in that regard yet still not really coming off like a band tapping into nostalgia. Street Sects is almost a performance art band in how confrontational it sounds and the nature of its fog-enshrouded live shows. Like a breakcore band with more identifiable and visceral low end. Ho99o9 is what might be called an industrial hip-hop act. Obvious comparisons have likely been made with Death Grips and Dälek, none of the three groups sound at all like each other except in their use of sounds in a hip-hop context most other hip-hop artists wouldn’t use like industrial beats and darker undertones in the synth lines. Maybe Sole, The GZA, Eyedea & Abilities, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, Vince Staples and the like. Wherever Ho99o9 fits in, its menacing and socially critical music has been the perfect soundtrack to the last few years. It’s latest release is 2017’s United States Of Horror, a title that just about sums up the national and international mood of late.
Who:Joe Jack Talcum w/Coolzey, Mister Zach and Daywish When: Sunday, 04.22, 7 p.m. Where: Herman’s Hideaway Why: Joe Genaro aka Joe Jack Talcum is perhaps most widely known as the guitarist and one of the vocalists in punk rock band Dead Milkmen. But since 1984 he’s written songs and albums and performed live as a solo artist. Not folk, not conventionally singer-songwriter, but more akin to Robyn Hitchcock or Billy Bragg in that he can be political but also write about love and life in a way that goes beyond tropes. And hey, he may do a Dead Milkmen song or two.
Monday | April 23, 2018
Who:Carpenter Brut w/Jean Jean When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Franck Hueso, aka Carpenter Brut, is a French synth artist who has been on the forefront of making the kind of music that one might have heard in 80s horror and science fiction movies, and thus perhaps an explanation of part of the project’s name by invoking director John Carpenter whose own synth-based soundtracks for his own films are a clear inspiration to Carpenter Brut and his musical peers in Perturbator, Magic Sword and Kavinsky. On the 2015 release Trilogy, the titles suggestive of horror storylines and the strong, bright compositions nail the combination of camp and compelling songwriting. Hueso has done some soundtrack work but the vast body of his songs are separate from that context and those songs suggest narratives and aesthetic that recent films like Drive, The Guest and others have manifested. 2018’s Leather Teeth pushes the absurdity factor further in terms of subject matter (“Inferno Galore” and “Hairspray Hurricane” being clear indicators) but Hueso’s mastery of the musical form has progressed even further and the live show looks like an immersive experience.
Who: Khruangbin w/The Mattson 2 bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/348081 When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Khruangbin’s website airkhruang.com offers visitor a playlist for a trip from any place in the world to another which one can also save to Spotify. Asked for various aspects of the trip, the curated selections are uncannily apt. It also more than hints at the band’s cross-cultural appeal. The trio got started when bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer were on tour with Yppah in 2010 during that artist’s run with Bonobo and recognized similar musical interests. After recruiting drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson the group started writing its earliest songs and garnered some attention for its early singles. With what looks and sounds to English-speaking eyes and ears as an exotic name the expectation for the project might have been some resurrection of non-Western versions of Western pop. Instead, Khruangbin’s sound is that of downtempo jazz, surf-rock-esque-yet-smooth-and-moody guitar and smoky funk. Currently touring in the wake of the release of its 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo, Khruangbin has brought along like minded, San Diego-based duo, Mattson 2, a band comprised of identical twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson. The brothers released a collaborative album with Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi fame in 2017 and in March 2018, an album of covers of Japanese jazz originals called Vaults of Eternity: Japan.
Who:Impiety, Gravehill and Divine Eye When: Monday, 04.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Impiety started in 1990 as a kind of black metal band. But in Singapore being in such a band was probably a dicey proposition and remains so in a country that banned “Puff the Magic Dragon” in 1963 and the 2001 Janet Jackson album All for You due to its racy album cover and lyrics. Nevertheless, Impiety and other extreme metal bands have operated out of Singapore for years. Since its earliest releases, Impiety has evolved a bit from its early black metal roots to its current deathgrind style. But its musical vision of audio-violence and lyrics that combine an irreverent attitude toward organized religion with cartoonishly occult imagery will ensure Impiety will alienate casual metal fans. Gravehill from Anaheim, California and its 2018 album The Unchaste, The Profane & The Wicked is a bit of a throwback to a time when thrash and death metal weren’t so far apart in sound and the brutal imagery of the lyrics.
Tuesday | April 24, 2018
Who:Das Mörtal w/Church Fire When: Tuesday, 04.24, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Das Mörtal often gets lumped in with the modern synthwave movement and not without reason. His sensibilities as a songwriter are, according to a July 2017 interview with Get Some Magazine, inspired in part by 80s movie soundtracks as well as 8-bit and 16-bit video game music. But this project sounds less like other synthwave stars like Carpenter Brut, Com Truise, Kavinsky and Perturbator and more like a pop-oriented rock band like Cut Copy whose New Order and OMD influences showed pretty strongly on its 2004 album Bright Like Neon Love. And like Cut Copy, Das Mörtal has evolved into his own sound as evidenced by his 2017 album Always Loved. With nods to mid-90s IDM and mid-80s EBM, Always Loved is packed with songs that pick up where nostalgia isn’t enough of an appeal with an updated take on electronic dance music grounded in songwriting rather than merely well-crafted beats.
Wednesday | April 25, 2018
Who:King Krule w/Standing On the Corner When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: In a time when genre bending and multi-genre artists are becoming more common, King Krule is a standout. Like Deerhunter more than a decade ago, King Krule’s music invites you into a universe of its own as it is not simply rock or a subgenre of electronic pop music or hip-hop. It has elements of all of that and more but is not limited by a need to fit in with something other than Archy Marshall’s expansive imagination. 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon probably got interpreted as being part of the psych-and-punk-garage revival of the time. But Marshall sounded like he was channeling Old Dirty Bastard singing for a weirdo jazz band making its own version of indie rock. Four years later, The Ooz finds the band weaving in more musical DNA to mutate its sound further. Bossa nova and dub underpin the “Dum Surfer” single and the beatmaking compositional element is stronger across the whole album, giving it a soft and hypnotic quality even in its moments of peak emotional intensity.
Who:Whores, Bummer, Bland Canyon When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Whores is a sludgy noise rock trio from Atlanta. Reminiscent of Big Business, KARP (naturally) and a less sonically surreal Jesus Lizard, Whores perform with the edgy energy of a posthardcore band rather than with the quickened tar pace of many bands projecting a similar aesthetic. Not as overtly so, Whores shares KARP’s proclivity for humor and irony. After all, on its latest album, 2016’s Gold. there are song titles like “I See You Are Also Wearing A Black T-Shirt” and “Mental Illness As Mating Ritual.” Bummer is a sludge rock band from Kansas City that sounds like what would have happened had Ministry followed a trajectory suggested by the Filth Pig album. Bland Canyon from Denver comes right out of the local post-hardcore scene with former Mustangs and Madras members Nick Krier and Tom Chagolla as well as Matty Clark from Trees. Danny Aranow from Sugar Skulls & Marigolds and Justin Hackl who has played in several local bands including in Native Daughters with Chagolla. It’ll be heavy but also oddly catchy.
Who: Dreamdecay, Product Lust, Weaken, Old Sport When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar Why: Dreamdecay is a noise post-punk band from Seattle. Its urgent, thorny songs don’t fit in with the hardcore scene one might expect the band to come from though it probably plays a number of those kinds of shows. Its grittily atmospheres and meditation on the quandaries of existence in a pre-apocalyptic society should appeal to fans of Silver Daggers, Live Skull and Arab on Radar. Its 2017 album YÚ isn’t all the same tempo, tone or texture throughout making it rewarding repeat listening experience. All the bands on this bill have their roots in punk but did us the favor of exploring sounds, rhythms and styles beyond the outworn fashion of punk circa any “classic” year of the past.
Who:Big K.R.I.T. W/Cyhi the Prynce, Childish Major When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Justin Scott a.k.a. Big K.R.I.T. has always used interesting beats to go along with his words and he has aimed at making poignant observations about life that transcend the specific context and situations he references. And he’s mostly made good on that ambition. For his 2017 album, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, Scott delivered twenty songs divided into two sides of the record, the Big K.R.I.T. side and the Justin Scott side, with each embodying a side of Scott’s songwriting identity. The title is a clear nod to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Though that song is a celebratory party song it is also a fascinatingly thoughtful and insightful exploration of what one must do to propel yourself out of life’s lowest moments. It is that spirit that flows through Scott’s record as well with an eclectic array of music to set the mood for both the party and contemplation of the meaning of it all.
Now that Trump and the Democrats have struck a bargain about the budget and DACA, maybe we can all take a break and check out a great show happening in Denver (or beyond as some of the acts listed below are on tour).
P.S.: “Goddamn-dipshit-Rodriguez-gypsy-dildo-punks. I’ll get your ass.” — RIP Harry Dean Stanton
Who:Church Fire, Giardia, Deer Creek and The Pollution When: Friday, 9.15, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: The Pollution is essentially a psychedelic punk band done by people who are punks who like Hawkwind. Bassist Jay Fox was (sometimes still is) in DC hardcore band United Mutation. But given his having spent a great deal of time in the Southern hemisphere including New Zealand, Fox’s musical tastes are eclectic and there’s plenty of that Kiwi rock influence in his music today. Meaning The Pollution could never be a standard punk act. Church Fire makes synth-beat-driven pop music with a passionate intensity worthy of any the heavier rock bands on this bill. And yet, somehow, singer Shannon Webber amidst her ritualistic performances, manages to inject just a twinge of humor—a quality welcome in music that, while immediately danceable, addresses serious social and political issues with an unblinking ferocity. Okay, maybe some blinking.
Who: Speakeasy Series: Rare Byrd$, Abeasity Jones When: Friday, 9.15, 6 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Experimental hip-hop show in a basement of a coffee shop? Not the first time but in this case you’ll get a chance to see one of the most promising acts in Denver or anywhere with Rare Byrd$. The group has incredibly soulful flow and its beatmaking combines the finely sculpted low end of 90s gangsta rap and ambient and psychedelic music in that it’s as hypnotic as it is mind-expanding. Easy to compare to cLOUDDEAD, Deep Puddle Dynamics and early Atmosphere but only in the sense that all are rooted in imaginative soundscaping and poignantly truthful poetry.
Who:Post-Punk Piano/Vocal Covers Night w/Todd Loomis of The Twilight Garden and The Siren Project When: Friday, 9.15, 8 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Todd Loomis of Goth/dark dream pop band The Twilight Garden along with like-minded Denver-based act The Siren Project will perform songs by the likes of INXS, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Switchblade Symphony, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, Morrissey, Bauhaus, Ladytron, Garbage and more. Loomis will also play some songs you wouldn’t expect by artists like Roy Orbison, Elvis, Otis Redding, John McLaughlin, Metallica and Sinead O’Connor. What makes this different from cover bands playing the usual sort of gig is that neither set of artists generally does covers and the interpretations are likely to be interesting.
Who:Blanket Empire w/Silver Face and Quantum Creep When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Blanket Empire is releasing its latest album, Hymn For the Heartless at this show. Superficially Blanket Empire sounds like its members recently ditched that wave of music miming classic rock in favor more unusual influences and embraced modern sensibilities as much as those classic. Maybe these guys listened to a lot of T. Rex, Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin for big, warping sounds. But the lo-fi charm of its album is reminiscent of Jay Reatard’s masterful blend of raw rock and roll and a sophisticated sense of melody and songwriting has been a massive influence on underground music even before his untimely passing in 2010.
Who:Vic N’ the Gnarwhals, Surf Mom and Monocle Stache When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Vic N’ The Gnarwhals do that rare thing where the music has a familiar vibe, one might dub it psychedelic surf rock for the blend of styles, and thus very tangible. But there’s a mysterious undertone to its songs suggestive of noir cinema even when its songs get a little out there. Surf Mom used to be kind of a surf rock band, sort of still is, but the band has evolved greatly since it debuted a couple of years go. How many surf rock bands cover Christian Death? But the influences with this duo are broad ranging and since its members are still in high school you have to think they’re going to outgrow what inspires them now or at least take the music in new directions.
Who:Lotus w/Com Truise and Nosaj Thing When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Lotus is basically an EDM jam band. For some people this sounds like the combination of two terrible things. And Lotus may not be for you. Lots of jazz overtones like an electro version of Galactic. But what would you expect of a jam band? Nevertheless, Lotus is respectable live band. But if you want to catch some of the more interesting electronic acts playing more mainstream venues these days, check out Nosaj Thing and Com Truise. The former is a hip-hop artist who has done production work for Kendrick Lamar, Busdriver and Chance the Rapper. His own albums, though tend to be more like ambient dance music with deep low end coursing over and under drifting, vivid melodies. On his 2013 album Home, he featured Blonde Redhead singer Kazu Makino on the song “Eclipse/Blue.” So his musical range and interests are not limited to just a single genre of music. Com Truise came to prominence in the underground through fans of analog synth-based dance music several years back. But his science fiction themed albums caught on with a wider audience not just because Seth Haley is a talented songwriter but he was able to take what could have been simply a lo-fi aesthetic best experienced in a small venue with small sound system and render it suitable for a much larger format of presentation.
Who:Stiff Little Fingers w/Death By Unga Bunga When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast, Ireland, were an anecdote in the film High Fidelity for a reason. It’s scrappy, melodic outbursts, as found on its classic, aptly titled, 1979 album Inflammable Material, found an immediate influence but its enduring impact was on the early pop punk scene in America. Although the band broke up in 1982, it reconvened in 1987 and have been actively releasing albums and touring since. Plus, if recent shows are any indication, these guys still play like the world could end tomorrow.
Who:Sonic Vomit, Condor & Jaybird (IA), Harikiri (MN) and Kwantsu Dudes When: Saturday, 9.16, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Pueblo’s Sonic Vomit probably gets broad brushed as a death metal or grindcore band. But it’s avant-garde and jazz side aren’t exactly subtle or hidden. It just makes the band’s music more unsettling and, frankly, more interesting than something straight ahead couched in a heavy metal subgenre. Which makes its pairing with Condor & Jaybird, a psychedelic band from Iowa rooted in that kind of psych that could have come out of a cult like The Source Family with folk song structure but one using non-Western instrumentation and sounds.
Who:TOPS w/She-Devils When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Superficially, TOPS is a Canadian band that makes the kind of light pop music reminiscent of the kind that did well on record charts in the mid-to-late 70s through the 80s. But the secret of many of the songs from that timeframe too is that, yes, discussed the usual everyday life struggles, but in a way that commented on the emptiness and dissatisfaction that is at the core of every society in which the best most people can hope for is a job that doesn’t suck too bad, spending the rest of one’s life with someone you get along with okay even after the rush of early love has long since passed and resign oneself to a beige reality knowing deep down it never needed to be that way. TOPS’ music sounds like the sinking realization of that sort of thing but with more than a shade of the knowledge of what could make life be more fulfilling. That aside, the band’s songs are true gems of indie pop songcraft with words that dig more than a little deeply at the quiet desperation of 21st century urban living.
Who:Micah Schnabel, Sour Boy Bitter Girl and The Swindlin’ Hearts When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: It’s difficult to say whether, at this point, Micah Schnabel is better known for his solo career or for his band Two Cow Garage. Either way, Schnabel’s take on alt-country is self-critical and he has a real gift for puncturing his own pretensions of years past and foolish notions he might entertain in the present. In that way one might compare him to comedians like Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford who are keenly aware of their own shortcomings and turn them into their best work. Sour Boy Bitter Girl couldn’t be a more well-named band considering the music. Benjamin Buttice seems to have few qualms in laying out his twitchy psyche out for the audience. Every neurosis, fear and flaw is mixed in with his honest and poetic portrayal of life as its experienced, the only filter seeming to be to make it relatable to other people. The band probably gets labeled alt-country or the like as well but like Schnabel’s, Buttice’s songwriting transcends simple genre designation. It just feels vitally authentic in a format of music tends to hold few surprises.
Who:Witchtrap (Colombia), Nekrofilth, Weaponizer and Skeid When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Colombian thrash band Witchtrap makes an appearance at the Hi-Dive. Also on the bill are death grind band Nekrofilth, black metal thrashers Weaponizer and “Barbarian black metal” band Skeid. What is that whole Barbarian business about? Listen to their 2017 split release with Morgue Whore and it makes sense because it sounds like the kind of pulsing, low-end heavy stuff Conan would listen to if he could.
Who:GGOOLLDD w/Time Scale When: Tuesday, 9.19 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Before starting GGOOLLDD with her bandmates in 2014, Margaret Butler was someone who got out of high school and got out of her home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After a stint of subsistence living in Portland, Oregon, she was invited by friends to spend some time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but it was there that things came together for Butler when she heard the right music that made he want to sing along and soon enough GGOOLLDD became a bit of a local phenomenon before taking its synth pop, crafted to cinematic proportions to stages far and wide. The band isn’t yet playing large theaters regularly but its music is written to that scale. In December the band will release its latest EP, Teeth on Roll Call Records.
Who:Widowspeak w/Death Valley Girls and Clearance When: Tuesday, 9.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death Valley Girls have done a magic trick in turning campy musical and performance elements into a powerful live band that has the kind of bombast and raw power of L7 or Bikini Kill complimented by an elegant atmospheric side that recalls Cocteau Twins. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work but it just makes DVG more interesting than any surface level assessment of the band could convey outside the live setting even though the band’s records capture some of this essence nicely. Headlining the bill is Widowspeak, a band also known to upset expectations in the best way. Its’ ethereal melodies have an introspective shimmer reminiscent of Mojave 3, The Sundays and Mazzy Star. Its latest record, 2017’s Expect the Best out on Captured Tracks, finds the band exploring a broader palette of sounds seemingly emphasizing texture and rhythm as much as tone and its signature sweeping vistas of dreamy melodies.
Who:Ride w/Lo Moon and DJ Paul Italiano When: Wednesday, 9.20, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: In June 2017, British shoegaze legends Ride released Weather Diaries, its first album in twenty-one years. This in the wake of a successful reunion tour in 2015. And like its contemporaries, Slowdive, the new record is a worthy entry in its already respectable extant catalog. The term “shoegaze” is known to have been an insult to bands operating pedals in order to execute their mindbending sounds. What is missed in such a nickname, now minus the negative connotations, is that many of those bands, Ride in particular, did more rocking than shoegazing. As several bands in the 2000s embraced the visceral sound sculpting of 90s shoegazers, the old guard has enjoyed a renaissance and to the credit of most, they came back with new musical ideas that didn’t sound like a tired second act. Those fortunate enough to have caught Ride since it’s been back got to see a band that re-established its reputation as one of the great live bands of its era. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based dream pop phenoms, Lo Moon. The band has released a few singles that hint at the kind of band that has the sophisticated songcraft and soulfulness of a band like Talk Talk and the knack for crafting evocative atmospheres that have made Perfume Genius one of the most interesting modern artists. But Lo Moon isn’t standing in anyone’s stylistic shadow and its beautifully brooding songs may yet be released on a full length album before the year is out. Get to the show early and catch one of the most promising new bands of the last several years.