It’s probably inevitable that someone in Denver music is going to think The Velveteers appeared out of nowhere with a record produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys. But after more than half a decade of playing house shows, DIY venues, some touring, UMS appearances, playing more commercial venues and some solid opening gigs the trio finally celebrated the release of its 2021 debut full-length Nightmare Daydream headlining a venue the size of The Gothic Theatre, a big deal for any local band.
I got to the Gothic too late to catch the first opening act, Highlands Ranch-based dream pop trio Dry Ice, but got there in time to see Dreadnought setting up its hefty array of gear. A mainstay of the local doom scene, Dreadnought wasted no time in delivering a catharsis of low end psychedelic drone punctuated by primal riffs and ghostly atmospheric melodies. The vocals both sublimely ritualistic in tone and tenor also engaged in a explosion of pent up emotion to accent finely crafted moments of peak mood at the apex of one of the band’s glacial builds.
From the backdrop with the band’s name and figures of a moon and sun with clouds and other celestial bodies flanking each side of the stage to each member of the band dressed up to take you out of mundane life for an hour and a half or so, The Velveteers prepared us for a theatrical rock show that put the focus on the music. Lead singer and guitarist Demi Demitro came out in a sequined get-up like a cross between a 70s glam rock space alien and Stevie Nicks. Jonny Fig and Baby Pottersmith dressed up like they had walked out on stage after touring in Vanilla Fudge. There was always something special about the band even when I last saw them at the UMS at the Hi-Dive in 2016 but their presence and confidence this time out, however much of an act that might be, was palpable. This was a band that had long since refined its sound and then sought out a direction for the music and its execution, honed that to a high degree, and put it on an album and brought a raw freshness to that material on stage.
If the band didn’t play all of the new record it sure felt like it covered a lot of territory playing more than twelve songs including some older material. Live the songs of course hit harder with an emotional intensity in a way that is different from the album. The album doesn’t have Demi Demitro crowd surfing a couple of times during the set while still playing guitar. The albums doesn’t have Jonny Fig staring out into the crowd with a mix of heightened focus and sheer joy, the album doesn’t include getting to see Baby Pottersmith and Fig drumming furiously and elegantly in perfect sync with each other and Demitro. Demitro’s beguiling blend of strength, vulnerability, passion and broadly nuanced vocals while captured finely on the records struck one as exhilarating as she and her bandmates moved about caught up in the moment. That much power behind lyrics that actually have meaning and point to an astute assessment of the dubious intentions of various people in one’s life and one’s own human frailties and aspirations is uncommon enough but certainly so relatively early in a band’s career. Hopefully this Gothic show in the end was both a celebration and a graduation to more than the unjustly maligned local band status.
Wednesday | 11.03 What:Brandy Clark w/Kelsey Waldon When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: If famous country music stars performing songs you’ve written is a sign of your significance as an artist, Brandy Clark has had a resoundingly successful career. Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker have all performed songs penned by Clark. Her critically acclaimed 2020 album Your Life Is a Record garnered her accolades for her own work even from more critical reviewers because her arrangements and thoughtful lyrics were undeniably well crafted and affecting even if you’re not a fan of country music or acoustic pop. Producer Jay Joyce encouraged Clark to expand her musical range with sounds and ideas that brought a quality to the songs that pushed beyond the boundaries of Clark’s previous work for arguably the best record of her career thus far. The 2020 pandemic put plenty of plans for touring and promoting records on hold so this is a chance to see the award winning singer and songwriter at an intimate venue.
Wednesday and Thursday | 11.03 and 11.04 What: Wolf Alice w/The Blossom When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Wolf Alice is hitting its stride with its new album Blue Weekend. Earlier records like 2017’s Visions of a Life and 2015’s My Love is Cool showcased the music of a band learning its powers and creative instincts in often thrilling ways during some years when too many rock bands were trying to cop some of that classic rock or psychedelic garage cachet. Wolf Alice walked a finer line of hard rock and atmospherics fortified by singer Ellie Rowsell’s sometimes gritty vocals yet always emotionally vibrant and nuanced vocals. The new album reveals a band that has not become stuck in what one might expect from previous efforts. Swells in a song don’t inevitably lead to a glorious blowout, rather Wolf Alice takes left field turns in its arrangements perhaps a challenge to foster their growth as a band with consistently compelling results.
Thursday | 11.04 What:Black Dice w/cindygod and H Lite When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Black Dice was an integral part of New York City underground music in the late 90s and 2000s. Its members had come up through punk but took the spirit of open possibilities suggested by that music to do whatever the wanted to. Anything could be an instrument, any rhythmic idea could be made to work. Even ideas about how structure and patterns would emerge through a kind of sound collage cut-up technique that one might compare favorably with the work of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Key to the band’s creative approach and aesthetic was visual art concepts and its various album covers have been designed by members of the band in a style that hits you like graffiti by way of the Situationist International. The band’s methods of composition and expression proved influential to peers like Animal Collective, a band that on the surface makes an updated form of 90s indie pop but like that music truly experiments with the form and musical substance of the songwriting with forays into noise and sampling that enriched the palette of sounds and dynamics available in crafting songs.
In 2012 Black Dice released its then most recent album Mr. Impossible after which its members took time to pursue other projects, Eric Copeland releasing several solo works as well. With the pandemic thus far time seems to have stretched and compressed for most people and what may feel like a handful of years in the living it can stretch to several and in 2021 Black Dice released its latest record Mod Prog Sic. It is classic Black Dice as a free flowing parade of ideas, textures, rhythm and playful tone and signal processing like some futuristic hip-hop/EBM fusion psychedelic beatmaking. We recently had a chance to speak with longtime member Aaron Warren about his early musical days growing up in California and his formative years as an active member of the punk scene in Boulder and Denver in the 90s before ending up in NYC in pursuit of furthering his education and ending up in the city at a time of great creative ferment. Listen to the interview on the Queen City Sounds Podcast.
Thursday | 11.04 What:The Black Angels w/L.A. Witch When: 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: The Black Angels came together and established its individual style of psychedelic rock before that became too trendy in the 2010s and has been able to develop, refine and then evolve its aesthetic across multiple records. Obvious influences drawn from early psychedelic rock, shoegaze, Middle Eastern drones and compound time signatures out of that music and perhaps a touch of African influence along with industrial and the avant-garde has merely made for a musical career that is much more creatively varied than seems obvious with a live show that is consistently entrancing. Opening is the like-minded L.A. Witch and their engaging take on blending 60s psychedelic pop with noir vibes.
Thursday | 11.04 What:Soccer Mommy w/Alexalone When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Probably virtually every musician touring in 2021 has the same story of an album released early in 2020 or slated or release that year only to have all forward momentum in getting the music out there slowed down or stopped due to the pandemic. When Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory was released at the end of February 2020 it garnered some critical acclaim for its winsome, melancholic pop songs in which the songwriter’s arrangements expanded to give her short lyrical lines expansive and often shimmering background textures paired with ethereal string arrangements. There is a pensive and yearning quality to singer/songwriter Sophie Allison’s words and vocal performance that elevates the music beyond much of the sometimes interchangeable indie music offerings you might hear on a playlist in a public space. Allison is not stranger to luminous and introspective songwriting, but right now she is taking her craft into deeper emotional territory than her admittedly excellent 2018 debut album Clean.
Thursday | 11.04 What: Band of Horses w/Miya Folick When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Band of Horses is a band that has managed to make uplifting yet incredibly heartbreaking music with undeniable earworm melodies without losing the emotional impact for the last 17 years. The group formed after the respected indie pop band Carissa’s Wierd split in 2004 and quickly established itself as purveyors of thoughtful songs imbued with an upbeat energy and great forward momentum while never dipping into the realm of the hokey or obnoxious positivity. Probably because the lyrics have consistently hit as grounded and insightful even when written in good fun. Expect the new Band of Horses album Things Are Great to drop in January 2022 but for now you can maybe catch a good deal of that new material live until then.
Friday | 11.05 What:Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary Pre-Show: Wisteria w/Candy Apple, Deadluv and Vitrina When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Brian Castillo has been involved in DJ nights over the years and releasing a few records here and there. But he may have found his niche when he launched Eventually It Will Kill You four years ago releasing mostly experimental music and darkwave like the 2018 reissue of the 1983 death rock classic by Denver band Your Funeral and their single “I Want To Be You” b/w “April Fool’s Day” and releases from Many Blessings, the noise side project of Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy, chicago darkwave band Funeral Door and dark minimal synth group Child of Night from Columbus, OH. For the occasion of the anniversary “El Brian” put together two shows including this Pre-Show which includes performances by Pittsburgh based post-punk band Wisteria and jagged, jangly Denver post-punkers by way of hardcore Candy Apple.
Saturday | 11.06 What:Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary: Kontravoid, Plack Blague, Many Blessings and Closed Tear When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: For the second night of the 4 year anniversary of Eventually It Will Kill You you can catch some of the stars of underground darkwave and noise with EBM techno artist Kontravoid, industrial disco legend Plack Blague (listen to our new interview with Raws Scheslinger of Plack Blague from our podcast on Bandcamp), the ambient noise stylings of Many Blessings and the gloomy, post-punky dream pop of Closed Tear.
Saturday | 11.06 What:Dan Deacon w/Alex Silva and Patrick McMinn When: 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Dan Deacon’s 2020 album Mystic Familiar was praised as a solid synth pop album but it sounds more like Deacon has really honed his songwriting after a career of pushing musical ideas ever forward. The instrumental performances have a nuance and energy with a granular level of musical detail that can be enjoyed for simply the sheer joy and dynamic expressiveness Deacon seems to bring to his music. But one has to marvel at the way Deacon orchestrates complex passages and textures to into majestic pop songs that uplift the spirit and living up to the name of the album. His live shows are often a collaborative affair and even with his music surely Deacon will encourage those that show up to become involved in spontaneous and creative ways that don’t happen at other shows.
Saturday | 11.06 What:Gus Dapperton w/spill tab at The Gothic When: 6 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Forget the hair style, the jewelry, the eyeliner and Gus Dapperton’s stylish sartorial proclivities, the songwriter’s 2020 album Orca is brimming with touching and delicate songs with real insight into the vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts that come to you in your lowest moments. His spare musical arrangements give the vocalization of the lyrics space to issue forth and sit in the air like lingering melodies. It’s an unexpectedly interesting effect from a songwriter who can come across to anyone that hasn’t sat down with the music as saccharine pop but the guy’s music is anything but that.
Monday | 11.08 What:Uniform, Portrayal of Guilt and Body Void When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Uniform is an industrial hardcore band from New York that came out of the city’s punk and extreme music scene. Its fiery and abrasive electronic onslaught articulates issues of existential confusion and frustration with the destructive forces of society and within our own minds and clawing a path to catharsis. The group’s 2020 album Shame (Sacred Bones Records) is perhaps its most accessible but also its most deeply personal and raw. Also, listen to our podcast episode with an interview with vocalist Michael Berdan on Bandcamp. Opening the show is the great experimental hardcore group Portrayal of Guilt. With music sitting somewhere betwixt black metal, grindcore, hardcore and noise, Portrayal of Guilt consistently delivers scorching songs of poetic yet abrasive beauty. Its new album Christfucker is due out November 5, 2021 on Run For Cover Records. Body Void’s scathing, outraged doom just seems like the perfect complement to the whole show and its 2021 album Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth out on Prosthetic Records is not short on tortured crushers.
Tuesday | 11.09 What: Slow Pulp w/Mamalarky When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: When many bands in the 2010s were evoking a bit of 1990s fuzz rock and grunge, Slow Pulp took a hint of that but went in more a direction of atmospheric pop and experimental soundscapes as a structure for its more hushed and introspective songs. Tourmates Mamalarky from Atlanta is on a similar wavelength with songs of unconventional structure, rhythmic strategy and tonal palette. Like maybe its members came up listening to early Liz Phair demos, Broadcast, Virginia Wing, Deerhoof and Electrelane. The group’s outstanding 2020 self-titled album never gives you a chance to get too settled into a sound but draws you along for a ride into a colorfully dreamlike realm of lush pop adventures.
Wednesday | 11.10 What:Nothing w/Frankie Rose and Enumclaw When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Nothing has been on a great trajectory of developing into and beyond punk-influenced shoegaze reaching a high state of creativity on its 2020 album The Great Dismal. Whorling sheets of guitar drone bursting up and receding like waves punctuated by electronic crackles and an aesthetic as much informed by electronic music as by rock at this point. Frankie Rose has spent time in such bands as Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and Beverly but her solo albums is where she has perhaps been most free to utilize her imaginative guitar work, production and songwriting. Though these days she’s also in a band with Matthew Hord of Pop. 1280 called Fine Place which is more in the realm of dub-influenced darkwave pop. So it may be awhile before you get a chance to see a solo Frankie Rose performance for a bit. Enumclaw is one of the few modern bands that sounds like it was heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr without ripping the band off and injecting a good deal of fuzzy dream pop like they listened to The Smiths but found a way to mix Morrissey out of the proceedings.
Wednesday | 11.10 What:Armand Hammer w/Trayce Chapman and Time (from Calm.) When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The psychedelic sounds in the beats to Haram, the 2021 album by Armand Hammer with The Alchemist, is reminiscent of the ways cLOUDDEAD tapped into subconscious spaces to evoke a mood that complements the surreal vibe of the lyrics. Fans of Gonjasufi and early Sole records will appreciate the way this pairing of artists collage tone and texture to create great depth of sound and expression. Plus opening is Time whose existential and deeply philosophical and playful lyrics are an antidote to the programmed ignorance of the American education system and the current state of the culture.
Thursday and Friday | 11.11 and 11.12 What: Silverstein w/The Plot In You and Can’t Swim When: 6 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater and Gothic Theatre Why: Silverstein is one of the few bands that walked the line between pop punk and screamo without sounding a parody of itself and where the distorted, screaming vocals really did sound like a primal expression of an intense peak of feeling in the context of the songs. What has kept the band worth a listen is the songwriting and how, as is the case with the better pop punk, the most critical examination in the lyrics is aimed at one’s own shortcomings and finding a way to get through those moments of feelings of failure and intense self-judgment rather than lash out at someone else like a challenge to oneself to truly feel these things you don’t want to in an attempt to be a better person even if you fall short because life and self-betterment is often a process of reworking habits and not some perfect formula to follow.
Friday | 11.12 What:Glacial Tomb, Noctambulist, Necrosophik Abyss — CANCELED When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Glacial Tomb and Noctambulist are two of the best and most brutal and imaginative technical death metal bands out of Denver at the moment and if that’s your thing they’re both on the same bill.
Friday | 11.12 What:Phony Ppl w/Kent Washington When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl have done some music with Megan Thee Stallion but their own music is a richly expressive sort of art soul music and jazz-inflected hip-hop without making boundaries between any of those styles. There is a gentleness to the music that makes it instantly accessible even though the specific content is very musically sophisticated and challenging. These five guys take heady musical elements and ideas and bring to it a loose and playful spirit that sounds like it should be music for the kind of arty dramas that have yet to be made about the poignant periods in the lives of regular people.
Saturday | 11.13 What:Julien Baker w/Dehd When: 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why:Little Oblivions is not the album a lot of people were expecting from Julien Baker. Her first two records of hushed and introspective folk rock had an undeniable emotional power in part because of Baker’s own stirringly emotional vocals. For this record Baker expanded the palette of sounds including more electronic elements and more expansive, brash soundscapes that seem perfectly suited to what really feels like a burst of expressing emotions kept under wraps for too long yearning to be let out. There is an intensity to the record that almost makes Baker’s previous albums seem safe by comparison if they too weren’t informed by a strong emotional honesty themselves. Easily one of the top albums of the year in the realm of rock. Opening is psychedelic surf pop band Dehd from Chicago. Don’t let that short descriptor throw you off because Dehd performs with an often unsettling intensity as well for a band whose moody music is not short on nervy energy too.
Saturday | 11.13 What:Nitzer Ebb w/DJ Eli Where: Oriental Theater Why: EBM/industrial legends Nitzer Ebb don’t tour much these days and no matter which of their music you’ve heard the live band is more scrappy, more visceral and more powerful than you could really expect. Their 1987 album That Total Age remains a stone classic of 1980s electronic industrial music.
Saturday | 11.13 What:Big Dopes album release w/Bellhoss When: 9 p.m. Where: Roxy on Broadway Why: Big Dopes is one of the best Denver bands not enough people know about yet. Its new EP Destination Wedding picks up where its outstanding 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude left off with affecting lyrics and exquisitely crafted melodies. Fans of C86 era pop, Magnetic Fields and Carissa’s Wierd will likely appreciate the band’s attention to sonic detail and knack for a poetic and thoughtful turn of phrase. Also on the bill is the utterly idiosyncratic pop group Bellhoss. Although many have compared Bellhoss and singer Becky Hostetler, at least according to the project’s website, to artists like Waxahatchee and Soccer Mommy, Bellhoss is weirder and more interesting than those comparisons would suggest (though both artists are obviously notable in their own right) and often comes off like some kind of weirdo indie pop thing with intricate and eccentrically shoegaze-y guitar. Really a show with two of the most compelling bands in the Denver scene post-2017 when the music scene in the Mile High City started to severely fragment even as it expanded.
Monday | 11/15 What:Surfbort — CANCELED When: 8 p.m. Where: The Coast (Fort Collins) Why: Surfbort is a weirdo punk band that’s probably a little too rough around the edges and real for a lot of people who call themselves fans of punk but it’s also one of the most interesting and powerful bands in the world of punk today. They don’t have a lot of releases but its new single “FML” has a strange music video that includes Fred Armisen of Portlandia fame whose own background in punk and his own unusual sense of humor vibed with that of this New York band.
Monday | 11.15 What:Exhumed w/Creeping Death, Bewitcher and Victim ov Fire Where: Oriental Theater Why: Indeed, it’s influential deathgrind band Exhumed from San Jose, California. Though the music can be brutal and forbidding in a way that might be reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse it nevertheless performs the music with great energy informed by a sense of irony and humor with lyrics often aimed at the corrupt American political and economic system that has metastasized into an oligarchy with a wide gulf between the ultra rich and the poorest members of society.
Tuesday | 11.16 What:Tonstartssbandht, Paul Jacobs and Wally When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Between its gentle lo-fi psychedelia and almost found sound collage aesthetic, Tonstartssbandht from Orlando, Florida is a different animal in the realm of modern psychedelic pop. Andy and Edwin White draw on a broad spectrum of influences from more traditional music to classical music, classic rock and they have a High Rise tribute band called High Rise II. So even though their relatively pastoral 2021 album Petunia can come off just shy of too weird and gritty for yacht rock there are plenty of bizarro nuggets in the mix to keep it interesting. Paul Jacobs’ 2021 album Pink Dogs on the Green Grass gave us a solid batch of wefting and warping psych pop that somehow both hits the ears reminiscent of both Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Clarke and the Himselfs and Odessey & Oracle period The Zombies. The textural quality of his guitar sound keeps us grounded as vocals and wind sounds and even the percussion carries us away into ethereal realms of daydream wonder. In the case of both artists it seems odd to consider how they might pull this stuff off live and yet they do.
Tuesday | 11.16 What:Black Marble w/Voight When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Black Marble has spent some years perfecting a sonic equivalent of Polaroid photos cast in the colors of lo-fi, New Wave-y post-punk. The 2021 album Fast Idol finds Black Marble less in the realm of entrancing gloom pop and more in some upbeat mood with a sound that makes one think about what forbidden music might have sounded like if it was the USA rather than the USSR that cracked down on the immoral popular music of a decadent other empire. Live the music hits with full fidelity resulting in two different experiences of the music. Denver’s Voight really wants to be a dark techno band playing in dark rooms in the neo-urban decay but is still stuck in industrial shoegaze mode. And yet remains one of the best bands in the Mile High City because the music isn’t rote, predictable, safe pabulum and ferocious live.
Tuesday | 11.16 What:Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock & Roll Revue w/Los Straightjackets Where: Oriental Theater Why: Nick Lowe is one of the pioneers of power pop. He would have sealed that reputation had he remained in Rockpile with one of the other greats of that form of music Dave Edmunds. But Lowe’s solo career speaks for itself with soulful pop rock classics like “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass.” This run of music is a nod to the sounds that influenced Lowe from rockabilly to soul and beyond.
Wednesday | 11.17 What:Caribou w/Jessy Lanza When: 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Dan Snaith has written some of the most inventive yet accessible electronic music for nearly 20 years as Caribou. Employing traditionally acoustic instrumentation alongside synths/electronic instruments and programming, Snaith taps into some of the same emotional pools of yearning, introspective pondering and nostalgia as the later chillwave and bedroom pop composers he influenced directly or indirectly. His most recent album Suddenly (2020) seemed more somber than other releases but still flowing with hazy yet bright melodies. Even in the most down moments, Snaith incorporates a playful creativity in the mix to convey the nuances and complexity of existence and how we experience life.
Wednesday | 11/24 What:Kraak & Smaak w/Capyac When: 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Dutch musical production trio Kraak & Smaak are masters of blending a tropical beat with layers of synth melody modified in real time to give a sense of fluid movement giving the music the aural equivalent of 3D visuals. The effect being an enveloping music with a cinematic sensibility like a somehow benevolent spy movie funk without any violence or skullduggery involved, just adventure and relaxing moods. It’s most recent EP, Scirocco, is like an unlikely but satisfying blend of Ennio Morricone, Boards of Canada and Simple Minds. If the band’s recent live streams are any indication, this current tour will be like seeing some long lost electro funk great of the past playing music that seems familiar yet fresh.
Friday | 11.26 What:The Velveteers w/Dreadnought and Dry Ice When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Velveteers were a promising band from early on in their career in Denver and Boulder playing house shows, small clubs and DIY spaces. While many bands were trying for that classic rock sound, The Velveteers were rapidly outgrowing those early influences into their own sound with fuzzed out riffs and surging song dynamics that made the band sound like it was taking off in multiple directions lending its performances a fiery energy. Through developing the group, creating their own music videos and a little bit of touring, The Velveteers came to the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who offered to produce the trio’s new album Nightmare Daydream. Sure it has expert production and clearly the band got some polish in Auerbach’s studio but this set of songs also sound so focused yet as thrillingly effusive as it ever has.
Friday | 11.26 What:Baroness When: 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.
Saturday | 11.27 What:Primitive Man w/Spectral Voice and Oryx When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver is fortunate to have an exceptional extreme metal scene with many bands worth a deep listen. This show, though, showcases three of the best. Spectral Voice and the angular brutality of its dark death metal has evolved from an earlier sort of a blackened deathgrind sound into more refined sonic brutality without losing its raw edge. Oryx has never been short on an inventive evocation of musical heaviness and commentary on the hubris of human civilization. It’s 2021 album Lamenting a Dead World perhaps says it all with the title but the vocals sound especially feral and the parallel rhythms and guitar leads flow with a primordial energy that embodies an inevitable path to doom for the planet if things don’t take a different turn amongst us humans. And of course Primitive Man brings the most crushing and emotionally harrowing death grind you’re likely to experience anywhere. The Denver trio did not tour or play much if anything in the way of live shows in 2020 or much of 2021 so its caustic 2020 album Immersion and its nightmare vision of what seem like end times didn’t get to unleash what is hopefully a catharsis of the eschatological mood that has cloaked the planet since the onset of the pandemic until recently. That these great works of music from Oryx and Primitive Man are still so relevant does speak to the excellence of their conception and execution but also to how far we have to go as a species to prove ourselves worthy of continued existence.
What:DJ Fresh Kill, Earth Control Pill, Cop Circles and H-Lite When: Thursday, 08.29, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: This is a benefit show for the CRFW Fund which supports the body of work of the late Colin Ward and which “assists artists via grants and other means of support.” Ward would have turned 29 on this August 29 and the artists on the bill were friends and creative comrades of the artist and musician. A lot of high energy electronic dance music from DJ Fresh Kill and H-Lite, conceptual No Wave afrobeat post-disco from Cop Circles and the chill soundscaping of Earth Control Pill.
What:The Sugar Hill Gang w/Furious 5 and White Fudge & The Antagonist When: Thursday, 08.29, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: For a lot of people The Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap band. But hip-hop pre-dated that by some years beginning with the soundsystem parties thrown by DJ Kool Herc. The Sugar Hill Gang was probably the earliest, commercially successful rap group with its 1979 hit song “Rapper’s Delight.” Also on this bill is the Furious 5 who, with Grandmaster Flash, had been a pioneering hip-hop crew before The Sugar Hill Gang hit the charts. So this is a bit like getting to see some of the earliest days of hip-hop as we know it in one show.
Friday | August 30
What:Meek, Future Scars, Kali Krone, Madelyn Burns When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Meek mixes live drums with 31G and-esque processed vocals and electronic beats for a result that’s somewhere between noise and industrial. But really not like much except for maybe, maybe, solo USAISAMONSTER minus guitar. Santa Fe’s Future Scars is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole except to say it’s a rock or a pop band but it has the cutting, hard hitting guitar drive of metal, the delicacy and texture of the most tender indie rock, the soaring vocals of some torch song pop and post-punk rhythmic drive. And that’s for one song. Other times, meditative, heavy drone with introspective melodies like Emma Ruth Rundle. Kali Krone’s dreamy slowcore seems about perfect for the swelter cool off. Madelyn Burns’ spooky singer-songwriter should appeal to fans of early Grouper.
What:Mutual Benefit w/Paw Paw and Card Catalog When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Mutual Benefit’s moody, soundscape-y pop songs are like getting a glimpse into someone’s having processed some deep thinking and distilled it to the poetic essence of those collective feelings. Loosely in the realm of Americana but with some great sound collage in the songwriting. Paw Paw is the project of former Woodsman drummer Eston Lathrop. Sort of ambient, sort of organic electronic pop, experimental solo guitar and synth songs to transport you to another, better place for a half an hour or so.
What:Nuancer LP release w/SSIIGGHH, Dr3aMC@$T, Larians and Andy AI When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Daniel DiMarchi is the genius bass player in the great dream pop band Tyto Alba and great indie rock band Oxeye Daisy. But part of what makes him a great bass player is his true ear for tonality and composition which he brings to his experimental electronic pop project Nuancer and this is the release show of I Hardly Know Her. Also on the bill is a rare show from Larians, the solo project of former Male Blonding guitarist/singer Noah Simons. Though a guitarist, Simons has long had an interest in left field and forward thinking electronic music like Burial and Larians is the manifestation of that interest. And tonight Larians releases the first EP Looming Boy. If Nicolas Jaar made trap it might sound something like that.
What:I Hate It Here, Causer, $addy, Eraserhead Fuckers and Kid Mask When: Friday, 08.30, 8:30 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: The noise/heavy processed dance ambient/industrial show of the week. Granted the only one but heavy hitters like noise rapper Eraserhead Fuckers, hypnogogic environment sculptor Kid Mask and post-Goth ambient noise genius $addy alone make this a noteworthy lineup.
Saturday | August 31
What:The Velveteers UK tour kickoff w/Boot Gun, The Kinky Fingers and Bitter Suns When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The Velveteers is a rock and roll trio from Denver whose live show is surprisingly powerful, forceful and grippingly emotional. The group is headed to the UK for a tour and this is the kickoff show with some of Denver’s other great, local, non-subgenre-specific rock bands including The Kinky Fingers who may be in the garage psych vein but its songwriting so tight and poignant it’s strikingly original.
What:To Be Astronauts, Meet the Giant, The Center and Bad Britton When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Hard rock band To Be Astronauts is relasing its “Thoughts and Prayers” single tonight. Hard rock is a little generic a term. So yeah, in their sound you’ll hear a bit of industrial rock, grunge and anthemic punk without being stuck on any of that. And other like-minded bands are on the bill including Meet the Giant who, despite their ethereal and moody atmospheric rock gets heavy and driving often enough that they’ll fit in here.
Sunday | September 1
What:Molly Burch w/Jackie Cohen and Bellhoss When: Sunday, 09.01, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Molly Burch has the kind of classic pop voice that many try to imitate but few nail the cadence and tonality that she seems to do so effortlessly. Her songs are intricate and delicate but her poetic observations sharp and illuminating. Jackie Cohen taps into an earlier era of music but her sound is more like a strange strain out of ABBA and 60s girl groups. Bellhoss is in good company here with Becky Hostetler’s idiosyncratic storytelling and inventive guitar work somewhere betwixt Dinosaur Jr, Edith Frost and Joanna Newsom. Yeah, let’s go with that until a better description of this unique songwriter and performer comes to mind. Hostetler will also make all the charmingly awkward jokes on stage so you don’t have to.
What:The Wes Watkins (EP release) w/Dr3@m Ca$t and Snubluck When: Sunday, 09.01, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Wes Watkins is the brilliant trumpet player and vocalist whose talents have brought grace, cool and imagination to a broad swath of Denver music including his stint in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. But The Other Black, playing with poet, mystic, avant-garde hip-hop songwriter Bianca Mikahn, Wheelchair Sports Camp and others? His track record speaks for itself and tonight he’s releasing his new EP, a collection of jazz-inflected pop songs that seem to be streaming from a time in the future while sounding like it had to be recorded in the past putting Watkins out of time thus timeless, as seems appropriate for his soulful musical stylings.
Tuesday | September 3
What:Shonen Knife w/Me Like Bees and Sexy Pistils When: Tuesday, 09.03, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Shonen Knife is the legendary Japanese punk bands whose roots go back to the late 70s when not many women were playing music in Japan much less in a punk band. Its songs are often about fanciful and mythical things but its songwriting is sharp, powerful and uplifting.
What:Ian Svenonius DJ set / Dream Wish of a Casino Soul Closing Party When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m. Where: Pon Pon Why: Philosopher, brilliant social commentator, media mogul and genius frontman (The Make-Up, Nation of Ulysses, Weird War, Chain and the Gang etc.) Ian Svenonius will hold court with one of his unique DJ sets for the closing party for the art exhibit Dream Wish of a Casino Soul.
Wednesday | September 4
What:SunnO))) w/David Pajo and BIG BRAVE When: Wednesday, 09.04, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: SunnO))) creates such intense, dense frequencies and slow dynamics with, assuming Atilla Csihar will be on hand, otherworldly vocals that run a broad spectrum of tonality that your brain may work differently after the show. Calling it “extreme metal” just doesn’t cut it as it’s a truly ritualistic experience and so engulfing you feel like you’ve really been through something by the end. David Pajo is the iconic guitarist of Slint, The For Carnation and a host of other bands including a short stint in the death metal group Dead Child. His solo material runs a fairly wide range of sounds and emotions and as Papa M he recently toured with Mogwai. Not to be missed. BIG BRAVE is a cathartic collision of industrial, drone metal and emotional exorcism.
What:Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Dorian, Hypnotic Turtle Radio DJ, Cabal Art When: Wednesday, 09.04, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday is the monthly musical showcase that lives up to its name and curated by Claudia Woodman. This time she will be performing in her persona of Gothsta and for this performance she says, “Gothsta covers goth songs on the melodica that have some link to climate change-related themes, because Gothsta is depressed about global warming. Gothsta will have some extra special content that has to do with the Amazon burning and will be joined by Hypnotic Turtle’s Diablo Montalban for dueling melodicas/improv along with noise loops generated for this performance.” It’s rare that anything lives up to hype like that but this show probably will.
What:Old Time Relijun w/Shooda Shook It and Moon Pussy When: Thursday, 05.16, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Colliding Captain Beefheart-esque outsider atonality with non-western elements of rhythm, Old Time Relijun’s shamanistic, Sun City Girls-esque jazz was unlike much of anything else going on when it launched in the late 90s. Now back together after nearly a decade hiatus, OTR is touring widely in the wake of the release of its 2019 album See Now and Know. Also on the bill for the night is Tucson-based No Wave funk-esque quartet Shooda Shook It and Denver’s confrontational, deconstructionist noise rock stars Moon Pussy.
What:An Evening With Johnny Marr When: Thursday, 05.16, 7/8:30 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Johnny Marr is the iconic guitarist from post-punk legends The Smiths. His solo career is also full of worthwhile material in which he gets to show off his gift for complex yet seemingly simple melodies. Live, Marr performs material from across his career and anyone that has seen him might even say the unlikely and point out that his vocals for classic Smiths material are at least as good as Morrissey’s. As the title of the show suggests, an entire evening of Marr’s music and selections from catalog of The Smiths and some choice covers.
What:Glissline When: Thursday, 05.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: Ross-Broadway library Why: Tommy Metz has been making beautiful and affecting ambient/IDM music for over a decade. With Glissline he pushes the production methods further than ever while making very experimental music so accessible it always takes you by surprise.
What:John Catdog and Sobremarcha Musicgroup When: Thursday, 05.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: John Catdog’s boundary pushing mix of what might be described as abstract industrial dance music and noise informed by radical politics. At other times more downtempo and chill but always interesting. Sobremarcha Musicgroup is a project of Amber Gomez, a formerly Chicago-based DJ and producer whose bright, gently urgent tracks will definitely fill out the room and beyond this night.
What:Jenny Lewis On the Line Tour 2019 w/Karl Blau When: Thursday, 05.16, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why:On The Line is Jenny Lewis’ latest record and it is the exquisitely composed, lush pop that Lewis has made so well for years with her usual literary flair. But in promoting the record, Lewis might have struck some people as very unvarnished and disarmingly off-the-cuff. But we kind of need that from more artists these days especially those whose art gives one the impression of their embracing classic forms of art and established ways. Jenny Lewis has always been a bit subversive and a little different in the humor department, one might say a secret weirdo who operates in the open, which is why her creative output remains worthwhile because all the weirdness, the eccentricity is there amid the expertise in presenting a conventional front.
Friday | May 17
What:Nitzer Ebb w/Liebknecht and DJ n810 When: Friday, 05.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: With the stridently urgent rhythms and confrontational feel of its 1987 album That Total Age, Nitzer Ebb, like Front 242 and D.A.F., established a template for much later EBM with any bite and vitality.
What:No Gossip in Braille release show w/Emerald Siam and Weathered Statues When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: No Gossip in Braille is releasing its debut effort Bend Toward Perfect Light on Cercle Social Records at this show. The post-punk duo of Keith Curts of Echo Beds and formerly of Ghost Orchids and Subpoena The Past and Bryan S. Becker formerly of experimental guitar band Annik has crafted a brooding post-punk album of refined emotional expression and lush atmospheres driven by gently urgent electronic percussion. Vocally it’s a bit of a different direction for Curts than most people who have seen his bands in the past two decades are used to as rather than the screaming and highly processed sounds in Echo Beds or Glass Hits, Curts hits some truly melancholic and introspective depths to match the elegant and ethereal guitar work.
What:Duncan Barlow and Natalie Rogers reading When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Duncan Barlow is known to many for his time in hardcore and post-hardcore bands (Endpoint, Guilt, By the Grace of God) from Louisville, Kentucky as well as punk and Americana bands from Denver (D. Biddle, Lion Sized). But lately he’s been a professor living in Vermillion, South Dakota teaching at the University of South Dakota and continuing to write literary fiction including his 2019 novel A Dog Between Us. Natalie Rogers is a writer whose diverse work background (911 dispatcher, adult caretaker, teacher etc.) informs her own works of fiction. Both will read selections from their body of work.
What:Calpurnia w/Slow Caves When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Calpurnia’s fuzzy indie rock sounds a bit like a throwback to 70s power/bubblegum pop like The Sweet or The Raspberries though likely filtered through the lens of latter day practitioners of related sounds like Twin Peaks and The Strokes. The band is really young with singer and guitarist Finn Wolfhard turning 17 in December so the band will grow beyond its most obvious current influences. Tracks like “Greyhound,” though, more than hint at promising uses of sound ahead.
What:Fem Fest 2019: 2 Kayla Marque, 3 RAREBYRD$, 4 The Milk Blossoms, 5 YaSi When: Saturday, 05.18, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver Why: The 2019 edition of Fem Fest is a celebration of female identified artists and musicians with workshops, a bazaar, DJs, a photo book and live music throughout the course of the event. Of course attendance is open to people of all ages and genders. The numbers listed above before the band/artist is the time slot in the afternoon/evening you can expect to catch their set. Experimental hip-hop and whatever kind of pop one might like to use to describe The Milk Blossoms. But no matter who you choose to check out there are only some of Denver’s greatest on the festival.
What:KGNU Quarterly Showcase: Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, Florea (solo), Ghost Tapes and The Guest List When: Saturday, 05.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: All the local bands on this bill would be worth going to see alone. But the surprise announcement of a performance from Tav Falco’s Panther Burns put the show at the top of our list for this week. The group started in Memphis and its membership included the likes of founding member Alex Chilton of Big Star who performed and toured with the band until 1984 including the well-known 1979 television appearance on Marge Thasher’s Strait Talk program. The host attempts to skewer the band’s performance but Falco deftly turns her criticisms into a chance to make a case for music that truly is rock and roll and not an attempt at following established formula. Falco’s eccentric and brilliant, arty, psychedelic blues punk has exerted a strong infuence on the likes of Jon Spencer, The Oblivians, Spacemen 3, Primal Scream and The Gories. Currently the band is touring in support of its 2018 album of inspired covers (and some originals) ranging 80 years of American music: Cabaret of Daggers. Don’t sleep on this one because a band as legendary and as unique as Tav Falco’s Panther Burns rarely makes an appearance in Denver much less at a small club like Lion’s Lair.
What:Xiu Xiu w/Elyria Sequence When: Monday, 05.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Since 2012’s Always, Xiu Xiu’s albums have become darker and like collections of harrowing stories commenting on the horrors of society. None more so than 2019’s Girl with Basket of Fruit. It could have had its own season of the now canceled SyFy series Channel Zero. There is the experimental folk side of Xiu Xiu that was compelling and thrillingly emotionally raw, a quality that Jamie Stewart developed further in the context of the synth-driven exorcisms of his most recent records. Reminiscent of Suicide in both evocation of stark psychological spaces and richness of tone and mood, Xiu Xiu now embodies what many darkwave bands would like to be but are not yet there.
What:Florence + The Machine: The High as Hope Tour 2019 w/Christine and the Queens When: Monday, 05.20, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Was it an accident that Florence + The Machine are playing Red Rocks the night after the airing of the final episode of Game of Thrones on Sunday, May 19? Probably. But it’s more interesting to speculate that is no coincidence for a band that wrote the chilling ballad “Jenny of Oldstones” based on the quasi-mythical wife of Duncan Targaryen, ancient ancestor of Daenerys, of course. Either way, Florence + The Machine’s music has a deserved reputation for its uplifting and diverse mix of pop styles and expansive moods buoyed by Florence Welch’s refined yet soulful vocals. Opening the show is Christine and the Queens, or, simply, Chris, the performance moniker of Héloïse Adelaide Letissier who has used the project and even the name of the project to experiment with adopting a persona and to discuss in song and performance the nature of identity itself. A heady proposition, perhaps, but it has been very much a part of Letissier’s push to writing pop music that challenges assumptions while somehow remaining incredibly accessible. Fans of David Byrne and Laurie Anderson will appreciate Letissier’s almost free association yet coherent compositional style, especially as manifested on her 2018 album Chris, and the sheer playfulness of her songs and stage persona.
What:The Twilight Sad w/Kathryn Joseph When: Tuesday, 05.21, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Being a cult band can be rough going knowing that you’re doing something special and different, pushing music in a similar vein forward by taking chances and not following trends. Well, to some extent anyway, that has paid off for Scotland’s The Twilight Sad. Post-punk and shoegaze has been a crowded field for the past two decades especially lately when it seems everyone that suddenly realized they liked The Cure and dark post-punk started a band. But The Twilight Sad’s willingness to utilize raw noise and sing with urgency instead of with an affectless, almost disengaged style has always seemed vital and reminiscent of bands like The Comsat Angels and The Sound more than some other bands who might claim similar influences. The group nearly called it quits half a decade ago but it started garnering unexpected attention for its then new album, 2014’s Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, as well as an opening slot on tour with The Cure where the band distinguished itself well. In 2019 the group released its latest album It Won/t Be Like This All the Time and reaffirming itself as a band that doesn’t try to sugarcoat or downplay life’s down sides in its songwriting while providing an excellent soundtrack to work through those times. That part of what informed the writing of the record was tapping into some old Brian Eno songs using Eno’s Oblique Strategy cards as an impetus to writing songs that would be fun to play live sets the new record apart from much of modern rock music by trusting in processes outside of conscious thought to inject creativity into your art.
What:Radkey w/One Flew West and And the Black Feathers When: Wednesday, 05.22, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Radkey gets lumped in with punk and, oddly, proto-punk probably because its sound is crunchy, dynamic rock music with great, melodic vocal harmonies. But it is a rock and roll band comprised of three brothers whose songwriting owes no stylistic debt to any particular movement or artist. Maybe you could say its reminiscent of Thin Lizzy combined with a good, modern pop punk band. Wherever Radkey is coming from with its music, its high energy live shows are always entertaining. In 2019 the group released its latest album, No Strange Cats…P.A.W where it switches the pace of the songs up more than ever expanding its already respectable dynamic range.
What:The Faint w/Choir Boy, Closeness and boyhollow When: Wednesday, 05.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Before it became fairly trendy in the late 2000s and 2010s, The Faint was drawing upon 80s synth pop and mixing it with emotionally-charged post-punk. The band’s second proper album Blank-Wave Arcade from 1998 was a bit of an anomaly somehow reminiscent of Falco, Duran Duran, The VSS and the more interesting 90s emo. By the time of 2001’s Danse Macabre the group had refined to perfection a fusion of electronic and post-punk without sounding like much of anyone else. Eighteen years later The Faint is pushing itself in interesting directions as evidenced by the release of its new album Egowerk. The songwriting straddles the world of electronic dance music and post-punk and with lush production and Todd Fink’s always expressive and melodious vocals swimming in atmospheric grandeur. It is the band’s least traditionally rock sounding record and chances are most suited to the group’s visually dynamic light show.
What:FEELS w/Midwife, Sweetness Itself and The Lifers When: Friday, 05.10 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: FEELS recently put out its sophomore effort Post Earth. Like its 2016 self-titled debut, the new album makes it obvious the group was the next step in musical evolution out of the garage, psych, fuzz rock era of a few years back that had grown stagnant and utterly predictable. FEELS has always been too weird for that seeming to be rooted in a style of songwriting that was more introspective and bedroom confessional punk poetry than trying to fit into some scene. Unless that scene was one where your eccentric, authentic self was cultivated and nourished. So yeah, while Post Earth may have some familiar elements it just comes off like a band trying to figure out what it wants to be by trying a lot of different things and thing coming back to embracing what makes its individual members shine in sync with each other to make the kind of punk that has more in common with the first wave where almost anything goes and no one is insisting on aesthetic orthodoxy than the niche subgenres that have come in between then and now. That uniqueness translates to a uniquely energetic live show as well.
What:Call of the Void w/Green Druid, Casket Huffer and BleakHeart When: Friday, 05.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Call of the Void celebrates the release of its new album Buried in Light with this show with some of Denver’s heaviest. Call of the Void has been, no pun intended, grinding it out since 2011 when it was called Ironhorse. But the quartet has always been more than grindcore and more than death metal. Its song dynamics, its lyrics and vocals are closer to bands like Neurosis and Isis than some of its more obvious peers and influences. Buried in Light feels like more of a science fiction album about life post impending human colony collapse.
Saturday | May 11
What:GYES 6: Gort Vs. Goom, How to Think, Lady of Sorrows and Full Bleed When: Saturday, 05.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: There are no “cool” bars nearby, the neighborhood is still sketchy sandwiched between CU Medical Centroplex, rapid development sprawl stumbling in from the west, the dystopian built-on-flight-fuel-soaked-ground of the Stapleton Development to the north and to the south the part of Aurora that is largely forgotten. Northwest Aurora, one of the few parts of central-ish Denver metro that has stubbornly resisted the influence of Nü Denver because it’s not along easily accessed by main arterial streets beyond Colfax. And yet, due to not predatory development The People’s Building exists and has events that you might want to go to including Get Your Eyes Swoll. Because of the booking involved it’s usually something very underground and definitely outside the mainstream. There’s probably literally no branch of Denver Metro underground music happening in public spaces in Aurora in general much less the Northwestern portion of the city tucked into Denver’s armpit like an infected splinter some fool has been trying to ignore for years until it became in demand once the vultures swooped in to buy out all the lower middle class homeowners with their dubious offers about buying ugly houses and the like. So for now, head east and maybe, just maybe, see prog punk weirdo duo Gort Vs. Goom and Lady of Sorrows who will bring her operatic, darkwave soundscaping to Denver’s dankest suburb.
What:Velveteers vinyl release w/The Kinky Fingers and Television Generation When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m. Where: Silo Sound Why: Velveteers thankfully came along a few years back to save rock and roll from its tired tropes and cartoonish, patriarchal clap trap with a buzzsaw, thunderous vengeance and fiery live show. And you get to see The Kinky Fingers who make a great case that even when most bands are boring us with trendy post-psych burnout bullshit, one can take a style and inject it with elegance and imagination and make it worth our while to continue to go and see. Television Generation is the greatest power pop, grunge-not-throw-back-but-throw-forward wiseacre cultural commenting smart snark band in Denver. And that’s saying something.
What:iZCALLi album release w/Don Chicharron and The Hollow When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: You could do worse with your Saturday night than go see iZCALLi celebrate the release of its latest album. The band is fairly straight ahead rock and roll but with personality and some warped tones and dangerous flourishes in its party time jams. Good thing because otherwise Don Chicharron would wipe the floor with them with their own celebratory psychedelic room-wreck-ed-ness. Both have plenty of Latin music influence built in to keep going wack-full-gringo with Stevie Ray Vaughan worship or some shit. The Hollow doesn’t suck either. They’ll bring some of the metal and scrape the earth with it but Spencer Townshend Hughes and company know how to sculpt a tune with more grace and artfulness than a bunch of the clumsy metaphors in this write-up.
What:Disposal Notice, Eraserhead Fuckers, Wolfblitzer, hxcmidi When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinceropolis Why: hxcmidi may look like she’s about to get up and throw down some yikes-level bedroom hip-hop but Aisha has a lot more in common with Realicide and thus the name—psyche sundering, harsh electronic beat and samples backed hardcore that shatters gentrified consciousness. Eraserhead Fuckers, now that guy looks like he’s going to show us all how to make a sweet Power Point and use FTP to load it to our pathetic starter websites and then laugh about it all later while getting “crunk” with his friends (a term about which they will all laugh like meme-lord gamers). But his lyrics shit through with incisive sounds and ideas are the shank the MAGA-hat wearing lunkheads and their cross-generational brethren need in this time of crisis.
What:DJ & Live PA sets by: Trisicloplox, $addy, Kid Mask, TimeLord SFX, Blank Human When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: Okay, so you don’t want to have your mind blown by any of the above in their specific ways yet you want to get out to the chillzone without being put soundly to sleep. Technically this is a noise show but one with a stacked line-up of people who know how to transform the whole genre into mind-altering realms of sound and beat-driven injections of inspired strangeness. None of the acts are alike but share the same spirit of being furiously against boredom and musical mundanity.
Sunday | May 12
What:Tim Hecker & Konoyo Ensemble When: Sunday, 05.12, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: For this first show in Colorado (probably) since March 2012 when Hecker performed in the Odd Fellows Hall in Boulder at an event sponsored by Communikey (now mostly defunct, boundary pushing electronic music group and festival), there will probably be more illumination than at an Autechre show or even the aforementioned performance where the light came from Hecker’s gear and the fire “Exit” sign. If footage of recent shows are any indication, it’ll be a fog-enshrouded affair with beams of light but none of it distracting from Hecker’s deep soundscapes and imagination-stirring, environmental drones. His recent Konoyo and Anoyo albums are less relatively pop-oriented than their immediate predecessor and not granulated like a sonic fog-sandstorm of the 2011’s Ravedeath, 1972. More like Hecker is giving us modern music with a similar mindset that informed the KPM 1000 catalog and Harold Budd and Eno collaborating again to go full abstract journey into sonic analogs of conscious awareness beyond the Bardo Thodol.
What:Cowgirl Clue, Venus305 and EVP When: Sunday, 05.12, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Forget the pictures of Ashley Rose Calhoun holding a BC Rich guitar. You could make something better at home with the proper routing tools, some basic electronic skills, soldering and some YouTube tutorials. And let’s hope she did and she’s using it as some kind of controller at some point. Kudos to her for putting on the cover of her album something colorful and strange. At any rate, her free-associating samples/synth track dance pop is playfully and unabashedly eccentric and like an update on electroclash. The local openers, Venus305 and EVP are like-minded weirdoes with confrontational performance styles that bring some edge to industrial dance and hip-hop-inflected pop.
Monday | May 13
What:Julia Jacklin w/Black Belt Eagle Scout When: Monday, 05.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Julia Jacklin’s vocal style is reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s Marianne Faithful with the sort of controlled, breathy yet tight and directed couplets. On her 2019 sophomore album Crushing, Jacklin evokes a smoky atmosphere enshrouding an introspective meditation on existential independence and rankling at the social expectations that undermine one’s sense of self. As facile as it is to say considering both songwriters are from Australia but fans of Aldous Harding will find much to appreciate with Julia Jacklin’s delicate and nuanced hand at songwriting and creatively poetic sensibilities. That and Jacklin just lays out how people need to step off and stop trying to make her fit into some mold that makes them feel comfortable with their own shortcomings and vices and let her figure out who she wants to be and where she wants to go on her own terms. Crushing is a heartfelt declaration of independence in one’s own heart and mind.
Tuesday | May 14
What:The Lemonheads with Tommy Stinson When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Like other bands of the era, The Lemonheads predated the alternative music eruption of the early 90s and were part of it on its own terms. Even though the band had signed to Atlantic for the release of its 1990 album Lovey it didn’t strike it big like it might have had the record come out a year or two later. The mixture of Americana, hard rock and punk coupled with Evan Dando’s gift for writing hooks and melodic songs with some bite and personal insight was very much what would be in great demand from 1991 onward but somehow The Lemonheads were never fully able to capitalize on what was becoming a trend but was also the group’s signature sound and sensibility. And yet, Lemonheads garnered some modest mainstream popularity before going on hiatus with Dando embarking on a solo career in 1998. The band has reunited as of 2005 and the songwriting has become tighter with essentially an edgier power pop sound but with Dando’s typically thoughtful, self-effacing words about heartache and loss. Tommy Stimson you should know from being the bass player of The Replacements but he also did his time in Guns ‘n Roses as well. As a solo artist, he’s a songwriter of no small gifts himself.
What:Garbage w/Pleasure Venom When: Tuesday, 05.14, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: One of the great bands of the late alternative rock era that managed to remain great through to now. Shirley Manson is truly one of the most commanding singers fronting any band now and often disarmingly so because is able to belt out the tunes but with a nuance and delicacy of feeling that makes her performances so powerful.
Wednesday | May 15
What:Hatebreed w/Obituary, Madball, Prong, Skeletal Remains When: Wednesday, 05.15, 5:30 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Hatebreed is well known for being one of the torchbearers of 90s metalcore with its aggressive tones and spiky grooves. But one thing that seems obvious taking a sampling of its music throughout its career is that there’s a bit of the influence of Mike Scaccia-period Ministry. The willingness to let sounds hang atmospherically over the top of a driving, splintery, industrial riff. It’s an interesting contrast to the sort of tough guy image projected into the songwriting and presentation. In some ways Hatebreed is an interesting bridge in sound between Obituary’s driving death metal and Prong’s clipped dynamics and industrial dance/death disco sensibilities.
What:Walk Off the Earth w/Matt and Kim, Gabriela Bee of the Eh Bee Family When: Wednesday, 05.15, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Walk Off the Earth isn’t for everyone—that kind of folksy pop/indie rock/self-aware humor, posi-tip, quirky songwriting with elevated moods and a penchant for doing covers of songs that one would assume done out of a sense of irony but not so with Walk Off the Earth. At the end of 2018, though, the group lost its longtime member Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor due to natural causes and there was some speculation that the band was going on hiatus. But the quartet is now devoting the tour in honor of the memory of Taylor. Knowing the group, it’ll be as joyous as it has ever with a similarly exuberant set from indie rock party band openers Matt and Kim.
Who:Propagandhi w/Iron Chic and Cheap Perfume
When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Propagandhi made leftist politics and veganism into some great pop punk songs even as its sound evolved in heavier directions later in its career. From 1993’s humorous yet pointedly political How To Clean Everything to 2001’s opus of politically pointed yet irreverent and fun Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes, Propagandhi were one of the few relatively high profile modern punk bands that didn’t get stuck in pure entertainment and only songs about heartache and everyday life mode. Thankfully the band still hasn’t cynically cashed in with essentially content-free records. Long Island’s Iron Chic seems cut from a similar cloth writing genuinely clever songs pairing meaningful and insightful lyrics with infectiously catchy melodic punk. Colorado Springs’ own Cheap Perfume opens the show with plenty of searing social commentary for an entire evening of music packed into its set.
Who:The Voidz w/Promiseland and The Velveteers When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: The Voidz released its sophomore record Virtue in March and for those uninitiated its video for “QYURRYUS” suggested some sort of futuristic weirdo psychedelic band but one that took older trash technology and made something new and interesting with it. That Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas was involved in that song and video, a seeming mutant send-up of 80s VHS mashup and modern post-punk and trap, shouldn’t have come as a surprise and yet it did. The rest of the album isn’t all quite as engagingly strange but nevertheless a sprawl of concentrated musical imagination, welcome in a time when such things aren’t in as abundant as one would hope. The previous album, 2014’s Tyranny, had some promising moments but Virtue is where Casablancas and company really want to be in creating music not just a departure from other projects but in making something that is of the moment even when it mines the past for compositional elements recontextualized.
Who:Murder By Death and William Elliott Whitmore When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Murder By Death’s latest album The Other Shore sounds like a band that has taken a decisive step to musically reinventing itself while preserving the core of what has made it one of the most interesting bands of the past two decades. Before chamber pop and indie Americana was really much of a thing, Murder By Death had been making that music with a high level of artistry with lyrics that skirted a fine line between the conceptual, the personal, narrative elements and the poetic without coming off as pretentious. The Other Shore, as the album title suggests, showcases a band that has been on a journey since it’s inception to explore its musical interests as an Americana band in a place and a time when post-hardcore and emo was the prevailing form of music around them, and one that wrote music about an imaginary American West with a greater accuracy and resonance than many bands actually from that part of the country. For this tour Murder By Death is joined by its friend and early compatriot in making music out of step with then trends in music. His warm, textured songwriting and singing has the ability to draw you in with the clarity and vivid imagery of his own storytelling. His new record Kilonova on Bloodshot Records is a collection of songs that truly find the great stories in everyday life better than almost anything out this year as yet.
Friday | September 21, 2018
Who:Meat Beat Manifesto w/C-Tec, Mondo Obscura and DJ Dave Vendetta When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Nine Inch Nails and huge swath of 90s and 2000s electronic music acts cite Meat Beat Manifesto as a primary influence. Jack Dangers’ production fingerprints have been all over the musical landscape from the 90s onward. Part of the reason for this is Dangers’ wide-ranging curiosity about various musical styles and technology and techniques involved in making those sounds. He didn’t just dabble in all sorts of techno, EDM, IDM, dub and more, he produced innovative work in all of those sonic realms. MBM’s 1990 album 99% was a landmark in electronic music production and composition perhaps only surpassed immediately afterward by 1992’s Satyricon. But in recent years MBM has released some of its most interesting music to date including the two 2018 albums in an especially fruitfully prolific era of the project with Impossible Star out this past January and a new full-length due out in November. Both records reveal a band that has consistently moved into new realms of sound while maintaining its unique voice in music.
Also on the bill is C-Tec, a dark EBM-esque project of some of that music scene’s luminaries including Jean-Luc DeMeyer of Front 242, Marc Heal of Cubanate, Ged Dention of Crisis NTI and Julian Beeston of Nitzer Ebb. Denver ambient/industrial duo Mondo Obscura opens the show with probably a harder edged of their more hypnotic chill out vibe. If their 2018 album Focus On Black is any indication that shouldn’t be a problem.
Who:Tribulation and Pallbearer When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Arvika, Sweden’s Tribulation probably could have become stuck mining the melodic/Gothenburg death metal territory or hybriding that with neo-thrash or Goth-ed out black metal. But its sound is much more interesting and not trying to be all things to all fans of heavy music. Rather, it’s eclectic sound is one that has roots but uses those sonic elements to write layered music with imaginative dynamics that allow for writing songs about occult themes in 2018 without seeming corny. The group’s 2018 album Down Below is sort of to death metal what T.S.O.L.’s 1982 to album Beneath the Shadows was to hardcore.
Who:7C 6-Year Night #1: Only Echos (album release), Only Souls Die Young and more When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This Denver DIY space is one of the few places you can go and see something new and good you’ve never heard of on a bill of very different other music every single time. It’s also the main place where younger musicians are going to play for their peers as they develop as artists. What that means is that you can see bands grow from the ground up, which is the most exciting time to see them. Congratulations no Seventh Circle Music Collective in keeping things going for 6 years thus far.
Who:El Ten Eleven w/Tennis System and Picture the Waves When: Friday, 09.21, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: El Ten Eleven is the Los Angeles based post-rock band whose music you’ve heard in television and film. Its texture and rhythm driven compositions give El Ten Eleven a bit more presence than some of its peers in the realm of instrumental rock. Also on the bill this night is another L.A.-based ethereal rock project with Tennis System. That trio takes the kind of bright, breezy melodies that Depreciation Guild had discovered in melding pure 8-bit electronic composition with dream pop. Tennis System, though, weds the sound with a sort of melancholic, disillusioned yet hopeful tone suggestive of being in a place where all aspirations can supposedly be met but the reality is much less glamorous.
Saturday | September 22, 2018
Who:Kat Ellinger tribute/benefit featuring: I’m A Boy, Toddy Walters, The Red Tack, Stereoshifter, New Ben Franklins, Doug and Liz from Sympathy F and Shindei Shashin When: Saturday, 09.22, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Kat Ellinger was a respected songwriter and singer/musician in Denver from the early 90s until her untimely passing in June 2018. Her bands Worm Trouble and Sleepers should have propelled her into at least the tier of touring bands that plays mid-sized clubs as her knack for writing meaningful, well-crafted rock and pop songs with a strong individual vision was on par with anyone anyone could name from that same time period. Her songs were eclectic, emotionally powerful, honest and accessible. Ellinger herself was an engaging and strong live performer and this show, a benefit for her family, features Denver underground luminaries such as Ted Thacker formerly of Baldo Rex (a band often cited by DeVotchKa as an influence) as The Red Tack, New Ben Franklins playing a rock rather than country set and Doug Seaman and Liz Rose of Sympathy F performing a stripped down set.
Who:Frankie And the Witch Fingers w/Stonefield, King Eddie and DJ Ross Taylor When: Saturday, 09.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kind of a psychedelic party rock show with Frankie And the Witch Fingers from Los Angeles and their Colorado kin with King Eddie. Stonefield, though, is an all female heavy psych band from Australia. The group released its most recent full length Far From Earth in 2018 with a sound somewhere betwixt early solo Dio and Acid Witch and 70s hard rock bands like Uriah Heep.
Who:7 C 6-Year Night #2: David Liebe Hart, Chip the Black Boy, Whatever Your Heart Desires, Unit-Y, Shwarma, Actobog and more When: Saturday, 09.22, 4 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Night two of Seventh Circle Music Collective’s 6-year anniversary show with an appearance by eccentric outsider pop artist David Liebe Hart who is responsible for some of the most surreal segments of the already quite strange Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Some have speculated that it’s all an act but what you see is what you get and there is an unmistakable appeal to Hart’s utter sincerity and conviction and faith in his music and art to reach people.
Who:Iron & Wine w/Erin Rae When: Saturday, 09.22, 7 p.m. Where: The Paramount Theatre Why: Sam Beam’s songs, no matter the format and line-up performing them, always come off like campfire sessions in which everyone shares stories and ideas and autobiographical musings that taking into flights of personal philosophy. That warmth and intimacy sets Bream’s work apart from many of his peers and there is a timelessness to his music akin to that of Cat Stevens or Harry Chapin. His new offering, 2018’s Weed Garden EP, follows on the heels of 2017’s Beast Epic and what many consider to be a return to the stripped down, simple style that made 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days a classic.
What:On Tap With KBCO featuring DeVotchKa, Cake and Calexico When: Saturday, 09.22, 12:30 Where: Breckenridge Brewery Why: This is a show benefitting Take Note Colorado, an organization dedicated to getting musical instruments and lessons to Colorado students K-12. Cake is the alternative rock band that had wry 90s hits like “The Distance” and “Rock and Roll Lifestyle.” Calexico is the excellent Americana/dream pop band with a bit of Southwest flavor. DeVotchKa, the hometown heroes, released its latest album This Night Falls Forever in August. That it’s the group’s first release of an entire album of new material since 2011’s 100 Lovers suggests a period of deep self-doubt, assessing oneself as an artist and as a person and a reinvention without discarding everything. The new record has all the hallmarks of DeVotchKa’s best material—depth of sound space, intricate sonic details that never seem cluttered and excessive and a haunted quality that hints at accepting one’s regrets if not gladly, of loss and calm and grace in the face of an uncertain future. Frankly, it’s music for the current era and comfort in a time of trouble and chaos as DeVotchKa has a gift for tapping into one’s sense of nostalgia and triggering a gentle catharsis.
Monday | September 24, 2018
Who:The Charlatans UK w/Reyna When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: The Charlatans UK were one of the bands whose mix of soul, acid house and psychedelic rock was early associated with the Madchester aesthetic of the late 80s and early 90s. And, thus, what became known as Britpop. The Charlatans were a step removed from Madchester coming from the relatively nearby Western Midlands but were clearly musically kindred spirits. The group’s 1990 debut full-length Some Friendly was recorded when the band had been together for around a year and can be a bit uneven but it yielded an iconic hit with “The Only One I Know.” Throughout the 90s The Charlatans evolved in interesting ways as its members stayed engaged with new sounds and ideas and in growing as artists themselves rather than rest on past laurels. The result has been a string of albums with a familiar element to the songwriting because of Tim Burgess’ strong yet emotionally chameleonic voice, Martin Blunt’s subtle yet fluid bass style perfectly accenting the song dynamics, the late Rob Collins’ (and now Tony Rogers’) ebullient but tasteful keyboard work and Mark Collins’ gift for playing to the song and taking on a broad variety of roles as a guitarist—lead, rhythm, texture, accents.
The Charlatans released a 2017 album called Different Days which is both a reminder that maybe the more recent world of rock and pop has caught up to what The Charlatans have done all along quite well in threading psychedelic rock, classic songwriting about perennial themes and listening to the new music for ideas to not get stuck in one’s own rut and inspiration for the future. In 2018 the Totally Eclipsing EP, comprised of material recorded during the time of Different Days, was released on limited edition 12” green vinyl as well as for download and as a second CD with a deluxe edition of the full-length.
Who:Dr. Montgomery Maxwell, Joohs Uhp, $addy and Shamwow When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: A good slice of some of Denver’s weirdo/experimental/industrial hip-hop. Dr. Montgomery Maxwell is more on the industrial side of that spectrum though maybe for this show he might not break as much stuff on stage as usual. But you never know. Joohs Uhp sounds like a guy who is way into nü metal and hip-hop and unabashedly all about what some might think is the trashier more ephemeral end of that but has found a way to turn that affection for other people’s supposed trash and turned it into something interesting. Shamwow sounds like, for lack of a better term “slacker trap.” Meaning, to some, it’ll sound like lazily made weird, lo-fit who-knows-what but really it’s well produced, intentional stuff that some fans of “real” hip-hop won’t recognize its quality. But, supposedly, Trev Rich is a fan so there’s that. $addy’s sound is as the name suggest—sort of a melancholic vibe but using beats that sound like they’re right out of a surreal game about being a gamer hacker destroying the horrific international economic system and unlocking achievements by dropping sick 8-bit beats rife with noise and undoubted sonic reference samples from realms of the gaming world most of us have never heard about. Or something like that.
Who:Beck w/Jenny Lewis When: Monday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Beck made being an utterly eccentric songwriter a commercially viable thing in the 1990s. Maybe he was tapping into the zeitgeist in a way that the alternative rock explosion of the early 90s made possible by speaking to the inner weirdo of a broad audience. There is no reason a song like “Loser,” “Where It’s At,” “Devil’s Haircut” and “The New Pollution” should have been hits to anyone but hipster oddballs except that Beck also employed elements of soul, hip-hop, R&B and interesting but odd cultural references that was a far cooler predecessor to the awkward comedy kick that got more popular in the 2000s. But Beck evolved and his genre splicing became more refined and fascinating with every album from Midnight Vultures onward reflecting perhaps a particularly focused set of ideas and sounds. Beck simply wouldn’t allow himself to be limited by the expectations of others and trusted his imagination and instincts to be his guide.
Jenny Lewis was an actress in various television shows and films before people knew of her as an actress. But her band with Blake Sennett, another child actor, Rilo Kiley introduced the world to one of the most genuinely clever, incisive and insightful commenters on personal psychology and American culture in Lewis as a lyricist. It didn’t hurt that her emotionally rich and powerful voice put conviction behind those words. Whether in Rilo Kiley, her solo albums, Jenny & Johnny or her recent work in Nice As Fuck, Lewis has consistently been an artist with something to say, singing with a poignant honesty but one informed by a sense reality and kindness.
Who:Boulder Guitar Society: Janet Feder When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m. Where: First United Methodist Church of Boulder Why: Janet Feder is an educator and master guitarist whose experimental compositions both extend the range and possibilities of the instrument but whose songs have an accessibility and emotional resonance that one doesn’t often associate with a musician that is both an academic and long-standing figure in the musical avant-garde. But just like the human that is Janet Feder, the music is immediately engaging and inviting into an unpretentious creativity that anyone can access.
Tuesday | September 25, 2018
Who:Beck w/Jenny Lewis When: Tuesday, 09.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: For Beck and Jenny Lewis see above for Monday, 09.24.
Who:FRIGS w/Natural Violence, American Culture and Law of the Night When: Tuesday, 09.25, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: FRIGS at first listen might remind you of 90s angular post-punk bands like Fugazi, 2000s’ Canadian art guitar groups like Women or the English, experimental rock band Electrelane. That use of layered simple yet intricate and entrancing guitar and rhythm. All intertwined with Bria Salmena’s soulful and expressive vocals. The band’s 2018 debut full-length Basic Behavior is a raw, menacing, atmospheric wail of wiry energy unleashing and transforming the angst and anxiety of this era. The band’s live shows bring some mystery and emotionally-charged physicality to the stage in a way not many bands these days do.
Who:Gringo Star w/Turvy Organ and Shuttles When: Tuesday, 09.25, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Before it became too fashionable, Atlanta’s Gringo Star was perfecting its signature psych/soul garage rock sound. What seems lost in some of the assessments of the band, that is hinted at through its numerous music videos, is how the group’s music tells stories from the perspective of urban, Southern youth and its use of musical forms from other parts of the country (surf rock, California psych, Memphis soul/garage rock etc.) as the palette of its imaginative expression. The band’s 2018 album Back to the City finds it in a more wistful mood with a sense of nostalgia that is far more interesting, genuine, personal and poignant than has often been the case in a lot of music of late.
Wednesday | September 26, 2018
Who: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th anniversary w/Talib Kweli and Shabazz Palaces When: Wednesday, 09.26, 5:55 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: In 1998 Lauryn Hill announced herself as a solo artist of note with the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill after having parted ways with her former band, the popular and influential R&B hip-hop group The Fugees. On the strength of promotional singles and name recognition alone, the record was probably destined to top the Billboard charts. But the record struck a chord with a strong yet nuanced evocation of the experience of women’s experiences as well as Hill’s sheer stylistic range. And Hill didn’t write the album with the commercial audience in mind. Yes, it’s well-produced and written, of course, but it’s also a raw and honest record that is accessible to a broad audience because of those qualities. The record has rightfully come to be seen as a classic of neo soul but it’s also one of the greatest albums of the 90s for the vitality of its creative vision. As a bonus you get to see Talib Kweli and Shabazz Palaces. Kweli is one of America’s most important social critics and one of its greatest hip-hop artists. Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces could have merely been a legendary of alternative hip-hop as a member of Digable Planets. But in Shabazz Palaces with Tendai Maraire he is exploring experimental realms of sound, noise and rhythm that is pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop can sound like, look like and be.
Who:Yob, Bell Witch and Primitive Man When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Yob’s sludgy doom has always been accompanied with a healthy sense of play. Yes, the crushing heaviness of the band’s music is undeniable but so is the group’s obvious self-awareness. It’s latest record, 2018’s Our Raw Heart subverts doom conventions with almost buoyant melodies and dynamics and a layering of conventionally pretty sounds and gritty, deeply textured atmospherics. It’s only fitting that the trio is touring with fellow Pacific Northwesterners in the duo Bell Witch from Seattle. The latter has crafted majestic and minimalist soundscapes since its 2010 founding. With the tragic death of former drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra in 2016, bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond recruited Jesse Shreibman to continue with the project. The first album with Desmond and Shreibman, 2017’s Mirror Reaper, is both a continuation of the colossal sonics of the band’s first two albums but also a step further into a powerful and moving expression of grief and despair as well as an evocation of cosmic time and our place in it. Conceived of as a single track at over eighty minutes, Mirror Reaper may move slowly and employ repetitive dynamics but it never seems to overstay its welcome. Opening the show is Denver’s own juggernaut of death metal and doom, Primitive Man.
What:Musical Mayhem: Spyderland, Enji and Snaggletoothe When: Thursday, 07.12, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Musical Mayhem had a home for quite some time at The Skylark Lounge. But now the night curated by Claudia Woodman is happening at Lion’s Lair. Spyderland is a weirdo music duo including Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth and Drew McClellan of Archipelaghost. Enji is TripLip bassist Kevin Schultz doing solo material that sounds like Hella doing music for an 8-bit video game. Snaggletoothe is a noisy, improvisational rock guitar and drum duo.
What:Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Fringe Class and Dorian When: Thursday, 07.12, 6 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: How Portland, Oregon’s synth pop dance band Fringe Class is going to play at Hooked On Colfax is anyone’s guess. But paired with the more ambient Denver project Dorian maybe the group will do a more stripped down set than it will do in other rooms during its trip through Denver.
What:Lou Barlow When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m. Where: Bruz Beers Why: Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh playing a solo set at Bruz Beers? Given Barlow’s love of brilliantly unusual guitar styles like those of Joni Mitchell, it could be a chance to see something unlike anything you’ll see from Barlow in Denver again.
What:The Dandy Warhols w/Uni When: Thursday, 07.12 and Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: The Dandy Warhols are still kicking along and remain one of the great live bands that came out of the alternative rock milieu that’s still around and not milking some nostalgia circuit. Normally the band plays much larger venues making this string of shows at Ophelia’s a rare chance to catch the band in an intimate environment.
Friday | July 13, 2018
What:A$AP Ferg w/IDK and Buddy When: Friday, 07.13, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: For a guy that did visual art and fashion before doing music, realms in which he excelled, A$AP Ferg has done well for himself. While not a pioneer of trap, which had its roots in music that came out before he was born, Ferg nevertheless became one of the genre’s most skilled practitioners in the 2010s. Having the nerve to name his 2013 album Trap Lord, Ferg could at least back-up the bravado and embody the claim. What has kept the rapper interesting is the fact that there’s an unmistakable unusual quality to his beats and wordplay. Perhaps grittier than the work of his A$AP Mob cohort A$AP Rocky, Ferg nevertheless shares a sensibility that aims beyond genre and beyond hip-hop. Even when he engages in lyrics rife with hip-hop tropes, Ferg uses them as elements rendering them meta and more like musical elements than anything to be taken at face value. 2017’s Still Striving showcases the artist’s ever-evolving incorporation of musical elements that give his songs a layered dimensionality.
What:Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Timmy The Teeth When: Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Sarah Shook’s country songs of survival and struggle reflect her upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian family that made the town elders in the movie Footloose seem open-minded by comparison. The video for “New Ways to Fail” (doesn’t the title tell a lot already) shows some everyday urban rebels skateboarding as Shook lays out immediately relatable, self-deprecating lyrics. But every song on the band’s 2018 album Years is, as Henry Rollins once said of early Black Flag records, a direct line to what the fuck it’s all about in America for anyone that can’t expect much out of a society and a culture built on getting us to neglect ourselves and each other on a rat race to nowhere. But there’s an inherent hope in Shook’s music because she’s out there touring and expressing so eloquently and understanding of the everyday lives of anyone that might come to catch one of the band’s shows.
What:Compost Heap Day 1 When: Friday, 07.13, 4 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: The first day of a festival that is to some extent a celebration of the more folk end of punk and bands within that general realm of music. Schedule for today: Real Lyin’ Rohr 4, Just Hanging Out (TX) 4:40, Violet Valentine 5:20, Fire Ant Season (TX) 6, Marissa 6:35, Paul Ski & The James Joyce Letters 7:15, Bird Teeth (WA) 7:55, Long Sought Rest (WA) 8:35, JSR 9:15, Whistlepig (AZ), Crow Cavalier 10:35
What:Quintron & Miss Pussycat w/Phallic Meditation When: Friday, 07.13, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Quintron & Miss Pussycat from New Orleans somehow combine a high energy weirdo cabaret/psychedelic rockabilly show with a mind-altering puppet theater performance. Always entertaining and it will transport you outside your everyday life if you let it.
Saturday | July 14, 2018
Who:Great American House Fire When: Saturday, 07.14, 10:30 a.m. Where: Ross Cherry Creek Library Why: Someday more bands will figure out that the emotional rawness of emo, the diverse songwriting methodology of 2000s indie rock bands, Americana’s textures and warmth and soulful vocals are completely complementary elements for a band. But for now you can catch a group that excelled at that going back to the days of Denver’s Spokeshaver, from which Great American House Fire draws some of its membership. Now presented on a Saturday morning at the Cherry Creek branch of Denver Public Library,
Who:Rowboat, Wild Call and Grass When: Saturday, 07.14, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Sam McNitt’s roots in folk music and literature probably account for some of the sophistication and poetic sensibility to his music. When he was writing music with his old space rock band Blue Million Miles he met the challenge of amplifying his expressive and emotionally taut vocals. Rowboat is more an expression of McNitt’s more sonically gentle work but the emotional colorings are still vibrant and complex. Wild Call is one of Denver’s best psychedelic rock bands because it’s gone beyond the whole psychedelic bandwagon of the past decade with grittier sounds and lyrics that tap into psychological spaces that can’t be reduced to a celebration of mind altering chemicals and partying. Grass is a noisy shoegaze band from Boulder whose 2016 album Dragwire is pleasantly reminiscent of Night Beats and the more dirty dream pop acts on the Siltbreeze label.
What:Compost Heap 3 Day 2 When: Saturday, 07.14, 3 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Schedule for day 2 of Compost Heap 3, a kind of folk punk festival (Sliver isn’t folk punk unless someone wishing they were Bad Brains is folk punk–the argument could be made) featuring artists from Colorado and far beyond: open mic 3, Murder Person For Hire (IL) 4, Sliver 4:40, Old Fox Road (IL) 5:20, Rascal Mikes (OR) 6, Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists 6:35, Hello Darkness 7:55, Human Behavior 8:35, Shooting Tsars (TX) 9:15, Fun Abuse (CA) 9:55, Suspicious Activity 10:35.
Who:Modern Leisure album release w/Down Time and shark dreams When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Indie pop band Modern Leisure is celebrating the release of its new album, Super Sad Rom-Com. As usual, Casey Banker’s songs are well crafted pop gems with lyrics that are self-deprecating but never maudlin. This time around Banker seems to have a chuckle at the excesses and absurdities of life in America now and navigating interpersonal hurdles while finding it all a bit wearisome. Banker’s employment of melancholic tones has always been good but with Super Sad Rom-Com he’s taken it to places he hasn’t before with his keen ear for emotional and tonal nuance. Also on the bill is Down Time who have quietly been one of the most interesting pop bands out of Denver since its inception two or three years ago combining the intimacy of folk, rock and an experimental streak born of needing to do things in your own way with available equipment and personnel like a drummer/bassist at one point. Not unlike a Young Marble Giants but one that could only have happened in the Twenty-First century.
Who:SPELLS (album release) w/Cheap Perfume, Future Perfect, People Corrupting People When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: SPELLS is putting out its odds and sods album Loose Change, Vol. 1 at this show. The band’s joke, and song, is “80% is Good Enough” and isn’t it really? Forget that oh so American overpromising, boastful nonsense that seems to be an angstrom of our president’s ego and narcissism. Trying too hard without adequate compensation makes chumps of everyone. At any rate, the Denver-based punk band is releasing the compilation through guitarist Chuck Coffey’s scrappy little label Snappy Little Numbers as well as Chicago imprint Anxious and Angry. On red vinyl. So get them while you can. The other bands on the bill are pretty alright too including Colorado Springs’ unabashedly fun feminist punk band Cheap Perfume. At this point having to say a band is feminist seems redundant and regressive because it’s a perspective that should be the part of the thinking and ethos of anyone in America in this century and if not, do some catching up. Maybe start slow and check out some bell hooks, Betty Friedan, Adrienne Rich, Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Inga Muscio. It could happen.
Sunday | July 15, 2018
Who:Jackie Cohen w/Jobless and Hillary Susz When: Sunday, 07.15, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Jackie Cohen just put out her first proper music EP, 2018’s Tacoma Night Terror Part 1. If you’ve spent any time in Tacoma this might be a truthfully humorous exaggeration of a memory from time spent there. For a Colorado specific reference, big stretches of Tacoma are a lot like Commerce City and Thornton but even more worn out with blocks of dubious legitimacy. Cohen’s songs may have some connection to that vibe on some level. The recordings sound older like finding a well-listened to pop cassette from the 70s including the hiss. But none of these songs could really have come out back then. It’s the post-jaded self-discovery vibe that Cohen nails that makes the best Fleetwood Mac songs worth listening to after enduring repeated broadcast of those songs on the radio or friends who never had to experience that music the first time getting obsessed with entire too much music that came out of artists who were entirely too familiar with cocaine and quaaludes. Cohen’s performance isn’t jaded and that’s what makes the difference. She sounds like she’s been through it, man, but finds that dulled emotions don’t work for her and that life must go on even if you’re not over the pain of a bad experience in relationships and other disappointments in life. That you get to see Denver’s great folky, experimental indie rock trio Jobless is more than a bonus, it would be reason enough to go.
What:Compost Heap 3 Day 3 When: Sunrday, 07.15, 3 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This is the third and final day of Compost Heap. Less on the folk punk side this day with the likes of hip-hop artist Adam Selene, noise punks Plasma Canvas and hard rock band The Velveteers but the ethos is one shared between the artists. Today’s schedule (all times being p.m.): open mic 3, Patrick the Pirate 4, Adam Selene 4:40, Queen Ren Faire Dance Party (TX) 5:20, Davey Dynamite (IL) 6, Bert Olsen 7:15, Wayfairy 7:55, Ludlow 8:35, Dandelion Massacre (CA) 9:15, Plasma Canvas 9:55, The Velveteers 10:35
What:Final Show at The Climax Lounge When: Sunrday, 07.15, 4 p.m. Where: The Climax Lounge Why: A Taste of Denver to most 80s punks, The Raven to punks in the 90s and in the 2000s mostly The Climax Lounge (its original name), this building at 2217 Welton Street was one of the most important venues for a real underground music world in Denver. It will be knocked down to build yet another shitty, cheaply built condo that downtown doesn’t need or maybe yet another brewery or some other Nü Denver crap that has become the inevitable for all the cool, historic buildings that made Denver a worthwhile and interesting place to live and make art and music for decades. It’s not the nail in the coffin by any means and it hasn’t been a terrible active music venue in years but for many it’s like seeing your favorite high school hangout get the axe. The bands playing on such short notice include the following: Sputnik Slovenia, Scooter James, The Narrow Down, Bourbon Brawlers, Dangerous Friends and National Blues Arsenal.
Monday | July 16, 2018
Who:Marisa Anderson w/Howling Hex and Cuckoo When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Marisa Anderson’s masterful, expressive, guitarwork, on mostly instrumental songs, evokes moods, landscapes and memories in a way more vivid and emotionally immediate than many artists. One might consider her music in the realm of folk but in the more experimental vein of a John Fahey or Michael Hurley. Her 2018 album Cloud Corner finds Anderson sketching in different ways with her guitar, more impressionistic than solid, if intricate, lines. She shares the bill with Colorado-based Howling Hex whose music is a hypnotic, for lack of a better word, avant-garde Mariachi/norteño band led by Neil Michael Hagerty whose legacy of experimental guitar music includes his stints with influential bands like Pussy Galore and Royal Trux as well as noise super group Dan’l Boone. Cuckoo pretty much blurs the line between noise rock, punk and mathy-folk.
Who:Unknown Mortal Orchestra w/Shamir When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Ruban Nielson probably could have enjoyed a respectable career in music in his home country playing in his Flying Nun-signed band The Mint Chicks. But New Zealand is a small place and Nielson relocated to Portland, Oregon as he and his brother Kody have dual citizenship with their mom having been a hula dancer from Hawaii. Their new band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, formed in 2010, had that quality of just off of standard guitar rock that seems to be the hallmark of all New Zealand Bands but it also introduced a kind of psychedelic flavor that wasn’t basically following what would become a popular musical trend in America and elsewhere. UMO had crafted its own flavor of transporting music that suggested a parallel dimension where pop music could reconcile atonality, unusual shifts in rhythm the likes of which one might expect out of one of the weirder prog bands like Can or Faust. UMO has done well enough and produced a solid body of work up to and including the 2018 album Sex & Food. Lead single “Hunnybee” with its yacht rock leanings probably confused some fans because it sounds a bit like an old Foxygen track but the whole album has plenty of UMO’s wonderful weirdness.
Wednesday | July 18, 2018
Who:Neurosis w/Converge and Birds in Row When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Neurosis evolved out of the San Francisco Bay area’s post-punk/hardcore scene and its earliest albums have more in common with the likes of English anarcho punk bands like Amebix and Crass than perhaps some of their hometown’s well-known punk luminaries. Yet by 1992 the group had garnered the interest of former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra who mixed that year’s Neurosis record, the decidedly more metal Souls at Zero. Neurosis has since then established itself firmly as a powerful live act whose records have pushed the boundaries of metal, hardcore and psychedelic music more than almost another other single band. Most of the truly interesting and innovative modern extreme metal bands can trace a strand of influence to Neurosis. Tourmates Converge were pioneering their own form of metal and hardcore crossover in Salem, Massachusetts. By 2001, the group had developed a particularly savage and precise form of posthardcore whose sound and aesthetic permeates a good deal of the extreme metal of today as well as any hardcore band that wants to taken seriously. Its live shows are legendarily intense and be prepared for the cascade of would-be stage divers and crowd surfers.
Who: Greg Hill presents the Zebra Skin Shirt release
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Tattered Cover – Colfax location
Why: Former Six Months to Live and current Manotaur frontman Greg Hill will present the release of his latest novel, Zebra Skin Shirt, the third and final installment in the Stratford County trilogy all set in Colorado (including 2012’s East of Denver and 2015’s The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles). Hill’s gift for incorporating the supernatural and even science fiction concepts into deeply personal novels about people struggling with their personal shortcomings in life and in their relationships or attempts thereof are always incredibly engaging and entertaining brimming with Hill’s vivid descriptions, sense of humor and attention to detail whether that’s in recreating past Denver and Joes, Colorado locations or intricacies of plot. Zebra Skin Shirt may be Hill’s most unusual novel to date and his best. If you have to miss the release it’s easy to find the book online including at Amazon.
Who:Chief White Lightning w/Keef Duster When: Wednesday, 07.18, 9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Josh Logan may be cultivating that look somewhere between Elvis, Zach Galifianakis and Joaquin Phoenix from I’m Still Here, but seeing as he is a member of Austin stoner rock band Blind Pets, his music pleasantly flies in the face of the expectations one might have just looking at his stage persona. The band’s fuzzy, poppy punk and country mix shouldn’t work and the kitsch should render it difficult to take seriously but the group’s new self-titled album is impossible to dismiss as anything but a great rock and roll album with more diversity of sound and songwriting style than a lot of bands who have delved into modern rock and roll.
Who:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Venus Cruz & What Young Men Do, Abeasity Jones When: Thursday, 05.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Abeasity Jones’ songs sound like maybe he spends part of his day working in some high rise office in downtown Denver and/or in some media tech office nearby where maybe things are comfortable but there’s an element of compromise and alienation. And while working and tending to the demands of his personal and family life he allows his imagination an escape into chill spaces where he can explore and write stories about his struggles, concerns and daydream life. The beats are downtempo and ethereal and the subject matter often delivered with a sense of acceptance like depleted melancholy. Yet, Jones’ sense of humor and thoughtfulness lifts up the music and his live performance has a positive energy giving the songs a dimensionality that some hip-hop seemingly recorded at home lacks.
Also playing this show is one of Denver jazz and hip-hop’s true luminaries: Venus Cruz. But this time out with the band What Young Men Do. Cruz’s versatile talent has found a place singing, producing and performing music in a wide variety of contexts. Her long-running stint with the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO on Wednesday nights is an outlet for fans of jazz and the sensibility of jazz outside the classic format. What Young Men Do is more of a funk, soul and jazz-inflected hip-hop project so it’ll be something pretty different for the Speakeasy Series and Hooked On Colfax both.
Who:Musical Mayhem: Bonnie Weimer and The Pollution When: Thursday, 05.10, 9 p.m. Where: Skylark Lounge Why: Bonnie Weimer released her first single in probably several years, maybe even her first released music since her time in folk-punk-Americana group Potato Farmers, in April 2018 with “Pajama Top Man,” a winsome, humorous, self-effacing story song about an awkward would-be romantic encounter set to a spare, banjo melody. Fans of outsider music will find a lot to like about the song even though that designation doesn’t necessarily fit Weimer’s entire musical output. In an interesting pairing, not unusual for Claudia Woodman’s Musical Mayhem night at the Skylark, is The Pollution. Jay Fox was in one of the early DC punk bands, United Mutation, but the latter was never part of the Dischord scene and didn’t play out often even if its blend of psychedelic rock and punk was becoming a thing as bands like Butthole Surfers and Alice Donut were making waves in the underground. Decades hence, Fox, now living in Denver for several years, has set about trying to make bands for whom the intensity, energy, anti-authoritarian spirit and creative fire of punk and psychedelic seemed completely compatible qualities that needn’t be separated by stylistic sectarianism.
Who:Gold Trash, Violent Vickie, R A R E B Y R D $, Pearls and Perils and EVP When: Thursday, 05.10, 8 p.m. Where: Independent Records Why: Glasss is bringing some of its artists to Colorado Springs tonight. Gold Trash is sort of a samples/live electronics take on the kind of collage, trash sound/culture guitar rock barrage that was Royal Trux. Pearls and Perils is lush downtempo beats and the sultry vocals of Olivia Perez who most won’t remember from her old, experimental rock band Gloam. But with Pearls and Perils she gets to put more of herself into the music undiluted by anyone else’s vision and the result is an emotionally cleansing body of work. Like most Glasss artists, EVP is impossible to tag with one genre designation. Part industrial, part pop, part punk, EVP sounds like the kind of music made by people living in a dystopian near future where kids have overtaken the crumbling, cheap housing units made during Denver’s current fake economic boom (real economic booms benefit everyone pretty equally) but then abandoned—scrappy, often angry and melancholy stuff. R A R E B Y R D $ is probably the Denver band now that will attain the underground mythical status of acts like Fissure Mystic and Hot White by the sheer excellence of its material and live shows except it’s an experimental hip-hop group. Its enveloping, rich beats stir the heart and the imagination and the emotional resonance of its lyrics and KoKo La’s and Key Lady’s singing and rapping has the irresistible power of a Kimya Dawson.
Who:Esmé Patterson, Emily Ritz and Eleanor Perry When: Friday, 05.11, 7 p.m. Where: Leon Gallery Why: Most of the time to see Esmé Patterson’s evocative storyteller pop you’d have to go to some kind of bigger bar venue or small theater. But this performance will happen at the much more intimate Leon Gallery. Patterson spent many years honing her craft as a member of the baroque pop group Paper Bird, but since she’s broke out on hr own for the last several years her imaginative songwriting has developed into a vehicle for writing with a warmth and wisdom on uncomfortable subjects.
Who:Charly Bliss w/Skating Polly When: Friday, 05.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Charly Bliss’s 2017 album Guppy sounds like the band wood shedded its material in a cabin in a remote location far from its Brooklyn homebase with only 90s fuzzy alternative rock/power pop on hand for its listening diet. Obvious touchstones like Liz Phair, Velocity Girl, The Breeders and Veruca Salt. Even the music video for “Ruby” reinforces that impression looking like something that might have been produced for a segment of The Ben Stiller Show. But there’s no mistaking Charly Bliss’s exuberant energy for a pure nostalgia trip. The songs may rock but like many of the bands that likely influenced Charly Bliss, the lyrics have a raw vulnerability that gives it more depth than might otherwise be obvious. The same could be said for Oklahoma City band Skating Polly whose style of music is probably punk by default but so individual it would be problematic to say the trio consciously tried to be punk as a genre. The latter recently released its latest album, The Make It All Show. Skating Polly shows look like they might blow apart from the sheer, wiry energy of the performance and, of course, that’s what makes for great, scrappy punk rock.
Who:Girls Rock Denver: Showcase Series: Gold Trash, RAREBYRD$, EVP and Nighttimeschoolbus When: Friday, 05.11, 7 – 11 p.m. Where: Spectra Art Space Why:Girls Rock Denver will happen in the summer but these events are a showcase to perhaps make being a musician beyond the camp and beyond those likely temporary bands an attainable goal. Which is crucial because a world where most music and art is still being made mostly by males seems bizarre and past its due date at this point in history. This night features some of the best artists in Denver in the realm of electronic, hip-hop, experimental and industrial music. Most of the artists on the bill were written up earlier in this column but all are worth your time.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Echo Beds and Weathered Statues When: Friday, 05.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, one of Denver’s longest running bands and one of its most lively and entertaining, is doing a mini-residence at the Hi-Dive this weekend. Although the Auto Club is a kind of punk Americana with literary lyrics and a joyful, emotionally charged, theatrical live show, it’s been booking opening bands well outside the expected circles of Gothic Americana. This night, organo-industrial darkwave band Echo Beds will bring the punishing beats and cathartic drones and Weathered Statues will deliver its brand of moody but urgent post-punk.
Saturday | May 12, 2018
What:Fem Fest When: Saturday, 05.12, 8 p.m. Where: MCA Denver Why: Fem Fest is an all-ages, all-genders welcome event that includes various workshops, a bazaar, tarot and astrology readings and more but also musical performances in the evening and night. Fem Fest because representation matters in a truly healthy and just society. There are plenty of, in essence, Men Fests because of booking and conception most of the rest of the year so don’t get caught up on the name and miss out on some of Denver’s best bands and the headliner, Red Aunts. Music kicks off at 5 p.m. with a Girls Rock Denver showcase followed by space angel/earth mother energy hip hop group R A R E B Y R D $ at 6. Princess Dewclaw, Denver’s own electro fuzz punks at 7 with “pastel punk” surf rock trio The Corner Girls at 8. The evening tops off at 9 with Red Aunts.
Who:Dirty Junk, Great American House Fire, Married a Dead Man When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m. Where: The Curtis Club Why: Dirty Junk is a duo from Minneapolis on its 2017 album Snot is the kind of messy, noisy, collage-esque punk-inspired music that we haven’t heard much of since Get Hustle was active. Or like a weirder and noiser version of that raw punk Sleater-Kinney was doing on its first two records. Interesting putting the band together with Great American House Fire, a group that combines a melancholic Americana with moody posthardcore and soulful singing. Married a Dead Man is a post-punk band unabashedly influenced by music out of the Goth world.
Who:Sorted #8: Pangaea, Ganesa & Squane, Newnumbertwo When: Saturday, 05.12, 10 p.m. Where: TBA Why: Kevin McAuley calls London home but tonight he’s performing at the eight edition of sorted, the underground electronic music event that Veronica Lamaak and company put together periodically to showcase some of the most interesting house, techno and more experimental dance music in general happening now. Also on the bill are Jelly Bean Farm artists Ganesa & Squane. Ganesa is the label head of Jelly Bean Farm and her DJ sets tend to be eclectic and futuristic-sounding. Squane’s sound tends to be more low end heavy with thick, dubby bass beats but he and Ganesa share a seeming love of bright, mid-to-upper register melodically ethereal melodies. Newnumbertwo is a resident artist with Sorted whose deep house/dubstep sound mixes in elements of a gentle kind of breakcore.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Palehorse/Palerider When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The second night of the Auto Club residency at the Hi-Dive this weekend but this time with Palehorse/Palerider, a band who are superficially an alchemical mixture of doom/drone and shoegaze but with an industrial/tribal element they bring in for a song or two in the set. Which doesn’t mean much when your sets have three or four songs but nevertheless gives a set of otherwise densely beautiful and crushing songs an expansive sensibility.
Sunday | May 13, 2018
Who:Modest Mouse w/Mimicking Birds When: Sunday, 05.13, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: For a band that is one of the definitive incarnations of the too-broad-too-vague-yet-fittingly-umbrella quasi-genre of indie rock, Modest Mouse sure put in a lot of time developing its sound and songwriting style before becoming one of the style’s most iconic groups. Modest Mouse began when its founders were still in high school, it released its first seven inch on K Records, its first two full-lengths on Seattle indie imprint Up Records including its 1997 “breakthrough” album Lonesome Crowded West and every album since through major label Epic Records. Quite an arc for a band whose work remained fairly idiosyncratic, emotionally raw and imaginative even up to its most recent album, 2015’s Strangers to Ourselves. In its first decade or so of its existence, Modest Mouse was a notoriously inconsistent live band. But since then the act has seemingly harnessed the chaos and unpredictability of its youth when maybe there seemed to be less and stake and less to lose if it did all fall apart and channeled that spirit into music more coherent and accessible to a wider audience without having to sacrifice its uniqueness.
Monday | May 14, 2018
Who:Petrification w/Rotstrotter, Alone and Noctambulist When: Monday, 05.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Petrification is a death metal/grind band from Portland, Oregon on its way to Maryland Death Fest and making a stop in Denver to play with some of the local heavy hitters in that realm of music. The band called its 2017 cassetteSummon Horrendous Destructionwith a rotting zombie face rendered in black and white as the cover. At times the guitar riffs wander into the realm of The New Order-esque period Testament. But that is no bad thing. Rotstrotter have been one the longest-running, and frankly best, D-Beat bands in Denver. Sounding somewhere between SSD and early Discharge, Rotstrotter looks and sounds like they live it and that it’s not a simply a shallow lifestyle choice.
Who:Farrell Lowe Group, Latex Cupcake, Seward / Sexton, Gil Selinger When: Monday, 05.14, 8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This is a rare opportunity to see some of Colorado’s avant-garde improvisation legends at a DIY space. Farrell Lowe Group includes, of course, Farrell Lowe, Mark Raynes, Dave Willey and Mark Harris. The latter two are members of internationally renowned avant-prog band Thinking Plague. Latex Cupcake is Jennifer Bobola, John T. Nething, Bret Kuyper and Mark Emmons, all of whom have been around Denver playing in various capacities but this is the project’s first show and its, one might say, mutant version of experimental jazz/modern classical will be a great fit on this lineup including a solo cello performance with Gil Selinger and Seward / Sexton, which will be accessible and in the vein of lounge jazz but inspired more by Captain Beefheart and The Fugs than a standard jazz group.
Tuesday | May 15, 2018
Who:Cullen Omori w/The Gloomies and Rowboat When: Tuesday, 05.15, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Cullen Omori’s 2016 album New Misery at least lets you know what you’re in for. As in imagine you were in one of the most buzzed about indie rock bands of the first half of the 2010s and then your band breaks up and you didn’t regroup with any of the other members. You’re left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out a way to keep doing the only thing that gave your life any real resonance. Perhaps a bit of a stretch but one can only imagine it’s something like the scene in Apocalypse Now where Willard discusses why he stayed in Vietnam and how it beat working in a factory in Ohio. To go from Smith Westerns and, in Denver anyway, playing the Ogden to playing small clubs. Willard dealt with it through self-harm and self-medication. Maybe Omori did some of that too, who’s to say? But what we do know is that despite its flaws and shortcomings, New Misery is the product of Omori’s tangling with the fallout, personal and creative, of going from being in a band on the verge of mainstream success to having to find a place for oneself doing the thing you love but which is also the source of some of your pain. That quality gives the record a bit of an uneven and at times cringeworthily honest quality but you don’t often get to hear that on what is essentially a pop record. For this show, you can see some of that music live but also, with any luck, a good deal of what Omori has been cooking up since then.
Who:Film On the Rocks: The Last Jedi feat. Church Fire When: Tuesday, 05.15, 6 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Church Fire’s music sounds like it’s from some future, way-past-post-apocalypse-to-civilizational-rebirth dance club scene. Like synth pop delivered with a fiery intensity and noisy abandon. Sure, a lot of people are going to see a movie during the rainy season for some reason at a place where the wind will doppler the sound and the storms will make watching a movie borderline miserable. Or not. It is Colorado after all. But seeing Church Fire in that environment will make sense as the sun is setting and the diminishing rainclouds provide the perfect backdrop.
Wednesday | May 16, 2018
Who:TV Girl w/Wished Bone and Hairclub When: Wednesday, 05.16, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The enigmatic pop band TV Girl makes a stop at the Hi-Dive this night. Its sound is like a hyper/surreal, tropicalia-inflected lounge pop. Like a Los Angeles sister band to Sweden’s Death And Vanilla. If someone could make music for a TV show about an America where the 80s never ended and we somehow had Ike back as the president. If Mad Men was a cyberpunk show but took place at a resort with none of the usual dystopian trappings, just life with everyday dramas set in a dreamlike place, an almost too clean place as exists in 60s 70s British science fiction shows. The band’s new album, Death of a Party Girl (read the statement on why the vinyl isn’t yet out because it’s dead on and witty) is an indie pop album that sounds like something that could only really come out of Southern California – hazy atmospheres, downtempo, wistful and soothing – but without any of the creeping insipidity that happens when too much industry input leeches music of any of its inherent character.
Who:Musical Mayhem: lib.eriana, Klaus Dafoe and Brian Parton When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This edition of Musical Mayhem looks like a doozy. Alan Muñiz is probably not someone you think of when you think of Denver’s music scene much less the avant-garde end of it. But he has been part of multiple projects that have been exploring sounds and musical ideas out on the edge of accessibility while rooted in a very organic approach to composition. His current project, lib.eriana is a mix of elegant acoustic-electronic music and abstract dub IDM. The moody, gorgeous pieces he’s shared on his Soundcloud account are just a taste of what you’re in for tonight. Also on the bill is post-punk/Canadian avant guitar aficionado solo artist Klaus Dafoe and Americana pop artist Brian Parton. Eclectic line up as should happen more often.
Who:Telefon Tel Aviv w/Dean Grenier, Bones and Peter Vaughan When: Thursday, 02.08, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper started Telefon Tel Aviv in the late 90s composing IDM ambient music with sounds suggesting specific natural environments. The duo’s debut album, 2001’s Fahrenheit Fair Enough, established a sound that later became popular among the post-EDM/deep house set—a new kind of dance music for chillout zones. The project went on to explore various extensions of its root aesthetic across five albums before the untimely death of Cooper shortly after the release of Immolate Yourself, Telefon Tel Aviv’s up to now final album. Since then, Telefon Tel Aviv became a bit of a legendary band in the realm of IDM. Eustis became a touring member of Nine Inch Nails in 2013 as well as Puscifer. But since that year, Eustis has presumably worked on the recent reissues of classic Telefon Tel Aviv material and has apparently been working on new material that you can hopefully catch if you make it out to this show.
Who:Ice Troll, New Standards Men, Transmutation When: Thursday, 02.08, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Calling this a post-rock show might be a bit misleading because Ice Troll is clearly more in the realm of what one might call a doom orchestra. New Standards Men have more in common with noise sculptor punks and post-punks like Unwound and A Minor Forest than something as calming as Explosions in the Sky. But it’ll be instrumental and not adhering to basic genre formats of any kind.
Friday | February 9, 2018
Who:Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sun Seeker and Porlolo When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Jessica Lea Mayfield’s 2017 album Sorry Is Gone sounds noisier and more conflicted than perhaps her earlier efforts. But having gone through a breakup with an abusive spouse with songwriting as one therapeutic outlet, Mayfield nevertheless expertly writes in a way that comes across emotionally honest and poetic. With her life so disrupted Mayfield would have been excused for sounding angry but the record is more melancholy and expressive of hurt buoyed a bit by a spirit of defiance. Musically, Mayfield combines a soulful Americana with the desert-y atmospheric rock of Rain Parade or bits of Meat Puppets II. Though there is a bit of throwback to Mayfield’s melodies the tone of emotion in her voice is poignantly immediate.
Who:The Velveteers EP release w/Plastic Daggers, Bud Bronson + The Good Timers When: Friday, 02.09, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Velveteers are releasing a new EP with songs informed partially by singer/guitarist Demi Demitro’s love of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with at least some of the material written in a graveyard. The duo has always sounded larger than seems possible with just drums, guitar and vocals. But with the new EP, Demi and her brother John push the envelope of their format further and guitar harmonics in the main riffs give the sound broader dimensions than has ever had. The Velveteers have always been a surprisingly compelling and powerful band with fire and bite in their songwriting and performances. The new EP confirms the promise that The Velveteers have plenty more to offer ahead with imaginative hard rock. To help celebrate the release of the debut EP are fuzz rock punks Plastic Daggers and Bud Bronson + The Good Timers, one of the few straight ahead rock bands that isn’t boring us with leaning on the crutch of a sound established completely by bands from decades past.
Who:Wrinkle album release w/American Grandma, Club Soda, Terremoto When: Friday, 02.09, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: With its new album, A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies, Wrinkle from Denver has some self-effacing laughs amid its signature melancholic stories of the decaying American culture and its erosion of anything resembling the American dream while trying to survive and make sense of anything that could be worth doing, holding on to the bits of life that bring any joy or relief from the grim reality that faces all of us but specifically anyone under 30 that didn’t learn some technocratic trade, had a leg up in the financial industry or otherwise had advantages in life most of us don’t possess. Wrinkle has articulated the anomy of our times so well in its full catalog of songs but A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies finds the band using a broader palette of sounds and dynamics beyond any band inspired by late 90s emo and melodic hardcore. Wrinkle is more interesting than any throwback could be because its expanding what the music could be rather than merely putting on an individual stamp.
Who:Male Blonding, Plume Varia and Emerald Siam When: Friday, 02.09, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: This is the show of the year so far when post-punk and dream pop will be well-represented on stage between Male Blonding’s gift for making dynamics really create an architecture for atmosphere without having to make it obvious, Plume Varia’s deeply evocative yet gentle melodies and Emerald Siam’s layered, burning of the midnight lamp tones and dipping into wells of disappointment and gloominess and transforming it into something darkly beautiful. The latter released its most recent single, “Clean Split” on January 31, 2018. emeraldsiam.bandcamp.com/track/clean-split
Sunday | February 11, 2018
Who:Sliver, Television Generation, Mr. Atomic and Bad Nostalgia When: Sunday, 02.11, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Chris Mercer may have had a bit of a troubled life of struggle like Kurt Cobain. But all of it has fueled his lyrics and the music he makes with Dylan Jammes and Hollis Pierman. Obvious comparisons could be made to Nirvana pre-Nevermind and Tad. But there’s plenty of the DC hardcore Mercer encountered and witnessed firsthand before he moved to Colorado from the East Coast. There’s an edginess to the emotional catharsis the band lays out on stage but also an ear for melody that bands so noisy and unapologetically intense sometimes don’t bother to cultivate. Television Generation is cut from similar cloth except that its fuzzy pop songs, especially on 2017’s excellent Peel, are reminiscent of some amalgam of Love Battery, Love & Rockets and Love. Scratch the latter even if it fits and think more like Green Day or Weezer. And because there’s a clear pop-punk and early 90s alternative rock influence informing the music. But also a touch of early psychedelia and a melancholic, sometimes otherworldly, undertone to the songs. Mr. Atomic sounds like it grew up on the last gasp of the legitimate group of alternative rock bands but in forming decided being essentially a tribute band for an era wasn’t going to work out and its songs reflect a modern sensibility. Boneth Ahaneku’s tuneful vocals coupled with the band’s overall songwriting are reminiscent of Letters to Cleo or Veruca Salt in their ability to sound joyful and even playful while not cheapening essentially thoughtful lyrics. And, really, Amy Heckerling should tap this band for her next soundtrack.
Wednesday | February 14, 2018
Who:Bonnie and the Clydes, Chella & The Charm, Ryann & Lee, Jennifer Jane Niceley, Five Mile Woods When: Wednesday, 02.14, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Sure, Valentine’s Day Special at the Hi-Dive called “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.” And if it were a show in which vapid, soulless “country” musicians told stories that weren’t an amped up attempt to imbue limited life experience with faux gravity it might be worth it. But no, if you choose to attend you will get to see talented people like Bonnie Sims, the singer and main songwriter in Bonnie and the Clydes whose songs about life and love have a flavor that reveal her Texan roots but in doing so also a sensibility that more than suggests she’s been around the block a few times with laying her heart on the line. Also, Chella & The Charm’s songs about love and heartache come from a place of striking self-examination and contemplation of the essence of what it all means without bogging it all down with intellectualizing the experience yet not also having a perverse need to dumb it down for accessibility. A great country and Americana show for people who think they don’t like any of that music.
Who:Mandy Yoches & The Hell Knows When: Wednesday, 02.14, 9 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Soul and R&B singer extraordinaire Mandy Yoches and her band The Hell Knows will perform a set of songs for Valentine’s Day. Probably not a cynical take on the subject of love because that’s not Yoches’ style but surely the set list will be interesting with some surprises from Yoches’ diverse repertoire.