The surreal weirdness of Gus Englehorn’s song and video for “Tarantula” immediately triggers memories and visions of Half Japanese, Alice Donut, They Might Be Giants and King Missile in your brain. It’s from an album called Dungeon Master and if geek adept status wasn’t earned for Englehorn for that alone, the curiously catchy and tuneful song turns an off standard melody sound in the vocals and unusual delivery into something that draws you in. The lyrics are also somewhat nonsensical and bizarre. “Tarantula that whispers in your ear” followed by lines that don’t clarify a thing like “Hold your head under water” and “River bed ever after.” But it doesn’t matter. It’s absurdist imagery at its finest and need not fulfill some linear succession of thought. The image of a tarantula whispering quasi mystical, Dada-esque phrases into your ear forces the brain down alternate pathways that take you off the map of the everyday. And does it make less sense then the words to a whole swath of pop music? “Louie Louie” people have sung along to since it came out or “Surfin’ Bird” and both songs are completely demented musically with lyrics that matter less than the almost shamanistic quality of their cadence and the same is true here. Watch the video that Englehorn made with his musical partner in crime Estée Preda made for “Tarantula” on YouTube and connect with Englehorn at the links below. Dungeon Master releases on April 29, 2022 on Secret City Records.
When a band from Chicago calls itself Vicious Dunk you have to assume there’s some primo, brutally self-deprecating humor of the Midwestern vintage informing the music. So in the video for “Please Try To Leave Something There” filmed in one take at the Edge Theater in Chicago you get that and much more. The song is a gentle indie pop song that takes digs the evolution of the urban Bohemian creative and never once is the dreaded designation of “hipster” employed. And maybe because despite the dry sarcasm and irreverent sentiments it’s a tender song about an affection for the experiences and the people along the way and how they shape your perspective. With just vocals, acoustic guitar, drums and bass with a touch of synth in the background to give parts of the song a surreal atmosphere that perfectly suits the whimsical and humorous yet meaningful tenor of the whole presentation. Chicago has long had an overlap with theater and music (Maestro Subgum and The Whole as an older example) and clearly songwriter Jake Pollock (bassist of the late, great indie folk weirdos Friends of the Bog) and Preserve Records label founder Patrick Budde have some experience with being or being around theater kids and that gives the vibe here an authenticity that prevents the pointed humor from being too much of a, yes, vicious dunk. Hard to compare this odd indie pop song to anyone else and best just to watch the video on YouTube or visit the project’s Bandcamp linked below to get a taste of how clever and inventive Vicious Dunk has been as a songwriting duo but fans of They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Richman and Dead Milkmen might greatly appreciate what these guys have to offer.
Thursday: November 9, 2017
Who: Guantanamo Baywatch w/Cheap Perfume and Vic ‘n’ The Narwhals
When: Thursday, 11.09, 8 p.m.
Why: By now surf rock is a style of music that’s been beaten into the ground over the last 7-8 years, all the possibilities of the music beaten out of it, leeched of vitality and iterations of it meditating ad nauseum upon well-worn paths. But it happens. Some band is doing it in a way that brings genuine creativity to a form of music that seems to hold no more surprises. Thus is Guantanamo Beach’s 2017 album Desert Center which has plenty of the usual tricks but even amid those are beautiful leads and melodic turns of phrase that elevate the band’s music beyond tropes and styles into the realm of originality even while employing the sounds and rhythms of an established musical genre. That Guantanamo Baywatch is a compelling live band seals that impression. Opening the show are Cheap Perfume, as thrillingly sassy punk band, and Vic n’ The Narhwals, a psychedelic garage rock band that sounds like it crawled out of Venice Beach in the late 60s, got on a plane that traveled through the Bermuda Triangle and dropped them off in Denver circa 2015. Who knows, really, but they don’t sound like they’re trying to jump on any trendy bandwagons.
Who: PterrorFractyl w/Mirror Fears, Sid Madrid and Terminals
When: Thursday, 11.09, 6 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Mirror Fears’ 2017 album Eaten should be on the Year End Best lists of every music journalist but probably won’t because Kate Warner is from Denver and few journalists outside the Mile High City are aware of her beautifully sculpted, experimental music infused, electro pop songs informed by heightened feelings about so many of the things plaguing our world today. Plus the songs have a depth of atmosphere and a catchiness that’s undeniable. PterrorFractyl is what you might get if an electronic dance outfit got into ambient and the abstract end of dubtechno. Reminiscent of Gonjasufi and maybe showing the influence of Flying Lotus in the mixture of organic sounds and pure electronics in the beats.
Who: Musical Mayhem w/Claudzilla, The Far Stairs as Destination Moon covering TMBG, A Box of Stars and Jacob McKelvie
When: Thursday, 11.09, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: “Mayhem” is the appropriate word for this edition of the event. Okay, not pure mayhem (or pure fucking Armageddon for that matter), but it will be a contrast between Claudzilla’s keytar-driven weirdo pop songs and those of The Far Stairs covering They Might Be Giants and touring Americana bands A Box of Stars from Vermont and Jacob McKelvie from Massachusetts. But at least the touring bands aren’t the usual sort of beards and mandolins variety we get coming to Colorado looking to get their big break following in the path of The Lumineers.
Friday: November 10, 2017
Who: Vase Vide and Had I Known dual album release w/Katey Sleeveless
When: Friday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Zodiac Venue/Bar
Why: The Colorado Springs music scene is probably a bit of a dismissed enigma to anyone outside of that city unless they know a band or two. But the Springs has been home to some of the most interesting musical projects Colorado has yet produced. And if not interesting per se to many, at least respectable. Against Tomorrow’s Sky, Eyes Caught Fire, Dear Rabbit, El Toro De La Muerte, Abracastabya, Blighter, 908, Black Pegasus, Be Thou My Vision, Cocordion, The Mansfields and Nicotine Fits at a minimum. Tonight experimental pop band Vase Vide releases its latest album, Hello Moon, Good Night. Fans of Yo La Tengo and Mercury Rev will appreciate the deep, hazy atmospheres and unfurling whorls of compound time in the rhythms. That latter gives it an open-ended and expansive feeling. A more contemporary comparison could be made with the rock/psychedelia and electronica of The Helio Sequence.
Had I Known is releasing the Pedestrians EP. Singer/guitarist Brian Eastin has been around in bands for years, relatively recently in War Parts. Had I Known is a more spiky, glittery indie rock band than War Parts but with Eastin’s usual sincerity and intensity. Think more like a lo-fi and noisy The Life and Times and you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for.
Katey Sleeveless also has a new EP but it won’t be released at this show. Like Had I Known, Katey Sleeveless is a trio but rather than three men, it’s three women: Kate Perdoni many may know as a singer and guitarist in Eros & The Eschaton; Emily Gould as the drummer in country band Plain As Day; Kellie Palmblad as vocalist/guitarist in Eyes Caught Fire, Waterbear and Constellation of Cars. Among others. Their band together some may want to characterize as dream pop because there is a gritty yet ethereal quality to the guitar sounds but as with the members’ other bands, there is an expressive emotionality to the music that doesn’t release all at once. It doesn’t unfold in one or multiple bursts. It has the rare quality of being cathartic, soothing, nuanced and introspective.
Who: Gone Full Heathen album release w/Married a Dead Man, Teacup Gorilla, Vexing and guests
When: Friday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Gone Full Heathen is release its self-titled album tonight with a show with deathrock band Married to a Dead Man, glam/psych band Teacup Gorilla and Vexing. Gone Full Heathen sounds like a combination of hardcore, transcendental metal and screamo. Meaning it’s heavy, it has moments where singer Ryanne Brooks wails in an unhinged way reminiscent of Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland.
Who: Fathers w/Wild Call, Poolside At The Flamingo and Voight
When: Friday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m.
Why: Heavy music supergroup Fathers (which includes Oscar Ross of Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas of Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe of Cult of the Lost Cause) is releasing its self-titled debut at this show. Calling it metal is a bit of a misnomer because it’s more like the kind of metal and hardcore that came out on Hydra Head—more experimental, usually more extreme. One of these kids is not like the others and industrial post-punkers Voight are opening this show with its second to last show before it goes on an extended period of not playing live. You never know, singer Nick Salmon might break something in a burst of exuberance but that’s long been one of his charms.
Who: Death From Above w/The Beaches
When: Friday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In 2017 Death From Above seems to have been able to go back to using that name without the comma and the “1979” afterward. Combining post-punk’s rhythm driven songwriting, hard rock’s exuberant bombast and electronic dance music, Death From Above quickly became one of the most popular of the “dance punk” bands in the first decade of the 21st century before taking a five year hiatus in 2006. Its latest album, Outrage! Is Now is not the acidic barn burner that is 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine or the sophisticated take on the same as 2014’s The Physical World but it’s a worthwhile listen even if it doesn’t much push the band’s existing envelope and its seemingly meta social commentary can be a tad oblique. The live show, though still seems as exuberant as ever. Opening band The Beaches, also from Toronto, is a pretty straight forward rock and roll band with a harder edge than many of the bands mining the overworked classic rock mold. But there’s more of a power pop melodicism to The Beaches that lifts it from the tired blues based hard rock that’s been pedaled ad infinitum over the past half decade and more.
Saturday: November 11, 2017
Who: LCD Soundsystem w/Traxx
When: Saturday, 11.11, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: Too much pop music is concerned with an adolescent view of love and relationships and the world in general. Which is the appeal for many people who either are there in their lives or who are, somewhere in their heads, trapped in yearning for that time in their lives where they put adolescence and youth on a pedestal as the best time in life. But anyone who gets past 27, and especially into or past your 30s knows the best years of your life are rarely your teens and early 20s. Besides, you can’t go back and a lot of popular art and music isn’t aimed toward you and your life experience and perspectives. Fortunately, when LCD Soundsystem came back, the band gave us a record like American Dream which has all the liveliness and innovation of the band’s earlier records as well as words that speak honestly to concerns, feelings and thoughts that come to you if you’re an especially sensitive, perceptive and introspective younger person and definitely when you’re well into adulthood. No dumbing down or pandering required or given and all sarcasm and sardonic humor hitting exactly where it needs to be.
Who: Franksgiving w/Little Fyodor & Babushka, Ralph Gean and Esmerelda Strange
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This is an annual event thrown by Franklin Bell to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. As usual, the fantastic punk rock band Little Fyodor & Babushka will perform and outweird and frankly outpunk most other bands at the same time with surprisingly catchy songs about anxiety and our strange world. Ralph Gean, Denver’s O.G. still living rock star will perform as well as Esmerelda Strange whose performance moniker is no mere clever stage name.
Who: HorrorHouse Pinball Tournament of Death
When: Saturday, 11.11, 6 p.m.
Where: Vision Comics & Oddities (3958 S. Federal)
Why: This will be a combination haunted house and pinball tournament. It’s $15 to enter with pinball machines provided and maintained by Bloodshed Deathbath’s Ryan Policky who also designed the haunt. His band A Shoreline Dream has been releasing some of the most beautiful shoegaze singles over the past year in preparation for an eventual full length release sometime next year. On this night, however, music will be provided in part by DJ Fernando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.
Who: Screwtape tour kickoff w/Remain & Sustain, King Kaleb, Victim Culture, Discount Price, Lovely Gang
When: Saturday, 11.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: If you were to name, oh, the top three best punk bands out of Denver right now, Screwtape would have to be on that list because the hardcore outfit because its shows are an explosion of energy and it has something to say rather than resort to being mere entertainment.
Who: cEvin Key, Djoto, Mudwulf and VJ Dizypixl
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Why: cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy and Download fame will do a DJ set this night with some local noise/industrial luminaries including Cozmos Mudwulf. VJ Dizypixl does visuals for all kinds of artists across the country but is based in Denver metro and will provide her usual array of arresting visuals.
Who: Jean-Baptiste Le Cessna
When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m.
Why: Slim Cessna (of the Auto Club, of course) doesn’t often perform a solo show so who can say exactly what he’ll perform. But it’ll be with his usual warm yet haunting voice and expressive guitar work.
Tuesday: November 14, 2017
Who: Porlolo w/Jeff Beam, Turvy Organ and Cocordion
When: Tuesday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Why: Porlolo has various part time members but it’s all the songwriting of Erin Roberts who has kept the project going for more than a decade. In the beginning it might have been described as a side project of her band with Joe Sampson, A Dog Paloma, but the latter has long since gone the way of all things. Is it folk? Maybe grounded there in some senses. Singer-songwriter? What does that even mean when such can be said of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and Greg Laswell? Indie rock? It’s all clumsy labeling for Roberts whose songs combine keen insight into human behavior, poignant observations about everyday experiences and a existential sense of humor that can wax to the absurd and silly. Cocordion is the experimental indie rock band from Colorado Springs that just released its debut full length record, Expectations, also not short on insightful words about the world we live in and our individual navigations of uncertainty, despair and how, yes, expectations (our own, that of others) shape our perceptions. Turvy Organ is the secret great band more people should know about because its orchestral pop songs are dark, moody, expansive and thought-provoking.
Who: Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), Landon Wordswell, Tope, Reason the Citizen, Kruza Kid
When: Tuesday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Gift of Gab (born Timothy Parker) is one of the most talented MCs in all of hip-hop and his fast, literate, profane, profound, pointed delivery is one of the things that made Blackalicious one of the most popular and influential acts in underground hip-hop since the 90s. In 2017, Gab released his latest EP, Rejoice! Rappers are Rapping Again!! And it’s no mere boast because the EP is the rapper in high form.
Wednesday: November 15, 2017
Who: Cut Copy w/Palmbomen II
When: Wednesday, 11.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Cut Copy was one of the few bands that got a good deal of buzz in the 2000s that was better than the buzz would suggest. They early on melded together 80s synth pop sensibilities with shoegaze guitars. And live those guitars were fiery and atmospheric at once. Following 2008’s In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy increasingly experimented with electronic sounds and production techniques for both its records and its live shows. In 2011, Zonoscope probably confused some fans of the band’s early music with its complete adoption of an electronic dance aesthetic which, honestly, was where the band seemed to be going from the beginning. 2013’s Free Your Mind brought the band into a more electrosoul direction that it continued with on 2017’s Haiku from Zero. However, in September 2016, Cut Copy released a limited edition cassette called January Tape. It’s a mostly ambient and minimal synth affair and fans of Popol Vuh, Panabrite and Sinoia Caves will find a lot to like there but it’s a safe bet you won’t see it live. However, Cut Copy won’t skimp on the energy and bright, enveloping atmospheres and dance-worthy rock songs that have made it a noteworthy band from early on.
Who: Samvega w/Medusa’s Disco and Today’s Paramount
When: Wednesday, 11.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Flux Capacitor
Why: Samvega from Napa Valley, California doesn’t fit in a simple box: Its music is heavy, it’s psychedelic, it’s avant-garde and bluesy. Melissa and Mercedes Baker are unconventionally charismatic singers who sound like and come off like they spent a couple of decades touring with Heart and went on to do something weirder. The band’s 2016 album The King is Asleep was one of that year’s most interesting rock albums for its diversity and obvious care for making it a unique from the songwriting to the painting for the cover art. Also on the bill is experimental rock band Today’s Paramount. They look like they might be in a ska band, and maybe on the side some of them are, but their weirdo take on prog, jazz and psych is not like much of anything going on in Denver.