What:Colorado Crew Denvoid Pt. 2 book release When: Friday, 12.20, 6-8:30 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: This event will present the follow up to Bob Rob Medina’s 2015 book Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks which documented the Denver punk and underground music scene from 1982-1987. This volume, Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 covers the years 1988-1996 in which punk changed, the major current strands of music in Denver emerged into strong, coherent form and the early phase of artist run DIY spaces developed into the form we know now.
What:Emerald Siam w/Echo Beds and Clusterfux When: Friday, 12.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The musical accompaniment to Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 mentioned above with bands whose members were part of that late 80s through mid-90s scene.
What:Grimy (Bryan Wendzel) and Cabron (Bob Rob Medina) When: Saturday, 12.21, 1 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: Early afternoon show connected to the release of Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 featuring death-grind band Grimy and author Bob Rob Medina’s San Diego-based punk outfit Cabron playing a rare show (as well as another later this night).
What:The Rocky Mountain Synthesizer Meetup Presents: Synth Patrol When: Saturday, 12.21, 1-3 p.m. Where: Little Horse Books & Vintage Why: Early afternoon concert featuring live vinyl sampling from Aefonic (Brian Horsfield), Cold Future (Victor John), monoscene (Christoph Scholtes) and Newecho (Mark Mosher).
What:Jon Snodgrass and Jux County When: Saturday, 12.21, 5-8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Another show connected to the release of Bob Rob Medina’s book Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 including performances from longtime punk stalwart Jon Snodgrass and Jux County, one of the early cowpunk/alt-country bands from the mid-80s and who still occasionally play shows.
What:FOUR! (reunion), Cyclo-Sonic, Mind Rider (Sonny Kay), Cabron When: Saturday, 12.21, 9 p.m. Where: 1010 Workshop Why: The final event related to the release of Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 with performances from bands including people featured in the book with pop-punk legends FOUR!, garage punk band Cyclo-Sonic which includes members of The Fluid, Choosey Mothers and Rok Tots, Sonny Kay (Savalas, Angel Hair, The VSS) and Bob Rob Medina (Savalas, Cabron). Rumor has it Medina and Kay will perform a Savalas song.
What:Causer, Equine, Tears to Li6ht When: Saturday, 12.21, 8 p.m. Where: Glitter City Why: Equine is an avant-garde guitar drone solo project of Kevin Richards. Causer is one of the most compelling and inventive newcomers to Denver’s noise scene with their mix of confrontational performance art and noise collage. Tears to Li6ht is a melodic ambient/experimental pop project.
What:Umbras Animas w/Lady of Sorrows, John Gross, Mismo and Pythian Whispers When: Sunday, 12.22, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Umbras Animas is bringing its latest drone and shadow pupper theater performance to Rhinoceropolis along with one of the Godfathers of Denver noise John Gross, operatic darkwave synth pop project Lady of Sorrows and soundtrack/soundscape projects Mismo and Pythian Whispers (full disclosure, Queen City Sounds and Art writer Tom Murphy’s band).
Titwrench travels to Stockholm Sweden for Titwrench Stockholm, which happens this weekend running Thursday June 14 through Saturday June 16 (find details here). The festival, which celebrates experimental music and art created by female identified people and LGBT folk, has been going on since 2009, usually in Denver, Colorado. The edition in Stockholm starts off with will include European and US artists including the likes of Denver’s Rachael Pollard, R A R E B Y R D $, Church Fire and Mirror Fears as well as Albuquerque artists Cthulha, Weedrat, Chicharra, Bigawatt and performance troupe extraordinaire Milch De La Máquina. The US artists in particular could use your help to defray the costs of performing at the festival and you can contribute to the cause here or to the individual artist funds linked above.
Before Titwrench last happened in Denver in August 2017, we had the chance to speak with Marisa Demarco of Milch De La Máquina, Chicharra and Bigawatt. Demarco has long been a significant artist and journalist in Albuquerque and we spoke with her about becoming involved in DIY and underground music and art and her evolution from pop/rock musician to noise and visionary avant-garde performance artist.
Queen City Sounds: You grew up in Albuquerque, is that right? Or did you grow up elsewhere?
Marisa Demarco: Yeah, no, born in Farmington, NM but lived my whole life in Albuquerque, NM.
How did you become aware of underground and DIY culture growing up?
I was performing in just like a regular pop-rock band or whatever called Ya Ya Boom since I was in high school. I was in that band a long time when I was really feeling like I wanted to stretch my ability level and my creativity a little bit. So, I saw this ad on Craigslist where they were looking for players for Cobra Game, which is a game invented by John Zorn. I’ve heard it described as somebody who’s flipping a radio really fast through the stations. I don’t think that’s totally exactly it but that’s maybe the quickest shorthand. So I joined Cobra as a vocalist, which also I didn’t realize at the time was maybe kind of odd. I don’t think there were any other vocalists in the group at that time.
From there, I just kind of met a lot of people who became big experimental players down here and the Cobra group eventually became Death Convention Singers, which is still something that I’m involved in. It no longer performs necessarily John Zorn’s compositions or John Zorn’s game, Cobra, but it does perform compositions, like contemporary experimental compositions. We also are an art collective and do installations and that’s over many years. So, I think I joined [that] Cobra group when I was 25 and I’m 36 now, so it’s over like 11 years I kind of evolved with those other performers and through them kind of found all the faces that in Albuquerque pop up for experimental noise music and performance.
For a long time, what was happening out here was like a space would open up and be around for just a little while, like maybe a year, until, I don’t know, cops start showing up or something, and then we would go to another spot. So for a while it was just a migratory DIY scene culture out here. We also did performances that were not in established venues at all, like we did this one performance on top of the abandoned courthouse in downtown Albuquerque. You know, we were just trying things in different kinds of spaces. That’s kind of how I got connected to all that stuff.
That’s really interesting, I had no idea. I remember Ya Ya Boom played up here I believe. At Glob or someplace like that?
We played at Glob. I think the first place we played was at 3 Kings and I think there’s still a sticker in the bathroom, of our band. [Titwrench founder] Sarah Slater recently took a photo in the last 5 years or something and showed me that it was still in there.
Did you know Raven Chacon from early on?
Yeah, Raven was in the Cobra group. I think he’s one of the two founders of the Cobra group or maybe the founder and he turned it into Death Convention Singers. And there’s another offshoot of that that happens periodically, called Dirty Birdies, which is this kind of long form improvisation with many players. So there’s Dirty Birdies, Death Convention and Cobra group and those are all kind of part of the same tree branch I guess.
One of the best things that happens at Titwrench every year is Milch, of course. Is that something that you kind of got going to play that, or is it something you do there, as well, in Albuquerque?
Yeah, we started it – I mean, I gathered performers together when I even just heard that Titwrench was maybe a possibility. I didn’t even know if it was for sure happening or what but Raven Chacon, who you mentioned, actually sent me Sarah Slater’s contact info and was like, “Hey, I think she’s thinking about doing a festival.” And so I sent her an email and I was like, “Hey, I would super want to come up there to that” and so I kind of got a few friends together to make a group to play Titwrench. So we formed to play the festival. And then every year since then we’ve played every single one of them. We also always do the set here at home in Albuquerque and sometimes we’ve done even more elaborate versions of the set we do up in Denver. For instance, one year Milch did a set that I think had 6 people in Denver and then we came back here and I managed to rope like 30 people into performing it. Just cuz it’s easier to travel with 6 people than it is 30.
Is it “Milsh de la Makeena,” am I pronouncing that right?
Milch de la Máquina (with emphasis on the first a in Máquina)
Pardon me for not knowing, but what’s the meaning of that name?
It means Milk of the Machine and the name is in German and Spanish. The reason is because that very first group of people that I gathered together to head up to Titwrench included a woman from Germany and also, you know, lots of people in New Mexico are bilingual and I think a couple of our members at that time spoke Spanish and English so that’s why the name is in German and Spanish, making it really challenging for just about anyone to pronounce it or understand but, you know, what are you gonna do?
Every year is a new performance and concept?
A different performance every year. There’s some people who’ve done most of the sets. I think I’m the only person who’s done all of them and I actually randomly just listed all the sets today, which I’ve never looked back and considered what each one was but I did it today because I was hunting around for some photos for something else like, “Oh I can see what all the different sets have been through all the 9 years,” you know?
You had a characterization or an idea or a concept behind all the performances you’ve had?
I was just even trying to remember all the things we’ve done and built and who was in it, what we were working into, what was going on that year. I think a lot of times Milch is sometimes intentionally and unintentionally informed by whatever’s happening in the city. There was one year, the one that’s the dress piece, the great big dress.
I remember that, at the Mercury.
Yeah, all these areas around Albuquerque were on fire. There were big wildfires and we were in the middle of this super intense drought and then at night the smoke would settle all over the whole city as if the city was on fire and the moon was this crazy red color, you know? And we just ended up writing a lot about drought. Initially, not on purpose, like not in a really intentional way but in more of a subconscious way and then as the smoke continued for weeks we were writing about it pretty directly. So that dress piece I always think of as having a lot to do with water and drought and fire. Everybody remembers the dress but there were also waterproof microphones that we had in these big jugs of water that we were using to generate a lot of the sound.
Oh yeah, okay. I didn’t make that connection when I saw that back then. I remember the frames, like the illuminated picture frames or whatever they were from another year.
Yeah, the light frame pieces, yeah.
The Living Bird thing from Titwrench 201. I don’t know if you want to call it that but the performers were wearing hoods or something, and I had the impression you were simulating taking off in flight.
There was a big parade puppet, the Albatross, that’s the first one I think.
Milch is not necessarily a musical thing, it’s more like an experience in sound integrated full with a visual component.
Yeah, and it’s not like we’re like, “Hey let’s do a sound piece that includes a giant puppet” or something, it just all kind of came together that way. And I remember we were at Titwrench, the first Titwrench, and I was just like, “Aw man, did we bring something totally weird that no one’s going to understand or like?” You know what I mean? As it was getting closer to our time to perform I was like, “Did we just, like, venture way out there? Like, go too far?” You know? So I was nervous as heck that first year that we were just in some other – just not on the right trip, you know? And then we did it and it was great and everybody was really great about it. We kind of flew that really big Albatross puppet out of the building, and I remember people followed us! And I was just like, “Okay well let’s keep going until they stop following us” and we were walking down the street and it was cool, it was one of those really cool experiences, and formative for me for sure.
I was really surprised by how interesting it is every year. I don’t really see anybody doing anything like that. I don’t know about you, but maybe that happens in Albuquerque a lot but around here, no, not at all. Nothing like that.
No? I don’t really see stuff like that out here too much, either. Although, a lot of really creative people perform all kinds of different ways, you know?
Had you done anything like that before, even remotely, performance-wise?
Like the first Milch set that happened at Titwrench?
Yeah, that kind of performance art.
Yes, the set I was telling you about the show that happened on this rooftop of this old courthouse in downtown Albuquerque. So it was supposed to be, I think, everyone performing a really quiet piece. Albuquerque’s experimental noise community worked toward really small quiet pieces and I built this rig where I was wearing all hand-built little microphones and I put my sister in all these, kind of, speakers, and theoretically the idea was, and I don’t know how successful it was ultimately, but the idea was that when we were closer together we would be feeding back and then when we were further apart we wouldn’t be. So we developed this whole choreography and system around our proximity to one another and wore these robes and face paint and did it on top of the roof and I think I was just kind of inspired by the idea of being on a roof. That was before the first Milch set and I think Raven, who you mentioned earlier, kind of considered that to be the first actual Milch set, was the one that popped out on the rooftop before I had even ever heard of Titwrench or anything.
You and your sister Monica are in Chicharra together and somewhere the band is described as insect metal or something or other?
Glam insect metal.
That’s great. It’s pretty difficult to describe something like that.
Yeah, it sure is. I super hate describing things, which is funny because I’m also, like you, a writer and a reporter, you know? I find music to be so challenging to describe. I feel like we have a million adjectives that are about visual concepts and relationships and we have like, I don’t know, about 30 about sound. I’m just hazarding a guess again but sound is so hard to put into language so glam insect metal is imprecise.
It evokes a creative image that kind of fits the music.
Yeah, so mostly I just describe [it by saying] that the instruments are all basses so they’re all using low frequency and then we organize more intricate vocal harmonies up top. And then we have either two drummers or one drummer. For Titwrench this year we’re just going to have one, unfortunately. We thought we were going to manage to get them both up there but somebody has a work conflict. But our single drummer, Chris Newman, is amazing and does the job quite nicely. We’re going to play tracks from our album [Let’s Paint This Town in Craters] that’s coming out in October  so it’ll be a lot of newer material that is different from what we played last year.
You have a solo project called Bigawatt. Is that something that you haven’t done in a while or is that something you do pretty regularly?
I did a Bigawatt set on Friday night. It’s the name of my solo project, which has always been really heavily influenced by R&B and hip-hop and also noise. But I interpret that quite a bit differently than a lot of the things that I’m hearing right now that are defined also as being like noise hip-hop. So, sorry to say I don’t know if those are great descriptors for Bigawatt now, either.
Who:Glasss Records & Titwrench Presents the 100th Glasss Show: R A R E B Y R D $, Gold Trash, Pearls & Perils, Rachael Pollard, EVP When: Thursday, 05.31, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Glasss Records is commemorating its 100th show with an event that includes RAREBYRD$ and Rachael Pollard who will be going to Titwrench Stockholm on June 14 and 15 this year. This show is a short list of the best songwriters and, in the case of everyone but Rachael, electronic music artists in Denver right now. Whether it’s the transcendent hip-hop of R A R E B Y R D $, the noisy electroclash of Gold Trash, the soulful downtempo of Pearls & Perils, EVP’s genre-defying electronic punk or Rachael Pollard’s ability to seemingly write from a middle school diary of dreams, fears and loves with a sublime wisdom and playfulness, this lineup is impeccable.
Who:Hail Satan EP release of Rad Metal w/Dead Characters and Cönaxx When: Thursday, 05.31, 7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Jake Fairly’s work as a graphic/comic artist isn’t so difficult to run into around town. Whether it’s his This is Heavy Metal comic or work he’s done for various concerns, his clean lines, use of space and compelling detail are noteworthy. He also has a band called Hail Satan that’s releasing its Rad Metal EP tonight. The band is in the vein of classic thrash and speed metal with a little punk thrown in and Fairly is its frontman. Because the title of the album is humorous while honoring what makes that style of music great, you can bet the band will embody that spirit live as well.
Friday | June 1, 2018
Who:Giardia album release w/Church Fire, Sonic Vomit and Today’s Paramount When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Giardia is releasing its latest album tonight. The Denver based band sounds like some kind of art-rock/fusion/prog band. Its songs while containing elements of black metal and grindcore has more in common with Goblin and Naked City. Lots of synth and keyboards and drastic shifts in tone, rhythm and texture to that it never gets bogged down in adherence to genre. Three other bands that don’t really fit anyone else’s mode so well are also playing this show. Church Fire some people probably think of as kind of a dance music band with melodic synth lines and bumping rhythms. But the music runs deeper with roots in noise, industrial, political punk and art rock. Also, vocalist Shannon Webber is an electrifying figure delivering her lines with a theatrical and symphonic intensity like a Kabuki theater performer but reigned in by no one’s muse but her own. Sonic Vomit is coming up from Pueblo to bring its noisy prog death metal and Today’s Paramount could be considered a math-y, No Wave funk band with elements of psych in its sound.
What: New Hinterland Benefit Concert: Pan Astral, Like Miller from Lotus and Flobots When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Hinterland Gallery sat north of Downtown Denver for years before the inevitable happened and existence in that part of town became untenable. The gallery hosted numerous events for some of Denver’s most adventurous artists and was a hub/base of operations for the more visually inclined creators including filmmakers, painters and sculptors. It also hosted forward thinking multimedia presentations. This show is a benefit for the gallery’s new space. Performing is genre-bending electronic pop band Pan Astral who will be joined on stage by Luke Miller of Lotus and Johnny 5 and Brer Rabbit of Flobots making it a one-of-kind show for everyone that shows up and one aimed at helping out one of Denver’s true independent art institutions.
Who:Michael Franti & Spearhead w/Xavier Rudd and Victoria Canal When: Friday, 06.01, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Michael Franti & Spearhead will release its new album Stay Human 2 later this year but for this tour you can catch the band in support of the first volume of Stay Human. These days Franti is more known for his upbeat, highly positive world-music-oriented funk and soul and rightfully so, that’s what he feels is the best vehicle for making music counter to the misguided and destructive elements of world human culture. But that roots level political orientation (he also helps to lead a yoga session around the time of his concerts in Colorado and elsewhere) runs long in Franti’s career going back to his time with industrial hip-hop groups Beatnigs and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy whose lyrics seem oddly prescient over two decades since.
Who: Animal Years w/Tyler Imbrey’s Ghost Revue and House With A Yard When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: No link for this show because Ticketfly got hacked but it shouldn’t yet be sold out. At any rate Animal Years borrowed its name from a Josh Ritter album. Seeing as Ritter is one of the most literate, thoughtful and emotionally vibrant songwriters in modern pop music, you can hardly blame them. It’s also a reminder to live life to the fullest and pack as much living in with each year as if you are living seven as, for instance, a dog would. The group’s latest five-song EP Far From Home touches on familiar tones and textures in the realm of pop Americana of the past decade. But Mike McFadden’s voice has enough character to set the band apart from its peers and his words possessed with enough self-awareness and nuance of expression to be worth repeated listens.
Saturday | June 2, 2018
Who:Bassnectar and Nightmares on Wax DJ set, CharlestheFirst and Dorfex Bos When: Saturday, 06.02, 6:30 p.m. Where: 1stBank Center Why: Bassnectar is rightfully one of the most popular artists who took the underground rave culture and music he experienced as a teenager in the 90s to a wide audience and made it accessible with his creative hybrid of downtempo, dubstep and drum and bass. In recent years, his conceptual multi-media shows, or gatherings, have added a more intentional communal dimension to his days long stints in cities on his tours. For this second of three shows in the Denver area, Bassnectar has brought along one of electronic dance music’s true pioneers with George Evelyn aka Nightmares on Wax. Evelyn started out DJing in clubs in Leeds with his friends John Halnon and Kevin Harper with genre-hopping mixes in their sets with hip-hop, soul and funk as the root. The project found a home at then Sheffield, now London, based experimental electronic label Warp Records with it’s 1991 debut album A Word of Science: The First and Final Chapter. Nightmares On Wax operated as a DJ-based act in the live setting until the late 90s when it morphed into a hybrid of production technology and live instrumentation with a drum machine giving the band’s shows a more intimate feel. Though Halnon and Harper have long since moved on, Evelyn has continued on steering Nightmares on Wax and tonight he’ll get back to doing a DJ set but with a more modern set of tools at hand to mix and weave in an imaginative set of music.
Who:Benefit Show for Miles Elliott Bellinger Webb (son of G. Matthew Bellinger): Git Some, Pretty Mouth, Zebroids and Animal Actress When: Saturday, 06.02, 8 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: G. Matthew Bellinger was a bright and talented, but, like many artists, deeply troubled, guitarist and vocalist for the well-known posthardcore legends Planes Mistaken For Stars, Americana alterna punks Ghost Buffalo and noisy sludge rockers Ill Cattivo. When he died in 2017 under unusual circumstances it was a big blow to friends and family perhaps none more so than to his son Miles. The proceeds from this show will toward benefiting Miles and it features some of the Denver area’s best bands including posthardcore noise rock band Git Some (which includes former Planes members Charles French and Neil Keener), dream pop tinged country act Pretty Mouth (fronted by former Ghost Buffalo members Marie Litton, Jedd Kopp and Benjamin Williams) , joke punker performance art band Zebroids and slowcore-ish, math rock-esque, post-rock leaning band Animal Actress which includes former Ghost Buffalo guitarist Tommy Ventura. A lot of talent for one room and for a good cause.
Tuesday | June 5, 2018
Who:Cold Cave, Black Marble, Choir Boy and Boy Hollow When: Tuesday, 06.05, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Black Marble did something that many modern artists making music in the atmospheric post-punk vein didn’t—sound like every other band out of the neo-post-punk revival. Sure, Chris Stewart tapped into 80s bands that were precursors/pioneers of what is now called minimal synth like Iron Curtain and Solid Space. But his bass-driven melodies had more in common with experimental electronic dance music than rock. Stewart’s 2016 release on Ghostly International, It’s Immaterial, solidified that impression even if the music was even more accessible. The songs seemed to operate from a dreamlike earth, sparsely populated, perpetually late morning and soft lighting, the kind of environment that gives one time to contemplate and work out the angst in your head.
Wednesday | June 6, 2018
Who:A Hawk and a Hacksaw at Shady Grove Series When: Wednesday, 06.06, 6:30 p.m. Where: Four Mile Historic Park Why: Jeremy Barnes some may know as the former drummer of Neutral Milk Hotel but since the early 2000s he and his wife Heather Trost have been making music inspired by Eastern European, Turkish and Balkan folk music as A Hawk and a Hacksaw. Based in Albuquerque the duo also contributed to the early development of like-minded band Beirut. A Hawk and a Hacksaw started as more or less a solo project of Barnes’ but during the recording of the project’s 2002 self-titled debut he met Trost beginning a musical partnership and otherwise since. That initial album was adopted as the soundtrack to the 2005 documentary film Zizek! about Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek. The act is now touring in support of its new album Forest Bathing and with its old world/pastoral tone, where better to experience this music than a park rather than a club. After all A Hawk and a Hacksaw had a form of Japanese nature therapy in mind for the record. According to an April 2018 article in Albuquerque Journal, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is their “forest bath of choice.” In an era when too much is created to be disposable and conceived that way, it’s a refreshingly out of step perspective for music and how to best experience it.
Who:Surfacing: Seal Eggs, Bluebook and Pearls and Perils When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m. Where: Europa Coffeehouse Why: This is the latest edition of Surfacing, the music showcase put on by the Titwrench Collective which, of course, throws the Titwrench Festival in late summer in Denver. The festival focuses on women and LGBTQIA makers of music, generally in an experimental vein. This night is certainly well within that realm with Seal Eggs from Colorado Springs who performs a kind of ambient/experimental electronic music with operatic vocals. Bluebook is Julie Davis and her commanding use of cello, loops and her powerful voice. Pearls and Perils is sort of an experimental hip-hop/downtempo project from Olivia Perez whose dark, cool vibe is a departure from her old band Gloam, which was more in the vein of an noisy alterna-prog band. Perez has been a member of Key Lady & The Frontstrangers, which mostly evolved into RAREBYRD$ and some of that mysterious production quality is present in the soundscapes of Pearls and Perils.
Who:Bison Bone w/The Reals and Larry Nix When: Thursday, 11.02, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Bison Bone masterfully blends alt-country with experimental guitar rock with thoughtful, evocative storytelling. One is struck by how Courtney Whitehead and the rest of the band make their take on country and rock very much their own thing. You hear nods to Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and others who connected the rootsy warmth of country with an otherworldly energy except that Bison Bone is connected to another realm of the cosmos and the songs transform intense, potentially soul crushing pain into inspiration and catharsis.
Who: Ultra Metal Pre-Show When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m. Where: TBA Why: Johnathan Cash aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan moved to Denver in 2017 after having performed at Denver noise events and Denver Noise Fest several times over the years. Now he has put together the sort of event he used to put on while living in Austin with Ultra Metal. It’ll include legendary noise/industrial acts like The Haters, Page 27 and Anime Love Hotel as well as noteworthy local staples of the noise world like Morlox, Solypsis, Blarney Mumble and Acidbat. Tonight’s opening ceremonies of the festival also includes Scammers from Kansas City. Phil Diamond of Scammers usually performs solo with his signature crooning voice sounding like he could have been a studio singer for Motown. But he also generally aims for whatever creative music strikes him and has toured on a Harry Potter-inspired electro pop album. Best believe that said album is as interesting and sonically adventurous as anything else Diamond has done. 2017’s Love is a Rough Cut Stone is Diamond’s take on modern R&B-inflected synth pop. Think in the vein of Purity Ring if they collaborated with Drake. Anyone interested in attending any of the three nights of Ultra Metal, or has other questions about the events, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.
Friday: November 3, 2017
Who:A$AP Mob w/Key! and Cozy Boys When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m. Where: 1stBank Center Why: A$AP Mob is the New York City-based hip-hop collective that, along with Odd Future from Los Angeles, have taken a more commercial hip-hop sound and aesthetic and injected it with innovative musical ideas, adopting sounds and styles of music that were before only really embraced by “alternative” hip-hop groups. The result has been, whether among individual artists like A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Twelvy, or as a collective, a more sonically interesting listening to go along with the usual, clever wordplay commenting on the vagaries of various kinds of relationships, life in urban America and popular culture and where all of those intersect and inform one another. The collective’s latest release, 2017’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, is not as strong as albums released by individual members of A$AP (including Twelvy’s debut solo effort, 12) and it’s still steeped in trap production but still worth a listen and certainly the live show will be visually dynamic and include material from across the collective’s career.
Who:Cocordion album release w/Copyleft and Ancient Elk When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Why:Expectations is the first full-length album from Cocordion, a self-proclaimed lo-fi indie rock band based in Colorado Springs. Though the second release from the band, it is the product of a great deal of creative exploration and honing and refining musical instincts and chops playing in other bands—most notably, perhaps, is Mitchell Macura’s playing keyboards in Eros and the Eschaton. Expectations is an fitting title for an album whose themes include the various demands, welcome and very much otherwise, placed on us by society, the people in our lives and by our own psyches. It also references the concept of creative collaboration and what everyone brings to a project and expects of each other and themselves in that potentially precarious relationship and how such experiments can yield something greater than can an individual effort that depends on the dreams, energy and drive of an individual.
According to a recent interview we conducted with Mitchell (his brother Mason is also in the band) he believes that great creative work can come out of an individual vision that is strong and guides the work. Certainly the history of music bears this out and as a musician he has certainly contributed to realizing someone else’s creative vision. But for this new album, Macura decided to further push the project out of being a solo project, where it started, and allow the music to cohere between the three musicians (the Macura brothers and Thom Spano). For a lo-fi band the record is beautifully detailed with tones, flowing/intersecting atmospheres and textural percussion. Also on the bill is folk-inflected, experimental psychedelic rock band Ancient Elk.
Who: Ultra Metal Night 1 When: Friday, 11.03, 6 p.m. Where: TBA Why: This is the official first night of Ultra Metal, the noise festival being thrown by Johnathan Cash of Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. Cash recently relocated to Denver from Austin but he’s no stranger to Denver or the Mile High City’s noise scene as he’s performed locally regularly for years including sets at various editions of Denver Noise Fest. Tonight you can see the infamous noise project The Haters who have roots in Denver but affiliation with noiseniks and performance art legends Survival Research Laboratories. Also, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan will do a collaboration set with Chicago’s The Rita, hip-hop beatmaker/breakbeat phenom Morlox will play in the late hours and ambient maestro Solypsis will perform earlier in the evening. Plus much more. Those interested in attending or anyone with any questions of the festival should contact the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.
Who:The Hollow “Sleep Talkin” video release w/Silver & Gold and Post Paradise When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: The Hollow is a rarity in Denver. The group is almost as straightforward rock as you can get without being boring. They’e absorbed what works for a lot of modern rock bands that aren’t tapping into a classic rock vibe. Its hard-edged yet melodic songs are atmospheric enough to escape being mundane and they don’t run from writing hooks. The group is celebrating the release of its video for “Sleep Talkin’”. The band’s music isn’t for everyone and its message of positive mental attitude may strike some as odd but at least it’s not phony and neither are the sentiments in its songwriting.
Who:The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Cold Cave When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: The Jesus and Mary Chain is basically the foundational band for the shoegaze genre. Okay, JAMC, Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3. But JAMC is the band that pushed the use of fuzz in a popular music context to newer extremes than before but wedding those massive sounds to classic pop songwriting. When the JAMC were coming together, they rejected the musical tropes of the day, choosing instead to embrace 60s pop music as produced by Wall of Noise pioneer Phil Spector, much as did the Ramones. But JAMC needed to do something that would be purely easily absorbed and co-opted by music even from the underground. Because of that, the band’s music has aged well and doesn’t sound dated. By carving out their own classic sound, steeped in an older classic sound, the Mary Chain has retained its mystique and its cool well past what might be predicted to be its sell-by date. Opening is Cold Cave, the project of Wesley Eisold who has explored a variety of musical ideas in his career including his former musical life playing in hardcore bands. Cold Cave is more in the darkwave vein of synth-driven post-punk reminiscent of pre-Technique New Order but with a modern flavor revealing Eisold’s deep familiarity with 21st century electronic music production.
Saturday: November 4, 2017
Who:Rowboat, The Raritans and Jukebox Spiders When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Denver’s Rowboat doesn’t play many shows these days. Its primary songwriter, Sam McNitt, played in space rock/indie rock band Blue Million Miles for several years in the late 2000s through the early 2010s. Rowboat was initially McNitt’s outlet for continuing to write his more directly folk-influenced music. Not the usual folk sort of thing because McNitt’s highly emotional, introspective songs have a haunted intensity that gives his music a force a lot of folk simply doesn’t have.
Who:The Corner Girls, Surf Mom, Gamma Death Wave and Phallic Meditation When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: The Corner Girls play a social critically informed surf rock with punk attitude. And, unlike way too many bands in the last two decades, it’s not a “clever” name as it’s an all female band. Maybe it’s been done before but one noteworthy thing about The Corner Girls is that the band isn’t trying to come off tough and aggo but doesn’t mince words either. It’s like a reinvention of punk for many of us that get bored with the hypermasculine model of a style of music that had in its heart in the beginning the detournement of outmoded social conventions. Plus the songs are good, catchy, well-crafted pop music that doesn’t bother with dumbing down. Similar things could be said about Surf Mom except Surf Mom sounds nothing like The Corner Girls. Molly McGrath’s guitar work is more abrasive at times and her expressions of anger have a thoughtfulness and sensitivity to them without blunting the sometimes pointed rhetoric.
Who: Ultra Metal Night 2 When: Saturday, 11.04, 6 p.m. Where: TBA Why: Second and final night of noise festival Ultra Metal. Tonight you can catch 8-bit grindcore band Rainbowdragoneyes, the mighty Novasak and what one might hope is his amp setup aimed at realigning the molecules of your body back to the proper place through sheer low end sculpting, Sheet Metal Skingraft’s industrialized, ambient harsh noise and an early set from the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27. For more information on and questions about the event, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.
Who:Brother Sister Hex (EP release), Jane Doe and Granny Tweed When: Saturday, 11.04, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Brother Sister Hex is releasing its third, and latest, EP End Times tonight at Lion’s Lair. The band combines elements of bluesy sludge rock with a touch of moody, perhaps brooding, atmospheres. Difficult to compare the band with anyone else without getting a little clumsy like Dead Weather, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age. Heavy but without sounding beholden to the classic rock era like a lot of modern rock and roll bands seem to be. Also on the bill is Jane Doe, the noisy, experimental rock band fronted by Becca Mhalek who has played saxophone with avant-jazz dub noiseniks Nightshark, a bit with Nels Cline and in Denver’s free jazz weirdo combo Aenka. In Jane Doe she doesn’t play any instruments, instead demonstrating singing and poetry chops as a cathartic frontwoman.
Sunday: November 5, 2017
Who:Jay Z and Vic Mensa When: Sunday, 11.05, 7 p.m. Where: Pepsi Center Why: Before becoming one of the most commercially successful hip-hop artists in the history of the artform, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter paid a lot of dues playing support to Big Daddy Kane, working with DMX and Ja Rule in their respective careers and before that getting by however he could growing up in a single parent household in pre-gentrification in Brooklyn. But out of all of that came his 1996 debut full-length album Reasonable Doubt, which included contributions from Biggie, Mary J. Blige, DJ Premier and other hip-hop luminaries. Since that time Carter has worked with most of the big names in the world of hip-hop and has had plenty of beef with various artists, but up to and including his 2017 album 4:44, Jay Z, like most great songwriters, uses the medium of music to use autobiography as a vehicle for commenting on culture and social issues from a deeply personal perspective. In his case, despite his wealth, it is a perspective that distills common experiences from a broad spectrum of the urban American experience into something in the grand tradition of creative social commentators like Mark Twain.
Vic Mensa dropped his debut full-length album The Autobiography this past summer. The title could be seen as a bit premature for an artist who turned 24 in June. But Mensa has been on a steep and ambitious trajectory in his career. Which would mean nothing if his energy and talent weren’t there as well as taste and imagination. All of that is evident on The Autobiography. Mensa’s songs combine beats seamlessly with what sound like either instrumental sections or samples that don’t try to transform the source material into having a different sonic quality. In that way there is an organic, human quality to the record that plays to the opposite instincts of the boastful end of hip-hop. The album has a large sound and Mensa’s confidence contagious but it sounds like you’re hearing the stories of people you know with all the grounding details that renders the mundane mythical.
Tuesday: November 7, 2017
Who:Beach Slang – Drunk of Lust tour w/Dave Hause and The Mermaid and Hannah Racecar When: Tuesday, 11.07, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Why: James Alex sure doesn’t play the shows in Beach Slang like he’s two going on three decades in music. As a member of post-hardcore band Weston from 1990 to 2011, Alex had to sustain a level of enthusiasm that would burn out most people two or three years in. But he seems to have brought that energy into Beach Slang when that band got going in 2013. Alex’s schtick probably strikes some as forced or phony but the thoughtful and emotionally stirring words whether in lyrics or its various shared words seem poignantly sincere. Part lo-fi indie rock, part unabashed power pop-flavored punk, Beach Slang has always had a vibe like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Clash without sounding like either. The group’s latest release is the Here I Made This For You: Volume 2 EP.
Wednesday: November 8, 2017
Who:Night Shapes, Body Meat and Natural Violence When: Wednesday, 11.08, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Night Shapes is a gritty post-punk band from Oakland. Its latest cassette, Wake Up, is being released on Denver’s Heavy Dose Records imprint. It’s sound is more like the noisy, warped, serpentine rhythm type that you hear in bands like Pop. 1280 and Protomartyr rather than the bands that are clearly tapping into Joy Division and the Cocteau Twins (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That the band is sharing the bill with the math-rock-esque Body Meat and the dark synthwave Natural Violence from Denver is only fitting, especially considering Heavy Dose also released the latter’s excellent 2017 release, Synthetic Peace.
Who:Tyler the Creator w/Taco When: Wednesday, 11.08, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: As one of the co-founders of the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator has been involved in making some of the most innovative hip-hop of the past decade. His wordplay is genuinely clever if perhaps the language isn’t for everyone (throwing f-bombs and not as in “fuck” and the n-bombs are understandably tricky to defend). But the beats and his willingness to draw on some truly unexpected corners of music and sampling from musicians other hip-hop artists generally don’t are what make Tyler’s albums so consistently interesting. For example, 2017’s deeply and colorfully atmospheric, jazz-inflected Flower Boy includes elements of “Spoon” by psychedelic prog band Can.
Who:Shigeto w/Ela Minus and Lemon Future When: Wednesday, 11.08, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall
Why: Zachary Shigeto Saginaw writes the beat-driven, melodic kind of abstract hip-hop that synthesizes the aesthetics of that form of music, techno, house, jazz and ambient. More so on the house end with his most recent record, 2017’s The New Monday. But Shigeto uses live percussion to craft samples in the live setting and on recordings that give his beats an organic feel that would be difficult to fully execute with pure electronics. Thus his music is more suited for an intimate, small venue environment rather than stadium EDM like some artists who are mining similar, if not as fascinating, sonic landscapes.