What:Oryx, Cthonic Deity and Zygrot When: Thursday, 1.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: In the realm of Denver extreme metal it would be hard to find a more solid line-up this month than this. Oryx is perhaps rightfully considered a doom band but its wall of noise is a shifting, mind-altering experience that creatively uses drones and riffs to comment on the world in a way the reflects and exorcises the sense of despair at the way our economic and political system normalizes the ways in which our lives are eroded through the environment, the fake prosperity figures that hide the poverty and desperation that permeates much of society in America and elsewhere and a cultural climate that favors a cultural identity anchored to the fortunes of the world’s oligarchs. And yet it’s not a bummer, there are hopes and dreams in its grinding and harrowing aesthetic. Cthonic Deity released one of the most promising fusions of death metal and hardcore with 2019’s Reassembled in Pain. Zygrot is a crusty grindcore quartet that releases its self-titled debut in September 2019.
What:Origami Angel, Short Fictions, Flora De Luna and Obtuse When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Origami Angel is a band from the Washington, D.C. area that is mining a similar sonic territory as bands in the past half decade or more going beyond the neo-pop punk into a hybrid of math-y emo and indie pop. So a bit retro but at least not yet another band thinking it is discovering Laurel Canyon all over again and with earnest, heartfelt performances. Obtuse is a like-minded band from Denver whose 2019 album Who’s Askin’ is a gloriously raw and incisive examination of one’s insecurities as a normal reaction to a society and economic system seemingly designed to make everyone feel like an inadequate failure. Their songs are an acknowledgment of those anxieties and an attempt to not be completely sunk by them.
What:New Ben Franklins and I’m a Boy 7” split release When: Saturday, 1.11, 10 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Long running alt-country/American band New Ben Franklins and power pop sensations I’m A Boy are releasing their split 7” tonight at The Skylark.
What:Total 80s Live with Bow Wow Wow w/When in Rome and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Sunday, 1.12, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Bow Wow Wow is an English New Wave band assembled by then Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1980 when he convinced members of Adam Ant’s band to form a new group that was fronted by 13-year-old Annabella Lwin who McLaren had heard singing along to the radio at her laundromat job. The other singer of the band in the beginning was George O’Dowd who left the group early and became famous as Boy George of Culture Club and as a solo artist. Bow Wow Wow somehow managed to break into the mainstream with hit songs like “C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!” and a lively cover of The Strangeloves’ 1965 recording of “I Want Candy.” This current version of the band will not include Lwin who hasn’t been in this iteration of Bow Wow Wow since 2013, now performing as Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” So while it won’t be the original line-up except for bassist Leigh Gorman, you can hear those hits as well as When in Rome whose 1987/1988 single “The Promise” has been a staple of 80s synth pop playlists for decades. The Vanilla Milkshakes are a pop punk band with attitude and an offbeat sense of humor that will probably make the nostalgia seekers wonder how they got on the bill but end up liking a lot of the songs in spite of themselves.
Wednesday | January 15
What:Weird Wednesday: Yao Guai, Lady of Sorrows and e-scapes When: Wednesday, 1.15, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes ambient prog project Yao Guai, emotionally expressive darkwave solo act Lady of Sorrows and experimental synth pop composer e-scapes.
What:Penelope Isles w/Sleepy Animals and Sad Bug When: Thursday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Penelope Isles from Brighton, UK recently released its debut album, Until the Tide Creeps In, through Bella Union. The record is a mix of woozy indie pop and fuzzy guitar rock. Its washy dynamics and use of samples and incidental sounds on the record speaks to an almost sound design approach to the recording to convey a sense of place and an experience beyond some pristine studio product. It’s as though you’re hanging out with the band and going for a walk along that shore and trading stories about life. The band’s use of minor progression transitions is sublime making the record more evocative than might seem obvious on first blush and worth delving into for the sheer array of sounds and emotions running through the ten tracks.
What:Emergency Contact w/Debaser and American Culture When: Thursday, 10.24, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Seattle’s Emergency Contact is somewhere betwixt irreverent lo-fi slacker rock and pointed post-punk. Also on the bill is Josh Taylor (former Friends Forever and used to run Monkey Mania) as Debaser playing some strange bass-based songs. Unless it’s something completely different these days which it may be. American Culture is a guitar rock band rooted in indie pop but influenced by the chimy-dreamy-dark post-punk of The Cure. All shredders who care more about songwriting than showing off, which is a rarity.
What:Weathered Statues EP release, Triton FC, Rejekted Kauses When: Thursday, 10.24, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Weathered Statues is releasing its latest EP, Desolation. Fans of Xmal Deutschland and The Cure will find something to like about this post-punk band whose fluid rhythms and urgent melodies go for the dark places in the psyche as a path to catharsis and healing.
What:Maribou State w/Sea Moya When: Friday, 10.25, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: English duo Maribou State are known for their remixes of popular artists as well as musical collaborations with the likes of Khruangbin, Holly Walker and Pedestrian on its 2018 album Kingdoms of Colour. The project’s sound could be described as downtempo steeped in non-Western sounds and rhythms mixed with electronic jazz and soul. Its songs have mood aplenty but also an uplifting quality driven by creative song dynamics. Though often described as an electronic project, Maribou State includes live, acoustic drums, guitar and other instrumentation performed by humans and not just a track of well sculpted electronics. Fans of Prefuse 73 and Blockhead may find much to like with Maribou State.
What: Shibui Denver #7: Frank Registrato and Stalebread Scottie When: Sunday, 10.27, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Assuming a blizzard doesn’t descend on Denver, the next edition of Shibui Denver hosted by Queen City Sounds and Art scribe Tom Murphy will include Frank Registrato of The Vanilla Milkshakes who will perform vocal and piano songs for perhaps the first time in the Mile High City. He was once involved in the world of music in Orlando and Disney and in the orbit of Lou Pearlman and his pop music empire and brings a lifetime of vast musical experience into his songwriting and performances. Also on the bill from out of town making a special appearance is Stalebread Scottie of The Drunken Catfish Ramblers, blues folk artist from New Orleans, who appeared in the HBO series Treme.
Tuesday | October 29
What:Today’s Paramount, Samvega, Emily Shreve and Giardia When: Tuesday, 10.29, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Doom/folk/psychedelic band Samvega will perform at this show that features other bands on the spectrum of math rock and experimental like Today’s Paramount and Giardia.
What:Swervdriver w/Criminal Hygiene and Milly When: Wednesesday, 10.30, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Of all the bands lumped in with early 90s shoegaze, Swervedriver, like Catherine Wheel, was one those that rocked a little harder than most and its use of car metaphors seemed to vibe with an American sensibility as well. The band’s 1991 debut album Raise yielded classic blazers like “Son of Mustang Ford” and “Rave Down.” Over the course of the next two decades and more the band evolved and explored new vistas of sound and is now touring for its 2019 album Future Ruins. Opening act Criminal Hygiene from Los Angeles sounds like a mix of slowcore delicacy and fuzzy indie pop. Milly, also based in Los Angeles, started as the home recording project of frontman Brendan Dyer when he was living in Connecticut. But the band has fleshed out a spacious and evocative sound employing entrancing gradients of atmosphere and floating melodies. The group recently released its Our First Four Songs EP showing great promise as modern slowcore soundsculptors with an ear for transporting dynamics.
What:Devendra Banhart w/Black Belt Eagle Scout When: Wednesesday, 10.30, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Psychedelic folk genius Devendra Banhart is now touring in support of his latest album Ma. His shows are always a lush presentation of his fascinatingly colorful and left field compositions. But sharing the bill is Black Belt Eagle Scout. Katherine Paul released the album Mother of My Children under that moniker in September 2018 to great acclaim for its vivid and poetic depiction of the experiences of queer Indigenous people in a sensitive and nuanced manner. Her bright, atmospheric folk songs and gently soulful vocals reveal an inner strength that comes across powerfully. She recently released her new record At the Party With My Brown Friends.
Who:Ryanhood w/Matt Cox When: Thursday, 06.07, 7 p.m. Where: Walnut Room Why: Ever since Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, at a minimum, popularized folk pop to a massive audience more than a few musicians have tried their hands at that style of music. But Ryanhood predates that wave having started in 2003 in Boston (now based in Tucson, AZ where Green and Cameron Hood met in high school). And beyond that, Ryanhood has established itself as a popular live act on the college and small club circuit. Ryan Green’s proficiency with guitar got him a scholarship to Berklee but as a songwriter it gives some dimensionality to the songwriting that might not be there with a musician who came to playing more casually. Green’s songs with Hood, at this point, have the polish and tunefulness of anything you’re likely to hear on mainstream radio combined with the synergy that mostly comes from musicians who have known each other for a good deal of their lives growing together as artists. The duo’s 2017 album Yearbook is a record diverse in its emotional colorings and songwriting dynamics giving its positive sheen depth and listening longevity.
Who:Stella Luce 7” release for Gloria w/Señorita Sometimes and Seven Inches of Heaven When: Thursday, 06.07, 9 p.m. Where: Surfside 7 Why: Stella Luce is presenting its sixth release, the Gloria seven inch, tonight at Surfside 7. The Fort Collins-based experimental rock band combines an Eastern European musical sensibility with the kind of baroque pop that The Dresden Dolls and DeVotchKa perfected. Stella Luce, though a little weirder than both, and noisier, has created a body of work thus far with the same cinematic sweep and nuanced emotional colorings.
Friday | June 8, 2018
What:71 Grind IV Day 1 (see below) When: Friday, 06.08, 2 p.m. Where: The Black Sheep and Triple Nickel Tavern Why: This is the major metal festival in Colorado. Independently run and promoted it features some of the most interesting acts in extreme and death metal, doom and grindcore. Things get kicked off at 2 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes in the late night hours at The Triple Nickel Tavern. For this first day you can catch Denver’s deathgrind stars Of Feather And Bone at the Black Sheep at 6:40 p.m.. The trio just started its tour in the wake of the release of its latest album, Beastial Hymns of Perversion. Immediately after at 7 p.m. on the main stage is Seattle’s black/folk metal act Isenordal will bring its layered, orchestral sound. For fans of Giant Squid and SubRosa. You can’t really miss with any of the bands but it would also be a good chance to see Wyoming’s great, grind-y, post-hardcore band Euth, Denver’s melodic doom giants, Wayfarer and Denver D-beat/thrash juggernauts Rotstrotter. Full schedule below.
Black Sheep Side Floor Stage
5-5:20 Portrayal Of Guilt
6:40-7 Of Feather And Bone
7:30-7:50 Void Omnia
8:20-8:40 Closet Witch
2:20-2:40 Full Bore
3-3:20 Salems Bend
8:40-9:10 Transient w/Bastard Noise
11:30-11:50 Ice Sword
1-1:30 Tejon St. Corner Thieves
Who:Today’s Paramount, Samvega and Archipelaghost When: Friday, 06.08, 9 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: This is a bill where none of the bands really fit in any musical subscene. Nor are they trying and the show is the better for that. Today’s Paramount has bits of gypsy folk, Americana, psychedelia and metal but really it’s more like some kind of odd glam prog band that dresses up like they’re all lead gumshoes in a noir novel. Samvega similarly skirts the edges of sludge metal, psychedelic rock and prog without being tied down by the conventions of any of it. Its sonically powerful shows feel orchestrated but only in that they have played the music so much they’re comfortable executing it in a way that leaves plenty of room to change moods, tempos and emotional colorings to fit the environment. If Archipelaghost’s recent single “Spinach” is any indication, those guys listen to a lot of the better hip-hop utilizing trap tracks while crafting their own electronic beats and burned the memo on not using kinda crap autotune. Archipelaghost takes musical ideas that shouldn’t work and puts it together in a way that seems more like a beyond ironic to legit and inventive take on electronic indie pop. Meta in its musical touchstones to the point of avant-garde.
Who:The Descendents w/The Potato Pirates and In the Whale When: Friday, 06.08, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: The Descendents’ story sounds like it couldn’t be true. Drummer Bill Stevenson met future Black Flag and Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris before the latter’s stint in Black Flag and worked for Morris’ father as a fisherman. Of course Stevenson would spend some years as Black Flag’s drummer while also playing in The Descendents, a band he started with some friends from school when most of them were still in high school. The band’s blend of pop, surf rock and punk made for one of the earliest pop punk bands and its sound and lyrics throughout the 80s articulated teen angst, insecurities and simple aspirations better than a lot of music in the mainstream ever could and thus the band’s enduring popularity and viability. Even as its music is framed in the teen experience there was an evolution in thought and complexity of emotion that happened during the course of the band’s career. These days, seeing The Descendents is a great reminder that punk, even pop punk, can be silly, kinda dumb, but also thoughtful and vibrantly energetic in ways that don’t seem tamed by the compromises mainstream commercial success has exacted on some of the bands The Descendents have influenced.
What:Intendence Film Fest Opening Party with Sympathy F When: Friday, 06.08, 9:30 p.m. Where: Denver Open Media Why: When Sympathy F began in the early 90s Denver was in the prime of its period of urban decay. LoDo as we came to know it in the mid-90s didn’t exist. Squatters lived in buildings downtown and the Fifteenth Street and Twentieth Street viaducts led to areas of glorious industrial yesteryear. Denver felt dark, a little grimy and gritty while not as dangerous as larger cities. The band’s music, a moody, jazz-inflected post-punk, fit that milieu perfectly and it was one of the era’s classic alternative rock bands and one of the very few to have survived through the decades to now. Until a few years ago, the band had only released one record and soon it will release a third. Live, the band creates a lush but electrifying sound and for those that remember those older times in Denver, it’s like getting a taste of that vibe for the time the band drifts into its set.
Saturday | June 9, 2018
Who:71 Grind IV Day 2 (see below for lineup) When: Saturday, 06.09, 1 p.m. Where: Black Sheep and The Triple Nickel Tavern Why: This second day of 71 Grind IV includes performances from powerviolence pioneers Infest, longtime Albuquerque grind legends Noisear and Colorado Springs death grind band 908 which includes 71 Grind organizer Bryan Ostrow. Things get started at 1 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes once again in the late hours at Triple Nickel.
Black Sheep Side Floor Stage
1-1:20 Aerial Ruin
1:40-2 Nite Kidz
3-3:20 Minimum Wage Assasins
3:40-4 Sentient Divide
4:20-4:40 Funeral Chic
5:40-6 Pavel Chekov
9-9:30 Stapled Shut
12:40-1 Modern Color
1:20-1:40 Fortunes Fool
4-4:20 Badr Vogu
4:40-5 Apocalyptic Noise Syndicate
5:20-5:40 Cryptic Void
6-6:30 Dead In The Manger
8:30-9 Despise You
10:30-10:50 The Stalk
11:30-12 Anonymous Inc.
Who:The Corner Girls (single release) w/Vic N’ The Narwhals, Kinky Fingers and Cocordion When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: A year after excellent 2017 Popcorn EP, The Corner Girls release the “Boyfriend” single. Given the band’s gift for giving songs with incisive and irreverent lyrics titles that could come from a vapid pop song, “Boyfriend” probably isn’t just a song about someone’s boyfriend in that tired, classic vein. From the imagery of the band’s artwork to its surf-y punk sound, The Corner Girls aesthetic resonates with that of early K Records bands and 90s indie pop, which in its time was a rejection of the masculine rock world. It isn’t an attack on the latter as much as creating something not defined by it.
Who:Screwtape, Gutter Villain, The Uglys and No Chance When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: The Uglys somehow mixed screamy posthardcore with sludgy riffs for a sound that is like what would have happened had grunge developed a decade and a half later with The Deftones as an influence. That sort of desperation delivered with a manic intensity fits in well on a bill with Denver hardcore stars Screwtape whose songs blur the radical political with the personal in a way we need to see more of right now.
Sunday | June 10, 2018
Who:71 Grind IV Day 3 When: Sunday, 06.10, 12 p.m. Where: The Triple Nickel Tavern Why: This third and last day of 71 Grind takes place at Triple Nickel and sort of a showcase of some of Colorado’s heavy bands. Still Valley is the kind of band that maybe got inspired by the stoner/sludge rock bands with that steady, slow cymbal work going like a hypnotic metronome but its sound is more uplifting, more melodic and ultimately more transporting. In that way Still Valley has a lot in common with Earth, taking the blues roots of the music and exploring its outer possibilities. Tricoma from Denver has similar influences but its sound is more like a fierce thrash/crossover and its heaviness more cutting. The Munsens’ 2016 album Abbey Rose sounds like a doom meditation on the darkened passages and cosmic terror merely hinted at by early Gothic literature, for example Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. But whatever band or bands you catch, it’ll be a great slice of heavy music’s current underground scene.
12:30-12:50 Still Valley
1:30-1:50 The Munsens
2-2:20 Innoculated Life
4:30-4:50 Remain & Sustain
5-5:20 Bonus Surprise!
6:30-6:50 Article 15
7-7:20 The Mutations
7:30-7:50 Broken Dead
10:30-11 Dead Set
Who:Daikaiju w/TripLip and The Savage Blush When: Sunday, 06.10, 9 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock band that on the surface sounds like a band in that vein with some punk oomph behind it. But its shows are famously tribal affairs during which the band performs in kabuki masks, uses pyrotechnics in its sets and otherwise brings those who show up into a ritual of rock and roll chaos. Experimental jazz thrash prog band TripLip and surf rockers The Savage Blush will ably set the stage for the mayhem to follow with Daikaiju.
Monday | June 11, 2018
Who: Sleep w/Primitive Man and Oryx When: Monday, 06.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Nearly twenty years after the release of its most recent album, 1999’s until then posthumous release, Dopesmoker, the princes (naturally the kings being Black Sabbath) of stoner rock/doom Sleep released a new album in 2018 called The Sciences. Of course its laden with fanboy references to Sabbath (there’s a song called “Giva Butler”), science fiction and arcane knowledge. Oh, and cannabis. “Marijuananaut’s Theme” begins with someone taking a hit off a bong. But it seems as though Sleep has sculpted its sound ever so slightly giving it greater dynamism and fluidity. Don’t worry, the guitars still sound like the tone is in a constant state of splintering and the rhythms are off enough in the right places to be hypnotic and deftly launch the main melodies into spaces that Moebius might have drawn for one of his lost Jodorowsky collaborations—psychedelic, alien and raw. That deathgrind titans Primitive Man and doomdeath stars Oryx are on the bill just make the whole show twice as good.
Who:Violent Femmes When: Monday, 06.10, 6:30 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street) Why: Four decades on, Violent Femmes went from jazz-inspired folk-punk-pop weirdos who were perfect for the college rock world of the 80s to a still surprisingly powerful live band whose sound has been influential but not widely imitated. On recordings and on stage the Femmes bring in more than the usual rock instruments and since its early days the band has brought on a group of people called The Horns of Dilemma to play raw, chaotic sounds on a couple of songs in the set. For the Denver dates of the past several years The Horns of Dilemma has included avant-garde improvisational band Animal / object, a group in which Femmes singer Gordon Gano has been known to play violin. Several of the Femmes’ songs have entered the lexicon of popular music through the college and alternative rock path and even if you weren’t around or old enough for the band’s music to impact you the first time it was coming around its music has held up well because it was never grounded in any trendy sound or style but rather an premium on creativity and imagination. Go and be surprised by how of the moment and so not rote the Femmes remain today.
Who:Yes (Howe, Downes and White iteration) When: Monday, 06.10, 2 p.m. Where: The Paramount Theatre Why: Progressive rock has a reputation as an overly intellectual music made by snobs for other technically proficient musicians and fans capable of appreciating the intricacies and compositional sophistication of the music. But most of those bands were seeking to create something deeply imaginative and capable of expressing ideas and emotions beyond the bare bones rock and roll sonic vocabulary. Yes wrote music that aimed to explore and articulate the dreams and aspirations of humankind. Sure, some of it got pretty out there and abstract but largely its songs came from a personal place writing about love, anxiety, fear and a broad range of emotions and the very individual experience of our struggles and triumphs. Yes just didn’t dumb it down. For this show you’ll get to see master guitarist Steve Howe, Alan White’s drumming wizardry and Geoff Downes’ gift for weaving together various keyboard and synth elements to create one of the sounds that has established Yes as a legendary live act for the past few decades.
Tuesday | June 12, 2018
Who:Covenhoven album release w/The Still Tide When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Joel Van Horne has been writing beautifully introspective songs under the moniker Covenhoven for several years and now, with A Kind of Revelation, three records. It was within a week of finishing the mixes for A Kind of Revelation that Van Horne’s brother Ben died from a pulmonary embolism following years of struggling with ulcerative colitis. As with his previous releases (the 2013 self-titled album and 2015’s The Wild and Free), Van Horne immersed himself in a natural environment, taking in the patterns, energies of the place and as much of its essence as possible to drive his creative inspiration. For A Kind of Revelation that place was Olympic National Park and Big Sur. Perhaps a kind of pastoral folk and pop is the form of Van Horne’s songs but the musical language feels like an emotional recreation of the places that influenced their writing. Since it’s at the Bluebird, chances are it’ll be a full band presentation of the music where Covenhoven will share the evening with dream pop/rock band The Still Tide.
Who:Calexico w/Julia Jacklin When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Calexico and Mojave 3 were doing psych-folk-inflected pop Americana before it became a massive feature of “indie” radio in the past ten to fifteen years. Calexico, though, also absorbed a good deal of Mexican folk stylistic flourishes giving its sound a more exotic edge. The group released its latest record, The Thread That Keeps Us, in January 2018. Employing keyboards and synths alongside more traditional instruments has been one of Calexico’s hallmarks from its early days but the new record feels even more expansive and open as though maybe somewhere the band aimed to simplify its sound without sacrificing its full and rich tones.
Wednesday | June 13, 2018
Who:Of Feather and Bone tour kickoff w/Tomb Mold and Casket Huffer When: Wednesday, 06.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver deathgrind band Of Feather and Bone played 71 Grind in Colorado Springs this past weekend and it will kick of its tour in support of its new album Beastial Hymns of Perversion with this show at the Hi-Dive alongside like-minded bands Tomb Mold, from Toronto, Ontario and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Who:Sunmonks, Ancient Elk, Avifauna and GALLERIES When: Wednesday, 06.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Sacramento’s Sunmonks has been honing its blend of R&B, indie pop and world music since 2012. Entertainment Weekly said the band was a “Worthy successor to the Talking Heads.” That seems like hyperbole and lack of life experience and knowledge of recent and older music history. Nevertheless, the band’s willingness to experiment with the form of pop music across various cultures as well as the sound and rhyme schemes to great effect makes it one of the most interesting bands to have bypassed being a psychedelic rock band but effectively making psychedelic pop music. Also on the bill is experimental, psychedelic folk band Ancient Elk, psych hard rock band GALLERIES and the windswept electropop soundscapes of Avifauna.
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:L.A. Witch w/Honduras and Palo Santo When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: L.A. Witch’s 2017 self-titled album has a kind of post-Loaded-era Velvet Underground stark shimmery pop grit coupled with a languid psych spookiness. In the songs there is a strong, often urgent, rhythm giving the songs some oomph even when they’re introspective. Any roots the band may have in surf rock or psych garage or whatever trendy of the sounds of the past five to ten years, it has definitely moved on. “Drive Your Car” could be an updated Wipers song. Singer/guitarist Sade Sanchez has a smoky cool voice reminiscent of a world weary Hope Sandoval. Whatever comparisons seem valid, L.A. Witch has turned tired conventions on their head into an incredibly compelling sound. Denver’s Palo Santo is cut from a similar cloth in every way with haunting yet fiery guitar work and Mimi Nissan’s trance-state style vocals.
Who:Revolting Cocks (Big Sexy Land Tour) and Front Line Assembly w/CHANT, DJ Slave 1 and Ritual Aesthetic When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: This show signals the end of the train of noteworthy industrial bands, newer and more established, that came through Denver in 2017. Revolting Cocks started with Front 242’s Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker writing music produced by Al Jourgensen, who was often a collaborator. While clearly irreverent at its heart given the band’s name and album titles like Beers, Steers, and Queers and Linger Ficken’ Good the former of which includes a cover of Olivia Newton John’s “(Let’s Get) Physical,” the latter a cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart, Revolting Cocks have interesting and respectable and influential original music across its spate of albums. The current lineup includes Richard 23 and Van Acker, of course, but also former Ministry and Blackouts bassist Paul Barker and longtime Cocks partner in crime, Chris Connelly whose 2008 memoir Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible, and Fried: My Life As A Revolting Cock was a candid, amusing and revelatory account of being in the industrial and alternative music world in general from the 80s forward.
Front Line Assembly’s vision of dystopian global civilization has unfortunately borne out since it sprang to life in 1986. Up to that time frontman Bill Leeb had been a member of Skinny Puppy and his subsequent music in FLA continued that quality that’s difficult to completely nail to a sub-genre of industrial music. The samples put into the music mirrored the influence of hip-hop production on Skinny Puppy, the extensive use of electronic instruments and synths right in line with that like the EBM bands of that day as well as FLA’s imaginative blending of it all to comment on the nature of technology and its impact on human civilization and our everyday lives. Turns out it has continued to be a fruitful subject for not only FLA but science fiction writers mining that rich dystopian nugget of inspiration.
Who: Cindy Wilson (of B-52s) w/Olivia Jean and Battle Pussy
When: Thursday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Cindy Wilson is a member of influential new wave band The B-52s and her unique vocal style alongside that of bandmates Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider made for some arresting melodies amid the incredibly dance-worthy pop songs that were so idiosyncratic in the specific subject matter, no one else could have made it. And yet there was a universal quality to that individual vision that resonated with the oddball and eccentric inside of most people. Currently, Wilson is touring her solo material. Earlier in 2017 Wilson released a fairly experimental, electronic pop EP called Supernatural and on December 1st she is putting out her debut solo album Change, some 41 years into her music career. If the song “Mystic” is any indication, Wilson still has plenty of relevant and inventive music left in her.
Who:Today’s Paramount, Samvega, Alex Culbreth, Buffalo Party, Mynewt When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective 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.
Who:Melkbelly w/Super Bummer, Princess Dewclaw When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Initially, Melkbelly may sound like yet another modern rock band copping the vibe of 90s post-grunge underground music. But Melkbelly is way weirder than that and its jazz underpinnings and willingness to sculpt pure noise into something musical is what makes its 2017 album Nothing Valley so listenable to anyone looking for a band that isn’t trying to go full retro these days. One might liken Melkbelly’s sound to stuff like Magik Markers or Shearing Pinx but Melkbelly is often more melodic than that even if it sounds like it too took some cues from Unwound’s sonic fearlessness. Opening are excellent Denver bands Super Bummer with its melancholic, lo-fi, soaring songs of heartbreak and isolation and Princess Dewclaw, who seem to have found a new way to combine noise rock, punk, synthesizers and elemental vocals into something both confrontational and rivetingly fragile.
Who:Roska with Rabit, Trisicloplox, Ulmo, Rameau Contnrol, Laru and ilind When: Thursday, 11.16, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Rameau Control you can’t really fit into a narrow category of electronic music from melodic bass, dub techno, straight techno to whatever. Calling this bill merely “experimental electronic” does a disservice to the individual artists who all come at electronic music partly from a dance perspective but also as composers of music that absorb ideas and exchange methods and sounds with like-minded artists and co-influencing each other whether from Denver or otherwise. For example, ilind is Isaac Linder who often played Denver DIY venues as a noise and performance artist but one who was into house music.
Friday: November 17, 2017
Who:Tommy Stimson’s Cowboys in the Campfire When: Friday, 11.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bruz Beers Why: Cowboys in the Campfire is Tommy Stimson of The Replacements fame (he has also played in numerous other bands including Guns N’ Roses) and Chip Roberts of Uncle Sippy playing songs together as the name suggests but usually electric. Country punk? For fans of NRBQ? Whatever it is, it’s Stimson and Roberts playing lively, fun songs in a duo format in small venues, record stores, private homes and various other situations across the country this tour. Next time you see Stimson play it’ll probably be in a large theater or bigger so hey, make it to this and you might even get to interact with the musicians, something that would probably never happen at Red Rocks or The Fillmore without paying for some kind of wack VIP access ticket.
Who:Flobots w/Wesley Watkins & Grumpy Uncle (Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan) When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Yes, the famous hip-hop band from Denver, Flobots, playing at Larimer Lounge. The opening act, though, is a collaboration between former Night Sweats trumpet player, and leader of The Other Black, Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp. So expect something wonderfully weird but with solid songcraft and inspired lyrics.
Who:The Blasters night 1 w/Reno Divorce When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Reno Divorce, a rootsy punk band from Denver, opens this night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.
Who:Lost Walks w/Midwife When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Lost Walks is sort of a high concept Americana-esque band. High concept in that there is a prepared theatrical element to the live shows as the band collaborates with a visual arts group. Also, the lyrics, steeped in a pastoral and noir literature aesthetic, lend themselves to dramatic performance and grand, emotive gestures from the band’s various vocalists including former Bad Luck City frontman, Dameon Merkl. The band’s debut album, 2017’s Wolf, Woman, Man, is a fascinating contrast of bright, dark, moody, reflective and observational. Opening the show is avant-folk artist Midwife whose own 2017 debut, Like Author, Like Daughter, is one of the the best albums of the year for its delicate, fragile evocation of emotions so broad and deep that it always catches you by surprise with its subtle but irresistible power.
Who:Slow Magic w/Point Point and Qrion When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Slow Magic exists outside of time. The interdimensional creature occasionally releases albums like 2017’s ultra-chillout pop extravaganza Float. You can witness the superstring hopper yourself tonight at The Gothic Theatre.
Who:Big Lo (Florida), RAREBYRD$, iiwii and Brett Gretsky When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: An experimental hip-hop show at Tennyson’s Tap isn’t unheard of and this time it’s Big Lo from Florida whose beats include a mix of samples and turntablism to create a sense of introspection in the face of impending danger. Before and since moving from Saint Louis to Denver, Rooster Jake has been involved in various hip-hop and experimental projects over the years, his latest being iiwii. Brett Gretzky recently migrated to Denver from Saint Louis as well bringing their mixture of hip-hop and soul. RAREBYRD$ will break your heart with sincerely, deeply felt yet gentle expressions of the lowest points a person can reach in the psyche and still come back with one’s soul intact. They use drum machines, synths and sequencers but it always sounds like it’s coming right out of their imagination and plugged into the P.A..
Who:Ice Troll, Never Kenezzard, Heathen Burial and White Dwarf When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Pit Stop Tavern Why: Doom shows don’t happen in far West Denver much but tonight doom orchestra Ice Troll will play Pit Stop Tavern along with sludge metal thrashers Never Kenezzard, noisy death metal trio Heathen Burial and stoner rock outfit White Dwarf.
Saturday: November 18, 2017
Who:Dead Boys 40th Anniversary tour w/The Roxy Suicide When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: For four years Dead Boys were one of the most outrageous and influential of the early punk bands. With just two albums under its belt, 1977’s Young Loud and Snotty and 1978’s We Have Come for Your Children, Dead Boys set a high bar for inventive guitar work between Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero, a primitivistic yet inspired rhythm section in Johnny Blitz and Jeff Magnum and literate yet gritty lyrics from charismatic frontman Stiv Bators. The original band split in 1979 but in its wake a lot of the more interesting and scary punk bands of the 80s emerged. In 2017 the band officially re-formed and issued a re-recording of Young Loud and Snotty called Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40 with its new lineup including Chrome and Blitz as well as new members Jason Kottwitz on guitar, Ricky Rat on bass and frontman Jake Hout. The original record was meant as a demo and the new record is of a much higher quality if missing the genius alchemy of the original band. But you’re not getting a second rate re-tread this time around. This version of the Dead Boys may be older but it still packs a punch.
Who: Galaxy Express 555 (MN), Hippies Wearing Muzzles, J. Hamilton Isaacs When: Saturday, 11.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Historic Grant Avenue Church Why: Galaxy Express 555 is Christopher Farstad’s project that incorporates elements of ambient music, experiential sound environment composition, sampling and loops to create music that has the effect of being a soundtrack to some non-dystopian future society of wide open spaces and minds. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is a modular synth project from Denver. J. Hamilton Isaacs is basically Dugout Canoe so you know the beats and analog synth combination will be beautifully transporting yet feel grounded at the same time. All of this is taking place in church where the natural acoustics will give otherwise electronic music a warmth it doesn’t often project.
Who:Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series featuring Equine w/Mondo Obscura When: Saturday, 11.18, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked on Colfax Why: This is the latest in Glasss’s Speakeasy Series in the basement of Hooked on Colfax. This time with ambient duo Mondo Obscura and experimental guitar minimalist Equine. Kevin Richards of the latter played drone guitar for years as Temples after having spent several years in weirdo post-hardcore outfit Motheater where he made strange jazz chords fit into a punk context. This show will be a collaborative set between the two projects.
Who:King Eddie – Holographic Universe Album release w/Kyle Emerson, Panther Martin and déCollage DJ set, visuals by DenVR When: Saturday, 11.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: King Eddie is releasing its debut album Holographic Universe and celebrating the occasion with friends Kyle Emerson (whose pastoral psych pop songs are graced with Emerson’s insightful, observational lyrics) and Panther Martin (if indie rock could have come out of late 1970s New York City, it might have sounded like Panther Martin). King Eddie’s songs sound like the band synthesized modern psychedelic rock with math rock rhythms as though assembling a beat over which the band created a colorful and transporting imagery. Reed Fuchs of déCollage will do one of his unique DJ sets and be prepared for some truly unusual and inspired images from DenVR.
Who:It’s Just Bugs, Nearby Liars, Mouthfeel, Falsetto Boy When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This’ll be a weird one for some people because few of the bands are anything alike. It’s Just Bugs is an industrial hip-hop band. Nearby Liars are somewhere between slowcore and late 90s emo with all the glitter and drifty, sweeping, swelling, dramatic emotional experiences you’d want vicariously from that kind of music to purge the Fall blues. Mouthfeel includes members of Wrinkle, Altered State and Laurium. Falsetto Boy is some post-emo, lo-fi singer songwriter type of music.
Who:The Blasters w/O.G. Country When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why:The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Its 1980 debut album American Music really was a demonstration of how much American music the Alvin brothers, Bill Bateman and John Bazz had absorbed, learned, reinterpreted, amalgamated and reinvented. O.G. Country from Denver, opens this second night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.
Who:Liam Gallagher w/Warbly Jets When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Oasis’ 1995 hit “Wonderwall” made way too many people think maybe they too can sing in a pop band. Part of it was Liam Gallagher’s borderline tone deaf vocal delivery. But Gallagher is a gifted, powerful singer with some charming rough edges to his voice. And to his personality, for that matter. His conflict with brother Noel was the stuff of tabloid news. But one thing we can thank Oasis for was in finishing off some real dreck in popular music by offering something better and more genuine because you knew the Gallagher brothers weren’t faking it. Endless naff covers of “Wonderwall” plaguing karaoke nights and dire YouTube videos aside, Liam Gallagher’s real legacy was not just his music but some truly amazing moments of comedy and inspiredly uncharitable bits of rhetoric over the years as well as tender and earnest expressions of appreciation for other artists even when, such as the case with The Verve in recent years, those expressions come off as a bit of a headscratcher. He probably had a good laugh about that. Gallagher’s debut solo album, As You Were, came out in October 2017. It’s a bit reminiscent of 60s blue eyed soul and David Bowie’s more R&B moments but the songwriting is solid.
Opening the show is Warbly Jets from Los Angeles. It’s self-titled debut album is a bit slick and polished for a bunch of young musicians who clearly have it in them to go full on into the kind of gritty yet tuneful rock and roll that inspired them. But that’s what happens in the music industry often enough and you just have to check out the band in their, one would presume, element, on stage. With any luck you’ll see a band that has shed the self-conscious quality of the record and even where it might be derivative, play like the band believes in itself.
Sunday: November 19, 2017
Who:Chad VanGaalen w/NE-HI When: Sunday, 11.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chad VanGaalen may not necessarily be known for this now but at some point in the future he may be more widely acknowledged as one of the most influential guitarists and producers of his generation. His bedroom recordings for Infiniheart was picked up by SubPop in 2005. His gift for articulating the anxiety and alienation of the modern era clearly struck a chord and his subsequent music has explored some dark and some merely troubling corners of the human psyche with an ear for the perfect harmonic atmospherics and texture. In 2008, Van Gaalen began his relationship with the math rock/post-punk band Women, a band now oft-cited by younger guitar bands as an influence for its creative use of tone, angular rhythms and dynamics. Members of Women are now in Preoccupations. VanGaalen’s 2017 album Light Information sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Mission of Burma, Helium, 80s minimal synth music and various Jay Reatard projects but the alchemy of that and his own well-developed aesthetic has rendered the songs into something that sounds like something from a long time ago in a place some of us wish existed. It has the kind of vintage sheen like a Ti West film.
Chicago’s NE-HI put out one of the years most repeatedly listenable albums of the year with OFFERS. It’s labyrinthine melodies and straightforward rhythms are a winning combination because it transforms lo-fi garage rock into something extraordinary. Comparisons could be made to Palm, Pavement and Parquet Courts. But its urgent jangle is coming from a different place and that’s what sets the band apart.
Who:Tori Amos w/Scars on 45 When: Sunday, 11.19, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Tori Amos was one of the earliest artists to attain mainstream commercial success to sing about sexual abuse, her struggle to attain her own creative liberation in a sexist music industry that often could (and often can, truth be told) value women as objectified entities that must fit a fairly narrow mold to present to potential audiences. And otherwise just refreshingly vulnerable and honest depictions of life. Though Amos spent much of the rest of her career exploring and writing thoughtfully on these subjects, in the 2000s, Amos put more focus on more mythical expressions, giving her work new dimensions only hinted at in her earlier work. 2017’s Native Invader is about how we can heal ourselves and the world through facing our challenges and conflicts honestly—which has more or less been Amos’ core message as a songwriter since her solo debut album, 1992’s Little Earthquakes.
Tuesday: November 21, 2017
Who:In the Company of Serpents, Goya, Matriarch and Palehorse/Palerider When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A handful of Denver’s best heavy bands are on this bill. Matriarch is a doom/drone band whose 2015 album Magnumus: The 44th Scribe and Lorde of the Hallucinauts has two tracks. And it’s not an EP. It’s also just two lengthy songs that take you on a journey of crushing epics like the soundtrack to Vikings exploring the lands of Irish legend set in South America. Blend all that imagery together and that’s the Matriarch sound. In the Company of Serpents has cracked the monolith of its own sound this past year and the result is 2017’s Ain-Soph Aur, where the band’s songwriting beyond devastating riffs emerges for some of ITCOS’ best songs to date. Palehorse/Palerider is the kind of band where people who have generally played more punk-oriented music got into the soundcaping possibilities of heavy music whether metal or the deep atmospherics of the best shoegaze and post-rock music. Its own 2017 epic masterpiece is Burial Songs.
Who:Mom Jeans. (Side One Dummy), Prince Daddy & The Hyena (NY), Kississippi (PA), Old Sport and Blue Lane Frontier When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: The lazy thing to do would be to say this is an emo show. Mom Jeans from Berkeley, California is unabashedly so and thus part of that band’s appeal. And more like the late 90s, borderline indie rock variety with the spidery, jangly guitar work. Old Sport from Denver is on the more math-y end of emo with intricate guitar work and song dynamics that sound like someone is thinking in terms of film editing with dramatic drop-outs and sparkling guitar melodies, emotionally charged vocals and a variety of rhythm and texture not common enough in punk generally. Kississippi from Philadelphia is fronted by singer and primary songwriter Zoe Reynolds whose lyrics possess an impressive insight into her own emotional landscape and the ability to translate that into instantly relatable songs.
Wednesday: November 22, 2017
Who:Git Some, Zebroids, Fast Eddie, Jane Doe When: Wednesday, 11.22, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Post-hardcore band Git Some has been around for well over a decade when it started in Chicago in the early 2000s. Through various line-up changes members of the band (Charles French and Neil Keener) have also become members of Wovenhand, bringing another level of grit and intensity to a project not short on that already. It’s essentially noise rock with a sense of humor. Speaking of humor, punk band Zebroids is essentially a ridiculous joke of a punk rock band with absurd lyrics and an equally absurd stage presence. Nevertheless, the band is a lot of fun. Jane Doe is a combination of dark, starkly intense poetry, jagged noise rock and free jazz sensibilities. Fronted by the charismatic Becca Mhalek, Jane Doe is one of Denver’s best kept secrets. For now. Fast Eddie is a hard rock band from Denver which includes Micah Morris who some may know as one of the main people behind Barf magazine. Silly name, perhaps, with some fairly absurdist content, but the magazine has provided some of the better content about Denver music and beyond of recent years
Who:Cannibal Corpse w/Power Trip, Gatecreeper and Of Feather and Bone When: Wednesday, 11.22, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Cannibal Corpse has been getting under the skin of cultural conservatives and squeamish faux-do-gooders for years with music that itself isn’t something we’re going to hear much of any time soon on commercial radio. But the lyrics, quotable by gore horror fans and metalheads for years, almost gleefully crafted to outrage with being so cartoonishly over the top, is what has landed Cannibal Corpse in some hot water with would-be censors. But the live show isn’t littered with corpses and zombies or anything like that so just go expecting one of death metal’s greatest bands. Opening the show are Dallas-based thrash band Power Trip, Arizonan death metallers Gatecreeper (whose music video for “Desperation” from 2016’s Sonoran Depravation is a harrowing depiction of violence and a bit of a commentary on what leads to that sort of thing), and Denver’s deathgrind powerhouse, Of Feather and Bone.
Who:Guantanamo Baywatch w/Cheap Perfume and Vic ‘n’ The Narwhals When: Thursday, 11.09, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive 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. Where: Hi-Dive 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:cEvin Key, Djoto, Mudwulf and VJ Dizypixl When: Saturday, 11.11, 9 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s 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. Where: Hi-Dive 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. Where: Hi-Dive 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.
October continues to be the busiest live music month for Denver but one with few if any festivals, thank goodness. As usual here are several offerings worthy of your attention.
Thursday: October 19, 2017
Who:Din Virulent & MGNLP w/Rasmussen and Juice Up When: Thursday, 10.19, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: This is basically a harsh noise show but one thing lost on people that either actively despise it or don’t get it at all is that most noise artists are completely unlike every other noise artist. Juice Up has some disorienting arrangements of samples and sounds that’s something like a completely unconventional rhythm but there is a humorous playfulness there. Rasmussen is John Rasmussen of Denver noise legends Page 27. Rasmussen’s solo output is so diverse in texture and tone that even his “harsh” noise sets tend to have a subtlety and nuance that suggests the serious composition and planning that undergirds sounds that aren’t trying to fit at all into a pop song format. Din Virulent sounds like what happens when you chain a few delay pedals together and have them feed back off each other while manipulating the signal for an effect like watching white noise on TV if that image was sound and occasionally felt like it was aggressively charging out at you.
Friday: October 20, 2017
Who:Tera Melos w/Speedy Ortiz, Holophrase and Meet Me In Montauk When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Tera Melos might be one of the more misunderstood bands of the last several years because it sounds like its member spent some time playing in one of Trey Spruance’s projects: lots of unusual rhythms and dynamics requiring a precise musicianship while not sounding too in the pocket; heavy guitars, disorienting tones and an alternating driving and and hanging melodies. Its 2017 album, Trash Generator, is like a math rock shoegaze album with a touch of brutal psychedelia. In that way Tera Melos could be said to be a bit of a musical cousin to noise rock phenoms Deerhoof. Speedy Ortiz sounds like it picked up where The Breeders and Throwing Muses left off in the mid-to-late 90s with captivating, fuzzy melodic songs that take a walk out of every day mundane life while commenting on that life with with and sensitivity. Holophrase is a Denver band that has come out of being a guitar-based indie rock band (albeit one that didn’t sound much like anything contemporary and only slightly like Magazine) into being a mostly electronics-based band with deep atmospheres and Malgorzata Stacha’s layered vocal melodies serving as an emotional and sonic locus for the group’s hypnotic, chilly soundscapes.
Who:Thurston Moore w/The Diary of Ic Explura When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: It is indeed Thurston Moore of influential No-Wave-and-punk-inflected rock band Sonic Youth. His new album, Rock and Roll Consciousness, showcases Moore’s gift for writing moody pop songs bolstered by dynamic and complex yet tasteful guitar work. It’s melancholy stuff but much of Moore’s best material is yet he also manages to lend his songwriting a thoughtfulness not mired by despair. He can create a gritty image and imbue it with some future hopefulness not yet obvious in the moment he documents in his words—being in the moment but knowing that you can never fully get stuck there unless you try really hard. The Diary of Ic Explura is Toni Oswald’s ambient, sound collage experiments that she sculpts into coherent songs by adding instrumentation to elements that aren’t necessarily inherently musical. Like musique concrète with a soundtrack. Which is nothing new in the world of avant-garde music but Oswald’s vibrant and transporting music demonstrates well how noise and composition can work together.
Who:The Juan MacLean When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Deep Club 3rd Fridays brings The Juan MacLean to a relatively small venue. John MacLean’s first chapter in influential music came with his tenure as a guitarist for Providence, Rhode Island-based, experimental post-hardcore band Six Finger Satellite. The band was an early practitioner of fusing electronic elements with the usual punk rock instrumentation and operating in the same musical realm as bands like Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer—though predating them all. When SFS split near the turn of the century, MacLean left music for a few years before Six Finger Satellite’s sound engineer, James Murphy (who some may know as starting DFA Records and as a member of LCD Soundsystem) helped convince him to make music again. But instead of doing the noisy punk stuff he’d been doing, MacLean focused instead on forward thinking electronic music and a mutant form of modern disco. And that’s what you can more or less expect at this event.
Who:Don Strasburg, Cuckoo, Ashley Koett When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Cafe Why: Don Strasburg isn’t just a clever name for a band. The Boulder-based outfit doesn’t bother to trace any lines on the punk rock spectrum but fans of modern, mathy emo will find something to like but so will anyone that is into the most genre-bending, noisy post-hardcore. Cuckoo is lo-fi dream pop that would have fit in well on the Siltbreeze imprint or so it’s 2016 album Mermaid’s Don’t Exist would suggest. For fans of stuff like early Sebadoh, Eat Skull, Times New Viking, No Age and Microphones. — update, Don Strasburg no longer on the bill, now Terremoto.
Who:Allout Helter & Black Dots FEST sendoff w/faim, The Larimers, Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Fest has been happening in Gainesville every year since 2002. It’s a mostly punk festival and this year’s festival includes the likes of Against Me!, Pegboy, Hot Water Music, Beach Slang, City of Caterpillar, Hum, Snapcase, Atom and His Package and Rainer Maria. But it will also feature Denver political punk thrashers Allout Helter and melodic hardcore band Black Dots. Sure, both bands play Denver regularly but here they are on one bill to send them on their way to one of punk’s most prestigious festivals.
Saturday: October 21, 2017
Who:Afghan Whigs w/Har Mar Superstar When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Afghan Whigs both predated and embodied what was great about the alternative rock era. The group started as a kind of garage rock band but infusing that sound with soul and R&B, with lyrics revealing a keen insight into human psychology, yielded some of the best records of the 90s. 1993’s Gentlemen was the band’s major label debut, after an independently released 1988 debut and two fine records for Sub Pop, and the record that was a departure from the fuzzy psychedelia of its earlier efforts. As “alternative rock” was running out of steam by the middle of the decade, Afghan Whigs continued to write and record vital music for 1996’s Black Love and 1998’s 1965 before the band amicably split in 2001. Singer Greg Dulli kept on battling his personal demons in other projects throughout the 2000s but in 2011 Afghan Whigs announced it was reuniting. A lot of bands from the alternative rock world have reunited and most of them have had respectable tours and the Whigs were no different. Dulli was and is an electrifying frontman and the band’s performance startlingly powerful overall. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2017 release In Spades. Har Mar Superstar has stylistically been all over the map from silly hip-hop early in the life of the project (Sean Tillman is also in pop band Sean Na Na) to a more Motown-esque soul and R&B sound while often performing all but nude and making an oddly compelling spectacle of himself. But the music is legit and if it’s tongue in cheek it is in the way that only someone with a deep respect for the musical style could pull off.
Who:Sound of Ceres album release of The Twin, Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms When: Saturday, 10.21, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: When Ryan and Karen Hover started Sound of Ceres in 2015, setting aside their dreamy indie pop band Candy Claws for the time being, they seemed to be tapping into a daydream realm of freely associating ideas and sounds and something about the purity, honesty and transcendent beauty of the music translated well onto the recording of 2016’s Nostalgia for Infinity. On the 2017 follow-up, The Twin, the band is spending less time drifting through shimmering gossamer and luminous fog. The minimalist songwriting approach this time leaves enough space for greater clarity of tone and distinctness of sounds working in conjunction with each other. It is not a better record but it sounds very focused. Denver dream pop greats Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms open the show potentially opening a vortex into some realm Lord Dunsany would have written about. At least emotionally speaking. Vampires and werewolves aren’t real either, kids.
Who:Torres w/The Dove & The Wolf When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torres is an artist like PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, EMA or John Vanderslice who are difficult to pigeonhole, whose high imaginative and powerful work cannot be reduced to a simple genre. Mackenzie Scott, the person behind Torres, doesn’t limit her songwriting to a single instrument so her sound has a layered cohesion even as it sounds like she’s going off the rails. There is an honesty, power and vulnerability to her music that comes across perhaps most vividly on her new record, Three Futures. Interestingly enough, Mackenzie got Rob Ellis, a longtime collaborator with PJ Harvey, as well as Portishead’s Adrian Utley.
Who:The Rotten Blue Menace reunion show w/Short Bus Rejects, The Beat Seekers, The Beeves and Sentry Dogs When: Saturday, 10.21, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: The Rotten Blue Menace spent a few years being one of the most entertaining and active ska bands in Denver so it’s only appropriate that it would have its reunion show sharing the stage with a band it likely influenced, Short Bus Rejects, who are playing their final show this night. It won’t all be ska or ska punk because street punkers Sentry Dogs and melodic grunge wonders The Beeves will fill out the bill.
Who:Kitty Crimes (DJ set), Snubluck, DJ Polyphoni and Just, Kevin When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kitty Crimes is normally a fast rapper with some explicit content in her lyrics and always pretty entertaining. For the DJ set who knows what might be in the mix because Maria Kohler, aka Kitty Crimes, has fairly diverse taste in music and the rest of the night will be some form of electronic dance music including experimental beatmaker and soundscaper, Snubluck.
Sunday: October 22, 2017
Who:Daikaiju w/TripLip, Kenaima and Chaff When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Since 1999, surf rock band Daikaiju from Huntsville, Alabama, has been performing shows that are the stuff of legend. Fire, acrobatics, the kind of exuberant energy that’s impossible to not be swept up in at the show. They play in costume so you might think of them being, overall, something like Peelander Z and Crash Worship, lucha libre and kabuki. People often use the word “chaotic” to describe the show and fair enough but more like an explosion of fun. Also playing the show is TripLip, which is comprised of people who used to live at the late, great Five Points Denver DIY venue Mouth House. TripLip is more psych and prog but very much in the same spirit as Daikaiju, a band that somehow hosted Daikaiju’s wild live show more than once in a residential neighborhood.
Who:A Giant Dog w/SPELLS and Class President When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: It’s odd that Austin’s A Giant Dog hasn’t broken to a much larger audience. But for now count yourself lucky you’re getting to see the band in smaller venues in Denver for now. Its rowdy, tuneful mélange of early glam rock, punk and power pop is celebratory without coming off insincere. That’s probably because the songs are about things that anyone that isn’t living a glamorous or pampered life can relate to and delivered with an unlikely combination of vulnerability and conviction. In 2017, A Giant Dog released Toy, its most fully-realized album to date, through Merge Records. Denver’s SPELLS is cut from a similar cloth as a brash, minimalist punk band not short on melody in its own right.
Monday: October 23, 2017
Who:Daikaiju, TripLip and Today’s Paramount When: Monday, 10.23, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: For Daikaiju and TripLip see above. Today’s Paramount is sort of a psychedelic jazz rock band with touches of carnival music and ska. But it works and Today’s Paramount doesn’t sound much like anything else in Denver except for maybe a band where the chops, songwriting and humor are blended together well and developed to a high degree like The Inactivists.
Who:Shadows Tranquil, Voight, Equine When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Shadows Tranquil is a band including longtime music fan, often threatening to be musician, finally is, Doran Robischon, and this is the band’s EP release show. Knowing Robischon’s taste for noise, witchouse, dark atmospheric music and stuff on the moody spectrum of all of that, his band will probably be interesting. Voight is the post-punk band that has interwoven strong strains of noisy shoegaze and industrial. Equine is the solo project of Kevin Richards and it’s guitar soundscaping stuff that comes off like a sculpted version of ambient and musique concrète.
Who:Hissing w/SUTEKH HEXEN, Of Feather and Bone, Worm Ouroboros, Vermin Womb and Casket Huffer When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:Hissing and Sutekh Hexen recently released a split record, fitting since both are more on the brooding end of death grind. Disorienting, hypnotic pummeling through sound and rhythm. Minimalistic yet loud and aggressive. Both are in good company with the rest of this bill. Of Feather and Bone is certainly the more in-your-face style of deathgrind that is thankfully too alienating for casual fans of metal. Vermin Womb is similarly-minded but has more hanging dynamics and sounds closer to the roiling chaos bordering on nasty atmospherics in some black metal. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Casket Huffer has a flavor that still has some connection to thrash, at least in the guitar work. Oakland’s Worm Ouroboros, however, will be a bit of an anomaly with its beautifully expansive, minimalistic and melodic, ethereal metal rooted in themes of nature and humankind’s relationship with the environment. If you’re fans of SubRosa, Dreadnought and Wolvserpent you’ll probably find something to like about Worm Ouroboros. Update: Worm Ouroboros no longer on the bill, instead Un, the “Aetherical Doom” band from Seattle. Also, it appears Sutekh Hexen dropped out of the show too.
Tuesday: October 24, 2017
Who:Hans-Joachim Roedelius w/Xambuca and Dream Hike When: Tuesday, 10.24, 10 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Hans-Joachim Roedelius is one of the true pioneers of krautrock and synthesizer-based music generally. His diverse body of work influenced the development of the aforementioned as well as new age music, psychedelic rock, ambient and electronic music generally. He was one of the co-founders of Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin in 1968, one of the most important spots for experimental music and the avant-garde of its time. Along with Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius he formed Kluster (later Cluster after Schnitzler left the group), a band for which any idea seemed a go and its’ mixture of standard rock band instrumentation (albeit used toward unorthodox ends), cello, synths, feedback manipulation and unusual devices to use in music like car batteries and signal generators. Kluster didn’t exactly hit the charts but its legacy of experimentation and recontextualizing sounds continues to this day.
Roedelius has since then been a prolific artist whose projects (solo and otherwise) and collaborations have pushed the boundaries and horizons of experimental music and synthesizers. With Cluster and Harmonia, Roedelius took truly unusual and groundbreaking musical ideas and made them accessible. Cluster collaborated with Brian Eno on 1978’s ambient music classic After the Heat. In the next decade Roedelius’ work helped to refine and further define the aesthetic of techno. But, interestingly enough, Roedelius’ most prolific years came in his mid-sixties around the turn of the century. This is a rare opportunity to witness one of the founders of modern music and especially at a small and intimate venue like The Mercury Café.
Who:Ariel Pink w/Bite Marx When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Ariel Pink as much as Animal Collective and Deerhunter can be said to have been responsible for inspiring a whole generation of musicians to use reverb on their vocals and guitars in an attempt to create a dreamlike soundscape that pre-dated the full-on psychedelic rock revival by half a decade. Except that those three acts did that and pushed the aesthetic further than most of the people they influenced. AC released a few of Ariel Pink’s earlier records before he was a touring act or one that played live much at all. To his credit, like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, every one of Ariel Pink’s albums pushes his own envelope and his new record, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, is a fitting homage to the late, great cult songwriter of transporting psych folk.
Who:Dinosaur Jr w/Easy Action When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Dinosaur Jr is the clear draw for this show and rightfully so. The band has inspired more great guitar music to have come along since the early 80s out of proportion to their level of fame than most other bands you could name. Certain an influence on shoegaze, noise rock, alternative rock in general and any kind of left field music that dares to use guitar sounds with a nod to classic rock virtuosity and punk rock’s willingness to repurpose and deconstruct rock tropes. But get there early and catch one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock music in John Brannon of Easy Action. One, the band is like a psychedelic version of Black Flag with that kind of forcefulness and ability to write guitar riffs that also disorient the senses. Brannon first came to the attention of most people in the know with his hardcore band Negative Approach. But in the mid 80s, Brannon formed legendary noise rock band Laughing Hyenas with the late Larissa Stolarchuk, Jim Kimball and Kevin Munro. For a decade the band set a high bar for intense live performances and songs that really articulated the harrowing struggle between desperation, inspiration and dreams of a more meaninful existence. Easy Action formed near the turn of the century and alongside a re-formed version of Negative Approach it has been Brannon’s outlet for his unique vocal style that is as terrifying as it is riveting.
Who:Tei Shi w/Twelve’len When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Valerie Teicher was born in Buenos Aires and spent part of her childhood in Bogotá and Vancouver, BC. So maybe somewhere along the line her knack for gently but vibrantly soulful vocals started to develop. However it happened, her early singles as Tei Shi found an audience among fans in her then adopted home city of New York, where she moved after attending Berklee. After a string of acclaimed EPs, Teicher released her 2017 full-length Crawl Space. It is an expansive gem of a downtempo, R&B-inflected synth pop album named after a place Teicher used to go to confront her fears of darkness. An apt metaphor for the various situations (emotional, social, professional, personal and so forth) Teicher discusses with nuance and insight across the album’s fifteen tracks.
Who:Dayglo Abortions w/Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service When: Tuesday, 10.24, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: With a name like Dayglo Abortions the Canadian punk band was never going to have to worry about being co-opted by mainstream music outlets. During its existence, Dayglo Abortions have been punk, hardcore and crossover but its messaging has been the same—a big middle finger of irreverence for mainstream normalcy. Read the track list to the 1986 classic Feed Us a Fetus and you might even wonder where this band is coming from except for a healthy and vitriolically humorous disdain for right wing politics and racism and other aspects of Western culture that make it a bummer for anyone trying to live an authentic life. This is also the band that named its 1991 album Two Dogs Fucking. That level of surrealistic humor and pointed political statements didn’t exactly end, thank goodness. Opening the show are Denver’s Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service, all great punk bands that aren’t just irreverently funny but who have some fairly pointed commentary on the ills of American society.
Who:My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/Ritual Aesthetic and DJ Ritual When: Tuesday, 10.24, 8:30 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is celebrating its 30 year anniversary with this tour so they’ll be playing a whole lot of early albums Confessions of a Knife (1990) and I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits (1988) so you’ll get to see some vintage material. The show is the best kind of spectacle and it perfectly blends B-movie horror kitsch, a carnival, trash culture and industrial dance music into an inspired whole. Chances are it will be one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year even if you’re not necessarily into industrial music. DJ Ritual will spin his relatively eclectic set at the show and between bands. Ritual Aesthetic is an industrial rock band from Denver in the vein of stuff like Electric Hellfire Club and Stabbing Westward when that band is more industrial than metal.
Wednesday: October 25, 2017
Who:Arcade Fire w/Bomba Estereo When: Wednesday, 10.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Arcade Fire quickly became one of the most popular of early 2000s indie rock bands following the release of its 2004 debut album Funeral. On that tour the band played in Denver at Hi-Dive and Larimer Lounge. By the time Neon Bible came out in 2007, Arcade Fire had become too commercially successful to play small clubs. And that’s where it cold have ended with all the pressures of the music industry guiding the band into tried and true territory. But Arcade Fire actually risked alienating fans with 2013’s Reflektor and its emphasis on the electronic side of the band’s soundscapes. For 2017’s Everything Now, the band recruited Pulp’s Steve Mackey, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Geoff Barrow of Portishead to come in and do production work and the resulting set of songs is lush and has a warm, sweeping quality that one might expect out of a 70s glam rock record. As such the live show is sure to not skimp on a visual component to aid in the elevated tone of the songwriting. It’s kind of a past time of music critics and older fans to trash Arcade Fire today but it’s arguable the band is writing the most interesting music of its career by being willing to push forward instead of sticking to what some people think is what they do best. Bomba Estéreo is an alternative Cumbia band from Colombia.
Who:KMFDM w/OhGr and DJ Ritual at Summit Music Hall When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Kein Merheit Für Die Mitleid does not in fact mean “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,” per the long-running joke. The industrial band was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1984 and has undergone numerous incarnations and stylistic shifts from its early performance art-oriented shows to its full embrace of bombastic kitsch, sardonic humor and thoughtful social critique. You can probably start anywhere to get an idea of what the band’s music is about but for beginners give 1997’s Symbols a listen. Which is appropriate enough because Ogre from Skinny Puppy will perform his solo material as OhGr as a kind of co-headliner for this show. His set lists have included a good deal of material from Welt and SunnyPsyOp. And it’s Ogre so his set will have plenty of the inspired weirdness that has made him one of industrial music’s most interesting performers and artists. And who knows, maybe he’ll join KMFDM on stage for “Torture” as he did during KMFDM’s tour for that album in the 90s.
Who:Guided by Voices When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Robert Pollard is by now both a godfather of modern lo-fi rock and one of its most accomplished and prolific artists. Had he ended Guided By Voices after 1994’s epochal Bee Thousand he would still be a legend. But 18 albums later, Pollard is still going strong with two 2017 albums: August By Cake (Pollard’s 100th recorded album) and How Do You Spell Heaven. Not every song is a winner but even Bob’s “lesser” material is worth a spin. The live show is an unabashed flood of splintery rock and roll in an era when there’s too much emphasis on being smooth and polished or faking grit. There’s no fake grit with Guided by Voices except maybe as an inside joke with fans and the audience.
Who: Bell Witch w/Primitive Man, Urn and Oryx When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Seattle-based doom band Bell Witch released one of the genre’s most haunting and crushing albums of 2017 with Mirror Reaper. The duo manage to conjure spectral horror and primal energies crying out in drawn out triumph with processed bass, drums and vocals. A perfect pairing with tourmates Primitive Man from Denver whose own 2017 album Caustic not only beyond lives up to and embodies the album title, it is an evocation of sustained despair, desperation and frustrated rage transmogrified into colossal and punishing songs that somehow also serve as a catharsis and a channel into an inner peace that are the opposite of the songs themselves. Opener Oryx is a sort of doom grind duo and the other opening act, Urn, injects some psychedelic elements into its own brand of doom. Probably the loudest show of the week outside of that Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action show on October 24 but also easily one of the best lineups of heavy music all month.