Kyle Emerson’s New Album Only Coming Down is Like a Long Journal Entry About Embracing the Choice to Grow Up With Your Soul, Creativity and Kindness Intact

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Kyle Emerson, photo by Luka Booth

Kyle Emerson just released his second album as a solo artist, the introspective and thought-provoking Only Coming Down. The songwriter recently relocated back to Los Angeles in August 2019 after a stint back in Denver where he originally came to the attention of fans of psychedelic pop during his stint in the band Plum. For a couple of years, the latter was a bit of a buzz band before it realized that maybe Denver wasn’t the best place to base a band that seemed to have the opportunity expand its reach beyond the local scene, beyond being nominated for local awards and playing the same gauntlet of small clubs and occasionally playing bigger venues like the 550 capacity Bluebird Theater or graduate in draw and popularity to the Gothic Theatre at 1,100. Plum moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and within about a year Emerson had left the band and not long after Plum fizzled out. For some that would have been discouragement enough but not for Emerson who had already relocated once to pursue his dream of being a musician with a career.

Emerson was born in Northern Ohio not far south of Detroit where his father was a worship leader at a non-denominational church. While involved in a worship band Emerson learned some music theory from the group’s leader who also shared his love of Radiohead, indie rock and later era alternative music. Emerson also connected with and studied guitar under a music teacher of a local private school, Patrick Paringer, who had grown up in Seattle and known Elliott Smith. At that time Emerson the current bassist in his live band Dan Volmer who also played in the youth group band.

After high school a number of Emerson’s friends moved to Colorado and Brooklyn. Those that moved to the latter offered to let him join their band and sleep on their couch until he got on his feet. But life in NYC was daunting and Emerson didn’t feel like he was ready to live in the city on his own.

Colorado beckoned in 2014 and before moving to Denver Emerson was blithely unaware of happenings in the state and city. He did not know about the legalization of recreational cannabis or that the city was experiencing its largest and longest period of population growth in many years with many musicians moving to Denver seeking out the opportunity for perceived overnight success of acts like The Lumineers and The Fray or at least to be in a place where music was happening and the scene not yet oversaturated. Emerson’s friend Andrew Bair (now of dream pop phenoms Tyto Alba and other projects), son of the pastor of Emerson’s church in Ohio, had moved to Denver and he felt like with Bair and other friends around he could keep his footing in a less expensive city than New York. So he moved into a two bedroom apartment at Thirteenth Avenue and Marion St. near the former location of the Gypsy House Café and shared a room with Volmer for a few months before moving in with the guys from Plum in the Villa Park neighborhood of west central Denver.

The fledgling band had a lot going for it aside from musical and songwriting talent. Ty Baron was a music business major and did some talent buying at Larimer Lounge, a club where many up and coming acts perform weekly, and Jake Supple had been also playing in Abandin Pictures, a group with some cachet in the local psychedelic rock world (he now performs in Flaural). Both had navigated the local music world both as artists and on the less romantic business end of what it actually means to be in a band that might want to do more than play for a few dollars and free drinks.

But like a lot of bands Plum ran into that often unspoken barrier to a lot of bands from Denver and Colorado generally that prevents most from reaching beyond the local band status. Sure, there are anomalies like the aforementioned Lumineers, The Fray and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and on a smaller scale, Tennis. But outside of jam bands and the EDM world, not a lot of in between being bonafide famous and “local band” status regardless of one’s artistic merits. So even though the move and living in cramped quarters in what was essentially a practice space in L.A. lead to the band breaking up, the decision to relocate was understandable. When you have some hype at home it stands to reason you can build that elsewhere, especially when you’re young.

When Emerson left Plum in 2016 he moved back to Denver where he had some roots and connections and wrote and recorded his moving debut solo album, 2017’s Dorothy Alice. It combined Emerson’s insightful lyrics and storytelling with a folky psychedelia and almost textural atmospheric melodies. The sound has become a bit of the songwriter’s signature sound. Emerson had recently split with his then girlfriend and on top of the other experiences it’s no wonder there is more than a bit of a melancholic vibe to Dorothy Alice that is part of its deep appeal. But recorded with Jeff Cormack of pop band South of France and Justin Renaud of psychedelic rock outfit Sunboy the record reflects Emerson’s renewed hope for his music and his affection for the Mile High City.

“It felt very Denver, very Colorado and it felt great to be back,” says Emerson. “I was living back in that old house where Plum was living. It was like picking up where I had left off in a weird way.”

Emerson didn’t waste any time in writing for his sophomore record nor did he intend for it to come across like a journal entry of the last few years as he moved from Denver to Los Angeles, then repeating that same move and the experiences that framed those moves but it does. In writing the new material Emerson had no working title, which he feels might influence the sound of a record and songs chosen for better or worse, it just came to him one day. “You talk about the come down from anything, a natural high or drugs or alcohol or whatever,” says Emerson. “The more I conceptualize it I don’t know if it gets cooler or more lame but I just think there’s something about if you’re only ever coming down then there was no high on the other side of it.”

Emerson also suffered from a bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a kid and the acronym has the same letters as Only Coming Down. It reflects the fact that Emerson feels that music was the only thing that got him out of that head space of focusing so much on minutiae to the detriment of a productive life. Now in the process of writing his third record Emerson realized that he had to grow up.

“It’s not a conscious thing for a lot of people and you dabble in things you know you need to move on from,” explains Emerson. “The last two records are about the woes of growing into yourself. You’re always growing up your entire life. It’s not like you get to a certain place and you’ve arrived. There was something about putting a bookend on a lot of the themes I was writing about and the things I was feeling. The title summarized that feeling in so many ways with just three words.”

The heaviness that many listeners heard on Dorothy Alice is still there on Only Coming Down but the early feedback has remarked on it being upbeat. Whether it’s Emerson’s recent decision to use more electronics on the new record since discarding a purist’s disdain for technology or the more than a hint of hope in his songs that often contrast hope and despair, or the songwriter’s compassionate take on his role as a musician, the new album definitely tilts toward the positive.

“I don’t play party music, it’s not like that,” says Emerson. “But it’s like I stand in front of a room full of people who at the end of the day are just there to have a good time and as artistic as this can get and as some songwriters and musicians think they are I do believe in the power of positivity. I didn’t think about that so much when I was younger but now if you can say yeah this sucks but I’m here for you, it’s going to get better. I think that’s more worthwhile to say than it’s all shit and then we die. I think there’s power and reality in both of those, I just find it a little bit easier living in the first one a little easier.”

Catch Emerson live during his run of shows in Colorado with Houndmouth:

Friday | November 8 at The Bluebird Theater in Denver
Saturday | November 9 at The Fox Theatre in Boulder
Sunday | November 10 at Memorial Hall in Manitou Springs

Best Shows in Denver 8/29/19 – 9/4/19

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Phonebooks (Colin Ward and Stephan Herrera L-R) circa 2010 at Rhinoceropolis. CRFW Benefit at Rhinoceropolis on August 29, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 29

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Cop Circles circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: DJ Fresh Kill, Earth Control Pill, Cop Circles and H-Lite
When: Thursday, 08.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This is a benefit show for the CRFW Fund which supports the body of work of the late Colin Ward and which “assists artists via grants and other means of support.” Ward would have turned 29 on this August 29 and the artists on the bill were friends and creative comrades of the artist and musician. A lot of high energy electronic dance music from DJ Fresh Kill and H-Lite, conceptual No Wave afrobeat post-disco from Cop Circles and the chill soundscaping of Earth Control Pill.

What: The Sugar Hill Gang w/Furious 5 and White Fudge & The Antagonist
When: Thursday, 08.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: For a lot of people The Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap band. But hip-hop pre-dated that by some years beginning with the soundsystem parties thrown by DJ Kool Herc. The Sugar Hill Gang was probably the earliest, commercially successful rap group with its 1979 hit song “Rapper’s Delight.” Also on this bill is the Furious 5 who, with Grandmaster Flash, had been a pioneering hip-hop crew before The Sugar Hill Gang hit the charts. So this is a bit like getting to see some of the earliest days of hip-hop as we know it in one show.

Friday | August 30

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Paw Paw circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Meek, Future Scars, Kali Krone, Madelyn Burns
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Meek mixes live drums with 31G and-esque processed vocals and electronic beats for a result that’s somewhere between noise and industrial. But really not like much except for maybe, maybe, solo USAISAMONSTER minus guitar. Santa Fe’s Future Scars is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole except to say it’s a rock or a pop band but it has the cutting, hard hitting guitar drive of metal, the delicacy and texture of the most tender indie rock, the soaring vocals of some torch song pop and post-punk rhythmic drive. And that’s for one song. Other times, meditative, heavy drone with introspective melodies like Emma Ruth Rundle. Kali Krone’s dreamy slowcore seems about perfect for the swelter cool off. Madelyn Burns’ spooky singer-songwriter should appeal to fans of early Grouper.

What: Mutual Benefit w/Paw Paw and Card Catalog
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mutual Benefit’s moody, soundscape-y pop songs are like getting a glimpse into someone’s having processed some deep thinking and distilled it to the poetic essence of those collective feelings. Loosely in the realm of Americana but with some great sound collage in the songwriting. Paw Paw is the project of former Woodsman drummer Eston Lathrop. Sort of ambient, sort of organic electronic pop, experimental solo guitar and synth songs to transport you to another, better place for a half an hour or so.

What: Nuancer LP release w/SSIIGGHH, Dr3aMC@$T, Larians and Andy AI
When: Friday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Daniel DiMarchi is the genius bass player in the great dream pop band Tyto Alba and great indie rock band Oxeye Daisy. But part of what makes him a great bass player is his true ear for tonality and composition which he brings to his experimental electronic pop project Nuancer and this is the release show of I Hardly Know Her. Also on the bill is a rare show from Larians, the solo project of former Male Blonding guitarist/singer Noah Simons. Though a guitarist, Simons has long had an interest in left field and forward thinking electronic music like Burial and Larians is the manifestation of that interest. And tonight Larians releases the first EP Looming Boy. If Nicolas Jaar made trap it might sound something like that.

What: I Hate It Here, Causer, $addy, Eraserhead Fuckers and Kid Mask
When: Friday, 08.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: The noise/heavy processed dance ambient/industrial show of the week. Granted the only one but heavy hitters like noise rapper Eraserhead Fuckers, hypnogogic environment sculptor Kid Mask and post-Goth ambient noise genius $addy alone make this a noteworthy lineup.

Saturday | August 31

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The Velveteers, photo by VOSSLING

What: The Velveteers UK tour kickoff w/Boot Gun, The Kinky Fingers and Bitter Suns
When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Velveteers is a rock and roll trio from Denver whose live show is surprisingly powerful, forceful and grippingly emotional. The group is headed to the UK for a tour and this is the kickoff show with some of Denver’s other great, local, non-subgenre-specific rock bands including The Kinky Fingers who may be in the garage psych vein but its songwriting so tight and poignant it’s strikingly original.

What: To Be Astronauts, Meet the Giant, The Center and Bad Britton
When: Saturday, 08.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hard rock band To Be Astronauts is relasing its “Thoughts and Prayers” single tonight. Hard rock is a little generic a term. So yeah, in their sound you’ll hear a bit of industrial rock, grunge and anthemic punk without being stuck on any of that. And other like-minded bands are on the bill including Meet the Giant who, despite their ethereal and moody atmospheric rock gets heavy and driving often enough that they’ll fit in here.

Sunday | September 1

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Molly Burch, photo by Dailey Toliver

What: Molly Burch w/Jackie Cohen and Bellhoss
When: Sunday, 09.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Molly Burch has the kind of classic pop voice that many try to imitate but few nail the cadence and tonality that she seems to do so effortlessly. Her songs are intricate and delicate but her poetic observations sharp and illuminating. Jackie Cohen taps into an earlier era of music but her sound is more like a strange strain out of ABBA and 60s girl groups. Bellhoss is in good company here with Becky Hostetler’s idiosyncratic storytelling and inventive guitar work somewhere betwixt Dinosaur Jr, Edith Frost and Joanna Newsom. Yeah, let’s go with that until a better description of this unique songwriter and performer comes to mind. Hostetler will also make all the charmingly awkward jokes on stage so you don’t have to.

What: The Wes Watkins (EP release) w/Dr3@m Ca$t and Snubluck
When: Sunday, 09.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Wes Watkins is the brilliant trumpet player and vocalist whose talents have brought grace, cool and imagination to a broad swath of Denver music including his stint in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. But The Other Black, playing with poet, mystic, avant-garde hip-hop songwriter Bianca Mikahn, Wheelchair Sports Camp and others? His track record speaks for itself and tonight he’s releasing his new EP, a collection of jazz-inflected pop songs that seem to be streaming from a time in the future while sounding like it had to be recorded in the past putting Watkins out of time thus timeless, as seems appropriate for his soulful musical stylings.

Tuesday | September 3

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Shonen Knife circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shonen Knife w/Me Like Bees and Sexy Pistils
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Shonen Knife is the legendary Japanese punk bands whose roots go back to the late 70s when not many women were playing music in Japan much less in a punk band. Its songs are often about fanciful and mythical things but its songwriting is sharp, powerful and uplifting.

What: Holy Grove (PDX), DØNE (SLC, ex-SubRosa), and Shepherd
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: A kind of doom metal show including the latest project from former SubRosa drummer Andy Patterson, DØNE.

What: Ian Svenonius DJ set / Dream Wish of a Casino Soul Closing Party
When: Tuesday, 09.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: Philosopher, brilliant social commentator, media mogul and genius frontman (The Make-Up, Nation of Ulysses, Weird War, Chain and the Gang etc.) Ian Svenonius will hold court with one of his unique DJ sets for the closing party for the art exhibit Dream Wish of a Casino Soul.

Wednesday | September 4

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SunnO))) circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: SunnO))) w/David Pajo and BIG BRAVE
When: Wednesday, 09.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: SunnO))) creates such intense, dense frequencies and slow dynamics with, assuming Atilla Csihar will be on hand, otherworldly vocals that run a broad spectrum of tonality that your brain may work differently after the show. Calling it “extreme metal” just doesn’t cut it as it’s a truly ritualistic experience and so engulfing you feel like you’ve really been through something by the end. David Pajo is the iconic guitarist of Slint, The For Carnation and a host of other bands including a short stint in the death metal group Dead Child. His solo material runs a fairly wide range of sounds and emotions and as Papa M he recently toured with Mogwai. Not to be missed. BIG BRAVE is a cathartic collision of industrial, drone metal and emotional exorcism.

What: Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Dorian, Hypnotic Turtle Radio DJ, Cabal Art
When: Wednesday, 09.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday is the monthly musical showcase that lives up to its name and curated by Claudia Woodman. This time she will be performing in her persona of Gothsta and for this performance she says, “Gothsta covers goth songs on the melodica that have some link to climate change-related themes, because Gothsta is depressed about global warming. Gothsta will have some extra special content that has to do with the Amazon burning and will be joined by Hypnotic Turtle’s Diablo Montalban for dueling melodicas/improv along with noise loops generated for this performance.” It’s rare that anything lives up to hype like that but this show probably will.

Best Shows in Denver 6/27/19 – 7/3/19

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Earth performs June 27 at The Marquis Theater, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | June 27

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Zealot, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Earth w/Helms Alee
When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Earth is as much an influential and pioneering drone metal band as it is an avant-garde blues folk group imbued with mystical overtones. It’s 2019 album Full Upon Her Burning Lips finds the trio channeling more than the usual measure of its crawling, Black Sabbath-esque gloom. Seeing the live show it’s always fascinating to see how Adrienne Davies moves in an orchestrated string of slow sweeping moves and fast, accenting flourishes as Dylan Carlson and their collaborators of the moment drone with a smoky fluidity.

What: Meet the Giant, The Jinjas, Monty O’Blivion and Zealot
When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Zealot would be a Mountain Goats cover band but Luke Hunter James-Erickson would find that too rote so he injects his own eclectic tastes into the songwriting. Recently released the “Snake Goddess” single, a typically eccentric, high energy, angular indie rock gem. Meet the Giant, informed by electronic music and hip-hop beat-making, write and perform deeply evocative, brooding rock songs that maybe now would overlap with the whole darkwave thing except that Meet the Giant often crosses over into the realm of hard rock in a way most of those bands don’t.

What: Cholo Goth Night featuring Dave Parley of Prayers
When: Thursday, 06.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Just like it says, Cholo Goth Night at Streets Denver with Dave Parley of Cholo Goth and spinning Darkwave and Goth for the evening. When this event happens in the Los Angeles area and select other cities Parley brings in other darkwave musicians of note to guest a set but not for tonight.

Friday | June 28

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Blue October, photo by Chris Barber

What: The Kinky Fingers w/Vic N’ the Narwhals and Colfax Speed Queen
When: Friday, 06.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Now that the Denver “party rock” scene has withered away and garage psych/surf is going the way of pop punk in the early 2000s only the strong and more interesting survive. In the case of these three bands it’s partly because their songwriting was always good and their individual sounds not so susceptible to the blowout of trendiness. Each has also evolved.

What: Tyto Alba and Steele Douglas
When: Friday, 06.28, 5 p.m.
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Why: Tyto Alba is always surprisingly evocative with music coming from the tender places of the psyche and coloring the tones in warm, incandescent tones and hypnotic rhythms. Seeing them on a rooftop while a thunderstorm threatens to hover in but never does? Seems symbolic and entirely appropriate.

What: Blue October w/Mona
When: Friday, 06.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Blue October has been around for nearly a quarter of a century now and its career has crossed over from the old way of major labels and the album release cycle to the modern mess and disarray of the industry now that offers bands to connect directly to an audience more so than ever before but to earn far less for their efforts. That the group has weathered that period is impressive itself. Oddly enough its own style of power pop seemingly inspired by late 80s proto-alternative rock like Icehouse and The Outfield and their dramatic presentation of being a bit on the outs of true emotional fulfillment but yearning for that special connection with another human with music that is a little too triumphant in tone and uplifting to be sad bastard music. But Blue October didn’t stay trapped in a past style and its newer music reflects a diversity of newer influences.

What: Primal Birth: Hotpiss, Drume, Eyeface, Padfut, Worldwide Dungeon, DJ 7 Heads
When: Friday, 06.28, 10 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A bit of a weirdo underground techno show that starts late and goes late like a rave.

Saturday | June 29

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PUP, photo by Vanessa Heins

What: Westword Music Showcase
When: Saturday, 06.29, 12 p.m.
Where: Golden Triangle Neighborhood
Why: This is the longest running music festival of its type in Denver. Held on just one day in the Golden Triangle neighborhood near the Westword offices off Tenth Ave and Broadway, it is arguably the most concise way all year to see a broad spectrum of the local scene without having to walk too far. This year’s line-up includes several of the local luminaries. Here is a list of see-if-you-can acts at each of the stages and a given set time. Tastes will vary and I’m certainly no expert on big chunks of the local music world.

Breckenridge Brewery Stage
12:25 YaSi
6:10 Jai Wolf

White Claw Stage
7:20 CHVRCHES

Vinyl Main
12:50 Techno Allah
2:30 Erin Stereo

#vybe
12:50 Venus Cruz
6:40 Lady Gang
7:30 RARE BYRD$

Stoney’s Main
12:35 Gora Gora Orkestar
5:35 Wes Watkins
7:15 Roka Hueka
8:05 Los Mocochetes

Bar Standard
12:50 Hail Satan
2:30 Ghosts of Glaciers
5:50 Fathers
6:40 Plasma Canvas
7:30 Cheap Perfume

Temple/Mirus Gallery
3:20 Starjammer

Stoney’s South
1:40 Brianna Straut
2:30 Bevin Luna
5:50 Florea

The Church
12:00 eHpH
2:30 Ramakhandra
5 Vic n’ the Narwhals
5:50 Spirettes
6:40 The Hollow

100% Agave
1:40 Bret Sexton
5:50 Los Dog Ensemble
6:40 The Maybe So’s
7:30 Joshua Trinidad Trio

What: PUP w/Ratboys and Beach Bunny
When: Saturday, 06.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: PUP started making waves a handful of years ago outside its hometown of Toronto, Ontario among aficionados of pop punk and emo who missed that brashly confessional style of songwriting before the music hit maximum saturation level in the early-to-mid 2000s. When the band began in 2010 a quasi-movement was under way across the North American continent in making fun, melodic punk that was raw and expressive. With PUP and others the key difference was embracing the relatively unrefined side of that songwriting and how that opened possibilities for the music to go where it will rather than fall directly in a worn out style. This has given PUP’s songwriting a freshness that even if at first it seems completely within the realm of standard pop punk. Its new record, 2019’s Morbid Stuff, arguably its best to date, revealed the influence of the more vital garage punk and 2000s lo-fi noise rock on its sound. Like the Reatards and perhaps No Age. Its irreverent spirit and deft local cultural references that are relatable to people who experience similar social phenomena in their own cities makes for a consistently endearing listen.

What: Luxury Hearse, Timelord SFX and blank human
When: Saturday, 06.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Luxury Hearse combines the forces of blank human’s ambient/noise sound sculpting and Psychic Secretary’s beat-driven experimental electronic music. What to call it? Some might think industrial because of its sometimes sharp edges but it’s more in the vein of edgier yet dream-like dance music.

What: 5th Annual Colorado Goth Fest: Suicide Commando and Læther Strip w/Offerings to Odin, The Union, The Midnight Marionettes, eHpH and WitchHands
When: Saturday, 06.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: This edition of the Colorado Goth Fest features headliners who are significant and one might say pioneering artists in the realm of EBM with Suicide Commando and Læther Strip. The local acts are a fairly diverse group as well including death rock band WitchHands from Colorado Springs and Denver’s own EBM/electro-post-punk duo eHpH.

What: Blue October w/Mona ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/369899
When: Saturday, 06.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: For Blue October see above for 6.28.

Monday | July 1

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Culture Abuse circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Culture Abuse w/Tony Molina, Young Guy, Dare, Regional Justice Center and Cadaver Dog
When: Monday, 07.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Culture Abuse has big melodic hooks for a band that came up through the milieu of garage punk. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream greatly expanded its range as a band both tonally, dynamically and emotionally as it’s informed by a sensitivity to the inevitability of the death of those close to you and a wry sense of humor and irony. After all Culture Abuse has a song called “Dave’s Not Here (I Got The Stuff Man)” referencing the classic Cheech & Chong skit. While there’s plenty of wiry punk energy behind the material, especially live, it’s really more of a great power pop record. Tony Molina got started in music playing in hardcore bands but his solo work is more in line with jangle pop and C86 with a sprinkling of The Byrds. His own 2018 record Kill the Lights wouldn’t have been out of place in the same musical realm as Teenage Fanclub circa 1992. Except with more folk-inflected, introspective songwriting throughout.

What: Muscle Beach, Buildings (MN) and Simulators
When: Monday, 07.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Buildings form Minneapolis is a vital cross between a math-y noise rock and post-hardcore. Muscle Beach is of similar mind but its own version of post-hardcore is a splintery assault on the senses that drags you down emotional pathways that purge angst and personal darkness – all done with a cathartic sense of joy. Simulators are an angular noise rock duo whose music is both cutting and unhinged yet mathematically precise. It’s always an interesting contrast.

Wednesday | July 3

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Total Trash, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Bud Bronson + the Good Timers, The Right Here, Bad Licks, DJ Sara Splatter
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bud Bronson + The Good Timers are always surprisingly good. Its earnest power pop sounds like it’s of today but has a quality and a vibe that is reminiscent of the stories and sentiments one heard in the music of late 70s/early 80s Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Also on the bill is Bad Licks who somehow do a kind of psychedelic blues rock that is legitimate and high energy because good songwriting transcends pre-conceptions.

What: Weird Wednesdayl: Total Trash, Pretty Loud, Klaus Dafoe
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl
Why: Total Trash is a band comprised of luminaries of Denver’s indie rock scene going back nearly two decades and yet it’s not all middle aged people. If you remember Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Lil’ Slugger, it’s people from those bands. It’s psychedelic, shoegaze-y jangle pop is transporting yet relatable and down to earth. Klaus Dafoe is an instrumental band that collides together 2000s math rock, weirdo punk and indie pop for a sound that is familiar yet unusual.

What: Pale Sun, Palehorse/Palerider, Random Temple and Grass
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Palehorse/Palerider’s drummer Nathan Marcy said to bring earplugs. Good idea, because his own group is the kind of doom/shoegaze/dark desert psych band that makes beautifully dark, atmospheric, consciousness expanding music with ritual/tribal flourishes that is, yes, in fact, quite loud. In good company with gritty psych band Grass and Pale Sun. The latter’s dreamy yet dense rock music will take you to a different psychological space than the one with which you walked into the show. Includes former members of Bright Channel, Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.

Best Shows in Denver 5/2/19 – 5/8/19

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Tyto Alba releases its new album Sucker at Hi-Dive on Saturday, May 4

Thursday | May 2

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Jai Wolf, photo by Shervin Lainez

What: Jail Wolf w/Hotel Garuda, ford
When: Thursday, 05.02, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden
Why: Sajeeb Saha got started making electronic music and did remixes for the likes of Odesza and Dirty South before embarking on making the kind of effervescent pop that appeared on his 2016 EP Kindred Spirits as Jai Wolf. The EP reflected his earlier production experience in terms of the musical ideas and details that one might hear on an EDM record. But it also incorporated the kind of expansive and psyche cleansing musicality of the post-chillwave efforts of artists like Toro Y Moi and Washed Out. Three years later the new Jai Wolf album, The Cure to Loneliness sounds like a massive leap forward evolving the eccentric sonic flourishes of EDM into more interesting features of a song and tighter songwriting with a wider array of instrumentation including guitar and percussion that sounds like a human is behind the performance somewhere. Intact and more fully realized in its expression, though, is Saha’s gift for expressing a sense of wonder and hope, qualities that are much needed given the state of the world. The same line-up same time performs at the Ogden Theatre on Friday, May 3.

What: Speakeasy Series: Denizens of the Deep and Felix Fast4ward
When: Thursday, 05.02, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This edition of the Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Recorods are master Denver soundsculptors Denizens of the Deep and Felix Fast4ward. Both fit somewhere in the realm of ambient and electronic dance music and psychedelia without needing to fit in any of those categories.

What: Monolord w/The Munsens and The Well
When: Thursday, 05.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Solid doom show including Monolord from Gothenburg, Sweden, a city more well-known for its melodic death metal. Monolord sounds more like they grew up listening to pre-1995 Melvins and that’s a positive.

What: A Rembrance for Brittany Strummer w/Typesetter, Cheap Perfume and Ersatz Robots 
When: Thursday, 05.02, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Brittany Strummer was not in bands but as a fan and associate of bands and the punk community and a friend to many she touched many lives nationally and even internationally. For this show some of her friends are getting together to celebrate her life and legacy with live music.

What: Shpongle w/Tipper, Desert Dwellers, Leo P (from Too Many Zooz)
When: Thursday, 05.02, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Shpongle has kind of a silly name and its fusion of world music, psychedelia and electronic dance music isn’t for everyone but it’s shows are like an idiosyncratic ritual of spectacle and depth of sound. Tipper’s deep ambient abstract dance could be headling this show as well but is only on this first date of Shpongle’s 2-day run at Red Rocks.

Friday | May 3

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eHpH circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Faces Under the Mirror, Rosegarden Funeral Party, Vio\ator and eHpH
When: Friday, 05.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Darkwave show of the week with electro-industrial band Faces Under the Mirror, Dallas-based post-punkers Rose Garden Funeral Party, noisy dark industrial project Vio/lator and Denver EBM duo eHpH whose electronic industrial soundscapes have a bit of confrontational energy built into the mix.

What: Jacket of Spiders
When: Friday, 05.03, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Art Society
Why: The debut show of the new band from former members of Tarmints/Twice Wilted/Cynic’s Bane/Soulbender ,AJ Hathaway, Bobby Jamison and Bobby Bane.

What: Shpongle w/Clozee, Desert Dwellers, Leo P (From Too Many Zooz)
When: Friday, 05.03, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Second night of world music dub electro dance legends Shpongle.

What: Copper Leaf, Bear and the Beasts and Gun Street Ghost
When: Friday, 05.03, 9 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: A free show. Somewhere betwixt Americana and late 90s/early 2000s indie pop with a charming richness of musical detail is Copper Leaf. Bear and the Beasts is like-minded but more rock and probably more influenced by the likes of Lucero. Gun Street Ghost is kind of a gritty Americana band but Mike Perfetti’s masterful storytelling and charisma sets any of his projects apart from most other bands.

What: Benefit for Yes on 300, screening of segments of “The Right to Rest” film, Laura Goldhamer, Knuckle Pups, Poppet
When: Friday, 05.03, 7:30 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: Denver Initiative 300 isn’t going to legalize people sleeping on your porch and littering your neighborhood with needles or whatever. Nor will it magically make that appear everywhere. The sort of fear mongering surrounding the initiative is misplaced. This show is a benefit for voting yes on the measure including the multi-media artist/songwriter Laura Goldhamer.

What: Roller Disco 2
When: Friday, 05.03, 11:30 p.m.
Where: Roller City
Why: Late night culture is back to being nascent and underground in Denver but this is something along those lines where your entry fee gets you a skate rental and new wave and synth pop songs appropriate to the occasion playing into the wee hours.

What: Jai Wolf w/Hotel Garuda and ford
When: Friday, 05.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: See above on 5/2 for Jai Wolf.

Saturday | May 4

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Panther Martin, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Tyto Alba album release – Sucker w/Panther Martin and Modern Leisure
When: Saturday, 05.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Anyone paying attention to the Denver underground rock scene with any taste or discernment would tell you that Tyto Alba is one of the city’s best bands. Its ear for melody and keen sense of dynamics has resulted in a body of work that is emotionally rich and deeply evocative. Its dream pop is a master class in contrasts between strong rhythms and delicate, gauzy melodies and Melanie Steinway’s thought-provoking lyrics delivered with a gift for expressing nuanced sometimes uncomfortable truths with a vulnerability and strength of conviction that isn’t common enough. The group’s new album Sucker is a showcase for the band’s songwriting versatility. Tyto Alba already had a sound of fascinating contrasts and complexities (moody, bright, melancholic, emotional truthfulness and acceptance of the range of one’s feelings) but Sucker is the band at its peak of development so far. In the hands of other artists some of the material could be brutal but a sense of compassion has also long informed the music.

What: Itchy-O 5th Annual Sci Fi Freakout w/Carnivale De Sensuale Sci-Fi Burlesque and hosted by Hagbard Celine and Andrew Novick
When: Saturday, 05.04, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater

Sunday | May 5

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What: Cinco De Mayo with Los Mocochetes including Vic N’ The Narwhals, Kiltro and El Javi
When: Sunday, 05.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: If you were so inclined to go to a show on Cinco De Mayo billed as such none better than seeing Latin indie funk stars Los Mocochetes and soulful garage rock psychedelic band Vic N’ The Narwhals.

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Skating Polly, photo by Angel Ceballos

What: Skating Polly w/MONSTERWATCH and Backseat Vinyl
When: Sunday, 05.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Because Skating Polly had to come up as musicians in an insular way and didn’t come up on trends the way many other musicians have, its almost outsider blend of primal grunge and garage rock is unlike much else in the scenes of the revival of either of the past decade.

Monday | May 6

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Pedestrian Deposit circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Pedestrian Deposit w/Entrancer, Anime Love Hotel, Sunk Cost
When: Monday, 05.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Pedestrian Deposit combines layers of sound to create an engulfing sonic experience. From organic stringed instruments, field recordings, tape collage, harsh noise and electronic instrumentation, the duo from Los Angeles is unlike many bands in the realm of “noise” and its shows border on a kind of ritual born out of urban decay and neglect. Also sharing the bill are techno wizard and ambient artist Entrancer and noise sculptor supreme Sunk Cost.

What: Lolo Zouaï: High Highs to Low Lows Tour w/Jean Deaux
When: Monday, 05.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lolo Zouaï’s 2018 full-length High Highs to Low Lows is surprisingly downtempo and world weary for an artist in her early 20s. She cites Too Short as an influence so maybe that is a factor. Its lush production and trap-esque and gritty, ethereal flavor bears comparison to Alice Glass’s solo EP of a couple of years ago.

What: Winter w/Ancient Elk
When: Monday, 05.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Samir Winter and the band that takes its moniker from her surname is fortunately not sticking to one sound for an entire career. Yes, those blissfully atmospheric pop songs from the debut album benefited from Winter’s strong, evocative singing. But the 2018 album Ethereality sounds like the group adopted a bit of the muscular, fuzzy upbeat rock sound of other groups that are tapping into the 90s but Winter’s buoyant yet introspective presence gives it some depth. Denver psychedelic folk band Ancient Elk is changing its name and supposedly this is the show where the new name and presumably new line-up will be launched.

Tuesday | May 7

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Perturbator, photo courtesy the artist

What: Perturbator w/GOST and Many Blessings
When: Tuesday, 05.07, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Perturbator takes that sort of analog synth John Carpenter worship soundtrack thing and elevates it with even more dramatic flourish and volume by transforming it into industrial dance music.

What: Real Dom, Terror Pigeon, Techno Allah, Aman
When: Tuesday, 05.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since the late 2000s Terror Pigeon has created bombastic synth poppy dance music with deep grooves like they were some band out of Brooklyn rather than Nashville.

Wednesday | May 8

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Malamadre circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy. Vincent Fasano on right.

What: Fasano Twin Film Night
When: Wednesday, 05.08, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Charly and Vincent Fasano have been fixtures of the front range art, poetry and music scene for close to three decades. Charly “The City Mouse” will be screening some of his short films while Vinnie “Cheap” will provide musical accompaniment with his experimental jazz group Still Birth of Cool.

Best Shows in Denver 02/14/19 – 02/20/19

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Kikagaku Moyo performs at the Hi-Dive on Feb. 18 and The Fox Theatre in Boulder on Feb. 19 with Weeed. Photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

Thursday | February 14, 2019

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

What: An Ambient Valentine’s Day: Benefit for Resilience Rising: School Dance, Allison Lorenzen solo, Midwife, God of Water and Bell Hoss
When: Thursday, 02.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Rosehouse
Why: This show is a benefit women’s shelter Resilience Rising and includes more sonically ethereal and low key artists such as ambient slowcore star Midwife and the like-minded but less abstract artist Bell Hoss who sounds like she fled some pocket dimension that was perpetually the early 80s but where people didn’t get why Joni Mitchell is one of the coolest, most important artists in popular music.

Who: Grivo w/DH and Madelyn Burns
When: Thursday, 02.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: Grivo is an experimental shoegaze/psychedelic rock band from Austin with music out on Holodeck Records.

Who: The Dead & The Daylily w/Turvy Organ, Avifauna and Tiffany Christopher
When: Thursday, 02.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: This is Matthew Rossi’s first show as a guitarist in indie rock band Turvy Organ. You’ve seen him play in Tyto Alba assuming you’ve seen that underrated and great Denver dream pop band. Rossi has helped bring to that band a certain elevated emotional tonal palette and he’ll bring some of that to Turvy Organ as well.

Who: Codename: Carter w/Tonguebyte
When: Thursday, 02.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Spy-surf phenoms Codename: Carter don’t play so often but when they do, it’s a worthy catching because they coordinate outfits and write songs that remind you that surf rock can have chops and imagination behind it.

Friday | February 15, 2019

Who: Scream Screen: Poltergeist
When: Friday, 02.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Sie FilmCenter
Why: The latest in Theresa Mercado’s Scream Screen series celebrating the life of master horror filmmaker Tobe Hooper. Tonight, 1982’s haunting classic Poltergeist.

Who: The Pollution, Perry Weissman 3 and DJ AKA Miggy
When: Friday, 02.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: The Pollution is rooted in the politically conscious but non-didactic punk of the 80s DC scene but influenced by psychedelic rock and weirdo 70s prog. Perry Weissman 3 is definitely within the experimental wing of jazz. Not necessarily free jazz but that element is in there too.

Who: Maya Jane Coles
When: Friday, 02.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Church
Why: Maya Jane Coles is the UK DJ whose production and engineering work is noteworthy separate from her career as music maker. In the latter capacity Coles is known for her dark techno sets with a deep house and dub sensibility. Her compositions usually have a gently urgent quality amid moody synth swells and a finely crafted and separation of tones and textures as part of her layers of rhythm bumped along by expertly sculpted low end. Which is just another way of saying her music sounds like something you’d want to hear in the inevitable virtual experiential product of the future that tries to convey what it was like to go to a 2000s underground experimental dance music event in an illegal but safe warehouse in the middle of fall. Plenty of sonic allusions and nods to style can be found in one of her sets for the heads that work well whether you’re familiar with those references or not.

Saturday | February 16, 2019

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Turkuaz, photo by Dani Brandwein

Who: Turkuaz with Eminence Ensemble
When: Saturday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Turkuaz is a nine-piece, Brooklyn-based funk band whose sound is as eclectic as it is layered and multi-cultural. Though incorporating elements of psychedelia, R&B and rock Turkuaz’s sound can be readily compared to like-minded bands more associated within the cross section of jam bands end electronic dance music. Think on the more interesting end like Lotus, STS9 and The Disco Biscuits. That kind of flow of sounds and rhythms but rooted in executing the sounds with all live instrumentation and sounding more akin to Kool and the Gang or a Bernie Worrell band than something that has much in common with the EDM realm.

Who: KGNU Quarterly Showcase: The Milk Blossoms, Lady Gang, My New Dad (members of Dandu), Joshua Trinidad and Gregg Ziemba – DJs Joel Davis aka The Vibrarian and TerraSonic
When: Saturday, 02.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This edition of the KGNU Quarterly Showcase is, reliably, a fantastic showcase of some of the more interesting artists in Denver. The Milk Blossoms provide a gentle yet heartfelt emotional catharsis with every show with meaningful and experimental pop music by not trying to fit in any genre and giving you the raw, delicately rendered experience. Lady Gang is Jen Korte’s one woman, loop station composition extravaganza. Joshua Trinidad and Gregg Ziemba will kick the serious space jazz science and stretch the boundaries of consciousness in the process.

Who: Le Butcherettes w/Stars at Night and Viretta
When: Saturday, 02.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Le Butcherettes make weirdo prog punk within the context of what always seems like inspired performance art as Teri Genderbender channels rock and roll and mythological archetypes of her own creation at every show. Earlier this month the group released its latest album bi/MENTAL, a typically otherworldly and cathartic offering that isn’t much like anything else in rock in re-contextualizing and re-purposing tropes of the genre in creative ways.

Monday | February 18, 2019

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Sharon Van Etten, photo by Ryan Pfluger

 

Who: Kikagaku Moyo w/Weeed
When: Monday, 02.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kikagaku Moyo is a Tokyo-based psychedelic rock band whose 2018 album Masana Temples demonstrated further the band’s subtly eclectic sound rooted not just in 70s prog and psychedelic rock but also Japanese traditional music and perhaps 70s Japanese folk artists like Happy End, Karuomi Hosono, Itsutsu No Akai Fusen and Nobuyasu Okabayashi. There is a very organic quality to the band’s music, especially in the live setting where layers of sound are presented in a way that is deceptively simple. Definitely not informed so much by the trendy psychedelic rock wave of recent years. This Hi-Dive show is sold out but there is another day the next night in Boulder at The Fox Theatre.

Who: Sharon Van Etten w/Nilüfer Yanya
When: Monday, 02.18, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Sharon Van Etten has been releasing worthwhile and wise records for close to a decade and a half now but her 2019 album Remind Me Tomorrow is her best work to date. The rough warble reminiscent of Marianne Faithful in her prime heard in “Seventeen” is thrillingly raw and the words imbued with a deeply painful letting go of ideas and associations once deep in one’s heart but no longer useful while the ghosts of those connections remain. But the whole record is flowing with the spirits of loves past and the album a gentle purging and reconciliation.

Tuesday | February 19, 2019

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Men I Trust circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Kikagaku Moyo w/Weeed and Ashley Koett
When: Tuesday, 02.19, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: See above for the 2.18 Hi-Dive show entry for more information on Kikagaku Moyo.

Who: Men I Trust w/Michael Seyer
When: Tuesday, 02.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Men I Trust has been described any number of ways but the live band evokes the mood of dusky nightclub R&B and soft lighting. But without evoking the early 70s Laurel Canyon pop sound so much in vogue lately. The band’s videos look like some kind of cinematic rendering of 1980s home movies and in a way reminds one of fan videos various people have made for Boards of Canada. It’s not often a band can maintain some sense of mystique these days but Men I Trust definitely has some.

Wednesday | February 20, 2019

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Alien Boy, photo by Sam Gehrke

Who: Sundressed, Awakebutstillinbed, Alien Boy and Sunsleeper
When: Wednesday, 02.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Around the turn of the century pop punk had all but burned out any appeal to anyone but the most die hard fans because it seemed like every other band was still mining that musical territory hoping to play Warped Tour. But then that tide went out. Toward the end of the first decade of the 2000s some musicians in the punk world embraced melody in their songwriting and the relatable and emotionally resonant and urgent quality that the best pop punk and emo had. In the decade since there’s been a renaissance of that style of music but with musicians freely incorporating elements of other musical styles and ideas. This is a good showcase of that development now long since established. Alien Boy, however, has strayed the furthest from the sonics of punk canon and thus, for this writer, it is the most interesting band on the bill with its unabashed use of moody musical ideas from punk, shoegaze, post-punk and its own focus on the most poignant moments of their lives as a loci of inspiration. The band’s 2018 album Sleeping Lessons firmly established it as one of the most interesting punk bands of recent years. Awakebutstillinbed’s crackling and ragged energy also sounds promising for the performance like a less art/space rock Rainer Maria. It’s gloriously titled 2018 album what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you is the things of which modern emo legends are made.

Best Shows in Denver 08/9/18 – 08/15/18

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Echo Beds album release Sunday, August 12, 2018 at Mutiny Information Café

Thursday | August 9, 2018

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Lady Gang, photo courtesy Jen Korte

Who: Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.

Who: Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray
When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.

Who: Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force
When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street)
Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.

Friday | August 10, 2018

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Meet The Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros
When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.

Who: Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.

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Parker Millsap, photo by James Coreas

Who: Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.

Saturday | August 10, 2018

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Itchy-O, photo by Christopher Cleary

Who: Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.

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Princess Dewclaw, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Washout Fest at Globe Hall: Muscle Beach, Rotten Reputation, Sliver, Moon Pussy, Princess Dewclaw, Sonic Vomit, Morlox, Ultraviolet, Eraserhead Fuckers, Bert Olsen, Juice Up, Lepidoptera, Fever Dreams, Saddy, Freak//When//Scene, Monty O’Blivio, Clutch Plague, Television Generation, King Slug and Wayward Sun
When: Saturday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Hands down the most eclectic music festival to happen in Denver in 2018. While many try to encapsulate too many genres with not enough interesting artists, others focus on indie rock and NPR-friendly pop, yet others an uninspired and obvious selection of popular artists and token local artists who aren’t going to ruffle any feathers, the organizers of Washout Fest have dug a little deeper. But more than that, not just artists on the Glasss imprint. It includes notable local noise artist Morlox, ambient project Lepidoptera, noisy psych punk group Princess Dewclaw, the industrial noise rock of Moon Pussy, dream psych pop group Fever Dreams, experimental metal band Sonic Vomit, unconventional punk bands Rotten Reputation and Muscle Beach, fuzz rock bands Sliver and Television Generation, noise hip-hop weirdo Eraserhead Fuckers and much more. The more conventionally-minded festivals have their place, especially when they have a local focus like The UMS and Westword Music Showcase, but this is one where radio-friendly wasn’t the consideration, just quality and putting one’s reputation on the line for declaring the bands as such.

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Valley Queen, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.

Who: Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.

Who: GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Aggie Theatre
Why: See above for 8.10 on Melvins.

Sunday | August 12, 2018

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Cannons circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Goon, faim, Soul Vice
When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.

Who: Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents
When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.

Tuesday | August 14, 2018

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The Chamanas, photo by Brett Muñoz

Who: The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.

Who: Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.

Who: Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.

Wednesday | August 8, 2018

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Aseethe, photo by Karlee Barr

Who: Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.

Who: Beach House w/Sound of Ceres
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.

Who: Father John Misty with TV On the Radio
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.

Colorado Bands at Treefort Music Fest 2018

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Rubedo, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Ever since the founding of Treefort Music Fest, Colorado bands have been a staple of the event as Treefort was inspired by The UMS in Denver. This year is, Colorado based bands are on the bill virtually every night of the Fest and what follows is a rundown of those bands and the time and place where you can catch them. Esmé Patterson is being included because, well, she became a significant artist before she moved from Denver. The organizers of Treefort Music Fest have done a great job of providing links and photos so click on the links for each band to find out more information and in most cases give the artists a listen.

Thursday | March 22, 2018

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Bad Licks, photo by Tom Murphy

Dear Rabbit – 6 p.m. – Boise All-ages Movement Project
Kyle Emerson – 10 p.m. – Ha’Penny
Eldren – 10:40 p.m. – The Reef
Bad Licks – 11 p.m. – Ha’Penny

Friday | March 23, 2018

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Kitty Crimes, photo by Lindsey Webb

Tyto Alba – 8:20 p.m. – Ha’Penny
The Still Tide – 10:10 p.m. – The Olympic
Esmé Patterson – 11 p.m. – The District
Edison – 11:15 p.m. – Tom Grainey’s
The Kinky Fingers – 11:20 p.m. – Ha’Penny
ill-esha – 11:30 p.m. – Fatty’s
Kitty Crimes – 11:30 p;m. – Grainey’s Basement
déCollage – 12:40 a.m. – Grainey’s Basement

 

Saturday | March 24, 2018

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

The Raven and The Writing Desk – 4:30 p.m. – El Korah Shrine
Ancient Elk – 8 p.m. – Ha’Penny
Midwife – 9 p.m. – Boise Contemporary Theater
Serpentfoot – 9:30 p.m. – The Olympic

Sunday | March 25, 2018

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Porlolo, photo by Tom Murphy

Porlolo – 4:50 p.m. – Linen Building
Rubedo – 7:30 p.m. – Neurolux