What:Hieroglyphics w/Rap Noir, Stoney Hawk, S.A.V.E.1, Mike Wird, LoS, Stonewall BLVD When: Friday, 05.31, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Hieroglyphicsfrom Oakland, California and have long been one of the most influential groups in underground hip-hop. Comprised of Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, Domino, DJ Toure and the four members of Souls of Mischief (Phesto, A-Plus, Opio nd Tajai), Hieroglyphics operate in a way that’s classic, old school hip-hop, composing using a sort of free form jazz style with sampling and vocals and more experimental production and the feel of a 70s exploitation film but one where maybe the music was made by a Gil Scott-Heron and Lee Scratch Perry collaboration. This show will include all original members so you’ll get to see some of the sharpest and most deft wordplay in the game.
What:Chromeo, Thievery Corporation, Big Freedia, Adeline, Peanut Butter Wolf When: Friday, 05.31, 5 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Electro soul stars Chromeo seem to bring their bombastic, weirdo new wave pop to Red Rocks every summer and consistently bring artists that will push their fans’ collective music brains beyond their current bounds. This time basically co-headlining with downtempo dub duo Thievery Corporation. More on the outside of the loose realm of music in which the aforementioned operate are Big Freedia and Peanut Butter Wolf. The former is an icon of New Orleans sissy bounce. Which is a really abstract way of saying that Big Freedia is a charismatic and highly energetic performer whose performances blur the line between sissy bounce, noisy industrial dance and a kind of what might be called punk dub. It’s impossible to ignore and may alienate some people with how strange it is to some sensibilities but also one of the most powerful things you’ll get to see at Red Rocks this summer. Peanut Butter Wolf is the founder of experimental hip-hop/electronic music/post-punk imprint Stones Throw, which has regularly issued some of the most fascinating music of the past 23 years.
Saturday | June 1
What:Goth Prom 4 featuring Assemblage 23, DJs Kilgore, Slave1 and Dutch Confetti When: Saturday, 06.01, 5 p.m. Where: EXDO Events Center Why: This year’s edition of Goth Prom will be headlined by EBM/Future Pop legend Assemblage 23. The Seattle-based group has managed to consistently make emotionally honest and compelling music in a realm of industrial dance that is often basically unconscious self-parody that aims to be edgy and dark but misses the mark more often than not. At least Assemblage 23 songs are well-written and seem more aimed to evoke a headspace and mood rather than adherence to tropes.
What:Dead Milkmen w/Granny Tweed When: Saturday, 06.01, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Dead Milkmen were an irreverent punk band from a time when a lot of punk and hardcore was taking itself entirely too seriously. But Dead Milkmen stretched the boundaries of 80s punk by observing few conventions beyond an iconoclastic spirit.
What:Painting With Statue, Echo Beds, DJ Pop CTRL and Animal / object When: Saturday, 06.01, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Painting With Statue is a trio from California that makes noise via what sounds like analog field recording manipulation, sampling and raw low end and white noise. Animal / object is Colorado’s premier avant-garde spontaneous composition band. Who knows what DJ Pop CTRL will be this time other than weirdo folk pop. Echo Beds rarely plays now due to work on its new record so here’s a now rare chance to see the organic-industrial, noisy post-punk legends in the flesh and steel.
What:Summitus Kitharlogus When: Sunday, 06.02, 6 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: A left of field guitar mini fest with performances by or featuring: Weasel Tears, Equine, Amos Helvey, Adam Selene, Lepidoptera, Farrrell Lowe, Joe Mills, Sean Patrick Faling-sonic friction guitarworks, Prayer Hands, Death In Space, Saduwu, Brother Saturn, Sean Mlekush, Space Geist, Bradley Franlik Santulli, Broken Guitar Ensemble, BentonamO, bios+a+ic, Night Grinder.
What:Whiskey Orphans, Slow Poisoner and Universal Devils When: Sunday, 06.02, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Whiskey Orphans sounds like the name suggests. Fortunately, that means more than hard drinking Americana. There is also a touch of sensitivity and wistfulness underlining the sparse melodies. Universal Devils is Tricky Dick Wickett’s one-man metallic singer songwriter project and more odd and original than those mere words could convey.
Monday | June 3
What:KEN mode w/Abrams, BleakHeart and Ten Foot Beast When: Monday, 06.03, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: KEN mode is a metallic, noisy, post-hardcore band whose name is a shortened version of “Kill Everyone Now mode” and in terms of blowing up a groove and cutting a riff into relentlessly jagged pieces, the band has done plenty of that in the more absurdly humorous over-the-top abstract sense. It’s latest album Loved from 2018 has song titles that read like chapters in the diary of a nihilistic misanthrope. For example: “Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should,” “The Illusion of Dignity,” “Learning To Be Too Cold” and “Fractures in Adults.” Given the title of the record one has to respect the dark sense of humor informing all of it including the creepy album cover. Fans of Unsane and Jesus Lizard will find much to like here.
Tuesday | June 4
What:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds When: Tuesday, 06.04, 7 p.m. Where: Ivywild School Gymnasium Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, the long-running alt-country act from Denver, brings its Vaudeville west and vibrantly emotional and lively performance to Colorado Springs along with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Powers was once a member of Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, among others, and with the Pink Monkey Birds he brings a lifetime of stories, insight and masterful songwriting to making his own music with a body of work as worthy as anything else in which he’s been involved.
Wednesday | June 5
What:Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Snails and Oysters and Little Fyodor solo When: Wednesday, 06.05, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This month’s editon of Weird Wednesday maintains peak weirdness with Gothsta who does odd keytar pop songs. Then again, if keytar is involved it’s going to be strange but that just enhances the bizarro nature of the music anyway. Plus some legit keytar covers of songs you wouldn’t expect to hear from her unless you’ve been listening to The Space Lady and not even then. Snails and Oysters is Joe Mill’s solo avant-garde/ambient guitar project in which his combines textures and moods to weave a unique soundscape. Little Fyodor is kinda King Weirdo in Denver and has been for decades going from tape collage/manipulation project Walls of Genius to Little Fyodor and Babushka Band. When a lot of punk is fairly conformist, Fyodor is decidedly not that with a visual presence and songwriting diversity and acumen that is so punk it should be its own subgenre with a clever name you won’t read here because Fyodor is also fairly difficult to pigeonhole as merely punk.
What:Judas Priest w/Uriah Heep When: Wednesday, 06.05, 7:30 p.m. Where: Broadmoor World Arena Why: Judas Priest started in 1969, a year after Black Sabbath formed. But unlike the latter Priest came into its own shortly before the release of its debut album, 1974’s Rocka Rolla. By then iconic vocalist Rob Halford brought his elemental, wide-ranging singing to the band and guitarist Glenn Tipton joined and with K.K. Downing gave the group its signature two guitar sound that gives its music a dynamism and depth that has been influential on many heavy metal and hard rock bands since. After the debut album, Judas Priest embarked on a series of genre-defining records starting with 1976’s majestic Sad Wings of Destiny. The group weathered the manufactured scandals of the 80s when would-be censors targeted the band, and a broad range of other artists, for the corruption of youth and suicide. Judas Priest’s often remarkably thoughtful and in recent years as heavy metal has become embraced by a more mainstream audience the group’s vivid storytelling and energy is finding an audience with a new generation of fans.
Opening the show is Uriah Heep who are arguably the progenitors of a style of melodic boogie rock and hard psychedelia that has been heavily influential on a younger generation of heavy metal musicians. It, too, started up in 1969 and operated in a similar milieu of music as the aforementioned Sabbath as well as Deep Purple. Like the latter, Uriah Heep had a prominent keyboard presence in its songwriting and no strangers to songs about wizards, the forces of evil and the life of a hard touring band. But more so than some of the other bands mentioned above, Uriah Heep clearly has a foot in English folk rock that informs its song structures and vocalist Bernie Shaw’s evocative cadence. The group hasn’t done any major touring in years so this is a rare chance to see them live.
Who:I Heart Monkey Mania: Mr. Pacman, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Cyclo-Sonic and Moon Pussy, visuals by Chris Bagley When: Thursday, 07.26, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Mr. Pacman is not a band that should be dismissed as mere gimmick. Yes, the band dresses up like characters from a cosplay of some weird, ancient Japanese video game. But it’s live drums, keytar, electronic drums and other instrumentation with, indeed, fairly silly songs but performed with a disorienting intensity and earnestness. At times it’s fun but moderately scary. Which is what any good band should be at least once in a while. Mr. Pacman is that pretty much every time. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is a more out downtempo band and Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of Denver punk legends The Rok Tots, Choosey Mothers and The Frantix. Chris Bagley, one of the filmmakers of the 2008 documentary Wesley Willis’ Joyrides, will provide visuals and make it even more of a trip.
Who:Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series Season 2 Finale w/Brother Saturn, Equine, VAHCO, MYTHirst, Bowshock When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This is the final show of the second season of Glasss Records’ The Speakeasy Series. It’ll be more of an ambient show with Brother Saturn’s soothing and abstract guitar and synth collages, Equine’s avant-guitar drone and beats, VAHCO’s beat-driven soul,. MYTHirst’s bright soundscapes and ukulele and whatever it is one might call Bowshock’s mixture of influences from space rock, reggae and improvisational composition.
Who:Har Mar Superstar sings Sam Cooke When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Har Mar Superstar cleaned up but good for this series of shows in which he dresses up in a suit and tie (which may or may not come off before the set is over in the weather Denver has been experiencing as of late). Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar) and his band will perform several of Sam Cooke’s classic R&B hits and maybe even some deep cuts. Seeing as Har Mar’s usual schtick is singing R&B and soul and making a spectacle of himself but pulling off the singing like he was born to it, this is not a huge leap for the performer. And at this time, the socially conscious end of Cooke’s music seems more relevant than ever.
Friday | July 27, 2018
Who:Red Baraat When: Friday, 07.27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Where: Clyfford Still Museum Why: Red Baraat’s syncretic pop spans South Asian musical styles, Western funk, Afrobeat and Caribbean pop to create something that’s celebratory, immediately accessible and deep. The sprawling band is playing this free concert at Clyfford Still Museum in central Denver in the wake of the release of its latest record, 2018’s Sound The People. With its cultural scope and implicit message of human unity, Red Baraat’s music is an international call of all people to come together to resist the rising wave of aggressive authoritarianism plaguing the world today. Beyond the heady messaging, Red Baraat is a reminder that sprawling, seemingly improvisational compositions needn’t be the pure realm of jam bands and that it is a component of popular musical styles across the world.
Who:SUPER PARTY Day 1: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Friday, 07.27,7 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: This parallel event to the UMS amidst the dense and varied offerings there is out on by the boutique Remixed Gifts and the Denver culture-centered comic ‘zine Hot Sauce the Dog written and drawn by the gifted singer-songwriter Rachael Pollard whose new band DEN |V|OTHER will kick off the event at 7 p.m. followed by Joe Sampson at 8 and R A R E B Y R D $ at 9. Simply some of the best people from Denver you can see at any time. The event runs two days picking up again on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. with Bonnie Weimer.
Who:Larians, Real Gongs, Jumanjuhad When: Friday, 07.27, 8:30 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall Why: Larians is Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons’ IDM/experimental electronic project and Real Gongs is that of Male Blonding guitarist Bryce Navin. If the UMS is too much or not of interest for whatever reason or if you have some time Friday night, highly recommended. Who: Denver Broncos UK, Echo Beds, Simulators and Shadows Tranquil When: Friday, 07.27, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Denver Broncos UK is sort of a post-punk side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club so a good fit with math-y post punk duo Simulators (think like Shellac but stripped down to even more of the bare essentials) and Echo Beds whose forthcoming album Buried Language (due out August 18 on The Flenser) pushes their harsh organic-industrial soundscape further than previous boundaries.
Saturday | July 28, 2018
Who:SUPER PARTY Day 2: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog When: Saturday, 07.28, 2 p.m. Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway Why: Day 2 of SUPER PARTY, a free event amidst the UMS. The following is today’s schedule: 2 – Bonnie Weimer, 3 – Jen Korte, 3:45 Ted Thacker of The Red Tack, 4:30 Andy Thomas solo, 5:30 Kissing Party, 6:30 Teacup Gorilla
Who:Car Seat Headrest w/Naked Giants When: Saturday, 07.28, 8 p.m. Where:The Gothic Theatre Why: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest is one of the most prolific and interesting songwriters of his generation. Having put out nine albums independently before signing to Matador in 2015, Toledo clearly didn’t need a label but the distribution and marketing arm of one helped to get his music to a wider audience. The new Car Seat Headrest album, 2018’s Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), is brimming with what has made the band impossible to dismiss with lazy genre designations. Vocals that sometimes soar with an upsweep of deeply felt emotion, sometimes speak quietly about the concerns of the moment that flood your mind and won’t let go. Lo-fi guitar composition in the vein of maybe a Pavement or Sebadoh but informed more by underground rock of the 2000s like Jay Reatard’s more sublimely ethereal moments and more modern lo-fi stars like No Age, Times New Viking and artists from the Siltbreeze imprint. Beyond just the sonics, though, the new record is an exploration of the concerns, anxieties and self-image of a young person in an era when destructive, and self-destructive messages, have been repackaged and made to seem like a viable option. Car Seat Headrest’s new album is a compassionte and vibrant rejection of much of that as well as a suggestion of a path of discovery/rediscovery of what’s truly important in one’s life.
Tuesday | July 31, 2018
Who:Weezer and the Pixies w/Sleigh Bells When: Tuesday, 07.31, 5 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Weezer got to be in on the tail end of the legitimate wave of alternative rock in the early 90s. Its 1994 self-titled album, “The Blue Album,” yielded a couple of hits with “Buddy Holly” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The crunchy melodies and quiet-loud dynamics pioneered by groups like Mission of Burma and Pixies, who had then recently split, continued the tradition of nerdy punk rockers making music that took that spirit of punk to different places. Weezer could have been another fuzzy, alternative rock/pop punk band with that kind of sunny Southern California flavor. But Weezer’s songs, even when it’s indulging in some fun-loving goofiness, had at its core an impulse to resist being pigeonholed or musically fitting into a specific trend.
After its first record, singer Rivers Cuomo wanted to change gears dramatically and nearly made a science fiction-themed concept album but what came out instead is what could be argued is the band’s most artistically interesting record to date, 1996’s Pinkerton and its darkly conflicted lyrics. Cuomo has since all but disavowed the album as a reminder of a painful time. And to Weezer’s credit, the group has not spent its time as a band trying to recapture past glory. Its most recent full-length album, 2017’s Pacific Daydream, reflects not only Cuomo’s personal alienation but the anomy of our time when many people feel a disconnect with the lives they might want, however modest the aspiration, and the reality we face with diminished expectations. A melancholy set of songs? Maybe not obviously so but despite the title, a song like “Beach Boys” sounds like something that, psychologically speaking, was written in a vast room lit only by small windows on a cloudy day reminiscing about what once brought one joy. Like a less dire but no less impactful musical version of William Friedkin’s depiction of life in the City of Angels.
That Weezer is co-headlining with Pixies seems fitting. Both bands find themselves perhaps having to reinvent themselves for the current era even as their back catalog speaks for itself. Pixies are obviously the influential alternative rock band from Boston, darlings of college radio in the late 80s and early 90s and breaking up with its legacy intact. The band’s humor, unhinged energy, idiosyncratic songwriting filled with seething emotion, delicacy of feeling, have kept its music fresh decades onward. Like any band worth its salt, Pixies also produced new music post 2003 reunion once its internal dynamics leveled out. The group’s first album with former touring, now permanent, bassist Paz Lenchantin, 2016’s Head Carrier, isn’t generally as immediately cathartic and as vital as the group’s 80s and 90s output, it proved Pixies can still write material worth a listen and highlights the band’s ability to clue in to unusual sounds and rhythm and texture ideas that other established artists often don’t.
Who:Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks w/Soccer Mommy When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Stephen Malkmus is obviously the singer and one of the guitarists in lo-fi slacker psyche legends Pavement. But his songs under his own name and with The Jicks are as worthy as anything he did with Pavement. Free to explore unusual melodies, self-indulge a wide range of guitar styles and fusing noise, jangle rock, improvisational instincts, 70s rock, psychedelia and prog, Stephen Malkmus with the Jicks is capable of coming up with refreshingly unusual songs even if they all have the stamp of eccentricity and imagination that Malkmus has brought to all his projects. The group’s 2018 record Sparkle Hard reflects Malkmus examination of the modern world and his place in it as a white man, and father, in his fifties who is still engaged in doing the thing he’s best at—writing unusual rock music—when the world seems to be falling apart and changing at a rapid pace. In typical fashion, Malkmus has a worthwhile and interesting take on all of it.
Opener for this tour, Soccer Mommy, is an interesting pairing because Sophie Allison’s songs have a layered and emotionally rich, compositional style with a sound collage quality that isn’t at first obvious. Her 2018 debut studio album Clean is a solid 10-song collection of sophisticated pop. Unlike many young songwriters, Allison, now 21, doesn’t sound like she’s tapping into a particular era of the 90s or the 2000s except for maybe Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. But, really, those are exceptionally respectable touchstones. What is also noteworthy is Allison’s range of dynamics, command of what, in a film score, might be called sound design, materfully orchestrating textural and atmospheric elements to augment her storytelling. With a debut so strong, one can only hope we’ve not yet seen Allison at her peak.
Who:ModPods w/R A R E B Y R D $ When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: ModPods from Los Angeles with its mixture of electronic post-punk and dance music sounds more like some kind of band from Baltimore in the 2000s or the kind of band that would have played The Smell in its heyday with an eclectic spirit not trapped in adherence to a stylistic subgenre. Either way its beat-driven songs have an edge and an 8-bit melodic fringe on its minimal synth melodies. Fronted by Myriad Slits, the trio, including Mindee Jorgensen and Daniel Guzman who switch up instruments regularly so that the musical duties never really become rote, is like an intentionally lo-fi synth pop/dance band.
Also on this bill is R A R E B Y R D $, the hip-hop trio that keeps pushing boundaries, including its own, in terms of beatmaking and Key Lady’s and KoKo La’s alchemical vocal interplay. The way some guitarists create interesting shapes for chords, the members of this group creates interesting synergy of sounds between vocals, beats and Michael Blomquist’s organic percussion. It’s a deeply emotional experience that you share with the band. It’s like alternative hip-hop if made by people who take great joy in seeing exactly what you can do with a synthesizer and a sampler to make something entrancing and meaningful. Hypnagogic post-disco, endorphin releasing, gangsta dub.
Wednesday | August 1, 2018
Who:Shocker Mom, Spargob and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Wednesday, 08.1, 8-11 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: It’s a free show and you get to see some of Denver’s best producers of electronic music in the underground. For R A R E B Y R D $, see above. Shocker Mom is Robin Walker who to the big wide world outside of Colorado is not known at all. But for those that have been able to witness her talents as a solo artist, member of lo-fi pop phenoms Cougarpants or one half of the hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus, Walker is a singular talent. As Shocker Mom, Walker taps into her broad musical experience to produce tracks that blur the line between hip-hop, trap, IDM, ambient, dubtechno and indie pop. Aleeya Wilson is perhaps most well-known for her avant-garde guitar/noise project Death In Space. But now the Girls Rock Denver alumn is writing music as Spargob, her production project so expect something refreshingly weird and imaginative.
Who: Weird Wednesday: Universal Devils, Limber Wolf, The Far Stairs facebook.com/events/509245982828786
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday, Claudia Woodman’s monthly at 3 Kings Tavern, will include Rick Layton’s solo experimental metal project Universal Devils. Layton is a talented multi-instrumentalist who spent several years as the drummer for weirdo punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band. The Far Stairs is fronted by former Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Imagine a manic New Wave/New Romantics/power pop band influenced by They Might Be Giants. But not just good, but great.
Who:Musical Mayhem: Jim Davies (GA), Universal Devils and Enji When: Thursday, 03.08, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This half of March’s programme for Musical Mayhem at the Skylark includes Georgia-based weirdo songwriter Jim Davies, solo videogram soundtrack-esque multi-instrumental looper Enji and Universal Devils. The latter is Tricky Dick Wicket, the drummer for Little Fyodor & Babushka band for over a decade. Universal Devils is his solo project in which he plays guitar, drums and other instruments in a kind of truly unique mix of metal and country and blues. Calling it “avant-garde” doesn’t quite do it justice because it’s accessible with pretty conventional songwriting even if the sounds used in the way they’re used are far from mundane.
Who:Elettrodomestico (Jane Wiedlin and Pietro Straccia) When: Thursday, 03.08, 8:30 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: Jane Wiedlin is doing a Q&A before this performance for the screening of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Afterward, her band Elettrodomestico will perform in BarFly, the bar/venue attached to Alamo Drafthouse on West Colfax. The band formed in December 2016 following The Go-Go’s’ “Farewell Tour” (the great new wave band will perform again in 2018) when Wiedlin and Italian musician Pietro Straccia bonded over their mutual love the then recently passed David Bowie. The band the duo started is pretty different from The Go-Go’s and Bowie except for a knack for writing energetic pop songs with a little grit and thoughtfulness and mood to give the music some depth thematically and musically. To the credit of both artists Elettrodomestico is in no way riding anyone’s legacy or coattails. Rather, like Cindy Wilson formerly of the B-52s, it’s a reinvention and one worth listening to separate from any past associations.
Friday | March 9, 2018
Who:Terminals, Gort Vs. Goom, New Standards Men, Pygmy Grizzly, Frank Bell When: Friday, 03.09, 9 p.m. Where: Bar Bar Why: This appears to be a bill of instrumental-focused, experimental music rooted in rock sounds and aesthetics bands. Terminals is sort of an improv post-rock/post-industrial band with guitars, synths, drums, bass. No set is ever the same but the group is more than capable of generating deep atmospheric magic. Gort Vs. Goom is a drums and electric bass duo who make the kind of music that could be described as what might happen if the Melvins set out to make a surf band dedicated to Minutemen. Sure the guys in GVG have vocals but it’s almost like surreal slam poetry. New Standards Men are probably a post-punk band but their sound sounds like it drew heavy influence from some of the more experimental bands on the Thrill Jockey imprint. Like Tortoise or A Minor Forest but with some expansive noise tones in the mix.
Who:Larians (Noah Simons solo), Houseplants, Jumanjihad When: Friday, 03.09, 9 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall Why: Noah Simons is perhaps best known for being the charismatic singer of post-punk band Male Blonding. But his musical interests range pretty far and his solo project Larians, which hasn’t performed live since maybe an RTD (Ready To Dance) event at Rhinoceropolis in 2014, is more in an experimental electronic music and dubtechno vein. Think something like Plaid’s tranquil melodics and use of synth strings alongside Burial-esque bass sculpting and persistent yet dissolving and reconfiguring atmospheres as an element of the beat. How will this all sound at Denver Bicycle Café rather than the main room at The Black Box? You’ll have to show up to find out. But for a taste of what Larians is about, Simons released the excellent “Dwell Led” single in February 2018.
Saturday | March 10, 2018
Who:Kikagaku Moyo w/Tjutjuna and DJ Rett Rogers When: Saturday, 03.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kikagaku Moyo is a Tokyo-based psychedelic rock/avant-garde band. With its roots in a project between Go Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada busking the streets of Japan’s most populous metropolis, Kikagaku Moyo has, to some extent, gone against the grain of Japanese culture in the way Ghost did when it started up in the 80s similarly playing music on the streets, subways and ruins of ancient temples in and around Tokyo. Kikagaku Moyo got its proper start as a band when Go’s brother Ryu returned from learning sitar from one of the world’s masters, Manilal Nag in India. Incorporating elements of noise and ambient music, Kikagaku Moyo’s songs express a broad range of sonic experimentation from extended psych freakout jams to tranquil yet haunted folk songs. Unlike many bands that have dipped into the realm of psychedelia and prog, this Japanese quintet doesn’t get stuck in a single or predictable mode. Sharing the stage this night is Denver-based experimental psych band Tjutjuna. Also with musical inspirations traceable to the more out 70s prog and Japanese psych/noise bands like Acid Mothers Temple, Tjutjuna’s hypnotic oeuvre set itself apart from the trendy psych stuff that seemed to hover at the edges of all popular rock music from 2008 onward.
Who:Daikaiju w/TripLip, Dr. Zilog and Smellephant
When: Saturday, 03.10, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Daikaij is to surf rock what Crash Worship was to noise and post-punk—as experienced, as much an exuberant collective cult ritual as music. Catch the band tonight at 7th Circle or Sunday at the Triple Nickel in Colorado Springs.
Who:King Eddie (video release) w/déCollage When: Saturday, 03.10, 10 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: Tonight King Eddie releases the video for “Enter the Man” from its 2017 boundary pushing psychedelic rock album Holographic Universe. Both that band and the playfully surrealistic psychedelic pop band déCollage will perform before a screening of Renée Laloux’s 1973 animated science fiction classic Fantastic Planet. King Eddie sounds like maybe the music had its origins in writing what had become a trendy psych rock but Jay Mars and his bandmates injected heaps of imagination into the songwriting and arrangements to produce a body of work that synthesizes pop, psych and the avant-garde with the aesthetics of the virtual reality visuals that have become a bit of a specialty for Mars.
Wednesday | March 14, 2018
Who:Uppermost w/Snubluck and Zurc When: Wednesday, 03.14, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Behdad Nejatbakhshe, aka Uppermost, left his life trajectory into a career as a lawyer to pursue making music. Eight albums in, with the forthcoming Perseverance due out March 23, Uppermost has created a body of work that is a synthesis of pure electronic production and more analog musical elements. For instance on his 2017 album, the loosely space-themed Origins, the producer incorporated live guitar and orchestral arrangements in the recording process. The songs tend to have a bright, upbeat quality with a quality that suggests peaceful spring days and gentle breezes. That Uppermost is inspired by the likes of Burial, Flume and Bonobo should come as no surprise since his own compositions have a soothing yet energetic quality as well. With Perseverance, Uppermost has crafted a body of songs that have an expansive spaciousness with a daydream-y quality that first came back into vogue with the so-called chillwave artists—bright tones, hypnotic yet uplifting atmospheric swells and smooth but irresistible low end. The record feels built for summer nights at casual hangouts with friends and is arriving just in time.
Who:Cars & Trains and Curta album release w/Utajahs and Nighttimeschoolbus visuals by Skyrider When: Wednesday, 03.10, 8 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: Curta’s new record, End of Future Park, sounds like the natural progression from its dystopian predecessor, 2015’s Replica. Curta’s music has always seemed to sit somewhere between the no-rules-use-of-sounds beatmaking of turn of the century alternative hip-hop, industrial, noise and collage sound composition. End of Future Park is no different but with that album, rapper Jake Danna captures the time between 2016 and 2017 (and, let’s be real, 2018 so far) when underground culture seemed to be under attack and the erosion of all civil institutions and of civility itself and the postmodern nihilism as expressed in a completely understandable cynicism that has blighted the public and personal discourse seemingly everywhere you go. Across the whole record, Danna confronts his own cynicism and there’s a bit of a different feel to this record than a lot of music coming out of late in a way more people probably need to hear—a tone of wanting to find and create a self and a society where that deep rooted cynicism isn’t entirely justified. The record comes out on March 19, 2018 but you can probably pick up a copy at this show where also on the bill is Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo that answers the question of what happens when an idiosyncratic indie pop artist teams up with a masterful alternative hip-hop producer.
Who:Charlie Parr w/Them Coulee Boys When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Charlie’s stage banter is pretty much worth the price of admission. But his take on country and blues is so personal and individual that he leaps over expectations of the genre performed by modern musicians. You can start anywhere in his discography and it’ll be worth a listen. His latest record, 2017’s Dog, seems to capture this moment in American history where a lot of people are experiencing depression and despair and a need to catch a break from that wearying state of mind. In articulating that mood so well, Dog is actually a therapeutic record that actually finds a way to explore dark places without getting stuck in them.
Who:To Be Astronauts album release w/The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Flahoola When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: To Be Astronauts is a psychedelic hard rock band that sounds like the main songwriter might listen to a whole lot of the Misfits and Clutch. Fortunately, on the band’s new album, indifferentstates, these tendencies are morphed into something more original and the songs seem to be about something substantive as in the songs “This Is Not Normal” and “Discontent.” The Patient Zeros are the kind of blues rock band that there should be more of instead those more easy to mock. Probably because CJ Kjolhede, younger brother of former Cutthroat Drifters frontman Nicolas Kjolhede, and Joe Schramm and Michael Raymond aren’t trying to be the next Dead Weather or whatever. Their songs sound more like they’re rooted in some kind of folk and country sensibility with a spooky edge. Add some grit, fuzzy melodies and excellent use of space and that’s a bit of what you get with The Patient Zeros.
Friday: December 1, 2017
Who:Maria Bamford When: Friday, 12.01, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Maria Bamford spent the 90s honing her comedic craft and flew almost completely under the radar of everyone but fans of underground comedy. She got her start in stand-up in the late 80s at age 19 and by the mid-90s she had spots on various television comedy showcases getting a few minutes on screen here and there. But those sports were memorable and you could tell there was more going on with her comedy than the usual faire. During that time Bamford obviously made connections with other comedians and be her 30s she started to become known for her surreal, intelligent, thoughtful, brilliant comedy to wider audiences. Bamford has voiced various animated TV shows and films such as Stuart Little 2 and Barnyard because of her sheer versatility as a voice actor, her gift for tone, inflection and vocal texture, all features of her stand-up, a real asset for character acting. Her appearances on Arrested Development, Louie, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Kroll Show and numerous others have been standouts, taking all of those shows in more temporarily unusual direction than was already the case.
The Bammer now has her own comedy skit show called Lady Dynamite. As funny as the show might be, like George Carlin, who had a short-lived comedy series on Fox from 1993-1995, Bamford shines brightest in her stand-up where she can exercise her genius for free association storytelling, her illumination of ridiculous moments in all our lives, her sensitivity to the vicissitudes of the traumatized psyche and some of the most incisive social and political commentary of our time. Many don’t “get” Bamford but one might suggest these people take too much too seriously and handle all situations in the world with a shocking lack of nuance and subtlety. Bamford expertly treats subjects with the right stresses, the right pressures, the proper intensity, the appropriate tone and with a true appreciation for the humor inherent to almost every experience without unduly diminishing what really is important by, even in joking about it, not trivializing the truly weighty on the social and especially the personal level.
Who:SPELLS, Colfax Speed Queen, Cheap Perfume and Simulators When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: All four bands on this bill could be considered punk but also a step or more in a different realm of music from that. Cheap Perfume is a raw yet melodic punk band that minces no words about sexism, Nazis and El Presidente Cheeto. Stephanie Antillon is an electrifying and commanding front person and that is something not common enough in music. SPELLS has a motto. Something about “80% is good enough.” And sure they live up to that on average in that sometimes you see an unhinged show because Ben Roy is a madman singer and everyone else in the band doesn’t exactly hold back even in hook-driven, pop-oriented punk (though not pop punk, per se). Other times, it’s just a fun, energetic show. Sometimes you don’t need unhinged and thus, yes, 80% is indeed good enough. Stop going for broke all the time or telling yourself you need to do that with all things in life, America. It burns you out. SPELLS teaches us by example that something can be good even if you’re not giving it your all. Colfax Speed Queen didn’t get that memo, apparently, because the psyche garage act seems to play like they’re trying to set a new bar for what that music can sound and look like on stage. Simulators is a noise-punk duo that came about, in part, from wanting to get away from the ideas and sounds of the bands Bryon Parker and Brian Polk are in and have been in. But it still reminds one of Shellac as did Parker’s old band Accordion Crimes—truly no bad thing.
Who:Kacy & Clayton w/Many Mountains and Patrick Dethlefs When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Kacy & Clayton are kind of a vocal and acoustic guitar duo and while that can be one of the most boring things in the world, Kacy & Clayton are drawing upon the great British folk-rock tradition embodied by the likes of Fairport Convention. Resonant tones, spare arrangements that feel full. The duo’s latest record is 2017’s Siren’s Song, for which it is touring in support. Opening the show is Patrick Dethlefs whose own folk music is so richly developed, mastetrfully written and emotionally powerful yet finely nuanced that when you see him you kind of assume he should be the headliner.
What:Rubedo Album Release Popup Shop and Local Music Record Store Debut When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Understudy (890 C 14th Street) Why: Rubedo’s full blown album release show for Vaca is scheduled for January 6 at The Bluebird Theater with iZCALLi, Wes Watkins and El Cro. But you can pick up the band’s latest record, a tribute to and meditation on the impact of friends and community on our lives. Over the weekend there will be a showcase celebrating the opening of a popup local record store at Understudy. Friday will celebrate the release of the record, Saturday there will be performances from Rubedo, Holophrase, Entrancer and many others. Sunday will continue live music performances with artists to be announced. For more information and more up-to-date schedules, please visit the link above or here.
Saturday: December 2, 2017
Who:Pink Hawks When: Saturday, 12.02, 11 a.m. Where: Children’s Library at Denver Public Library Central Branch Why: The sprawling afrobeat band from Denver finds a way to mix humanistic radical politics with high energy performances. And this time you’ll be able to catch the band in the Children’s Library at the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library in the morning. Yes, the content doesn’t mince words but it’s also safe for kids because Yuzo Nieto and his bandmates are brilliant that way in making accessible music with deep content designed to bring you in rather than alienate you.
Who:Alex Lahey w/Dude York and Porlolo When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Alex Lahey hails from Melbourne, Australia and over the last couple of years she’s garnered some attention for her spirited, fuzzy, pop songs. Lahey’s lyrics are tender, self-deprecating, often humorous tales of desire, angst, seemingly thwarted aspirations, and everyday struggle and misfortune. Lahey’s songs are usually upbeat but she seems to honor the downbeat emotions even as she transforms the experience into something with real fire and energy behind the delivery. Her debut full-length, 2017’s I Love You Like a Brother is brash yet sensitive and bluntly yet somehow thoughtfully honest.
Who:Rocky Mountain Low 2: United Mutation, Vile Gash, Cadaver Dog, The Pollution and Combat Force When: Saturday, 12.02, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The second edition of Rocky Mountain Low, a mini-festival put together by Reed Bruemmer of Poison Rites and Heavy Dose Records head Brian Castillo. This time it’s mostly punk and hardcore including a rare appearance from United Mutation from Washington D.C.–a band that existed in the 80s alongside the bands on the Dischord imprint of that day. U.M. had incorporated psychedelic rock sounds into its songwriting so that it still has the bite and energy of hardcore while seeming to have learned a thing or two from Chrome and Hawkwind. Similar ethos, different side of the D.C. punk scene of the 80s. Jay Fox of United Mutation has lived in Denver for several years and his more overtly psychedelic punk band The Pollution will perform as well.
Who:Jed Kopp’s Birthday Bash: Pretty Mouth and The Sleep Escape When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: Gary Lee’s Why: Jed Kopp has been lending his drumming talents to several bands in Denver over the years and his clear musical talent plus his affable nature has made him a real fixture in Denver underground music. One band he plays with these days is the alt-country/punk band Pretty Mouth whose singer Marie Litton has an otherworldly presence as a front person, giving the songs and the performances an elevated and elegant quality.
Who:Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Savage Blush, Modern Leisure and Down Time When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Must be the top notch all local bill weekend in Denver. For this show Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, formerly from Fort Collins, will bring its literate yet gritty folk rock. The Savage Blush’s deeply reverby psychedelic pop will illuminate the stage. Modern Leisure’s superbly crafted pop songs graced with Casey Banker’s insightful lyrics and ability to truly capture a moment in time and tell a story will be on display. And Down Time is an indie rock band but it will demonstrate, as it always does, how you can work with familiar sounds and tools and by being willing to experiment with all elements make something incredibly compelling and original. The band’s use of percussion in a way that is very tied to the vocals and the use of synths in the mix brightens the sound and augments all the melodies in a way you don’t often hear.
Who:The Lollygags, Hot Apostles, Jonny Barber and The Ghost-Towners When: Saturday, 12.02, 8:30 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original BBQ Englewood Why: Very mixed bill but no filler. The Lollygags is a power pop band that sounds like it’s listened to a lot of The Wedding Present and Elvis Costello. Hot Apostles is a hard rock band that sounds like its members worked all the obvious influences out of its sound. Like maybe the members were into 70s classic rock and glam rock of the 80s but ditched the gross trappings and held onto the solid songwriting and passion. The Ghost-Towners describe themselves as an outlaw country band, which could be more retro-mundane rip-off of better material but the band includes Dario Rosa formerly of Cabaret Diosa, his former Cabaret Diosa bandmate Kimmy Franco, Zack Littlefield who spent time playing with Supercollider, Greyhounds and Sonnenblume, Bobby Genser and Chuck Cuthill both of Slakjaw and Mark Aubie of The Jaguars. Not a supergroup, per se but the outlaw country claim is no idle boast because of that lineage.
Who:Blackcell with Solypsis, The Psybrid, DJ Hepster Pat When: Saturday, 12.02, 9 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: This will be a bit of a different show with Denver’s longest-running industrial/experimental electronic band Blackcell as the duo collaborates with ambient and industrial artist Solypsis. Whatever the exact nature of the set it’ll be an entrancing, enveloping sonic experience.
Sunday: December 3, 2017
Who:Chella and The Charm, Bryan McPherson and Sputnik Slovenia When: Sunday, 12.03, 5 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Two of Denver’s great storytellers will be playing this show. Michelle Caponigro of Chella and The Charm, can write a song about situations and experiences pretty much anyone can relate to but in the telling take aim at larger issues and while thoughtfully unpacking what are often complicated subjects. Anyone can write a trite song about relationships for the gendered fist bump of solidarity. Caponigro gives us something much more profound and anything but rote. Jim Yelenick will perform his more or less solo material as Sputnik Slovenia but you may remember him for being the frontman of Nuns of Brixton, Pitch Invasion and Jet Black Joy. Among others. There’s a very self-conscious and irreverent humor in his show and in many of his songs. Amid that, and because of that, there’s an unexpected sincerity that you get when a natural born smartass gets real even using irony as an element in the art.
Who:Punk For Positive Change—Benefit for Northern Colorado AIDS Project: Discount Price, Equine, Smashy Claw, Plasma Canvas, Teacup Gorilla, Sinister Pig When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m. Where: Surfside 7 Why: Obviously a benefit show for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, not so obvious is how, thank goodness, broad the sense of punk might be for this show. Kevin Richards, who is Equine, was once in experimental post-hardcore band Motheater even though his current project is more like an avant-garde guitar solo project that wends toward the realm of ambient. Teacup Gorilla is more like a post-punk-oriented glam band that doesn’t seem to be looking to any era or scene for inspiration and what’s more punk than that, really. If you mixed Weird Al with Dead Milkmen you might get something like Smashy Claw. Who knows what instruments they’ll use in the songs? Live, the band is probably more stripped down and will still probably confuse people who don’t get bands that don’t fit into a narrow genre. The irreverent, fuzz-fueled melodies of Plasma Canvas’s post-sludge-doom garage punk has more in common with Kyuss and Mudhoney than King Tuff. Not that this duo isn’t into King Tuff.
Who:Whitney w/Julie Byrne When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchel’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.
Monday: December 4, 2017
Who:Whitney w/Julie Byrne When: Monday, 12.04, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchell’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.
Who:Grizzly Bear w/serpentwithfeet When: Monday, 12.02, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Grizzly Bear’s 2017 album Painted Ruins sounds like it’s tapping into the same emotional states of fantasy, yearning, uncertainty, nostalgia and self-examination that Joe Walsh expressed in his 1978 album But Seriously, Folks… and the wistful, deeply atmospheric soundscaping conjured by Supertramp for the songs on 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments and 1979’s Breakfast in America. The melody is there, even the pretense of upbeat tempos and gestures of hope. But all are about anxiety in an age of fake plenty expressed with a sublime irony and compassion for all of us living through this moment. All those albums were written by relatively successful artists who may have fully indulged in the “good life,” to varying degrees, that music made possible for them but all of whom also saw the limitations of the hubris that commercial success and the privilege it provides engenders in many people and wrote existential songs to that effect. That’s not to say Grizzly Bear is “important” or that Painted Ruins is a masterpiece, certainly the other three records mentioned aren’t necessarily so for those respective artists, it’s just refreshing to hear a solid, thoughtful album that doesn’t give the impression that nothing’s wrong but also doesn’t try to offer shallow, pat advice.
Tuesday: December 5, 2017
Who:Overcoats w/Sarah Jaffe When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Electronic pop duo Overcoats released its debut full-length YOUNG in 2017. It has the kind of sonically rich production you would hope for from a band of its kind but where Overcoats truly distinguishes itself is in its willingness to incorporate fairly unconventional sounds and rhythms in its songs and the subject matter of the lyrics sound more like a worthwhile country or folk artist. The vulnerability and startling frankness may not be obvious amid ghostly atmospheres and lushly smooth low end pulses but if you take some time with the songs it’s striking. And who better to tour with Overcoats than Sarah Jaffe’s whose own 2017 album Bad Baby swims in bright yet melancholic synth tones and sweeping rhythms as well as thought-provoking words that unwind some of the complexity of mixed emotions everyone seems to navigate in modern life these days. Definitely for fans of St. Vincent and EMA.
Who:Supersuckers, The Bellrays, Bombpops When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Supersuckers have tried on various sounds over the course of the last thirty or so years. But initially the band was kind of a garage punk band with an irreverent and ironic sense of humor. Probably too many people took their song “I Say Fuck” too much at face value, totally missing the significance of Daniel Clowes having done the artwork to The Smoke of Hell and Clowes’ own views on the lunkheads of the world. Whatever your takeaway from the band, its shows are energetic and celebratory even after it wisely progressed away from its roots a bit and became more of a gritty country rock band in recent years. Bellrays are a soulful revolution rock band fronted by the incomparable Lisa Kekaula. For its 1998 album Let It Blast, the band wrote a song called “Blues For Godzilla” and actually lived up to the title. That image should give you some idea about the live show.
Wednesday: December 6, 2017
Who:Weird Wednesday: Sheet Metal Skingraft, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Universal Devils When: Wednesday, 12.06, 9p.m. Where: 3 Kings Why: For this edition of Weird Wednesday you get to witness the noise-driven beatmaking of Sheet Metal Skingraft, the sinister one-man band folk-metal of Universal Devils as performed by Tricky Dick Wickett of Little Fyodor and Babushka Band and Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars which answers the question “What do you get when a noisy, experimental funk band makes music that J. Dilla might have wanted to sample while making a song that sounds like a lo-fi version of J. Dilla’s more out there beats?” Very meta. Thus, Weird Wednesday delivers another night of some of the most interesting and unusual music in Denver.