What:The Shivas w/The Savage Blush and Slynger When: Thursday, 2.27, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Shivas were pushing the modern garage psych aesthetic forward before it became a played out quantity in the 2010s. But because the band was always weirder and willing to explore the noisier, more extreme ends of the style its music has remained refreshingly different and genre bend-y up to and including its 2019 album Dark Thoughts.
What:Susto w/Whitacre and Molly Parden When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Susto’s 2019 album Ever Since I Lost My Mind finds the indie rock band branching into more urgent and gritty songwriting territory without losing the thoughtfulness. Maybe the tenor of the times has seeped into the drive behind the new material but the band’s gorgeously languid vibes seem ticked more than a bit toward a focused intentionality with the music. Not that it lacked intensity at moments before, it’s just palpable this time out. Also on the bill is Denver-based band Whitacre. Paul Whitacre has made a name for himself since moving to the Mile High City in 2016 for his introspective yet brightly upsweeping songs. The group’s new album Seasons, out on April 17, finds its songs, produced by Joe Richmond (who has worked with Tennis and Churchill), polished and shining with a warmth and sincere optimism.
What:Modern Leisure w/Ashley Koett and Big Dopes When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Modern Leisure’s Casey Banker’s keen ear for dynamic and entrancing pop melodies is matched only by his similar gift for sharply observed turns of phrase. Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude is brimming with vivid portraits of life in a generation whose future has been compromised but trying to maintain a sense of hope for better times ahead without succumbing to nihilistic despair.
What:Chuck Prophet When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall Why: Chuck Prophet was one of the pioneers of alt-country as a member of Green On Red from its genre-defining 1985 album Gas Food Lodging through the early 90s. During his career as a solo artist his knack for crafting poetic imagery and dusty power pop has seemed endless. His most recent record, 2017’s Bobby Fully Died for Your Sins is a meditation on the passing of musical giants and maintaining a vision for hope in dark times.
What:Howard Jones acoustic Trio performance w/Rachael Sage When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Synth pop pioneer Howard Jones will perform as part of an acoustic trio for this show interpreting his iconic hits of the 80s in a format that will likely surprise. Anyone that has witnessed Jones in the more electronic incarnation of the music knows that his songwriting is at the heart of the appeal of his songs. Opening the show is Rachael Sage. The New York City-based artist has been releasing music on her own MPress Records for two decades including fourteen of her own albums distinguished by an eclectic range of sounds and styles that have informed her imaginative pop songs. He latest album Character, out March 6, came out of her time recovering from endometrial cancer throughout 2018. The record is informed by a sense of humility, realistic yet poetic assessments of life’s possibilities and horizons when facing your own mortality. Sage discards the bravado we hear too much in American music in the face of adversity, it acknowledges the frailty and fragility of the situations we may find ourselves when you can’t just magically snap back and be okay. It wisely takes a sensitive and deeply compassionate yet honest approach to every subject and reveals itself to be a deep record about life’s challenges in general whatever your situation.
What:SPELLS (record release) w/Drakülas and People Corrupting People When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Denver’s SPELLS is releasing its new record Stimulants & Sedatives on Chuck Coffey’s Snappy Little Numbers imprint. In the past one might have described SPELLS as essentially a pop punk band. But on this album there’s more dissonance and grit to the music to go along with the rambunctious tunefulness that has been the hallmark of the band’s sound from the beginning. The lyrics are a sharp mix of self-awareness and self-deprecation with stories of realistic expectations rather than bullish bravado, a very adult approach that contrasts well with the raw energy of the performances.
What:Ceschi and David Ramos w/Gregory Pepper, Midwife, Damn Selene and CFX Project When: Tuesday, 3.3, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Ceschi Ramos is the co-founder of Fake Four, a label putting out some of the most forward thinking hip-hop of the past decade and a half. The confessional intensity of his rapidfire vocal delivery wrapped in atmospheric beats is reminiscent of Sole, with whom he has worked, and his vivid, personal storytelling issues forth in almost pointillistic couplets like a mosaic establishing an informal, organic narrative. On the bill also is experimental hip-hop artist Damn Selene and ambient folk phenom Midwife who is set to tour the US in March and April as well an appearance at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands.
Wednesday | March 4
What:Weird Wednesday: DA’AN, Corey Daggers and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Wednesday, 3.4, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: This typically eclectic line-up for Weird Wednesday includes a mix of electronic dance music, punk Americana and soulful hip-hop. DA’ANS is a new project that brings together the luminous vocals of Glynnis Braan of Lady of Sorrows and the electronic production and beat-making genius of Lawrence Snell, drummer of Meet the Giant, with songs and a theatrical performance that is a true synthesis of rave and darkwave. Corey Daggers often performs by himself with a guitar and on occasion with a full band. But either incarnation is a vital flavor of what might be described as dark carnival emo Americana. R A R E B Y R D $ bring a swagger, sensuality and emotional warmth to ambient beats and lyrics that are at turns playful, earthy and deeply, transformatively vulnerable.
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
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: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
6:10 Jai Wolf
White Claw Stage
12:50 Techno Allah
2:30 Erin Stereo
12:50 Venus Cruz
6:40 Lady Gang
7:30 RARE BYRD$
12:35 Gora Gora Orkestar
5:35 Wes Watkins
7:15 Roka Hueka
8:05 Los Mocochetes
12:50 Hail Satan
2:30 Ghosts of Glaciers
6:40 Plasma Canvas
7:30 Cheap Perfume
1:40 Brianna Straut
2:30 Bevin Luna
5 Vic n’ the Narwhals
6:40 The Hollow
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: 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
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
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.
Who:Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.
Who:Life After Earth and Brother Saturn When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.
What:Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5 When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.
Who:Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.
Who:Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m. Where: Tandem Bar Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.
Saturday | April 13
Who:DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.
Who:Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m. Where: People’s Building Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.
Who:Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.
Who:Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.
Who:Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.
Sunday | April 14
Who:Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”
All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.
In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.
Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.
Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.
After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.
2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.
What:Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.
Monday | April 15
Who:Ex Hex w/Moaning When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.
Tuesday | April 16
Who:Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.
Who:Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.
Who:Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.
Wednesday | April 17
What:HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.
Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.
Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.
Who:Midge Ure and Paul Young w/Kayla Marque When: Thursday, 09.6, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Midge Ure is perhaps know to most for his bright and ethereal vocals and guitar work for new wave/synth pop pioneers Ultravox. With hits like “Vienna” and “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes,” Ultravox was one of the defining bands of the era. But Ure’s career has been broad, varied, lengthy and distinguished as a participant in a particularly creative era of music with stints in Rich Kids with former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and with influential but not oft-cited early synth pop band Visage. Ure was a touring guitarist and keyboard player with Thin Lizzy during its Black Rose era and his solo career has been quite respectable with collaborations with, among others, Kate Bush and Mick Ronson. For this tour, Ure is playing from across his discography including classic Ultravox cuts.
Friday | September 7, 2018
Who:Killing Joke and <PIG> When: Friday, 09.7, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Killing Joke’s stark apocalyptic death disco was basically the template for industrial rock. Its fervid and unblinking depiction of an international industrialized economy destroying the planet and our humanity in the process had a great deal of appeal when the band started in 1978 and seems even more relevant forty years hence when the proof of the destructive nature of late capitalism on the entire planet, including human society, is manifest. Depending on the era of the band in which you checked in or will check in, its live act is a tribal experience with frontman Jaz Coleman a figure channeling the fears and anxieties of the moment and transforming them into inspiration through a shamanic performance. The last time Killing Joke came to Denver in November 2003, Coleman took stage dressed in an outfit that looked like he’d crafted it after ekeing out a living on a remote tundra hunting wild bison with wooden spears, two large pieces of leather sewn together with thick thread made from sinew. He carried a wooden staff like some Celtic mystic, face smeared with dark ash to emphasize the whites of his eyes. When the music started it was like primeval human experiences and those borne of industrial civilization came together. Most bands can’t pull that off. This tour is likely to be just as gloriously weird and inspired.
Also on the bill is <PIG>, the project fronted by Raymond Watts. The latter’s résumé reads like a who’s who of industrial music history. Sure, he’s been an essential member/collaborator of KMFDM since that band’s easliest days. For example, he also worked with Psychic TV in the 80s, he was a touring soundman for Einstürzende Neubauten in the 80s, and he’s worked with Foetus. Watrs’ own music has explored realms of industrial music that expands what it is and what it can sound like. Watts somehow makes music that contains elements of ambient, noise, industrial beats and guitar without sounding like he’s trying to fit in with a trend or “genre” industrial music of any kind. As an artist he’s consistently explored different avenues of sound including Japanese experimental rock band Schwein. In recent years, Watts composed music for the fashion world, perhaps most notably for Alexander McQueen. In 2018 <PIG> released the “That’s The Way (I Like It)” EP which is a small collection of remixes and the cover of the K.C. And the Sunshine Band classic in collaboration with Sasha Grey who has been making a bit of a name for herself as a maker of music and an actress beyond the adult film world. Because of the latter, the song’s video debuted on Pornhub, a first for Watts.
Who:Option4 and Friends w/The Juan Maclean When: Friday, 09.7, 9 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Brennen Bryarly became one of the biggest independent promoters of electronic dance music in the country in the past decade. But when he’s had time to indulge making music of his own under the Option4 moniker it’s always been worth a listen. This night he shares the stage with associates as well as The Juan Maclean, the influential neo acid house/nü disco project started by John Maclean, the former guitarist for noise rock legends Six Finger Satellite. These days Maclean does his sets with collaborators Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem fame and Nicholas Millhiser of synth pop band Holy Ghost!
Who:Dead Kennedys w/T.S.O.L., The Dwarves, Runaway Kids and Reno Divorce When: Friday, 09.7, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Don’t go expecting Jello Biafra fronting Dead Kennedys. Ron “Skip” Greer, formerly of East Bay punk and Wynona Riders, has been in the frontman role since 2008. Do go expecting to hear plenty Dead Kennedys classics performed by the classic lineup minus Biafra. Also on the bill are other punk greats like T.S.O.L., the band that refused to just stick with punk musical and sartorial orthodoxy when it dropped the usual hardcore imagery and sound and adopted glam and drag and moody post-punk. And whatever T.S.O.L. wanted, which is pretty punk.
The Dwarves spent a lot of years on the intentionally offensive tip in the vein of G.G. Allin minus the more unsanitary performance stunts. In 1993 the band announced that its guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed had been stabbed to death with a hoax that went so far as to list the HWCBN as The Dwarves’ “late” guitarist on the 1993 release of Sugarfix. That stunt lost the band its label signing with Sub Pop. Four years later the group reconvened and proved it was always more than a campaign to alienate everyone with pushing the extreme stunts envelope and has produced a solid body of garage punk including its 2018 album Take Back The Night on Burger Records. Not for everyone but if you have a wicked and irreverent sense of humor you have to appreciate a band willing to call its 1999 compilation Free Cocaine.
Who:Venus Cruz & Friends When: Friday, 09.7, 9:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Venus Cruz is a multifaceted talent and multi-instrumentalist who on her own or in collaboration with other musicians or in an ensemble finds the sweet spot at the intersection of soulfulness, innovation and accessibility. As the host of Jazz Odyssey on KVUO on Wednesday nights 10 p.m. to 12 a.m., Cruz champions the most forward thinking artists under a broad umbrella of what jazz can be conceived of being.
Saturday | September 8, 2018
Who:The Verve Pipe w/The Hollow and Citra When: Saturday, 09.8, 6 p.m. Where: Levitt Pavilion Why: The Verve Pipe is most well-known for a handful of singles in the mid-90s with “Photograph” and “The Freshmen” and in 2001 with “Colorful,” which introduced them to an even wider audience on the soundtrack of Rock Star. Even though the band’s songs were uncommonly thoughtful and discussed topics like addiction, suicide, sexual abuse and issues of social justice in a sensitive way one might not expect from a rock band then with radio hits. But when The Verve Pipe didn’t score a big hit its excellent self-titled 1999 album and when its 2001 album Underneath, despite its having a hit song, didn’t move millions of units either the major label world lost interest. Fortunately, fan interest remained and when the possibility of crowdsourcing became an option for a band that had ably managed its own business affairs and marketing before ever signing to a big label, The Verve Pipe returned to having a viable music career again by simply picking up where it left off when the label was taking care of everything. The result has been a fruitful second, or even third, chapter for the band including its 2017 album Parachute, which is a fine example of how a band can reconcile the idealism of its early career with evolution into adulthood without getting boring.
Who:Wovenhand w/Echo Beds When: Saturday, 09.8, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Wovenhand was a reincarnation of David Eugene Edwards as a songwriter from 16 Horsepower into originally more familiar, Gothic folk territory but in increasingly divergent directions including the adoption of Middle Eastern musical ideas with 2008’s Ten Stones and more immersion in Eastern European and Balkan musical forms. With 2012’s The Laughing Stalk, though, Wovenhand sound was harder, darker and more in the realm of fiery post-punk. Was it his new bandmates including former Planes Mistaken For Stars and current Git Some guitarist/vocalist Charles French bringing in that sensibility or a natural evolution of Edwards’s songwriting? Likely a combination as Edwards even covered the likes of Joy Division and The Gun Club while in 16 Horsepower. Whatever the catalyst for the change in sound, Wovenhand remains a haunting and powerful live band.
Denver’s Echo Beds came together out of the local punk and experimental music scene with principals Keith Curts and Tom Nelsen having put in their time make more conventional music and crafting music on the outer edge of accessibility. As Echo Beds the duo has worked with other collaborators over the years but the core of the band has been one to explore the possibilities of unconventional percussion (organic and electronic), harrowing textural noises as compositional elements and a charged emotional delivery it metes out in small, incredibly intense doses. This past summer the group released the nightmarishly beautiful full-length Buried Language through The Flenser.
Who:1476 w/Alterity, Oblivion Her Majesty, Feigning, No Roses When: Saturday, 09.8, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: 1476 from Salem, Massachusetts is fairly impossible to pin down to any narrow genre as its body of work encompasses neo-folk, post-punk and black metal without its music sounding like a song-to-song exercise in either. Fans of Neurosis, Coliseum and Wipers will find something to like about 1476, especially its 2017 album Our Season Draws Near.
Monday | September 10, 2018
Who:Mac DeMarco w/Noname, Free Nationals, DJ Jonathan Toubin When: Monday, 09.10, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre Why: Mac DeMarco is a modern guitar hero to some, a retro indie punchline to others. What’s missed in the overblown fandom and uninspired dismissal of an artist one hasn’t taken the time to delve into is the fact that DeMarco has evolved significantly since his time in Makeout Videotape a decade ago. His songwriting has also been more than any easy genre designation, more sonically and emotionally rich than any movement with which he might be lumped. The songwriter has described his own music as “jizz jazz,” whatever that’s really supposed to men, but jazz is the underlying aesthetic and structure to his songwriting.
Demarco’s new album This Old Dog sounds like he spent some years brushing up on his Steely Dan-isms without ripping off the band. There is an introspective lushness to several of the songs not to mention the chutzpah of a twenty-six-year old (at the time of the songwriting anyway) writing a record filled with songs written from the perspective of looking back on what feels like a long life. And to be fair, with as much touring, songwriting, life experience and hustling that DeMarco had to have packed into his life thus far it probably does feel warranted to take stock through one’s art. This Old Dog bears that out and it’s often languid pace feels like he’s felt that in a way that only someone who is a bit world weary would know. Not that DeMarco’s been beaten up by the hammer blows that life deals you as you get toward double his age now but he’s managed to articulate the feelings of wondering what this is all signifies, the self-doubt, the realization of mortality and trying to cope with the loss of key people in your life as well as someone with a decade or more hence on him. Will this translate to a large format performance? One can hope and that Red Rocks is a place where people can take in some of this material with the thoughtfulness that went into its making.
Tuesday | September 11, 2018
Who:Dark Tuesdays: Juliet Mission with DJs St. Evil and Fernando When: Tuesday, 09.11, 9 p.m. Where: Blue Ice Why: Juliet Mission was born out of the early days of Denver post-punk/alternative rock band Sympathy F when Andre Lucero, Anthony Morales and Doug Seaman were weaving threads of inspiration from the pall of gloom over Denver’s sprawl of urban decay and post oil industry bust decades into darkly beautiful melodies. In the 2000s the band finally released a collection of songs but has more or less remained dormant, playing occasional shows, for the past decade. Now on the cusp of releasing its latest albums, Juliet Mission has been playing live including this rare appearance at Blue Ice for the Dark Tuesdays event that brings together some of Denver’s better darkwave, industrial, Goth and post-punk DJs.
Who:Acid King w/Love Gang and Keef Duster When: Tuesday, 09.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Acid King emerged from San Francisco in the early 90s when its amalgam of heavy metal and psychedelic rock wasn’t exactly in vogue. That just meant the band could develop its sound and aesthetic without that being co-opted by any mainstream movement or corporate record labels looking to cash in on a then potentially commercial trend. The group, still fronted by guitarist Lori S., took its moniker from the nickname of a serial killer and its songs are not short on themes of the occult, and evil after the manner of a horror writer, of course, resulting in a body of work that would be a great companion to the comic art of Richard Corben and Erol Otus or a movie based on the story by Laird Barron. Long before “stoner rock” became a thing, Acid King was in there doing their own pioneering work in that realm alongside the likes of Sleep, Kyuss and St. Vitus. Yeah, all the creative descendents of Black Sabbath but also some of the best.
Wednesday | September 12, 2018
Who:Mike Krol (Merge) w/Shiii Whaaa and Super Bummer When: Wednesday, 09.12, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Mike Krol’s new seven inch “An Ambulance” / “Never Know” out on Merge Records is an immediate no-brainer-love-it for fans of late 2000s lo-fi noise punk/pop stars like Times New Viking, The Reatards, No Age, Psychedelic Horseshit, Eat Skull and Pink Reason. The shitgazers, the bands that celebrated exuberance and coloring outside established lines even for punk and more consciously experimental rock with garbage distortion and pegging the needles on the recording console, the bands that found homes on forward thinking labels like, yes, Merge, and Siltbreeze. Mike Krol is from that lineage of sonics but charting his own flavor. More contemporaneously, if you’re a fan of Clarke & The Himselfs don’t sleep on Mike Krol.
Who:Warm Thoughts, Obtuse, Candy Apple, Old Haunts, Incontinuity When: Wednesday, 09.12, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Warm Thoughts from Los Angeles used to be called Dad Punchers and who doesn’t love a name like that? But Warm Thoughts is probably a better long term name for a band you want to take places where “Dad Punchers” might not read too well. Or, you know, you find yourself being a dad and you’re in the band. At any rate, the emo-inflected pop punk band recently released its latest album I Went Swimming Alone and is making a stop in Denver playing with like-minded bands including Obtuse whose anthemic lo-fi pop punk might be described as defiantly self-loathing underlined with a spirit of accepting that for many of us life isn’t exactly overflowing with glamour and validation.
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
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.
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
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.
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: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
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
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.