Best Shows in Denver September 2021

Emerald Siam performs at Down in Denver Fest on Saturday, Sep 4, 2021 11 p.m. Photo by Tom Murphy From Dec 2019
Quits in October 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday – Monday | September 4-6
What: Down In Denver Fest
When: Labor Day Weekend
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With the erosion of the national and local media especially in coverage of local music and culture as a parallel to increasing income inequality the curation of a local scene virtually everywhere in America has all but disappeared. Publications that once served as active legacy institutions that traditionally documented and preserved local culture in a robust way have either dissolved or transitioned to a digital marketing portal model with a subsequent narrowing of content and cultural mission. Music festivals often following a lifestyle branding concept in sync with the lifestyle model of much of digital media following the implosion of the blogosphere can feel like Philip K. Dick circa Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was more of a prophet than we’d prefer to believe. The Down in Denver Fest organizers remember a time when the rich and broad diversity of Denver’s local scene was more honored and represented in local music festivals and older artists were not expected to retire but, rather, respected for their past and current efforts. While Denver and other cities are in disarray with the forces of drastic income inequality and subsequent gentrification local cultural history seems to pass into irrelevance like a social media feed more quickly than at any previous moment in human history, episodes without context, products to consume and discard. But this is antithetical to lived human experience and human life and our collective craving for connection not just to other people but our experiential, existential context that defines our lives for a certain period or our entire lives. Maybe Down In Denver Fest won’t provide this to everyone but the inspiration behind it is the understanding that local culture and the people who make it a living thing past and present are not just the atomized dots of a marketing galaxy but a continuum that can be and is accessible. So go expecting to see a broad slice of bands representing decades of Denver music history from bands from a variety of genres and styles to DJs from the Denver underground. Visit the event website for the line-up and schedule and to sample artists. Also listen to the Queen City Sounds Podcast featuring a handful of stories from the Denver scene from some of the people that were involved and have helped to make various corners of the city’s musical milieu.

Midwife in October 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | September 6
What: Midwife w/Sympathy Pain and Sketches
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Midwife is touring more broadly in support of her 2021 album Luminol, a soothing yet heart wrenching record mourning deep loss and fumbling for healing the caustic burns on your heart from the death of friends, the crumbling of the cultural infrastructure that gave one’s life more definition than it might have had and a nation and international community in disarray from grand forces of inequality and the rise of fascism and science denial with no seeming relief on the horizon. It isn’t a dire record but an honest one cast in gossamer guitar work and introspective, dreamlike vocals that tap into those dark places of the mind and not to say it’s all going to be okay but rather as a reminder that you’re not crazy and your feelings of despair, deep discontent and righteous anger are real and valid. Midwife is also performing at Trident Bookstore in Boulder on September 8 and The Coast in Fort Collins on September 12.

Thursday | September 9
What: Denver Meatpacking Company w/I’m A Boy, Wiff and Sleep Demons
When: 7 p.m./8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Denver Meatpacking Company pull liberally from 90s alternative rock for inspiration but its fuzzy guitar work is couched in solid pop hooks that prevent it from sounding like a throwback act. Which makes it a good pairing with I’m A Boy and its own power pop sensibilities and refreshingly unaffected love for bombastic and theatrical rock and roll.

Sunday | September 12
What: Denver Does Denver
When: 1-10 p.m.
Where: Green Valley Ranch Town Center Amphitheater 5060 Argonne St., Denver, CO 80249
Why: It has been 11 years since the last Denver Does Denver event happened when various musicians in the Denver scene covered music by peers and influences in local music at the Meadowlark Bar and its environs. This reboot of the event, once again curated by educator and member of experimental funk and world music phenoms Pink hawks, Yuzo Nieto, is taking place outdoors in Green Valley Ranch and features a typically fascinating set of musicians showcasing the creative wares of other bands and songwriters that otherwise wouldn’t normally be thus recognized for their impact.

Thursday | September 16
What: St. Vincent
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Annie Clark has been experimenting with concepts across her musical career and giving us not only a respectable body of work and consistently fascinating songwriting and inventive musicianship but a creative arc in which she’s willing to take risks. None more so than her 2021 album Daddy’s Home. It is clearly a well-arranged series of vignettes about life in New York City as told through the sonic lens of 70s pop and rock like an East Coast answer to Joni Mitchell’s fantastic and insightful 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon. The structure of the album feels like reading a short novel with a cinematic scope and revelations about character and concept reminiscent of the flow of Virgnia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Every tour, certainly for her last three albums, has involved creative and entrancing production and even set design subverting the standard rock and pop paradigm so if you go expect some of that deep creativity for which Annie Clark and St. Vincent are rightfully known.

Friday | September 17
What: Herbie Hancock
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ellie Caulkins Opera House
Why: Herbie Hancock and his stunningly brilliant keyboard and synth work alongside his mindblowingly talented collaborators put on one of the greatest live shows going regardless of genre. His roots in some of the jazz legends of the 60s and 70s are impressive enough but his albums under his own name often reveal a passion and genius for composition that he channels into accessible and engrossing songs and performances that remain relevant and powerful.

Friday and Saturday | September 17-18
What: Westword Music Showcase
When: See schedule per day at http://www.westwordshowcase.com
Where: Rino Arts District and Mission Ballroom
Why: The Westword Music Showcase returns with an expanded presentation in the Rino Arts District northwest of downtown Denver including performances at the Mission Ballroom for headlining acts like Young The Giant, Kaytranada, Thundercat, Matoma, Hippo Campus and Duke Dumont with a bevy of local acts nominated by experts in the local scene tapped for their knowledge by the long running alternative weekly paper.

Monday | September 20
What: Mannequin Pussy w/Angel Du$t and Pinkshift
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy has long commented on sexism and its effect on identity and how those issues dovetail into the colonist mentality and the most deleterious and sometimes subtle corrosive effects of capitalism. But doing so in a way that seems as tender and sensitive as it is ferocious, cast in noise rock and melodic punk. In 2021 Mannequin Pussy released its gloriously caustic EP Perfect.

Monday and Tuesday | September 20 and 21
What: Mdou Moctar
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mahamadou Souleymane is a Tuareg songwriter from Niger who is known to the musical world at large as Mdou Moctar with a growing international following despite the lyrics to his songs being in Tamasheq. His intricate guitar work and sincere performance style renders what might seem exotic to some Americans immediately relatable. Moctar’s fusion of blues and rock with West African musical styles and sounds come off both familiar and arrestingly fresh. In 2021 he released the album Afrique Victime through Matador, his first for an imprint other than specialist label Sahel Sounds. An intense and engaging performer, Moctar’s gracious and self-effacing demeanor doesn’t quite prepare you for the emotionally charged journey of the show but makes it one you want to take.

Tuesday | September 21
What:
Twin Tribes and Wingtips w/Plague Garden
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: A great pairing of the Brownsville, Texas lo-fi post-punk band Twin Tribes and Chicago’s darkwave pop sensations Wingtips. The former released a beautifully curated remix album in 2021 called Altars including remixes from Turkish post-punk legends She Past Away, Dave Parley of Prayers, Wingtips and Bootblacks. Wingtips’ new record Cutting Room Floor is a gorgeously composed set of expansive and bright yet hazily moody and reflective pop songs subverting the tropes of sounds and aesthetics borrowed from 80s era synth pop by many modern artists and seemingly as influenced by the likes of Thompson Twins and Howard Jones as Depeche Mode and Fad Gadget. Opening the show is Plague Garden whose 2021 album Requiem of Souls is a great expansion on their brooding and atmospheric blend of industrial and post-punk into more pop territory including an excellent cover of Tanita Tikaram’s 1988 hit single “Twisting in My Sobriety” that highlights the song’s then unfashionable level of self-examination.

Torres, photo by Shervin Lainez

Tuesday | September 21
What: Torres w/Ariana and The Rose
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Torres has from early in her career blended a more electronic pop aesthetic with a raw and gritty folk-inflected songwriting style and dynamically emotional vocals. Her 2021 album Thirstier is brimming with high contrast sounds that give the songs a forcefulness that was always there in her music but made unmistakable this time around.

Wednesday | September 22
What: Waltzer w/Vision Video, Voight, Lord Friday the 13th
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Waltzer is Sophie Sputnik who fronted punk band Killmama for more than a few years. But her music theater background seems to have been yearning for greater expression if the debut Waltzer album Time Traveler is any indication and the bizarre music video for “Destroyer” which is like a humorous horror movies as a backdrop to soulful, R&B pop. Maybe Sputnik got to listening to a lot of Erykah Badu, Harry Nilsson and Todd Rundgren but she makes that lush, almost orchestral sound seem spare as well. Athens, Georgia-based post-punk/pop band Vision Video is an interesting contrast with its 2021 album Inked in Red reminiscent of 80s jangle pop, XTC and Pink Turns Blue. Voight is a Denver-based band that collides together noise rock, industrial/techno beats, emotionally-charged vocals and caustic shoegaze-y soundscapes.

Front 242 in April 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | September 22
What: Front 242 w/Consolidated, Blackcell and DJ N810
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Front 242 is one of the pioneers of the EBM wing of industrial music of the 80s with its stark visual style akin to a stylized Futurist aesthetic. Claiming to be apolitical and even amoral, Front 242’s pulsing, atmospheric dance music nevertheless takes aim at corrupt religious and political figures without an explicitly verbalized critique, rather choosing to present them as absurd and cartoonish. By contrast the overtly political industrial band Consolidated is part of this tour and from its album titles, to its music and confrontational performance style the group from San Francisco leaves no doubt about its leftist politics and activist cultural orientation while also injecting very pointed commentary with humor that also manages not to distract from the message. Denver’s long-running noise/industrial/EBM duo Blackcell opens the show with its own richly imagined and immersive soundscapes.

Wild Pink, photo by Mitchell Wojcik

Wednesday | September 22
What:
Ratboys X Wild Pink w/Bellhoss
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Earlier in 2021 Wild Pink released A Billion Little Lights, a pop album of lush orchestration and sage and sharply observed comments on one’s changing perspectives and priorities as one ages into adulthood physically and psychologically and the subsequent realization that the sureties of now will sometimes seem like the follies and cringe-worthy moments of the future. While songwriter John Ross wrote the album from the perspective of a single human life the themes seem to resonate strongly with society overall in the past decade and coming to terms with blind spots, injustice, inequality and chronically bad habits that have a fallout for oneself and others.

Saturday | September 25
What:
Lost Relics and Never Kenezzard
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: Two giants of Denver sludge metal, Lost Relics and Never Kenezzard both demonstrate how heavy, doomy metal can be dynamic and even expansively psychedelic while hitting hard. Expect a new Lost Relics EP soon and Never Kenezzard’s follow-up to the excellent 2016 album Never Say…

Monday | September 27
What: Esmé Patterson
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The beginning of the global pandemic in March 2020 landed just in time to thwart plans for Esmé Patterson and her band to tour in support of her then new album There Will Come Soft Rains. The new record showcased Patterson’s ear for subtle emotional dynamics in songwriting and for expressing the complexity of one’s feelings in an uncluttered way. The spare melodies of the new batch of songs also demonstrate an attention to space in the songs perhaps as a symbolic way of honoring the need to such in one’s life in order to make sense of what can feel overwhelming. Not a pandemic record but sure seems like one that addresses little things in life we often ignore in our rush to push through everything when we need to and never really taking the time to feel what we need to in order to maintain a healthy state of mind.

Judas Priest in November 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | September 29
What:
Judas Priest w/Sabaton
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Perpetually underrated yet highly influential, Judas Priest is one of the pioneering bands of heavy metal that still occasionally tours and is still a powerful live act due in no small part to singer Rob Halford’s expressive and operatic vocals. With hits like “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight” from its 1980 album British Steel, Judas Priest started to break into the mainstream with subsequent regular rotation on MTV. Getting to see Judas Priest at a theater like the Mission Ballroom with its excellent sound and seating layout is likely to be the most enjoyable environment to take in the band’s broad range of moods and highly charged dynamics.

Cadence Weapon in June 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | September 30
What: Fat Tony and Cadence Weapon
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Fat Tony and Cadence Weapon are rappers from Houston and Edmonton, Canada respectively but who both draw on an electric palette of sounds and influences and their use of imaginative beats and production have set them apart from many peers from early on in their respective careers. Their individual blends of classic rapping with free associating sounds and textures in the beat with an ear for songwriting and impassioned delivery make this one of the hip-hop shows to see this year in Denver. Fat Tony is touring following the 2020 release of his album Exotica and Cadence Weapon with his 2021 album Parallel World.

Best Shows in Denver August 2021

Princess Dewclaw (here performing at Wax Trax, April 2021) performs at The UMS on August 28

With live music coming back, we’ll see how robustly with the delta and other variants of the pandemic, we’re picking back up with listing some events that might be of interest to readers. Rather than a weekly show listing, this will be a monthly thing with highlights. If things pick up more in 2022 and 2023 maybe more events will be included once the pandemic ends but for now keeping things minimal.

King Crimson, photo by Dean Stocking

Monday | August 2, 2021
What: King Crimson w/The California Guitar Trio
When: 7 p.m. (6 p.m. doors)
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Since the its 1968 inception, King Crimson has been an innovative rock band whose imaginative blend of avant-garde jazz, classical music, folk and emergent musical ideas and styles across decades has garnered more than a mere cult following. Its 1969 album In The Court of the Crimson King has remained a highly influential work on progressive/art rock to this day. Certainly King Crimson’s music has the feel of composed for an orchestra but there is also a spontaneous spark to the music that has kept its songs fresh well after the first wave of progressive rock ended in the early 80s. The dramatic arrangements, intense yet fluid dynamics and fine emotional nuance of the songwriting demonstrates the inner workings of a band that is not, as is presumed with any band associated with the concept of progressive rock, on technique for its own sake so much as on the impact of the music which superior technique can lend a broad musical palette. Legendary guitarist Robert Fripp is the group’s sole original member and in addition to King Crimson, Fripp has performed on albums by, among many others, David Bowie and Brian Eno. Also on this tour the line up with include bassist/Chapman Stick player Tony Levin. Since the early 80s, Levin has regularly brought his own brand of musical imagination to King Crimson having been introduced to Fripp through working with Peter Gabriel and who has also been a prolific studio and live musician whose work can be heard in work by Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson as well as David Bowie. With the recent renewed interest in progressive rock seeing one of the pioneers in this incarnation with Fripp, Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk and Jeremy Stacey is a fine chance to witness one of the movements great live bands. In the coming days we will publish our interview with Levin and link that here when it’s live.

Friday | August 6, 2021
What:
NNAMDÏ w/Fresh Fruit!
When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors)
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose broadly eclectic songwriting and performance style has meant he is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole. One dub it the clumsily broad term indie rock but the execution is is often so unconventional and strange that it might be considered psychedelic and an amalgam of all of that with jazz and non-Western musical styles. But he manages to make it coherent and a product of his rich imagination that weaves together daydreams, surreal fantasies, social commentary and contemplation of the nature of human existence and his own place in it without really trying to impose answers to the questions he poses. Start anywhere with his catalog, it’s all wonderfully strange and accessible. Live, he performs with a paradoxical theatrical authenticity that can be off-putting for someone expecting their musicians to be not nearly as physically expressive. The band called NNAMDÏ is also opening for Sleater-Kinney and Wilco at Red Rocks the following Tuesday, August 10.

Saturday | August 7, 2021
What: Big Dopes w/Amazing Adventures and Luna Nunez
When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors)
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude was simply one of the most meaningful records out of the realm of indie rock and power pop that year. With tastefully fuzzy melodies the band’s poignant and touchingly poetic lyrics stripped bare the pretense that coats too much modern popular music. This is the band’s first live show since the beginning of the pandemic.

Small Black, photo by Caroline Mathis

Tuesday | August 10, 2021
What: Small Black and Korine
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: As the modern roots of chillwave were congealing into a cohesive musical aesthetic, Small Black was there playing DIY spaces and small clubs in the late 2000s. Its visceral performances paired with transportingly gorgeous, freeflowing song dynamics gave the band an appeal that transcended any trend from early on. Its latest album Cheap Dreams finds the band using its fine tuned crafting of electronic pop songs to suss out, identify, feel fully and process feelings most of us have felt this past decade of needing to settle for a cheapened sense of our own life’s horizons as if those are the only options open to us. It can be a crushing realization and there is a bit of that in these songs too but also a sense of hope and resistance to this death before death if we can be bold enough to cast aside conventional wisdom and cultivate a deep sense of affection for ourselves and others as a bulwark to the narratives that get us to erode our own power. Korine is a great partner for this bill because its own flavor of dream pop evokes a similar sensibility but in a way that might appeal to fans of recent darkwave artists like Choir Boy and Lebanon Hanover. Its 2020 album The Night We Rise sounds beautifully like a musical postcard from 1985 synth pop via Russian post-punk and 2000s electronic artists like Robyn.

Tuesday | August 10
What: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco w/NNAMDÏ
When: (6 p.m. doors)
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco are two of the most influential and most interesting bands that came out of the mid-90s, both having formed in 1994. S-K came up in the musical milieu of the Pacific Northwest in the context of K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Mr. Lady Records, Chainsaw Records, Riot Grrrl, the International Pop Underground festival, around artists like Unwound, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Wipers, Mecca Normal and all of that great ferment of ideas and music of that time. Its early albums dared to imagine a present and a future in which feminist ideas their critique of culture and society was the norm and not something to resist and grounded in lived experience expressed straight from the heart. Though the band has experimented and refined and expanded its sound the base line of compassion and honesty has kept the band from waxing into a more watered down version of itself. Its 2021 album Path of Wellness expands on the electronic textures and soundscapes that made The Center Won’t Hold (2019) so evocative. Wilco emerged out of Chicago, Illinois when alternative country band Uncle Tupelo split and Jeff Tweedy continued in a similar musical vein that he and the rest of the band have evolved in fascinating ways every since to the point that it would make as much sense to refer to Wilco as alternative county as it would to call Beck indie folk. Wilco’s big breakthrough creatively and commercially came with the release of its 2001 opus Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wherein its embrace of production and processed sounds as part of its core of songwriting resulted in a classic of modern pop music that rewards repeated listens some twenty years onward. Both Sleater-Kinney and Wilco have also managed to remain powerful live acts as well and getting to see modern experimental pop weirdo NNAMDÏ is just a bonus.

Oko Tygra at Boulder Theater in 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Voight w/Oko Tygra and Chuch Fire
Where: HQ
Why: If you were to try to put together a bill of the three of the best, most representative bands of Denver’s darkwave/post-punk/dream pop scene, such as it is, you couldn’t do better than this. Voight’s intense, noisy, industrial-tinged shoegaze is always surprisingly gritty and moving. Oko Tygra’s refined emotional colorings and R&B inflected dream pop never fails to captivate. Church Fire somehow makes pointedly poetic socio-political commentary deeply emotional, personal and swirling with dreamy production and powerful dance rhythms.

Thursday | August 12, 2021
What:
Radkey
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Radke is a garage rock trio of four brothers Isaiah, Solomon and Dee Radke from St. Joseph, Missouri. Slapping a genre tag on the band, though, doesn’t do it justice and these guys have been called proto-punk and psychedelic rock as well. But its hard hitting rock and roll the brothers Radke play with an undeniable conviction and flair that is undeniably effective.

Oblio Duo in 2006, Steven Lee Lawson on right, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 19, 2021
What: Steven Lee Lawson with The Dark Wolf Rises Band album release w/Doo Crowder and Disinherited
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Steven Lee Lawson recently released his 2021 self-titled album on Snappy Little Numbers. Lawson played music for years in Denver and elsewhere and his thoughtful lyrics and poetic commentary on human existence with a particular knack for giving form to frustrations, despair, joy, affection and excitement have always made his work noteworthy. But Lawson took seemingly several years off playing music because it can be an unrewarding grind in so many ways with not nearly enough rewards for innovators and those with something unique and interesting to say. Whether in art rock band Zubabi, Americana groups Oblio Duo and Los Dos and the New American Ramblers or even Ross Etherton and the Chariots of Judah, Lawson really brought some passion and creativity to his bands. The self-titled album is an extension and evolution of the songwriter’s prior work and one in which he seems to illuminate and clarify aspects of American culture the past several years that have seemed confusing or tangled. If you go to this show you also get to see Doo Crowder who is like a modern day Harry Nilsson.

Tuesday | August 24, 2021CANCELLED
What: The Residents
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Residents are a legendary multimedia and avant-garde band whose membership is largely unknown since they started recording and performing under that name in the early 70s. The group’s music and history is storied and fairly well documented for those curious but lest the designation of avant-garde tuns anyone off, The Residents’ music has almost ways been pretty accessible and an experiment with the format of popular music and the experiments coming in with specific sounds used and the content of the music—the lyrics, the visual style, the presentation, the experience of what’s been created. The band has been on the forefront of multimedia performances, set and costume design, video releases, what one might even deem early alternate reality games involving a concept that informed an album and even blurring the line between it all. The Residents’ cover songs by artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Elvis Presley and numerous others as well as unusual takes on traditional folk songs are something that simply must be heard to fully appreciate how strangely brilliant the interpretations. In recent years the band has been touring more widely and it appears that this tour is in support of the 2020 album Metal, Meat & Bone – The Songs of Dyin’ Dog.

Gila Teen at Lion’s Lair in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday and Sunday | August 28 and 29
What: Glasss Records Stage at the UMS
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Underground Music Showcase is a sprawling affair and returns in 2021. There may be many fine performances to catch but the best bet to find acts that aren’t playing a bunch of clubs because they are just that underground and likely not to see at many DIY spaces since there aren’t many of those anymore is to spend some time at Mutiny Information Café throughout the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 20 for the Glasss Records Stage. Not all of the artists are on the local independent imprint but all fit in with the label’s cultivation of various sides of the local experimental music scene. So you can catch the heartfelt post-punk emo of Gila Teen, Princess Dewclaw’s gritty industrial, feminist punk, Blackcell’s maximalist minimal industrial synth noise, R A R E B Y R D $’s soul wrenching/soothing ambient hip-hop, the colorful and imaginative glitchore of Morlox and Kid Mask, the noisy, psychedelic hip-hop of Joohs Up, Shocker Mom’s tender and daydreamy soundscapes, Gort Vs. Goom’s weirdo prog-punk-art rock and numerous other artists. Can’t go wrong no matter when you check in. Pluse it’s at Mutiny so you can get something to drink that isn’t alcoholic and pick up a book you’re not expecting to find, a fine selection of comics, find a record not everyone has on their shelves and maybe even play pinball. The choice pick of the entire festival. Tentative (because day of show things always seem to change) schedule included below.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2020

Sex Swing | Type II | Rocket Recordings

This sprawling best of list was intended for publication in January 2021 but other priorities got in the way and I had written about many of these in brief in my year end best column for the December 2020 print edition of Birdy magazine in December. Others I wrote up for Birdy throughout the year. All of that text is here hopefully not in a form with my errors edited back in. At any rate it begins with what I’m going to call the album of the year, Type II by UK post-punk experimentalists Sex Swing. It not only stretched post-punk beyond the usual boundaries these days and it articulated the conflict, the outage and confusion of a world coming to terms with the great shortcomings of modern, international capitalism, the inadequacy of the conservative/far right and neoliberal government to address the needs of people across decades and most painfully and poignantly in the moment. That agony and anomie can be heard throughout the album but even separate from that context it’s just a great, experimental rock album. The original verbiage for the Birdy piece reads “An uncomromisingly mind-altering psychedelic noise rock ride through 2020 hell.” With any luck we’ll see the band in North America sooner than later and see for ourselves if the live show delivers. What follows is the rest of the best of list for 2020.

A.M. Pleasure Assassins | Careless Laughter | Self-released
This latest EP from Fort Collins-based, math-y post-punk band A.M. Pleasure Assassins sounds like it  was written after a long period of contemplation and self-imposed exile from one’s usual social activities. “Said Yer Outta Gas” is imbued with a rush of exuberance reflected in its words about emerging from winter into a period of new beginnings. “Get It Right” finds the band waxing into the warped garage punk territory like something one would expect out of Memphis, Tennessee the past two decades — raw and ragged yet bracing. “Cain Was Killing Abel” strikes a more contemplative tone and the sprawling “Pretty Dead Beat” creates a beautifully hypnotic pulse of sounds with bell tones processed through reverb and distorted drones for an effect like a late 90s Yo La Tengo track. The four songs give the impression of nostalgic reflection, but one where you see and feel deeply the joys and pains of a good time in your life  that you are wise enough now to know to enjoy in its full measure rather than through the lens of selective romanticism.

Abrams | Modern Ways | Sailor Records

Adulkt Life | Book of Curses | What’s Your Rupture?

ADULT. | Perception Is/As/Of Deception | Dais Records
Darkly urgent industrial dance anthems to purge today’s desperation, confusion and chaos.

Angel Olsen | Whole New Mess | Secretly Group
A tender yet bracingly fragile portrait of the realization that you can never adequately prepare for everything life might throw your way.

Anna von Hausswolff | Sacro Bosco | Southern Lord

A Shoreline Dream | Melting | Late Night Weeknight
With its first release since 2018’s Waitout EP, A Shoreline Dream presents a set of songs that seems less  ethereal than their previous output. From opening track “Turned Too Slow” to closing song “Atheris  Hispida” the progressive shoegaze duo has seemingly focused its attention on the texture and  physicality of the music. One is tempted to say the guitars are more like hard rock, but only if your idea of  hard rock is more in the vein of Swervedriver. But “Downstairs Sundays” has more in common with folk  music in its intricate guitar interplay though threading through an uplifting, introspective drone. A  Shoreline Dream still gives us its usual transporting melodies, but this time its astral realms are  more focused and vivid as though coming out of its musical dreamstate into a phase of making those  dreams real. 

Autechre | Sign | Warp Records
Cleanses the mind with textural tones and hypnotically immersive, abstract rhythms.

Bambara | Stray | Wharf Cat Records

Bestial Mouths | RESURRECTEDINBLACK | RUNE & RUIN

Bison Bone | Find Your Way Out | self-released

Black Wing | No Moon | The Flenser

blackcell | Burn the Ashes | self-released
Denver-based EBM/IDM band Blackcell returns with its first full- length album since 2013’s In the Key of  Black. Matt Jones’ processed, distorted vocals sound as ever like a dispossessed human resisting an ever increasing mechanization of life. These dark dance songs articulate so well the struggles of the human  condition and seem so resonant for today as meaningful choices and control over your own life are  leeched away into increasing labor defined by a gig economy, subscription and streaming services in the  modern equivalent of pay-per-view, and a failing political and economic system that has channeled all the  world’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands, nickeled and dimed to death and expected to take it like it is or  not to streamline the technocratic wealth pipeline. Blackcell offers no answers but this time, its Gary  Numan-esque end of the world techno feels particularly cathartic right now.  

BleakHeart | Dream Griever | Sailor Records

Body Double | Milk Fed | Zum
Vignettes of personal psychological horror expressed as seething, angular post-punk pop.

Body Negative | Fragments | Track Number Records

Bootblacks | Thin Skies | Artoffact Records
Soaring synths and guitar sketch a vivid image of a deep yearning for personal transcendence and rebirth.

Boris and Merzbow | 2R012P0 | Relapse Records
Alien soundscapes of stunning immediacy that challenge preconceptions of all artists involved.

Botanist | Photosynthesis | The Flenser

Cabaret Voltaire | Shadow of Fear | Mute

Camila Fuchs | Kids Talk Sun | Felte Records
Avant-garde, psychedelic synth pop for tropical vacations in parallel dimensions.

Causer | Hellebore: Demos | self-released

Chicano Batman | Invisible People | ATO Records
Un-ironic, un-corny psych Tropicalia love songs for an inclusive future of unified humanity.

Choir Boy | Gathering Swans | Dais Records
Every song is an introspective Goth R&B ode to radical self care.

Church Fire | Some Lonely Wip | self-released
This collection of “unfinished/unmixed/unmastered/instrumentals” bridges the gap between Nine Inch  Nails and Crystal Castles with their raw, lo-fi, maximalist glitch. Without the highly emotive and cathartic  vocals that have been part of Church Fire’s signature sound we are invited to visit the soundscapes that  give those vocals a powerful musical context. What is obvious here is the band’s playfulness and gift for  pairing dark tonal choices and buoyant rhythms anchored by spare textural elements. On “pixie death  tickle” there are wisps of voices but they serve as more a musical aside from the strong, bright, urgent  main passages. The “wip” in the title may refer to “works-in-progress” but these songs would work as  mood pieces in a soundtrack to the inevitable English language Inio Asano manga film in mirroring that  artist’s talent for simultaneously expressing melancholia and joy.  

cindygod | EP 2 | Fire Talk

Clipping. | Visions of Bodies Being Burned | Sub Pop
Brooding, seething, menacing industrial hip-hop horror stories from an all too near future.

Cyclo Sonic | Pile of Bones EP | self-released

Damn Selene | Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore | self-released

Dan Deacon | Mystic Familiar | Domino Records

Dead Voices On Air | Stone Cross Shuttle Worn | self-released

Deafbrick (Deafkids + Pet Brick) | s/t | Rocket Recordings

Death Bells | New Signs Of Life | Dais Records
Atmospheric post-punk brimming with an infectious sense of hope after a time of struggle.

Death Valley Girls | Under the Spell of Joy | Suicide Squeeze
Acid jazz flavored garage psych with an ear for emotionally rich infinite horizons.

Deerhoof | Teenage Cave Artists | Joyful Noise
Reliably Beefheartian, lo-fi No Wave-esque, boundary-breaking avant-pop.

Down Time | Hurts Being Alive | self-released

Drew Danburry | Icarus Phoenix A Sides and B Sides 2020 | Telos

Drew McDowell | Angalma | Dais Records

Dyad | Dormant | self-released
Charles Ballas and Jeremy Averitt are perhaps better known for their participation in acts like  Howling Hex and Esmé Patterson’s live band respectively as well as their production work for  Echo Beds. But DORMANT from their long-running collaborative project DYAD showcases  their mutual knack for genre-bending IDM-esque soundscapes. DYAD freely blends elements of  non-Western polyrhythms, intricate and textured instrumentation, luminous jazz keyboard  progressions and tasteful electronic arrangements that convey an eclectic and international flavor.  Imagine music equally influenced by Herbie Hancock, 80s Ethiopian synth pop, Daft Punk,  Warp Records artists and informed by a deep sense of play, and you will have some idea of the  soothing and imagination stirring quality of this music and its brilliantly new age downtempo  future jazz sounds. 

eHpH | Infrared | self-released
This Denver-based electro-industrial duo minces no words on the opening track “Idiot” in its  introductory sample “I’m gonna say one thing, fuck Trump.” And then on to choice  sampling of 45s words and those of journalists cataloging some of his offenses against humanity.  The menacing descending synth bass progression and minimalistic percussion puts the focus on  the words. The rest of the album is less explicitly and specifically topical but it is the band’s most  fully realized and focused effort yet. The pulsing pace and Fernando Altonaga’s distorted vocals  draw you into meditations on the perils of creeping authoritarianism on “Tarnished.” The  pastoral pace and deep melancholy of “Forever Haunted” resonates with the artfully despairing  tones of the Closer period of Joy Division the way its circular guitar line and synth melody rides  a wave of personal revelation and the contemplation of an unrelievedly bleak future. EhpH  has long been one of the more interesting modern EBM bands but Infrared demonstrates that the  group of Altonaga and Angelo Atencio have fully integrated those roots with a more  contemporary post-punk and darkwave sensibility, thus never sounding stuck in the  past. 

Emerald Siam | Inventions of Ascension | self-released

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou | May Our Chambers Be Full | Sacred Bones Records

Emmy The Great | April / 月音 | Bella Union

Entrancer | Decline Vol. 4 | Multidim
In constructing this latest installment in Entrancer’s Decline series Ryan McRyhew utilized Rob  Hordijik’s DIY synth, the Benjolin, as well as the Make Noise Shared System. Though both are modular  synthesis devices and visually look complex, McRyhew, in naming the equipment on the Bandcamp  page, takes some of the technological mystery out of music making with synths  and puts the emphasis on the creativity end. For twenty-seven minutes forty-four seconds of the single  track of this album, “Decline XVI,” we travel with McRyhew through the sonic analog of the distorted  ebb and flow of civilizational decay that we seem to be experiencing right now. Yet at the  heart of the piece we hear a separation of more industrial sounds and those more organic like the  inevitability of nature reasserting its primacy in our own consciousnesses and in the entire world.

Equine | Light Wa/orship | Noise Pelican

Eve Maret | Stars Aligned | White Supulchre Records

Eyebeams | It Means Trouble | Hot Congress

Eyedress | Let’s Skip to the Wedding | Lex Records

Eye of Nix | Ligeia | Scry Recordings
Uplifting, psychedelic, blackened noise doom journey to a pagan underworld and back.

Facs | Void Moments | Trouble In Mind
The post-punk equivalent of crime jazz’s subterranean menace.

Faim | Hollow Hope | Deathwish

Fearing | Shadow | Funeral Party

Fire-Toolz | Rainbow Bridge | Hausu Mountain Records

Flaming Lips | American Head | Warner Records
Overflowing with compassion and musical salves for the pain and despair of the fractured American psyche.

French Kettle Station | Spirit Mode | Slagwerk

Future Islands | As Long As You Are | 4AD
A soulfully soothing and transporting examination of the roots of one’s melancholic impulses.

Galleries | Resolve | self-released

Ganser | Just Look at That Sky | Felte Records
Incandescent yet contemplative post-punk dense with conceptual content and poignant social commentary.

Gold Cage | Social Crutch | Felte Records

Hard to Be a Killer: A Tribute to Ralph Gean
In an alternate universe Ralph Gean is a beloved rock and roll hero widely known for his  brilliantly unique and off-beat songwriting. But the British Invasion derailed that trajectory and  Gean instead has since become a bit of a legendary figure with a cult following in Denver music  who has periodically played shows and championed by figures as politically disparate as Boyd  Rice (who compiled a collection of Gean’s work in 2007) and Jello Biafra. That fandom is  reflected on this sprawling tribute album assembled by Arlo White of Hypnotic Turtle Radio and  bands like Deadbubbles and The Buckingham Squares. Every interpretation of Gean’s songs is a  worthy listen and a fine showcase for his sheer breadth as an artist. Contributions from local,  experimental eccentrics like Little Fyodor & Babushka, Claudzilla and The Babysitters lovingly  capture Gean’s essential appeal as an artist with an unvarnished charm and humor. Eric Allen of  The Apples in Stereo fame highlights the science fiction cowboy persona that Gean could convey while White’s band Diablo Montalban with the late, great eccentric DJ and Denver cultural figure  Frank Bell give “Switzerland” a real dark exotica treatment reminiscent of weirder moments in  Tom Waits’ catalog. A fascinating portrait of an important yet often overlooked artist.

H Lite | Green Youth Heattech | self-released
Anton Kruger has been known for his inventive, hyperkinetic electronic and experimental music. But for  this new EP he took a deep dive into contemplative realms of sound. Elegant, heavenly strings, luminous  swells of tone and crystalline percussion embody the title of the song “Light Language.” The spacious  sound design aspect of all the song’s on the album are reminiscent of Plaid in the enigmatic playfulness  and the stretching consciousness to find inspiration through creative work. Every song brings forth a  singular and imaginative portrait of tone, texture and rhythm that takes you on a journey to alien spaces  that strike one as familiar and ultimately comforting like a dream. It is post-glitchcore IDM that dispenses  with the anxiety in favor of a soothing spirit.

Houses of Heaven | Silent Places | Felte Records
Gloomy street tribal dance anthems fortified with dark, minor chord melodies.

Human Impact | s/t | Ipecac Recordings

In The Company Of Serpents | Lux | self-released
In the Company of Serpents has long been a band that has aimed to infuse its music with its  interest in cinema, esoteric knowledge, literature, and with all of those come out of directi human experience, emotion and an attempt to make sense of life and imbue it with  meaning. Lux is the fullest manifestation of those aims written into its most sonically dynamic  set of songs to date. The crushing yet fluid heaviness of its sound is paired perfectly with  elements of song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. “The  Fool’s Journey” opens the record as a sort of map for the path set before us ending with the  enigmatic “Prima Materia.” It’s a musically diverse and rich album that places In the Company  of Serpents apart from a mere doom band and more in the realm of Swans’ and Neurosis’ own  heavy explorations of the human psyche. 

IDLES | Ultra Mono | Partisan
Pointed yet loving politi-punk built on a hip-hop framework.

Insect Ark | The Vanishing | Profound Lore Records
A seething and entrancing hybrid of a Junji Ito manga and industrial psychedelic doom.

Jarv Is | Beyond the Pale | Rough Trade Records

jOoHS UhP | Big Glasss | Records
This record is so irreverent and self-deprecating it uses the swagger language of much of hip-hop to make  statements that are the opposite of anything some other artists would brag about. The irony runs so deep  even the elements of the music sounds like swagger. There is a song called  
“NoWeDon’tWannaMakeGoodMusic.WeTriedAndIt’sBoring.” The glitchy, industrial beats are so  unconventional and eccentric you would never confuse this duo with anything resembling traditional hip-hop. It all has more in common with Renaldo & The Loaf and The Residents  than even a weirdo like Kanye. Though often confrontational and obnoxious there’s no denying the  relentless creativity of the production and glorious seeming lack of regard for how a song is supposed to  sound. 

Juliet Mission | Surren | self-released
Surren is the third EP from Denver-based post-punk band Juliet Mission. As with previous releases the  trio’s command of blending layers of atmosphere with strong rhythms and a contemplative melancholy is  impressive. The short title track actually has three movements that flow from existential introspection to  passages of dark realization to a mood of uneasy acceptance. All four songs in their brooding beauty  demonstrate, as have the most recent albums from The Church, that you can write vital and engrossing  rock songs from an adult point of view with elegance and grace, and without defaulting to an adolescent,  and thus thematically limited, perspective. 

Jupiter Sprites| Holographic | Jupiter Sprites Records

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith | The Mosaic of Transformation | Ghostly International

Killd By | Neotropical (tape reissue) | Noumenal Loom

King Krule | Man Alive! | Matador
Like The Fall gone hip-hop chillout lounge post-bad trip horror movie dreaming.

Klara Lewis | Ingrid | Editions Mego
Distorted melancholic cello drones like the glitched image memories of past life regression.

KoKo La | Curriculum Vitae | self-released
Koko La has long already established herself as an artist of note as one of the MCs and producers in the  hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $. Her soulful voice and presence often draws out subconscious  emotions and gives them form in the music and performance. Curriculum Vitae finds Koko La exploring  the experiences that have shaped her. Aided by Machete Mouth and Kitty Opinion$ on a couple of tracks,  Koko La excels here with shining a light on those experiences that challenge you in various ways, while  at the same time, giving you a better sense of self and the boundaries you must draw the border for people who might seek to dismiss you as a human or otherwise put you in your place. The trap beats and  hushed atmospheres provide a fascinating listening experience, like you’re honoring the subconscious  thoughts and feelings that affect your waking life by giving them an identifiable form that also allows you  to comprehend, embrace and reconcile the wounded sides of yourself. 

Lazarus Horse | Oh the Guilt! | self-released

Lithics | Tower of Age | Trouble In Mind
Surreal, minimalist post-punk funk disintegrating into disorder like American democracy.

Lone Dancer | Temporal Smearing | Multidim

Mamaleek | Come and See | The Flenser

Many Blessings | Emanation Body | Translation Loss Records
Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man renown returns to his ongoing noise soundscapes with the enigmatic  and forbidding Many Blessings. In typical fashion this set of five pieces stretches beyond what McCarthy  has done with the project in the past. Throughout this album there is not the harsh noise and deconstructed  drones of some earlier work. Rather, it is layered collages of sound that give voice to the raw angst and  anxieties that sit as a background hum of modern civilization eating away at our collective  unconsciousness. The concluding track “Harm Signal” is like a symbol for the whole effort — a flow of  sounds, a frequency, that we usually ignore but which causes untold destruction to our existence.  These songs identify and give expression to energies and forces we’ve bypassed our whole lives but which  are now impossible to ignore, like a sound art metaphor for the social and political forces that have come  home to roost of late. 

Marissa Nadler | Moons | self-released

Melkbelly | PITH | Carpark Records/Wax Nine

Memory Bell | Solace | self-released

Metz | Atlas Vending | Sub Pop

Midwife | Forever | The Flenser
Madeline Johnston wrote Forever during one of the darkest times of the Denver DIY music  and art community. Her community was scattered and challenged in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire with  so many lives seeming to be on hold with no hint about when thatdespairing period would end. And  the 2018 death of Colin Ward hit everyone whose lives he touched so deeply that it seems like the kind of  hurt that will never fully heal. Johnston’s almost ghostly, delicate and vulnerable vocals and distorted,  ethereal guitar seem to drift together in an effort to make some sense of those feelings with a nuance and  sensitivity that always comes across as emerging directly from those places of acute pain and ache  and loss, and honoring the need to just feel all of that whenever the need strikes and for however long into  your life it lasts even if that is, indeed, forever. An especially touching and evocative tribute to a uniquely  restless and creative yet sensitive and emotionally refined person in Colin Ward, Forever is a tender and  heartbreaking, healing catharsis in the listen. 

Mild Wild | Mild Wild, Vol. 1 | self-released
Intensely personal, imaginatively lo-fi aural snapshots of daydreams and poetic observations.

Mint Field | Sentimiento Mundial | Felte Records
Dream pop slow burner illuminating and warming the inner regions of the melancholic heart.

Moby | All Visible Objects | Mute Records
Retro rave and chillout lounge songs mourning our collective loss, yearning for a hopeful future.

Molchat Doma | Monument | Sacred Bones Records
Introspective, elegantly minimalistic, lo-fi, Belarusian gloom pop.

Mong Tong | Mystery | Guruguru Brain

Moodie Black | FUZZ | Fake Four

Moon Pussy | Hurt Wrist | The Ghost Is Clear Records
Guitar riffs like swarms of angry insects sweeping through. Syncopated percussion like start- and- stop  jackhammers. Bass lines like a half- ton coil being struck and emitting a menacing fluidity. Tortured  vocals erupt with Brutalist, post-hardcore poetry. All of this helps to make this latest Moon Pussy record  the perfect companion and reaction to a radically uncertain world seemingly in perpetual crisis mode and  on the verge of we know not what. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint or Touch and Go  will be thrilled with the band’s seemingly endless supply of inspired, aggressive and savage noise rock  riffs and the ability to articulate directly from a place of desperation and outrage. “Fail Better” should be  the theme song of these United States.  

Mr. Bungle | The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo | Ipecac

Mr. Gnome | The Day You Flew Away | El Marko Records

Mrs. Piss | Self-Surgery | Sargent House

Napalm Death | Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism | Century Media

New Standards Men | I Was A Spaceship | self-released

Night of the Living Shred | Return of the Night of the Living Shred | self-released
The name of this album of course invokes the title of the 1985 horror comedy Return of the Living Dead.  And the Colorado Springs-based metal group has taken the opportunity to give us an unusual and eclectic  record that not only reflects its members’ broad taste in music but a deeply healthy sense of humor about  the world and themselves. “Shred Shoppe Quartert” is an a cappella song in the style of a barbershop  quartet. There are rap, punks, death metal, doom and grindcore songs. All of it performed with  a charming exuberance even though the entire track list reads like something out of a heavy metal version  of Mad Magazine. “We Get it, Mike Patton Is a Musical Genius” with screaming like a cover of  something by Naked City with lyrics mocking that? That’s genius. Even though the record is largely a put  on in one way or another, the fact that it has so much variety makes it eminently listenable.  

No Age | Goons Be Gone | Drag City

Of Feather And Bone | Sulfuric Disintegration | Profound Lore Records

Oneohtrix Point Never | Magic Oneohtrix Point Never | Warp Records

Otzi | Storm | Artoffact Records
Emotionally intense post-punk at the intersection of Sleater-Kinney and The Cure.

Perry Weissman 3 | Backlog | self-released

Plack Blague | Wear Your Body Out | self-released

Plague Garden | LEFT IN THE GRAVE | self-released

Pod Blotz | Transdimensional System | Dais Records

Pole | Fading | Mute Records

Primitive Man | Immersion | Relapse Records

Princess Dewclaw | Wild Sugar | Glasss Records
On the Wild Sugar EP Princess Dewclaw has reinvented itself as a gritty, industrial darkwave band. That  element was there on its 2017 album Walk of Shame (in fact the songs “Walk of Shame” and “Into the  Words” have carried over in a significantly different form), but there seems more of an edge here. The  vocals come more directly from channeling anxiety and pain into catharsis. Rather than acoustic  drums the electronic and programmed drums sync more closely with the cutting synth work. The effect is  like a caustic and politically charged take on a pop song with mainstream appeal. In that way it has an  appeal similar to that of Alice Glass’s emotionally raw solo offerings.

Protomartyr | Ultimate Success Today | Domino Records
Burning poems songs evoking a Jim Thompson-esque modern America in slashing/clashing post-punk.

Public Memory | Ripped Apparition | Felte Records
If Tarkovksy and Jarmusch could team up to make a cyberpunk movie this would be the soundtrack.

Rafael Anton Irisarri | Peripeteia | Dais Records

Raspberry Bulbs | Before the Age of Mirrors | Relapse Records

Reverb And The Verse | RESONATE | self-released
Since 1999 Reverb & The Verse has been developing and writing some of the most imaginative hip-hop  out of Denver. The groupput their songwriting on this ninth record through  a rigorous process of experimentation and weeding out the material deemed not quite  there. Though steeped in classic MC wordplay, the beats and expertly crafted synth work and rhythms  seem as informed by the likes of Minneapolis alternative hip-hop that came out of the 90s as it does 80s  and 90s synth pop. All of these elements make for a sonically rich and diverse listen a bit like a cross  between Clipse and Meat Beat Manifesto. 

Riki | s/t | Dais Records
Goth synth pop for skate rink parties in abandoned malls.

Run The Jewels | RTJ4 | Jewel Runners

Shabazz Palaces | The Don of Diamond Dreams | Sub Pop

Shitkid | 20/20 | PNKSLM
An unlikely and fascinating hybrid of garage rock and soulful synth pop.

Shocker Mom | The Mediocre Depression | self-released

Sightless Pit | Grave of a Dog | Thrill Jockey
Sublime and caustic, often claustrophobic, soundscapes of terrifying and transcendent beauty.

SNAD/Jackson Lee| Jargon/Syntax Error 12” EP | Deep Club Records

SPELLS | Stimulants & Sedatives | Snappy Little Numbers
This record is raw even by SPELLS standards. But it’s perfect for 11 songs about the messiness of  adulthood with lyrics that frankly go for the jugular. This isn’t new for this pop punk band and its  anthemic choruses, but it’s always interesting to hear the contrast between the primal pop of the  songwriting and incisive portraits of American life that dispense with the soul-destroying niceties. “We  Can’t Relate” is a pointed declaration of the disconnect between the culture of the wealthy and the  working class. “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry” is something of an apology song for being how you have to be  in a world that demands essentially unacceptable compromises. Imagine an amalgam of Blatz, Stiff Little  Fingers and The Replacements and you have an idea of the sound, the vibe and the sentiments expressed  throughout. 

Spice | s/t | Dais Records

Sprain | As Lost Through Collision | The Flenser
Colossal, sprawling, slowcore deep dives into the catharsis of anxiety and rootlessness.

Spunsugar | Drive-Through Chapel | Adrian Recordings

Squarepusher | Be Up a Hello | Warner Records

Stay Tuned | Remote Control | self-released
Brilliantly sampling from American media and entertainment culture, both musically and thematically,  Stay Tuned has produced not just a signature song with this arc of eleven tracks but a signature album.  Dense with content each song uses the format of autobiography to comment on aspects of society like the  shallowness of celebrity culture and the way we formulate our dreams and aspirations in terms and  frameworks taken from preexisting constructs like television shows, movies, video games and other  media — of course expressed through the corporate controlled channels we most often use to  communicate with one another. But in free associating musical and other media references in a collage of  sounds in the beat, Stay Tuned uses media tropes and collective myths and imagery to showcase how we  can subvert the prevailing power relationships and the monopolistic paradigms of our time.  

Stephen Malkmus | Traditional Techniques | Matador

Studded Left | Sidewalk Vitamins | Girlgang Music

Stūrī Zēvele | Labvakar | self-released
An endearing indie pop manifestation of the essence of close and warm friendships.

Sumac | May You Be Held | Thrill Jockey

Suo and Data Rainbow | s/t | Multidim

SUUNS | FICTION EP | Joyful Noise

Syko Friend | Fontanelle | Post Present Medium

The Drood | Totally Comfortable | self-released

The High Water Marks | Ecstasy Rhymes | Minty Fresh

The Microphones | The Microphones In 2020 | P.W. Elverum & Sun

The Paranoyds | Pet Cemetery EP | Suicide Squeeze

The White Swan | Nocturnal Transmission | CockThermos

Through Flames | Through Flames | self-released
Riveting, radical experiments in political poetry and sound design.

TI-83 | Demo | self-released

Time | These Songs Kill Fascists | Dirty Laboratory
Hip-hop artist Chris “Time” Steele displays a true gift for fusing autobiography and lived experience with  historical context and knowledge of political theory on this album. He’s always been a brilliant lyricist  whose expert wordplay has seemingly effortlessly combined his sharp sense of humor with a wide ranging curiosity about the world and a growing body of knowledge of history, culture and politics. On  These Songs Kill Fascists, Steele works with Daiba, Mick Jenkins, long time producer AwareNess,  Giuseppe, Ron Miles, JXSHYB, Cat Soup and Psalm One to create a jazz-inflected story cycle  commenting astutely on social issues now getting some focus. While a riveting listen purely as a well crafted album, These Songs Kill Fascists does not function as merely socially conscious entertainment, it  seems to have been crafted as a form of praxis that challenges artist and listener in a dialectic of critical  pedagogy that mutually encourages ongoing personal growth and social transformation.

Tobacco | Hot, Wet & Sassy | Ghostly International
Bright, bombastic, noisy synths paired with darkly humorous musings disrupt the album’s aesthetic of nostalgic comfort sounds.

Torres | Silver Tongue | Merge Records

Uniform | Shame | Sacred Bones Records
Scorching and thrillingly diverse industrial hardcore inspired by noir literature.

Usaisamonster | Amikwag | Yeggs Records

Vivian | The Warped Glimmer | self-released

Voight | s/t | self-released
Maybe it’s Chase Dobson’s treatments and mixing and mastering after Adam Rojo and Nick Salmon wrote  and recorded this album, but the self-titled Voight album is the closest the duo has come to sounding like  it’s blurring the line between its rock and electronic aesthetics. Guitar chords burn and shimmer out,  percussion flurries and traces out a minimalist beat and Salmon’s vocals float through the songs like a  person who was once lost but is now rediscovering his ability to feel and to express those emotions with a  coherent self-awareness. Every song has an expansive quality reminiscent of Clan of Xymox and The Twilight Sad. The tone of the album perfectly walks the line between urgency and introspection without  ever compromising an underlying delicacy of spirit and emotional refinement.

Wayfarer | A Romance With Violence | Profound Lore Records

Wetware | Flail | Dais Recordings

White Rose Motor Oil | You Can’t Kill Ghosts | self-released

Windy & Carl | Allegiance and Conviction | Kranky

WL | ADHD | Beacon Sound

Wolf Parade | Thin Mind | Sub Pop

Yves Tumor | Heaven To A Tortured Mind | Warp Records
Futuristic, effervescent, downtempo, synth pop-inflected, R&B informed non-binary funk.

Best Shows in Denver 3/12/20 – 3/18/20

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Robyn Hitchcock performs at Swallow Hill on March 13, photo by Emma Swift

Due to the Coronavirus-related cancellations we will include the shows we already had planned for coverage but indicate that they are cancelled as appropriate and as that information is available.

Thursday | March 12

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Thundercat circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Thundercat w/Guapdad 4000
When: Thursday, 3.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Stephen Lee Bruner, aka Thundercat, has been the go-to bass playing genius in the hip-hop world and beyond for over a decade including performing on albums by Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus. His own music is equally distinguished for its surreal creativity.

What: Harry Tuft and Brad Corrigan (of Dispatch)
When: Thursday, 3.12, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill Quinlan Cafe
Why: Harry Tuft was instrumental in cultivating and fostering the folk music scene in Denver through first the Denver Folklore Center and then through Swallow Hill. He is also one of the great interpreters of that music and a talented artist in his own right and this intimate show will be a good setting to catch him in action.

What: Dwight Yoakam w/Tennessee Jet
When: Thursday, 3.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom

What: Joe Sampson w/Ben Kronberg and Adam Baumeister
When: Thursday, 3.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Friday | March 13

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Mayhem, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Cancelled The Decibel Magazine Tour: Mayhem and Abbath w/Gatecreeper and Idle Hands
When: Friday, 3.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Mayhem is the legendary/notorious black metal band from Norway whose early history was the subject of the 2019 biopic Lords of Chaos. But the current band is equal parts occult rock theater and crushing black metal of devastating power.

What: Robyn Hitchcock
When: Friday, 3.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill
Why: Robyn Hitchcock first came to public attention as a member of post-punk band Soft Boys in the early 80s but later in the decade through to today he has established himself as one of the most consistently creative, thoughtful and wryly humorous songwriters of the modern era. With an eclectic songwriting style that weaves in elements of jangle rock (which he helped to pioneer) and psychedelia, Hitchcock’s observational story songs articulate vividly snapshots of the core human zeitgeist of the moment through his lens of an Englishman who has remained open to the world.

Why: Concert for Indigent Defense/Death Penalty Repeal Party: Tokyo Rodeo, Cyclo Sonic and The Slacks
When: Friday, 3.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Tokyo Rodeo is a rock band that by not tying its songwriting to a trendy aesthetic or some classic style has been able to cultivate its own voice in writing songs that delve into the personally meaningful in the musical language of a rock and roll universality. Cyclo-Sonic is a Denver punk super group with former members of Rok Tots, The Fluid, Frantix and The Choosey Mothers. But pedigree is not enough. Fortunately Cyclo-Sonic’s unvarnished rock theater and strong songwriting recommends itself.

What: Snakes w/Colfax Speed Queen and No Gossip in Braille
When: Friday, 3.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Snakes is a band that includes George Cessna as well as Brian Buck of High Plains Honky and Kim Baxter of several bands including Gun Street Ghost. Sharing the stage for this inaugural show is psychedelic garage rock powerhouse Colfax Speed Queen and the radically vulnerable post-punk stylings of No Gossip in Braille.

Saturday | March 14

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Ned Garthe Explosion circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ladies Night, Ned Garthe Explosion, Slugger, Despair Jordan
When: Saturday, 3.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ned Garthe Explosion could have a career as a comedy band but its songwriting is too strong and clever for being a mere novelty act. Its nearly unhinged psychedelic rock is always surprisingly compelling. Slugger somehow managed to emerge over the last few years influenced by 70s rock and psychedelic garage rock without sounding like a rehash of a rehash, instead, vital and visceral.

Sunday | March 15

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Ásgeir, photo by Anna Maggý

What: Bolonium, Damn Selene and Gort Vs. Goom
When: Sunday, 3.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bolonium is part weirdo pop band and game show including a section involving audience participation. Damn Selene’s mixes underground hip-hop, darkwave, noise and industrial music. Gort Vs. Goom is like if the Minutemen fully embraced prog rock and Blue Oyster Cult.

What: POSTPONED Ásgeir
When: Sunday, 3.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ásgeir is an Icelandic songwriter whose blend of folk with electronic production has garnered him a bit of an audience in his home country and abroad. His falsetto combines a sense of intimacy and transcendence couched in transporting tones and grounding musical textures. Currently the artist is touring in support of his latest album Bury the Moon.

Monday | March 16

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Wax Lead, photo by Kristi Fox Fräzier

What: Cancelled Wax Lead, Vio\ator, Voices Under the Mirror and Voight
When: Monday, 3.16, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Minneapolis-based post-punk band Wax Lead brews its catharsis from lushly brooding female vocals and bass-driven minimalism and a willingness to pointedly tackle social and political issues. Also on the bill is the great, Denver-based industrial post-punk band Voight and one of the few good local EBM acts Voices Under the Mirror and its emotionally rich vocals and songwriting.

What: CANCELLED Destroyer w/Nap Eyes
When: Monday, 3.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Tuesday | March 17

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Kronos Quartet, photo by Jay Blakesberg

What: CANCELLED or POSTPONED Kronos Quartet
When: Tuesday, 3.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Newman Center
Why: Kronos Quartet has helped to make classical music cool and relevant since its founding in Seattle in 1973 through creative interpretation of foundational works and the contemporary avant-garde. The Quartet has also been known to indulge in fascinating covers of music in genres beyond its presumed wheelhouse as well as working with noted artists like Laurie Anderson and Pat Metheny.

What: POSTPONED Elohim
When: Tuesday, 3.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Bear Hands and Irontom
When: Tuesday, 3.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Wednesday | March 18

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Jonathan Wilson, photo by Louis Rodiger

What: CANCELLED Jonathan Wilson w/Other Worlds
When: Wednesday, 3.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jonathan Wilson (Erykah Badu, Father John Misty, Laura Marling etc.) brings a lot of skill, experience and talent to bear on his new album Dixie Blur which he didn’t record at his studio in Los Angeles, where he has produced plenty of high quality material, but in Nashville to be closer to his Southern roots as a musician who grew up in North Carolina. Whether setting matters much in an ultimate sense, the record and lead single “Oh Girl” is informed by a warmth and sensitivity that elevates songs that are already noteworthy for their diverse dynamics and broad palette of emotional coloring.

Best Shows in Denver 8/16/19 – 8/21/19

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The Inactivists perform at Streets Denver for the DARC All Stars show. Photo circa 2016 by Tom Murphy

Friday | August 16

What: Derelicts w/Cyclo-Sonic, Clusterfux and The Lurchers
When: Friday, 08.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: The Derelicts are a bratty punk band from Seattle legendary for its unhinged stage shows in a scene know for them. Lead singer Duane Bodenheimer grew up in Denver and was part of the punk world here before moving to Seattle to join this infamous outfit. Clusterfux are the legendary Denver street punk band that has been going since the early 90s.

What: Flying Lotus in 3D w/Brandon Coleman Spacetalker, Salami Rose Joe Louis, PBDY
When: Friday, 08.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Flying Lotus returns with his visually stunning “in 3D” performance in support of his new album Flamagra. The sets often involve a bit of a stage set where Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus controls the sound and perhaps aspects of the visuals for an engulfing audio-visual experience. See below for a taste from 2017. Though Flying Lotus has crossed over between experimental electronic and EDM and funk and hip-hop his imaginative soundscaping continues to evolve in ever more colorful directions with an ear and eye for the presentation of that music for people who show up to craft a mutually inspiring performance.

Saturday | August 17

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Little Fyodor and Babushka Band circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Sigilcraft with Tom Banger The Art of Making Things Happen: Using Art, Sound and Video to Create Change
When: Saturday, 08.17, 2-4 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Tom Banger, former punk/experimental/underground music promoter in Denver through the 80s and into the 90s will demonstrate the use of creative endeavor to enact change in one’s life and beyond. See event page for details including suggestions for bringing imagery from magazines or books in the crafting of the aforementioned sigil. Banger will also present artifacts of his music promotion past at the Central Library on Monday 8/19.

What: Physical Wash, Voight, Entrancer and Staggered Hooks
When: Saturday, 08.17, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Physical Wash is the solo project of High Functioning Flesh’s Susan Abstract. Both are melodic and in the classic industrial/EBM mold but whereas HFF is more akin to the likes of Nitzer Ebb and Front 242, Physical Wash is a little weirder and more in the vein of late 80s Skinny Puppy.

What: The Rotten Blue Menace w/The Repercussions, Noogy, Tuck Knee
When: Saturday, 08.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: The Rotten Blue Menace was one of Denver’s greatest ska punk bands in the vein of Choking Victim and Against All Authority before going more or less inactive a few years back. Here’s a chance to see the band at the venue you could most often catch its spirited performances.

What: Denver Art Rock Collective All Stars: Inactivists, Little Fyodor, Gort Vs. Goom, Cattle Axe and The Plastic Rakes
When: Saturday, 08.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Denver Art Rock Collective is a loose affiliation of bands that don’t really fit into any distinct musical categories but are united by having an eccentric artistic vision behind the music and this event features some of the group’s greatest bands. Naturally punk/noise pioneer Little Fyodor will bring the weirdness as well as great songcraft, Gort Vs. Goom is the Blue Oyster Cult, Melvins and Devo hybrid no one was expecting or asking for but which we need in this bland era and The Inactivists return after who knows how long a hiatus to lay out twisted pop songs too clever for their own good but also catchy enough that in a parallel universe the band would have had a string of hit records. The Plastic Rakes includes former Mourning Sickness guitarist Matt Maher and Cattle Axe includes former New Ancient Astronauts and Superbuick guitarist/vocalist Kasey Elkington.

What: The Claypool Lennon Delirium w/Uni
When: Saturday, 08.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Les Claypool and Sean Lennon’s band together, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, is making some of the most transporting, conceptual psychedelia being made by anyone right now and at the live show you’ll also probably get treated to some inspired reworkings of their respective individual catalog but also some Beatles material as they did “Tomorrow Never Knows” in their current style when the band stopped through to play The Fox Theatre in 2017.

What: Snail Mail w/Choir Boy
When: Saturday, 08.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Lindsey Jordan will eventually outgrow her current phase of songwriting with the gentle guitar work, albeit highly refined and sophisticated, that’s a little too much like that of many of her indie rock peers. But her lyrics reveal someone who is capable of articulating great, vivid nuances of feeling and unconventional thinking.

Sunday | August 18

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Phantogram, photo by Reagan Hackleman

What: Old Man Gloom w/Oryx and Echo Beds
When: Sunday, 08.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Old Man Gloom is sort of an extreme/atmospheric metal/post-hardcore super group comprised of members of Isis, Converge, Sumac and Cave-In. Its music is haunting, psychedelic and unrelenting. Oryx is an extreme metal band from Denver that is sometimes lumped in with doom and if you’re into doom you won’t be disappointed but Oryx’s presentation and creativity within that realm of music sets it apart from many of its peers. Echo Beds is the organic-industrial post-punk band whose confrontational sound and political lyrics are both harrowing and transcendent.

What: Y La Bamba and Esmé Patterson
When: Sunday, 08.18, 6 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Y La Bamba is a band from Portland, Oregon that is impossible to pigeonhole as folk or world music or “Latin” or post-punk or experimental pop because it’s all of that to varying degrees. It’s music, though, is a sonically rich and engrossing band whose ability to craft a vivid mood and deeply emotional listening experience that’s transporting and grounding at once is impressive. Esmé Patterson in her now long-standing solo career is an artist whose work is rooted more in feeling and concept than genre. Patterson made her mark in indie folk band Paper Bird but her solo records have all explored the nature of identity and relationships and her live performances seem to experiment with the very format of what a live band can look like and how it can present itself without limiting itself to past expectations.

What: The Claypool Lennon Delirium w/Uni
When: Sunday, 08.18, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: See above for Claypool Lennon Delirium.

What: Phantogram w/Bob Moses
When: Sunday, 08.18, 8 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Phantogram’s synth pop is cinematic and sweeping in scope and presentation even back when the band wasn’t playing rooms as big as The Mission Ballroom. More than some of its early peers, Phantogram created a sound that felt like it was engaging your imagination as much as your emotions and bringing you along for its ride into broad vistas of sound and inspiration while speaking to a broad spectrum of the human experience. Its newer music seems to be expanding into more soulful territory though no album has been forthcoming since 2016’s Three. Its “Into Happiness” single, though, more than hints at its next musical direction.

Monday | August 19

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Calexico and Iron & Wine, photo by Piper Ferguson

What: Calexico and Iron & Wine w/Madison Cunningham
When: Monday, 08.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens
Why: Calexico and Iron & Wine last collaborated on a recording with 2005’s In the Reigns EP. But in 2018 Sam Beam, Joey Burns and John Convertino were able to get together to write and record the eight songs that make up their new record together, 2019’s Years to Burn. It’s the kind of album that sounds like its intricate details were somehow well mapped out and intuitive. Like friends who get each others instincts and share sensibilities and aesthetics. Which given these artists seems obvious. And it’s an album on which thoughts and observations are explored with a sense of life’s complexities and ambiguities and the comfort that can come with being able to navigate through tentative times in your life and in the world if you’re not too set in your ways and hardened to your own heart and the world around you.

What: Punk Show and Tell with Tom Banger
When: Monday, 08.19, 6 p.m.
Where: Central Library Floor 7 Training Room
Why: Denver punk promoter/musician/underground culture legend Tom Banger will present artifacts from his life and times in that world with actual items from his library donated to the Denver Public Library as part of its history collection. It’s a rare and curated glimpse into Denver’s cultural heritage and its connection with underground music and culture around the world.

Tuesday | August 20

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BIG|BRAVE, photo by Rachel Cheng

What: Big|Brave w/Deaf Kids, Yakuza, Human Tide, Gruesome Relics and Volunteer Coroner
When: Tuesday, 08.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: It might be an exaggeration to call this the extreme metal show of the month much less the year. But it does include experimental drone metal trio Big|Brave and its contorted atmospherics and emotionally charged vocals, Deaf Kids’ polyrhythmic, psychedelic industrial punk and Yakuza’s menacing, sludgy, dark and heavy yet ethereal drones. And that’s only half the bill.

What: Deathwish w/Cadaverine, Zygrot and Victim of Fire
When: Tuesday, 08.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Deathwish is the thrash punk band from Madison, Wisconsin, not the UK thrash band from the 80s. But if you’re a fan of the latter it seems like you’d be into the Wisconsin band as both have a similar proclivity for confrontational vocals, burning guitar riffs and a disdain for mainstream normalcy.

Wednesday | August 21

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David Dondero circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

What: David Dondero and Patrick Dethlefs
When: Wednesday, 08.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: David Dondero is a lifer whose music reflects a dedication to telling the truth about various corners of human existence and experience through poignant stories delivered with his signature voice warm and sensitive and on the verge of quavering, accompanied by intricate guitar work played with a dynamic urgency. Patrick Dethlefs is a Denver-based singer songwriter whose highly emotive songwriting is thought-provoking and inspires a compassionate examination of your own feelings and reactions to the events in your life through his own openness in singing about his own travails and reflections.

Best Shows in Denver 5/23/19 – 5/29/19

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Spirit of the Beehive performs at Larimer Lounge on Saturday, May 25. Photo by Emily Burtner.

Thursday | May 23

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Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Onkilter 1 release: Church Fire, Data Rainbow, Felix Ayodele, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Offthesky, Otem Rellik & Patrick Lee followed by DJ Ilind
When: Thursday, 05.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Multidim is a Denver-based experimental electronic record label that recently released its debut compilation of some of the Mile High City’s most interesting and inventive projects. The compilation, as well as this showcase, will donate all proceeds to the non-profit Youth On Record, an organization whose mission is to provide at risk youth with music education from performance, composition, production and the business end of things as well.

What: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 3: Equine and Julien Miller
When: Thursday, 05.23, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This latest edition of the Speakeasy Series features guitar wizard Kevin Richards’ project Equine. By introducing left field methods, chord structures, signal manipulation and unconventional composition methods in general, Richards is pushing the frontier of the styles and sonics of guitar-base sound art.

What: Necromantic
When: Thursday, 05.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge
Why: Necromantic is an old school Goth DJ night with plenty of the best of the newer darkwave and industrial music mixed in. Each second and fourth Thursdays of every month you can partake of the evening’s main DJs as well as select guests to bring a little bit of that old Denver flavor back into downtown.

Friday | May 24

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Refused circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: The Hives and Refused w/Bleached
When: Friday, 05.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Two power houses of punk and garage rock, Refused and The Hives respective, will make this a memorable night where you will probably be not just pleasantly surprised but inspired by the sheer energy and charisma of both bands. Refused in particular pioneered multiple genres of punk on its 1998 masterpiece The Shape of Punk to Come. Bleached includes former members of irreverent noise punks extraordinaire Mika Miko. And the group went through a phase of exploring various sounds before fully developing its knack for intimate pop songs with some bite, attitude and punk energy.

What: Tommy Wright III
When: Friday, 05.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Tommy Wright III must be considered one of the early progenitors for the style of underground hip-hop that one hears echoing in the work of the various members and associates of A$AP, Odd Future and Migos. The creatively profane lyrics and subject matter of his songs, the lo-fi-but-deep production style with the finely treated loops as heard in so much modern trap is present in one form or another in Wright’s 90s output through today. This is a rare chance to see the legendary producer live in Denver and witness his mastery of outsider gangster rap up close and personal.

What: Cloud Rat, Gadget, Immortal Bird and 908
When: Friday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sort of a deathgrind show given Gadget from Sweden and Cloud Rat from Michigan are on the bill. 908 from Colorado Springs definitely fits into what will be a night of short, furious sets.

Saturday | May 25

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Rowboat, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Slugger and Michael Thompson
When: Saturday, 05.25, 2-4 p.m.
Where: Wax Trax – Sidewalk outside
Why: Slugger is basically showing where psychedelic rock can go when the musicians focus on the songwriting over adhering to some style. Michael Thompson of Arc Sol will also perform a solo set of his songs informed by a broad range of unusual music.
What: LUTHI at Denver Day of Rock
When: Saturday, 05.25, 6-7 p.m.
Where: 16th Street Mall
Why: The Denver Day of Rock will have plenty of bands, local and otherwise, to see throughout the day and evening all along the 16th Street Mall. In the early evening you can catch LUTHI from Nashville, Tennessee. The seven-piece band perform music that’s a compelling blending of funk, downtempo pop and what might be called post-Daft Punk psychedelia. There’s some unusual X-factor about the band that keeps it well apart from “party” bands in general while also providing suitable music for a dance party.

What: Jello Biafra’s Incredibly Strange Dance Party
When: Saturday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Jello Biafra needs no introduction and this is an edition of his Incredibly Strange Dance Party where he’ll bring some of the most bizarre dance tracks to DJ at the Lion’s Lair and knowing Biafra he may even join in on the dancing, adding to the strangeness.

What: Spirit of the Beehive w/Strange Ranger, Cuckoo and Rowboat
When: Saturday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Spirit of the Beehive could be something like a light psych indie rock band but its aesthetic has a bit of a collage element and its songs sound out of phase with the contemporary world and its sometimes ennervating cultural climate. It’s music is a side step into spaces more dreamlike and mysterious. The rock instruments integrating perfectly with the warping and wefting electronic compositions is beautifully disorienting. In 2018 the band released Hypnic Jerks, a title and songs suggesting the band is coming at the world from a different angle than a lot of people. Like Unknown Mortal Orchestra but more grounded in American 90s weirdo indie pop.

What: Lav Andula, Asymptote, I Hate It Here, Causer and Tepid
When: Saturday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A night of experimental techno and noise including the debut of Tepid, the solo project of Voight’s Nick Salmon.

Sunday | May 26

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Shocker Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shibui Denver #3; Shocker Mom, Space Geist and DJ Vahco
When: Sunday, 05.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Shibui Denver is a monthly event last Sundays of the month at Mutiny Information Café. It’s designed to start and end early and aims to showcase some of the best Denver underground acts and the occasional touring band that fits the format of being a little different. Tonight’s featured guests are Shocker Mom, Robin Walker’s ambient beat driven pop act whose album >^^< will be included in our much belated Favorite Albums of 2018 listing. Walker has been a prolific songwriter and collaborator in Denver as a solo artist under her given name, while a member of indie pop duo Cougar Pants, in hip-hop outfit Nighttimeschoolbus, sitting in with rapper Time and folk pop artist Jason Horodyski. Vahco Before Horses heads Glasss Records through which he boosts, produces and finds spaces to showcase the music of some of Denver’s most forward thinking underground artists. This night he will DJ Denver bands and several from the Glasss Roster. Space Geist is a solo guitar band in which riffs will be looped and manipulated in post to produce, with any luck, disorienting tones and rhythms.

What: Alien Weaponry w/Dreadnought and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Sunday, 05.26, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Alien Weaponry is a band from Waipu, New Zealand. While operating somewhat in the realm of melodic thrash its lyrics are often in Maori because its three members are of that extraction and it suits the music in a way for which English sometimes seems inadequate. Opening the show are psychedelic doom folk band Dreadnought and heavy ambient noise/industrial dark psychedelic band Palehorse/Palerider also from the Mile High City.

Tuesday | May 28

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Sebadoh, photo by Justin Pizzoferrato

What: Sebadoh w/Flower and Race to Neptune
When: Tuesday, 05.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Sebadoh didn’t invent lo-fi rock but in the early 90s it helped to chart the direction much of that style of music would go by incorporating field recordings alongside off the cuff recording and an emphasis on feeling over precise capture of “professional” fidelity in the studio. Naturally the band went on to take that aesthetic into actual recording studios but the spirit of play and fidelity to emotional honesty and spontaneous energy remained. Currently Sebadoh is touring in support of its newly released record Act Surprised. Flower was and is now again from New York City that in the 80s reflected the city of legend and its mixture of evolving Bohemian subcultures, melting pot ethnicity, gritty urban decay, a sense of possibilities and the avant-garde alongside emerging popular culture. Musically that meant Flower was well within the realm of post-punk at the time. It wasn’t so far in the past that The Ramones, Patti Smith Group, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Suicide and countless others had built the foundation of what punk could be and even less far back since the bands that emerged out of that milieu, directly inspired by it in various ways like the No Wave groups, Sonic Youth, SWANS, Live Skull, Bush Tetras, Arthur Russel, Liquid Liquid, ESG, The Lounge Lizards and other unfortunately less-well-known bands that made up the ecosystem of the New York underground. Flower formed in 1986 while Richard Balulyut was still in college and its sound fit into the rich diversity of the then NYC scene. The group split in 1990 soon after which Balulyut and two of his brothers formed indie/alternative rock band Versus which went on to some acclaim in the 90s. The latter band reconvened in 2017 and it dawned on Balulyut that he could write new music in the more post-punk, some might now say darkwave, style of Flower and now the band is on tour in support of its new material and there’s a better than half a chance you’ll get to see some of its older material live as well.

What: Closet Witch, Law of the Night and Bi-Proxy
When: Tuesday, 05.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Kind of a grind-y hardcore night including a set from Closet Witch from southeast Iowa. Molly Piatetsky’s feral vocals are something to witness.

Update: This show was combined with another at Syntax Physic Opera at 8 p.m. with a line up that is now Full of Hell, Primitive Man, Genocide Pact, In The Company of Serpents and Closet Witch.

Wednesday | May 29

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Skeletonwitch, photo by Nico Poalillo

What: Sleep w/Big Business
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Sleep is one of the most influential bands out of the world of doom metal. Though its sound was lumped in with “stoner rock,” which seems apt seeing as it’s until recently latest album was called Dopesmoker comprised of a single track over an hour long. Its psychedelic, towering drones live up to the hype as do the more concise songs, like those on the 1992’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain. Sleep is almost as heavy as it gets and its high volume show as engulfing as you would hope for. Big Business is a sludge rock band well suited to the bill. The members of the band were part of The Melvins for around a decade and recently released a new record. The Beast You Are is a collection of dynamic, triumphant songs with unconventional melodies and an elevated updraft of tone. Big Business has always been, if nothing else, heavy but buoyant. On The Beast You Are, Big Business experiments further in the songwriting with its use of space and pacing. There’s still the headlong rush you’d expect from the band but also an imaginative application of its palette of sound that has kept the band from being predictable, an uncommon quality in heavy music. For Big Business it is not enough to pummel with its colossal sound but to have emotional and thoughtful intentionality behind it.

What: Skeletonwitch w/Soft Kill and Wiegedood
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Skeletonwitch has been perfecting and then evolving its technical melodic death metal sound since its inception in 2003. Its latest record, 2018’s Devouring Radiant Light finds the band bringing in even more unconventionally atmospheric elements into its brutal and unrelenting soundscape. All while maintaining the dark imagery and animalistic, distorted vocals like they are telling stories of a mythical past in our current impending, post-apocalypse after climate change has cleansed the earth of much of human civilization.

Best Shows in Denver 1/10/18 – 1/16/18

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Voight, performs Monday, January 14, at DATELINE gallery. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 10, 2019

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Nekrofilth, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Nekrofilth album release w/Phallic Meditation and Keef Duster
When: Thursday, 01.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Nekrofilth releases its new album Worm Ritual tonight at a show with heavy psychedelic bands Phallic Meditation and Keef Duster. Nekrofilth’s sound is more akin to classic early thrash and black metal. On the new record the band does cover “Poison” by Venom, after all. Like the latter and Slayer, Nekrofilth has a playful quality to its aggression and ripping guitar work. Song titles like “Vomit Dog,” “They Took My Skin,” “Ready to Defile” and “Severed Eyes” suggest a healthy sense of the viscerally absurd with an unironic joy in the cartoonishly horrific the way one might enjoy the gnarliest B horror movie. Fans of blackened thrash rejoice, Nekrofilth has what you’re looking for.

Who: Random Temple w/Thistledown
When: Thursday, 01.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Buzzard
Why: “Rhythm & Folk” band Thistledown will perform with Random Temple’s more production-oriented electronic project under his own name.

Friday | January 11, 2019

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Product Lust circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Product Lust album release show w/Goon, Herse, Candy Apple
When: Friday, 01.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Product Lust’s feral and driving 2018 album Year of the Rat is being celebrated tonight with a now rare live show as vocalist Kat Salvaggio is attending school out of Colorado. The seething post-punk band’s wiry energy fits in well with weirder hardcore and punk and thus this bill with Goon, Herse and Candy Apple is an opportunity to see bands that have punk of some stripe as their root but who are taking that spark in interesting directions.

Who: Lazarus Horse
When: Friday, 01.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Lazarus Horse is the band that comes about when someone with good taste in music and good creative instincts writes a bunch of experimental rock music that doesn’t seem obviously influenced by anything else but creative flights of fancy, escaping to daydreams while doing meaningless work as a tool for staying sane in a civilization that’s grinding its best people into the dirt. It’s the soundtrack to that internal rebellion that becomes contagious.

Saturday | January 12, 2019

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Chromadrift’s Drew Miller as Brother Saturn circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents: Chromadrift album release w/Gold Trash and Bowshock
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Chromadrift’s Cloudless Mind is the bright, ethereal flow of textured melodies that eases the freeze of winter. Fans of IDM and more abstract post-rock will appreciate Drew Miller’s blend of processed guitar, live synths and sequencing. Though the album dropped on January 3, this will be your first chance to see this music live in the new year. Also performing is noisy electroclash duo Gold Trash and downtempo jazz improv group Bowshock.

Who: NightWraith album release w/Glacial Tomb, BleakHeart
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: NightWraith’s self-titled, debut full length is coming out on color vinyl. The Denver-based group’s left of center mix of folky black metal, thrash and psychedelic doom is steeped in pastoral mythology.

Who: e-scapes, Zealot and The Far Stairs
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: This’ll be probably the first indie rock show worth checking out in Aurora, Colorado since The Masculine organized one in 2009 at the old Other Side Arts space in downtown. The People’s Building is also downtown and across the street from Aurora Fox Theater. Zealot includes former members of The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer, Ideal Fathers and other bands most people haven’t heard of but should check out. The Far Stairs is a band that makes strange music sound more catchy and accessible than it has any right to.

Who: Pink Hawks, Atomga, Roka Hueka
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird
Why: The local Afrobeat band all-star line-up.

Who: Pineross EP release w/Lady Gang
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Ubisububi Room
Why: Kevin Larkin of Chimney Choir fame is releasing his most recent EP Esplanade at this show in the extra intimate and cozy Ubisububi Room underneath the Thin Man and St. Mark’s. Lady Gang sounds like a full band but is just Jen Korte making maximum creative use of a loop station to augment her already considerable talents as a singer-songwriter.

Who: Luke Vibert, Seied and Kanyon Walker
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Luke Vibert has long been on the forefront of modern experimental electronic dance music in various forms. Fans of Dilla, Flying Lotus and Blockhead will find a lot to like in Vibert.

Sunday | January 13, 2019

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Crushed!?, photo by @scenesplitter

Who: Crushed!? W/The Uglys, Tides, Stonewall BLVD and Arctobog
When: Sunday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Originally from the much smaller nearby town of Belen, Crushed!? is now based out of Albuquerque. Its post-hardcore sound has more in common with the likes of a more melodic At the Drive-In or Touché Amoré than the more screamo end of that music. Initially the music reminds one a bit of the great punk bands of the late 90s and early 2000s who adopted a bit of the math rock thing. But its rhythms are more inventive and wide-ranging like something one might have expected out of 90s DC and other East Coast rock like Versus, Helium and The Dismemberment Plan. The group’s 2018 album Sins of the Father is refreshingly difficult pin with a specific genre designation.

Monday | January 14, 2019

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Entrancer (right) with Docile Rottweiler (left) at Synesthesia 2014. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: R.Ariel, Kafari, Entrancer and Voight
When: Monday, 01.14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: DATELINE
Why: This event is a combination of touring art installation courtesy and musical performances at DATELINE art gallery. R.Ariel’s new album Where You Are is an emotionally uplifting album of ethereal sounds and buoyant flow of bright tones. Kafari’s 2018 album Beholding is a masterpiece of minimalism like it was composed while somehow spending contemplative mornings underwater and absorbing a deep sense of peace. Entrancer has been spending years honing the ability to explore whatever directions his mastery of synthesis and beatmaking takes him. His 2018 album Decline Vol. 1 is true soundscaping that draws you into a sonic journey that while impressionistic and composed of deep layers of tone and texture conveys a sense of place physically and emotionally. Is the “Decline” of the title something to dread or something to greet as the inevitable cycle of life and death? The album offers no pat answers but it certain captures the ineffable moments of decline of a phase of one’s life, of civilizations and of all authoritarian orders. Voight may finally play a deep house/techno set. If not, it’ll be, by far, the loudest project of the night with its fiery and intense industrial post-punk shoegaze.

Who: Solos/Duos – Denver Avant Garde Music Society
When: Monday, 01.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: This night, long held at other venues over the years, has re-emerged at Thought//Forms gallery. You never know what you’ll see but this night you’ll also get to see a set from Denver’s premiere spontaneous composition band Animal / object.

Who: Freq Boutique
When: Monday, 01.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This reoccurring event organized by electronic equipment company WMD, this night is sort of an open mic for synthesizer enthusiasts. This night’s festivities may include a set from hip-hop/experimental electronic dance artist Strange Powers.

Tuesday | January 15, 2019

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Mick Jenkins, photo by Sam Schmieg

Who: Mick Jenkins w/Kari Faux
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Mick Jenkins 2018 sophomore album Pieces of a Man is a bit of a tribute to Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 album of the same name. Like Scott-Heron, Jenkins offers snapshots of the world around him in words with musical accompaniment to set the vibe. The organization of the album and the experience of listening to it is something like a hip jazz and poetry night. The opening track is called “Heron Flow” as a nod to Gil and his record’s opening track, the influential song poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Jenkins and his collaborators evoke the feel of a hazy after hours jazz club across the record with a sense of blending old school production and present day wordsmithing. Jenkins makes fairly mundane life experiences seem mythic and cool as Scott-Heron did in his day. Also on this bill is one of modern hip-hop’s greatest talents, Kari Faux. Her EPs, partly boosted by music appearing in the comedy series Insecure, combine a rebellious swagger with an otherworldly and mysterious quality – a rarity in music generally.

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Ensiferum, photo by Andy Whittle

Who: Ensiferum w/Septicflesh and Arsis
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Helsinki, Finland’s Ensiferum is a melodic death metal band in the vein of the Gothenburg style but on the more orchestral end. Its use of acoustic guitars and folk structure and progressions give its music an expansive feel that evokes images of standing at the helm of one’s longboat charging toward unsuspecting European enclaves in the ninth century. Fans of Enslaved may enjoy Ensiferum’s similarly joyful performances.

Who: Supersuckers w/The Hangmen and Reno Divorce
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Supersuckers started playing its brand of fuzzy cowpunk in Tucson, Arizona in 1988 before moving to Seattle in 1989 near the beginning of when more than a few music journalists from beyond the Pacific Northwest were starting to take not of happenings in the Emerald City’s underground. The band never made the big time the way the grunge bands everyone has heard of did but it has been able to carve out a career for itself and its wiseacre, intentionally lowbrow humor. Who else would start off their 1992 album on Sub Pop, The Smoke of Hell, with a song called “Coattail Rider” at the peak of the alternative rock explosion? Such chutzpah must continue to be honored. Oh yeah, the trio’s 2018 album, out on Acetate Records, is called Suck It. That the underground rock world has come back around to the sound Supersuckers perfected three decades ago is surely not lost on the band as a choice bit of irony. The song “History Of Rock n’ Roll” in which Eddie Spaghetti sings about how Supersuckers, the greatest band in the world is a footnote in the history of rock ‘n roll suggests they’re well aware.

Best Shows in Denver 12/27/18 – 1/2/18

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Church Fire drops Summer Camp Doom Diary @ Hi-Dive this Saturday, 12/29/18.                       Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | December 27, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Drink Drank Punk w/Sliver and Denver Meatpacking Company
When: Thursday, 12.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Drink Drank Punk sounds like a party game of some kind but it’s actually a punk band that sounds like some 90s grunge-inspired musicians decided to call themselves punk because that’s where grunge came from anyway. On the band’s “About” section on Facebook words have semi-randomly capitalized letters and other odd bits of bravado. Listing one of your own other projects as an influence on the band you’re in? Really? Hopefully the band is good. Fortunately, the other two bands, clearly own the influence of grunge and 90s alternative rock and make it their own. Sliver’s fury and emotionally raw performances feel like they come from a very real place. Especially with Demry West on drums playing with a joy that balances out Chris Mercer’s churning anomy. Denver Meatpacking Company could have been a solid pop band but there’s something cathartic about playing music with a bit more grit even if you’re old enough to remember when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was toppling the glam metal temples in the early 90s without even trying. That comes across in DMC’s songwriting and shows.

Who: Sleepy Animals EP release, Bluebook, Lowfaith
When: Thursday, 12.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sleepy Animals releases its EP Mirrored Polygons today. Its downtempo indie rock is in good company with the avant-garde indie pop of Bluebook and Lowfaith’s gentle and expansively moody post-punk.

Friday | December 28, 2018

 

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Green Druid, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Khemmis w/Dreadnought, Green Druid
When: Friday, 12.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Doom band Khemmis has been making waves well beyond Denver for a few years at this point and this weekend is doing a two night run showcasing some of the best metal local metal bands including tonight with Dreadnought and its majestic, folk-inflected, atmospheric doom and Green Druid’s psychedelic tinged brand of heavy music.

Who: Joseph Lamar, Talking Mirrors, My New Dad
When: Friday, 12.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Joseph Lamar has been a bit of a musical alchemist and chameleon with his songwriting steeped in dream pop and R&B while taking on various roles as a musician in his band an in other projects. His live show is a mixture of the intimate and the mystical.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Denver Broncos UK and Midwife
When: Friday, 12.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has, since its beginnings in the early 90s, established itself as one of the definitive bands of the Denver music outside the mainstream. With an international fanbase, SCAC, like many of the Mile High City’s best bands, plays small club shows in its hometown. The group’s lively performances of harrowing yet ultimately life-affirming music is reliably compelling, moving and, though highly theatrical, human. For this three night run (also including 12/29 and NYE) the band is bringing in refreshingly different opening act from the usual “same genre” billing. For this show, sure, dark post-punk Americana side project Denver Broncos UK, well worth seeing, but also the delicate, ethereal outsider folk brilliance of Midwife.

Saturday | December 29, 2018

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Mirror Fears at UMS, July 30, 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Church Fire: Summer Camp Doom Diary release w/The Milk Blossoms, Wheelchair Sports Camp and Mirror Fears
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire’s latest album Summer Camp Doom Diary was many years in the making from shedding the quaint but necessary early compositional ideas and methods represented by the phase in which the duo was calling itself Sewing Buttons on Ice Cream. When the band emerged into the type of group that could make powerful tribal, industrial dance music infused with a sophisticated sociopolitical orientation it really found its core audience among people who don’t see why bangers are irreconcilable with rich and thoughtful content. The new record is the apex of Church Fire’s most recent wave of artistic development which, in many bands, is where its future music will plateau even if it’s worth a listen hereafter. But if you’ve seen Church Fire in the last half year you’ve seen hints of the future direction of the band all of which is more than hinted at across Summer Camp Doom Diary like mini-prophecies, Easter eggs, of self-liberation for both the band and listener alike. For this show Church Fire is joined by other local visionary artists in the more experimental realm who make music that stretches the brain and expands your inner horizons.

Who: Khemmis w/Of Feather and Bone and NightWraith
When: Saturday, 12.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Second night of Khemmis’ local showcase with the grindcore-esque Of Feather and Bone and the thrash-core doom of NightWraith.

Who: Pale Sun, Emerald Siam and Wild Call
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: When silly people talk about the “end of guitar rock” they should be so lucky as to catch this line-up with Pale Sun’s hypnotic and moving post-shoegaze ambient rock, Emerald Siam’s left field stretch beyond brooding post-punk by incorporating hooks and emotional depth and Wild Call’s gritty, dreamy, visceral songwriting.

Who: Itchy-O w/PPL MVR
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Itchy-O is doing a three night run for the new year beginning tonight with costume weirdo metal band PPL MVR. While a lot of its music is some kind of sludgy hard rock the yeti-looking group freely plays with sounds and methods from other styles of music including psychedelia and hip-hop.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Munly & The Lupercalians and Voight
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of three of SCAC’s NYE run at Globe Hall includes performances from the spooky, costumed ritual folk band Munly & The Lupercalians and shoegaze/industrial post-punk duo Voight.

Sunday | December 30, 2018

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Cloudless Rain (left) with Sheet Metal Skin Graft (left) circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Brother Saturn, Cloudless Rain, Gutter Spirits
When: Sunday, 12.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The final Textures ambient showcase of 2018 with performances from post-rock/loop-shoegaze/electro ambient project Brother Saturn and Cloudless Rain whose own music seems to be one of freefloating, endless horizons as one would expect from a persistent virtual world chillout zone.

Who: Wildermiss w/The Solid Ocean and Panther Martin
When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Red Fox Run was a promising band that realized that ambition when some of those guys got together with Emma Cole to form Wildermiss. It’s upbeat, earnest indie rock with interesting tonal flourishes and imaginative song dynamics that separate its musical offerings from the current spate of cookie cutter indiedom. The Red Fox Run guys also bring to the project much of what they learned about promoting themselves beyond just overplaying and oversaturating the local scene in the seemingly aimless manner of many of their peers. This is the first night of a two night run to ring in the new year.

Who: The Beach Boys
When: Sunday, 12.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: It is indeed The Beach Boys probably performing choice cuts from across its career with some surprises thrown in because Brian Wilson isn’t a rote creative talent.

Who: Itchy-O w/Radio Scarlet
When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Second night of Itchy-O’s run at The Oriental, this night Denver deathrock band Radio Scarlet will open the show.

Who: cindygod EP release
When: Sunday, 12.30, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: cindygod is the newest band from the former members of noise rock band Gauntlet Hair. When the group emerged in the spring/summer of 2018 it had grown to a four-piece with a new name but with sounds that fans of the old band would find immediately likeable. Live, cindygod has been a reminder of what a great band Gauntlet Hair was but one that has evolved beyond that era of musical development but with the same frantic yet nuanced dynamics and joyous outpouring of sound. The group recently released the digital version of its debut EP with the vinyl available at this event.

Monday | December 31, 2018

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Rubedo at We Labs with Ikey Owens (3rd from left), November 15, 2013. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rubedo w/Fed Rez, R A R E B Y R D $, DJ Polyphoni
When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Rubedo doesn’t play too many Denver shows these days. Its winning, accessible and energetic mixture of funk, noise rock and prog has found an audience beyond Denver. In 2017 Rubedo released Vaca, a sort of farewell album to the trio’s late mentor and musical partner Isaiah “Ikey” Owens. Perhaps this show will include some of the material that will make up its next chapter. For this NYE show you also get to see raucous, insightful and witty hip-hop group Fed Rez and R A R E B Y R D $, another hip-hop group but one whose soulful, even spiritual, sound is rooted in an ability to channel pure emotion in nuanced, gentle yet powerful ways.

Who: Wildermiss w/Retrofette, Coastal Wives, Levi Double U
When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: This second night of Wildermiss’ NYE run at Larimer Lounge will include performances from synth pop band Retrofette, indie blues rock band Coastal Wives and hip-hop production-influenced house music artist Levi Double U.

Who: Itchy-O w/Mr. Pacman
When: Monday, 12.31, 9 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Itchy-O concludes its three-night run of shows this NYE with peformance art/synth pop group Mr. Pacman. Traditionally the 3 or 4 members of the latter have performed in costume like something out of an 80s cartoon cosplay demonstration but the confrontational performance will fit in well with what follows with the onslaught of Itchy-O.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Wayfarer and George Cessna (solo)
When: Monday, 12.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The third and final show of SCAC’s NYE residency featuring opening sets from Denver doom band Wayfarer and George Cessna performing a solo set.

Wednesday | January 2, 2019

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Adam Selene, photo by Spookie Darling of Darling House Media

Who: Weird Wednesday: Adam Selene, The Jinjas, Vampire Squids From Hell
When: Wednesday, 01.02, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This is the first Weird Wednesday of 2019. The series, curated by independent, underground promoter Claudia Woodman, aims to highlight the stranger or more eccentric and/or more experimental music happening in Denver or dropping in on tour. For this show it’s poet/hip-hop artist Adam Selene whose beats are definitely not the standard faire and incorporates a broad palette of sounds and instrumentation, being more akin to the likes of Eyedea & Abilities and other hip-hop projects that don’t hesitate to use straight up rock and other noisy samples to give the music some edge. A good pairing with synth rock/pop weirdos The Jinjas. Psych/Americana-twinged surf rock band Vampire Squids From Hell aren’t overtly weird except when you consider that at times the group sounds like a strange hybrid of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and a mellower Man Or Astroman?

Best Shows in Denver 9/13/18 – 9/19/18

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Angel Olsen performs at The Paramount Theatre on 9/17/18. Photo by Taylor Boylston

Thursday | September 13, 2018

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Joe Dosik, photo by Curtis Essel

Who: Joe Dosik w/Moonglade
When: Thursday, 09.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With funk band Vulfpeck, Joe Dosik is often a bit of a sideplayer on sax and keys but with his recently released solo debut full length Inside Voice, Dosik makes good on the promise of his 2018 EP Game Winner. The lush production and Dosik’s versatile, soulful vocals is like something out of the late 70s or early 80s. Like maybe Dosik sequestered himself away from most modern music and listened mostly to a lot of Billy Paul, Luther Vandross’s 1981 breakout Never Too Much and Joe Jackson’s 1982 album Night and Day. Dosik’s compositions tend to be produced with more space to let atmospherics hang and resolve in a way that great pop artists in the aforementioned era often indulged but which in modern pop seems a bit of an all too human anachronism. These days, that’s the kind of quaint touch we could use more of.

What: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk at Sie Film Center w/Aaron Cometbus and Anna Brown
When: Thursday, 09.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Aaron Cometbus’ ‘zine Cometbus has inspired generations of artists from other ‘zinesters, comics creators and musicians. His depiction of life across his body of work captured the moment, low and exciting, in a way few have. He and Anna Brown, a writer, surfer, educator and significant figure in the California punk world since the 80s, will be part of a Q&A after the screening of Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, a documentary about the punk scene in the San Francisco Bay area that brought us not just Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll but the rich punk subculture that it documented and continues to do so including, for better or worse, the wave of pop punk that was the next major musical movement from the underground to emerge as alternative rock was splintering and co-opted by mainstream moneyed music industry interests.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Marvel West, Mean Hand, Limber Wolf
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: In case anyone missed it, Musical Mayhem, the more or less free format monthly hosted by Claudia Woodman is now at Lion’s Lair. While not mainly “weird” music, Woodman’s tastes tend to run that direction. But on this night American band Marvel West will make an appearance along with Mean Hand, a band led by long time Denver underground rock and punk legend Tom Mestnik. Rumor has it Denver’s luminous western slowcore-esque band Limber Wolf is low key releasing its album at this show as well.

Who: Rabbit Fighter, The Pretty Bones, Nighttimeschoolbus, Miss Owl & the Pull Apart
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Touted as “Girl Power Night at Syntax” this show includes the mighty Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo of Robin Walker and Toby Hendricks who combine experimental hip-hop beat making and deeply affecting vocals. Rabbit Fighter has as its Facebook image a scene from Heathers quoting Veronica Sawyer, played by Winona Ryder, saying, “DEAR DIARY, I WANT TO KILL.” And, once in a while, who hasn’t felt that? If it really is a pop band at least it’s probably one with some attitude.

Who: Lowfaith record release w/Ridgeway, No Gossip In Braille and Voight
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Dream pop/darkwave band Lowfaith is releasing its new album On Loss tonight at Seventh Circle playing with bands in a similar vein. No Gossip In Braille includes Echo Beds frontman Keith Curts and its lush, low key atmospheric rock is almost a polar opposite of his other project in tone and texture. Voight really combines the melancholy mood of a dark post-punk band with the furious energy of a noise punk project. While initially sounding a bit like a a great A Place to Bury Strangers tribute band, the duo has really brought in its more electronic side more fully, giving its already wiry yet brooding sound a calming quality in contrast to its often explosive live intensity.

Friday | September 14, 2018

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Landgrabbers, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cyanidols, Luna Sol, Flat Earth and Landgrabbers
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: For something on the harder edge of Denver’s punk world this would be the show to check out tonight. Cyanidols includes Sonya Decman (whose bass prowess and vocal power brought a good deal to Tarmints, The Symptoms and Brain Police) and Chris Kieft who has been a staple of Denver’s punk scene going back to the 80s along with Oscar Pop. Luna Sol is sort of a stoner rock band and includes Shanda Kohlberg formerly of The Swanks as well as former Supafuzz frontman Dave Angstrom. Landgrabbers is a little more countrified but it is a welcome throwback to that time in the Denver punk scene when a band could simply be good and not have to cater too much to some prevailing trend.

Who: Equine, Housekeys, Shawn Mlekush
When: Friday, 09.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Distillery
Why: Even though most of the local music and culture press is sleeping hard on it, the local experimental music scene is pretty active and sizeable. This low key show at Denver Distillery includes avant-guitar and loop maestro Equine, ambient soundscaper Housekeys and Shawn Mlekush who may be playing some entrancing abstract guitar drones and/or using synth in conjunction. Brought to you by Thought//Forms, the gallery that has been home to some of this music since starting up earlier this year.
Who: UaZit, Goon, f-ether, Claudzilla
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: UaZit from Indiana is this sort of weirdo electronic downtempo project that is as much performance art as it is music. Akin to hip-hop with beats that could work for that but also reminiscent of MC 900 Ft. Jesus. This Goon is not the hardcore band, rather the alternative hip-hop/trap producer. F-ether is somewhere in the realm of dub techno and house. Claudzilla is also an artist that blurs the line between bizarro pop and performance art. She might even do some strange covers as worthy as the originals. But for sure if you think Denver only really produces stuff for the temporary techbro colony that has occupied the Mile High City, Claudzilla is an antidote to such cultural pathologies.

Saturday | September 15, 2018

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Nothing, photo by Ben Rayner

Who: Nothing w/Culture Abuse, Big Bite and Smut
When: Saturday, 09.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Nothing has evolved its shoegaze-y sound since its inception having come out of hardcore and other heavier music but without losing some of the dark edge that informs the lyrics. Its new album On the Blacktop seems sonically the most fully-realized of its records with gritty pop washes and burning shines over melancholic vocals. Even though Domenic Palermo still struggles with health issues and the ensuing psychological maladies that predate and have come about because of those, he still manages to find a way to make it all seem like something you can cope with and not be completely subsumed by even if it seems impossible sometimes. Pop punk has long since made a comeback but Culture Abuse makes it seem like the genre isn’t out of ideas musically and thematically. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream looks like some kind of late 90s party record with the graffiti style visuals and it could be if that party involved some deep existential examinations rather than simply melodramatic songs about love lost forever. Smut from Cincinnati sounds like its members already went through that 90s grunge revival phase and discovered more expansive sounds even if right now it is sonically somewhere in the middle in a way that seems more interesting than throwback.

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Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo Courtesy of Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel

Who: Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel w/Scifidelic and Radio Scarlet
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: The Venue (1451 Cortez St., Denver)
Why: After a bit of a legal battle between Jay Aston and his brother Michael, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel that the band Jay leads gets to use in America while the original band name in the UK and vice versa for Michael. Jay Aston’s band put out its first album in nearly a decade in 2017 with the surprisingly compelling beginning to end album Dance Underwater. The new record gives you a real appreciation for Jay’s talent as a songwriter and musician with a broad tonal and emotional range and great nuance of expression. His band includes members of Gene Loves Jezebel going back to the mid-80s and likely the closest one will get to see the classic line-up of one of post-punk’s underrated groups. In the 80s Gene Loves Jezebel had dance club hits and proved influential on the Goth scene of the time and Jay’s songwriting has been surprisingly durable with his current crop of songs seeming timeless rather than capitalizing on past glory.

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Eyebeams, black light poster image courtesy Eyebeams

Who: Eyebeams EP & Blacklight Poster release w/Kissing Party and An Antiquated Bluff (Josie Cool solo)
When: Saturday, 09.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver’s Eyebeams is releasing its latest EP and blacklight poster tonight at The Skylark. The four-piece makes music that out of having already done the indie pop and psychedelic pop thing and taking the skill set learned there to do something that’s the next step in that creative arc. Suzi Allegra and Nathan Brazil played in some of the best pop/rock bands of the 2000s and 2010s with Games For May, The Pseudo Dates and Fingers of the Sun and wrote literate, smart songs that will presumably someday be part of Denver underground rock canon. Fernando Guzman and Andrew Elkins made their own indelible mark with the experimental/weirdo art rock band Fissure Mystic, a group in which they spent their teen years and early twenties honing the use of raw sound experimentation in a pop song context even if no one would ever really confuse Fissure for being a pop band. Elkins very much brought that sensibility with his end of the songwriting. Allegra played in Fissure for a couple of years, Guzman played in Fingers of the Sun. So Eyebeams is a bit of a consolidation and progression of the musical ideas all four musicians contribute to this band. The new, self-titled, EP demonstrates Allegra’s genius for fully integrating melody with dynamics and for writing songs that have more depth and complexity than simply one emotional flavoring and color without self-indulgent clutter. There is a melancholic tone to all of the songs but also a yearning for knowledge and clarity of oneself yet an acceptance of the reality of ambiguity you come to live with as an adult that as a younger person maybe you churn into melodrama. As a bonus, the band is releasing a special edition blacklight poster of its album cover at the show as well.

Who: Cometbus: Live Reading and Q&A with Aaron Cometbus
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: For more on Cometbus see above on Thursday, September 13. For this night, Cometbus is doing a live reading from his body of work with a follow-up Q&A.

Sunday | September 16, 2018

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Luxury Hearse, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 2 OUTS: An Electronic songwriter gathering: Pearls and Perils, Mirror Fears, And I, Keldari Station, Church Fire, Gold Trash, EVP, Panic Priest, Blackcell, Strange Powers, Lady of Sorrows, Juniordeer, $addy, eHpH, Nighttimeschoolbus, Luxury Hearse, Voight
When: Sunday, 09.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A veritable cornucopia of great Denver musicians writing songs using electronic instruments or, in the case of Voight, using a guitar but writing with electronic music sensibilities. If you go to one event the rest of the year and want a great and fairly broadly representative slice of Denver music that uses electronic instrumentation in a boundary-pushing, interesting way, there won’t be a better chance to see it all in one place because no one else is thinking of an event like this with the level of quality curation that went into it.

Who: WOE, WVRM, Noctambulist and Scepter of Eligos
When: Sunday, 09.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The heaviest show of the week, nay, the month happens tonight at the Hi-Dive. Brooklyn’s WOE may be black metal but its furious live performance feels more like seeing Neurosis combining dark, relentless grinding psychedelia with eruptive energy. WVRM from Greenville, South Carolina is on the surface more straight ahead grind but there’s something flowing underneath that suggests someone in the band is deeply into noise and industrial music. That sensibility gives the music an textural quality and vibe that brings even more an edge to the sound. Noctambulist conveys a similar unconventionality to its death metal onslaught. Like they’re crafting atmospheres to replicate those of a Lovecrafting other dimension hanging with Nodens while he sits back while the Great Old Ones bash it out amongst each other seeding the civilizations of mortal life forms with nightmarish it their darker corners. It seems as though doom is a genre that’s starting to get played out but Scepter of Eligos really challenges that notion because its own take on having roots in that music is to inject it with a healthy heaping of more interesting atmospheric and rhythmic qualities that give its songs an uncommon dimensionality in the genre.

Monday | September 17, 2018

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Angel Olsen circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Angel Olsen
When: Monday, 09.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen is currently on her first solo tour in four years. The songwriter spent some time as a backing singer for Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Cairo Gang before striking out on her own and making a name for herself with her powerfully evocative voice and her ability to vividly articulate a complexity of emotion through lyrics and casting the perfect tone for the song. These qualities were there from early on but 2016’s My Woman revealed that Olsen wasn’t capable of just having a creative leap forward but transforming the sonic breadth of her music. The clever and wise songs of Burn Your Fire For No Witness was a brilliant indie rock album, My Woman was Olsen coming into her own and embracing possibilities for a record that seemed to convey that one can go forward in life without letting uncertainty be a stumbling block to your progress. For this tour Olsen will be performing stripped down versions of new material as well as some of her older songs yet playing fairly large rooms. Something about that hints at Olsen’s dry, absurdist sense of humor while acknowledging that she’s probably going to have to get used to those settings for the rest of her career.

Who: Gillian Welch and David Rawlings w/Punch Brothers
When: Monday, 09.17, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Since early in her career, Gillian Welch has performed with an ineffable gravitas and seemingly easy mastery of her voice and the voicings of her instruments. Maybe her being an orphan, albeit adopted into a musical family, put a haunting in her brain from a young age, a layer of melancholy that many musicians spend a good deal of their 20s and 30s trying to cultivate so that when they try to sing the blues or country or rock and roll it has genuine weight behind songwriting and performance. Welch had that on her 1996 record Revival and has simply evolved into being of the great artists of the modern era alongside her musical partner David Rawlings. At this Welch and Rawlings are no strangers to big format concerts but a late summer show at Red Rocks seems just about perfect for one of their shows.

Tuesday | September 18, 2018

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Nine Inch Nails, photo by Corinne Schiavone

Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Tuesday, 09.18, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nine Inch Nails has apparently been breaking out some material it hasn’t performed live in quite some time like all of the 1992 EP Broken at its tour kickoff. But that aside, every Nine Inch Nails tour brings one of the best live shows that anyone is doing any given year since the band broke in the late 80s. On a recent tour the group had live set changes on stage in addition to an impressive light show. And as per usual, someone in the NIN camp has great and adventurous tastes in co-headliners and opening acts. In the past NIN has brought on tour underground weirdo rock/electronic bands like Deerhunter, HEALTH and Oneohtrix Point Never. This time out for the co-headlining tour with legendary proto-shoegaze/alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, there will be Tobacco. The enigmatic electronic/psych/noise artist is perhaps more well known for his otherworldly pop band Black Moth Super Rainbow, but Tobacco is a bit of a different animal and at times could be considered a kind of avant-garde hip-hop with truly unique and mind-altering beats.

Wednesday | September 19, 2018

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Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco see above for 09.18.

Who: Sinister Pig, Lion Slicer, Suspicious Activity
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: Lion Slicer is a punk band from Green Bay, Wisconsin making a stop in Denver on its “Wooly Eggnog Tour Part 2.” Does that mean it’s a little moldy? Who can say but since the show is free you have little to lose seeing it Chain Reaction Records. The band recently released its new record Lion Slicer Part 2, which if you’re into street punk, is great reminder that stuff didn’t die off into complete and utter obsolescence. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s better political hardcore bands with Sinister Pig and Suspicious Activity.

Who: The Mattson 2 and Astronauts, Etc. w/Stop Motion
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts Etc. has written a kind of downtempo masterpiece with his 2018 album Living in Symbol. Something akin to a hazy Laurel Canyon jazz record but one written on the American East Coast while spending the evenings prior to writing in a dimly lit and cozy bar hanging out with Justin Hayward and Joe Jackson. Then taking the recordings infused with all those mysterious, chilled out vibes to Jonathan Rado to put his own haunted psychedelic pop touches into the mixing and mastering. Mattson 2 is cut from a similar cloth albeit one more obviously drawing on jazz roots with real chops to augment its lounge fusion compositions.

Who: Miniature Tigers w/Jasper Bones
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Miniature Tigers came out of the mid-2000s as one of the more promising of Brooklyn’s indie pop bands. Although the influence of The Kinks and Elephant 6 bands were there, Mini Tigers also embraced the use of electronic instruments in its mix of sounds as well but with a more modern rather than retro sensibility. For its 2010 album Fortress the group collaborated on a song with Neon Indian as chillwave was reaching toward the apex of its popularity. The record that broke the band to a national, albeit still fairly underground, audience with touring to promote the album was 2008’s Tell It To The Volcano. This tour commemorates the 10 year anniversary of the release of the album but for a band that has consistently released albums since its inception, it’s a good chance to catch up with what the group is doing now.

Who: Ohmme w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Chicago-based jazz pop duo Ohmme released their debut full-length album Parts in summer 2018 but the group comprised of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart had already established itself as a going concern melding technical prowess, avant-garde sensibilities and imaginative songwriting. The eclectic resume of both musicians including credits working with the likes of Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention and Chance the Rapper. The synergy of their live performances, though, prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with and not a recording project that is taking tentative steps into the live arena.

Best Shows in Denver 5/24/18 – 05/30/18

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High Plains Honky, photo by David Sands

Thursday | May 24, 2018

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Bianca Mikahn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Left Handed Electronics, Grrrl, Bianca Mikahn
When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Bianca Mikahn’s combination of almost free verse poetry and beats should be well within the canon of hip-hop and ultimately is. But her delivery and her crafting of her songs has as much in common with the kind of hippie-ish, open mic, slam poetry world as it does with any hip-hop context. Mikahn’s ability to critique society at large while speaking to those issues with a compassion and positive spirit minus any note of insincerity sets her apart from most other artists. That her beats contains elements of noise and melodic ambient music makes her immediately accessible music an otherworldly dimension even as the songs are grounded in fairly earthbound experiences.

Who: High Plains Honky 7” release w/Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels Band and Danny Dodge & The Dodge Gang
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If Ronnie Milsap had gone a little more honky tonk with a grittier voice, the results might sound a bit like High Plains Honky. The group is releasing its latest seven inch record tonight at the Hi-Dive joined by a couple of other bands who are no slouches in the local country scene. Maybe comparing a Denver band to a best selling artist like Milsap seems like a bit much to some but what made him such a compelling songwriter beyond the masterful combination of musicianship and an ear for catchy and evocative melodies is the vivid storytelling. High Plains Honky have both qualities as well as no holding up of the nose at pop conventions used in a country context. “Goin’ All The Way” and “I Know Where You Go,” the two sides of the record, seem so relatable even if country music isn’t your thing. A tastefully tiny hint of psychedelia haunts the edges of the music and the aspirational, anthemic quality of the stories suggest a deep knowledge of personal reality but needing to write the songs to escape being too bogged down by current circumstances to go after what you really want while also honoring the emotions subsequent to the potential disappointment, pain and lack of resolution that is a part of everyday life. High Plains Honky invites its listeners to dream just a little bit and to embrace their heartsickness.

What: Girls Rock Denver: Showcase series 7-11 p.m.: Dressy Bessy, Rotten Reputation, Contender, Cheap Perfume, Surf Mom, The Catcalls and Mirror Fears
When: Thursday, 05.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is a fundraiser for Girls Rock Denver to give some of the young women who want to be involved a scholarship to this summer’s programme and beyond. For your donation you get to see some of the best local bands from the indie pop legends Dressy Bessy, punk rock phenoms Rotten Reputation and Cheap Perfume, fuzz rock feminist rock band Surf Mom and electronic dream pop start Mirror Fears.

Who: DOA and MDC
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: In the annals of hardcore outside of American coastal cities, DOA and MDC have to be considered two of the most important acts out of that movement. DOA from Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of the hardest touring bands for years, spreading the gospel of hardcore across the continent and whose album Hardcore ’81 is, perhaps apocryphally, is often cited as the first use of the term in connection to the musical movement. DOA’s political songs struck personal tones in Joe Keithley’s deft songwriting allowing the band’s music to have an appeal beyond agreeing with every iota of the band’s politics. MDC started in Austin, Texas as The Stains with similarly political punk songs that were more left than most of its peers at the time. It didn’t hurt that singer Dave Dictor seemed to havea personal agenda to push the envelope with fans in his stage persona as the ultimate freak and always with the aim of challenging reductive notions of animal and human rights. Listen to that first MDC album and it’s clear that Dictor was an unabashed critic of police brutality and creeping fascism in a way that makes those songs and their specific anti-authoritarian tone even more relevant now.

Who: The Blackouts w/Adrian Conner (Hell’s Belles) and We Are Invisible and Wild Call
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: The Blackouts are an all female rock band that really shows how you can have a fairly straightforward hard rock band and not fall to the boring tropes that happen with too many bands with roots in punk and metal. Adrian Conner from the great all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Bells is also playing this show as well as Wild Call, a band whose forthcoming album is reminiscent of White Hills and Medicine.

Who: Amy Shark and Tomi globehall.com/event/1663566-amy-shark-denver
When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Amy Shark is a pop songwriter from Australia whose 2016 single “Adore” caught the attention of tastemakers in Australia and the song was reissued by Sony Music Australia. That Shark was either in her late 20s or 30 when the song came out explains a bit how her voice and the perspective present in the song had a bit of depth and more of the weight of experience than would be the case of a pop artist a decade or more younger. Shark’s debut full-length, Love Monster, will drop in July 2018 so you can catch her live tonight at Globe Hall before everyone has heard of her.

Friday | May 25, 2018

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Demo Taped, photo by Savannah Ogburn

Who: Amber Mark w/Demo Taped and Adiel Mitchell
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Amber Mark seemed to come out of nowhere when she uploaded her song “S P A C E” to Soundcloud in February 2016. Her voice strong and assured, drawing immediate comparisons to Sade for those qualities and a soulfulness one rarely hears in someone just twenty-two years old. But Mark had something to say and in subsequent singles like “Monsoon,” Mark revealed herself to be a brilliantly poetic songwriter. The 3:33 a.m. EP followed in 2017 and in 2018 Mark released the EP Conexão. Joining her on the Denver date of the tour is Adam Alexander, aka Demo Taped. His electronic pop songs are bright and upbeat but the subject matter of his songs run a broad range of subjects including struggles with anxiety and insecurity. His nuanced and layered songwriting manifested especially strongly on his 2018 EP Momentary.

Who: Orbit Service, Church Fire, The Drood and DJ Mudwulf
When: Friday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Denver ambient/space rock legends Orbit Service don’t play many shows these days and even less often at a dive bar like Lion’s Lair. The project’s primary figure, Randall Frazier, has been responsible for maintaining and putting together some of the best live sound in Denver rooms like Walnut Room and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox as well as championing experimental music in the local scene and collaborating with Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots fame. And that would be reason enough to go to this show but also on the bill are Church Fire, a band one might describe as industrial synth pop but its inspired and emotionally fiery performances elevates what could be considered excellent dance music to a higher level. Also, The Drood, a dark, psychedelic, avant-garde prog band.

Who: How To Measure the Weather: Tobias Fike, Ryan Wade Ruehlen, Kari Treadwell, Scott Ferguson
When: Friday, 05.25, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Emmanuel Gallery
Why: This show has been described as a “migratory sound installation” meaning the performers, members of the Flinching Eye Collective, will move their respective sound-making rigs to take advantage of the Emmanuel Gallery on Auraria campus, one of the oldest buildings in Denver, and its architecture to provide a truly unique, one-off environmental sonic experience.

Who: Muscle Beach w/Colfax Speed Queen, Kenaima and Voight
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Confrontational, arty hardcore. Furious post-psych garage punk. Crushing, post-hardcore noise rock. Emotionally-charged, industrial post-punk. Also, four of Denver’s best, most interesting and always compelling and entertaining live bands.

Who: Super Bummer album release w/Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Super Bummer may be both one of the most ironic and yet accurate names in Denver underground music. The band’s melancholy compositions sure do articulate life’s downbeats with sincerity and self-deprecating humor—a rare combination. Its new album, Big Ambition, out on GROUPHUG, comes out tonight at Syntax where the band will share the stage with the broodingly melodic Americana band Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie, whose 2017 album Holographic Universe is a rabbit hole of beautifully enigmatic sounds and ideas to get lost in across its nine tracks.

Who: La Luz w/Savila and The Kinky Fingers
When: Friday, 05.25, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: La Luz may have originally been (and continue to be) inspired by 60s surf rock giants and the great girl groups of the era. But the Los Angeles-based group have long since made their own mark in music, especially with its 2018 album Floating Features, out on Hardly Art. Spooky and soulful, La Luz have mastered the art of nuanced emotional textures and mood so that its songs can be urgent and spend passages of sound swirling in the sweeping heat of a memory that unexpectedly rushes back into your consciousness triggered some moment or detail you encounter in the present. Denver’s The Kinky Fingers possess similar powers of evoking vivid emotions and imagery with their own surf-rooted rock songs.

Saturday | May 26, 2018

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Victoria Lundy, Snails and Oysters, Sporehive, Denizens of the Deep and Floating Cave, DJ sets by Franklin Bell and visuals by Orchidz3ro
When: Saturday, 05.26, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: An entire afternoon of some of Denver’s most interesting experimental and avant-garde bands. For instance, Snails and Oysters used to be just Joe Mills but is now a duo creating organic ambient music using rock instruments in unconventional ways. A project that cites psych folk legend Sandy Bull, the artist that did an arrangement of Carl Orff’s symphonic opera masterpiece “Carmina Burana” for five-string banjo and released it on a debut album in 1963, is definitely not coming from predictable places. While every act on the bill is worth checking out and nothing really much like each other, the star of the show is Victoria Lundy who at one time people might have said is better known for being the Theremin player in The Inactivists. But by now she has established herself locally as a gifted composer of electronic and ambient music with the Theremin and synth. One thing that sets Lundy apart is that her music tends to be free of transient, modern culture reference tropes and is rooted in 20th century classical and the first wave electronic music avant-garde. And yet, Lundy makes her music accessible and emotionally engaging. There is plenty of intellect going into the making of the music and the craft and technology but the art comes from the heart.

Who: 102 Wires
When: Saturday, 05.26, 5 p.m.
Where: Bar Max
Why: This is a celebration of the possibilities of guitar in music beyond the typical use of the instrument in popular or even experimental music. Read our interview with organizer Kevin Richards here.

Sunday | May 27, 2018

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eHpH, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A Life Celebration For Steve Gordon
When: Sunday, 05.27, 1 – 4 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: This will be an event honoring the late, great, Steve Gordon. Steve was a visual artist, sculptor and musician who contributed greatly to the local avant-garde improvisational and ambient music scenes in Denver. Steve passed away in early May following a prolonged battle with cancer but as a widely admired figure, his legacy of excellence, originality, humanity and humor will continue to have an impact in the Denver art world for years to come. For the event friends and collaborators will share stories, music, poetry, food and drink. Read Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s excellent piece on Steve for Westword here and our own interview with the artist from November 2017 here.

Who: Textures featuring Tunica Externa, paperbark, Lepidoptera
When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This will be John Mulville’s last show in Denver for a while as he’s moving back to Minneapolis for the duration. His ambient project paperbark has brought some of the most compelling, textured to grace Denver spaces in recent years. Generating sounds with treated modular synth tones, Mulville’s compositions suggest natural spaces with a physicality suggested by the earlier reference to texture. It’s like you experience a tactile sensation through a creative crafting of atmosphere. Though Mulville will be back through town, we won’t have the luxury of catching any of his soothingly hypnotic sets regularly.

Who: ManifestiV, Bloodied, eHpH and Keldari Station
When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: ManifestiV from Vallejo, California sounds like it came out of the intersection of the burner community that embraces both industrial music, electronic dance and New Age concepts in the use of sound. But it works though at times you expect it to be the soundtrack to some kind of hippie-esque cyberpunk video game. But who wouldn’t want to play that game? Denver’s Keldari Station sounds like it’s coming from a similar place but its own music is more pop, has more elements of dub and old school glam rock. eHpH, like the other bands on this bill, is a duo with a penchant for dark, atmospheric music. Except this duo has managed to combine EBM with industrial rock without sounding like they’re trying to fit in with the tired old Goth scene sound of the 90s and 2000s. The band’s music is more experimental, more nuanced in its emotional expressions, than bands who really want to be a new version of Suicide Commando.

Tuesday | May 29, 2018

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King Tuff, photo by Olivia Bee

Who: King Tuff w/Cut Worms and Sasami
When: Tuesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: At the end of his last tour, Kyle Thomas was sick of the party monster persona he had cultivated for years as King Tuff. The pressure to live up to something you’re not because it benefits you professionally and to some extent artistically erodes you more than a little on the inside and Thomas was feeling it. “I was a lost soul,” Thomas posted on his website regarding the release of his 2018 album The Other. “I didn’t know who I was anymore.” The new record is certainly a bit of a departure for Thomas. Any trace of the garage rock that informed his earlier releases is pretty much gone. There is a soulfulness and an overt spirit of experimentation running through all the songs for the release. In moments its tinge of futuristic funk and glam prog are reminiscent of I Robot period The Alan Parsons Project.

Also playing this show is Cut Worms. The band’s main creative force is Max Clarke who seems tapped into a mid-60s pop sort of sound and aesthetic. There is a simplicity and clarity of melody and songwriting that we’ve heard plenty of, likely, in this era of mining past decades for artistic inspiration. But especially on Clarke’s 2018 album Hollow Ground the subject matter isn’t so clean and tidy and his songs, like the era it perhaps sonically echoes, reflect a self-aware sense of social anxiety, a painful yearning but struggling with real or endlessly imagined inability to not fuck things up somehow and a willingness to stumble and scrape through even if life doesn’t always, or never does, turn out as planned or hoped. The brilliance comes in striking that balance—being real alongside the sounds of a time many romanticize in spite of the dark and grisly underbelly of people’s lives and the culture itself.

Who: Broncho w/The Paranoyds and Valen
When: Tuesday, 05.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Broncho formed in 2010 in the wake of the dissolution of indie pop weirdos Starlight Mints. Ryan Lindsey of the latter, went on to play guitars, keys and perform lead vocal duties in Broncho. The four-piece has always been kind of an outsider in the music world in that it never really fit in with any emerging trend and was probably too weird to hit it big time in the mainstream. But Lindsey knows he doesn’t belong there. At this point, Lindsay has already done his time deconstructing pop in Starlight Mints and it’s obvious that subverting the tropes of indie, garage and psych rock this past decade isn’t as interesting as it might have been a few years ago. 2016’s Double Vanity found Broncho excavating and exploring some of the sonic ideas that Phil Elverum was onto on those final two The Microphones records, 2001’s The Glow Pt. 2 and 2003’s Mount Eerie. But without imitating Elverum’s richly imaginative and innovative soundscaping. With any luck, this version of Broncho will represent the band’s next phase of its injecting the pop format with expansive ideas and sounds.

Wednesday | May 30, 2018

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Gang of Youths, photo by Sergey Osipov

Who: Gang of Youths w/Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Gang of Youths’ 2017 sophomore album Go Farther in Lightness garnered near universal acclaim in the band’s home country of Australia. Rightfully so. It has the poetic insight and depth of early Bruce Springsteen and more recent from Titus Andronicus. Like both of those artists, Gang of Youths has a gift for taking the mythical/universal aspect of everyday experiences and giving it a poignantly personal expression. There’s a song called “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?” that goes beyond that whole rediscovering your bliss and your passion nonsense. But it’s a whole record of songs that might seem like a collection of trite platitudes but in the end are the exact opposite. It’s highly energetic indie rock but the emotional and intellectual content run a lot deeper with Gang of Youths.

Who: Nunofyrbeeswax w/Open to the Hound, Claudzilla and Rat Bites
When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Berlin’s Nunofyrbeeswax brings together aspects of indie pop, naïve lo-fi rock and outsider pop in its music. Good thing its on a bill with local weirdos in keytar punk Claudzilla, gritty indie pop outfit Open to the Hound and Germs-esque noise punkers Rat Bites.

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White Hills, photo by Simona Dalla Valle

Who: Ufomammut w/White Hills and Tjutjuna
When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Saying Ufomammut is a doom metal band from Italy is a bit like saying that Neurosis is a post-hardcore band from the Bay Area. Clearly Neurosis found some kinship with the trio from Tortona, Italy because Neurot Recordings issued the group’s most recent four records in the USA. Ufomammut’s music has elements of doom and sludge metal but its psychedelic drones and industrial sounds have more in common with the other bands on the bill than a straightforward doom band.

New York City’s White Hills has been exploring past settled territories of modern psychedelic rock since its 2003 inception. The duo of Dave W and Ego Sensation use drum machins and sampled rhythms to set a frame in which each can weave a mind-altering and hypnotic soundscape of vivid tones and dark atmospheres. The band’s storytelling and Dave’s vocals are reminiscent of what one might hear on a Legendary Pink Dots or Skinny Puppy album in which there’s no rockist self-aggrandizement or empty calories rhetoric. Dave has something to say, observations to make and narratives to give in his songs that are frankly worth listening to in themselves but couched in an immersive experience in the listening and especially so in the live setting. The group’s 2017 album Stop Mute Defeat, out on Thrill Jockey, is a major leap forward in terms of capturing the band’s masterful use of mood, texture and atmosphere to craft psychological experiences in the form of song.

Denver’s Tjutjuna rarely plays live shows these days, but the band and its talent for krautrock-inspired mind-expanding drones and percussion was always ahead of the curve of so-called “psychedelic rock” bands in the Mile High City. Like White Hills, Tjutjuna is no stranger to employing motorik beats except with a live drummer and the clear melding of the aesthetics of psych, noise and the avant-garde sets the group galaxies ahead of indie rockers who recently discovered how to maybe use reverb pedals with chorus. Quaint. Tjutjuna? Not so much.