Best Shows in Denver and Beyond December 2022

Palm performs at Larimer Lounge on December 6, 2022, photo by Eve Alpert
Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | 12.01
What: Wild Pink w/Trace Mountains and Knuckle Pups
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Wild Pink’s John Ross wrote one of the great story albums of recent years with 2021’s A Billion Little Lights and its themes of coming to terms with adulthood while staying connected with one’s creative life and navigating the temptations to ditch music as the occupation of adolescence. And how through creative work one can explore an evolving sense of meaning that hits you throughout your thirties and the rest of your life. 2022’s ILYSM (an acronym for “I Love You So Much”) takes that perspective to examine the details of life that deepen one”s bond with the people in your life. Knuckle Pups in from Denver released a deeply self-reflective album with 2022’s TV Ready in which the ambitious pop band fuses radical vulnerability with a compassionate honesty that is not nearly common enough in the realm of indie rock or any form of music today. Sometimes earnestness can seem like a pose but with Knuckle Pups it seems inspirational in its lack of pretension.

Cold Cave in 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.02
What: Cold Cave w/Voight and Hex Cassette
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Wesley Eisold of Cold Cave has been mostly been releasing singles and EPs since the most recent full length album Cherish the Light Years came out in 2011. His most recent Fate in Seven Lessons (2021) is well within the realm of modern darkwave post-punk with his usual gift for teasing grit and darkness out of the songwriting although plenty of the music has a beautifully melodic melancholia reminiscent of New Order. Eisold has also been involved in a bit of writing including his work with the late, great Mark Lanegon on the book of poetry Plague Poems (2020). Opening the show are two Denver acts. Hex Cassette’s confrontational industrial dance music challenges notions of the role of artist and audience and breaking that barrier for a collective experience. Voight seems to be making good on its threat of completely injecting techno into its own searing shoegaze-infused post-punk and emotionally intense music.

Cannibal Corpse, photo by Alex Morgan

Friday | 12.02
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 1: Cannibal Corpse, Dark Funeral, Immolation, Black Anvil, Onyx and In The Company of Serpents
When: 5
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: This unique event includes some pretty extensive beer tasting for those so inclined but the real reason is to get to see some of the great extreme metal acts of today. That includes death metal legends Cannibal Corpse whose over the top gory lyrics have been banned in various countries despite how obviously absurd they are in the vein of the most demented horror movies of the 80s but really just more creative than a lot of those films. And the music itself stands up well in upholding the brutality of the lyrics with a technical proficiency worthy of the name of the band. Get there early to catch the bluesy, cinematic doom band from Denver In the Company of Serpents who don’t play Denver as much as they once did these days.

Wayfarer, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 2: Pig Destroyer, Skinless, Wayfarer, Of Feather and Bone and Wake
When: 4
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Day two of this event includes more noteworthy acts out of the broad world of extreme metal including performances from Denver’s masters of cinematic doom, Wayfarer, the caustic death grind onslaught of Of Feather and Bone, the blackened grind of Calgary’s Wake and grindcore legends Pig Destroyer whose contorted and savagely brutal music is a fitting companion to JR Hayes’ darkly incisive lyrics about human experiences on the edge.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Sophie Hur

Saturday | 12.03
What: Soccer Mommy w/TOPS
When: 7
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Sophia Allison has been writing music and performing as Soccer Mommy since she was in college before dropping out and moving back to Nashville to pursue her career as a musician full time. It helped that she had a record deal with Fat Possum which released her debut album Clean in 2018 before she turned twenty-one. The album’s emotional openness and unabashed embrace of unconventional melody and song structure while crafting undeniable hooks garnered the record widespread critical acclaim. The most recent Soccer Mommy album Somtimes, Forever (2022) was produced with Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never and the team-up brought to Allison’s particularly confessional lyrics and always imaginative guitar work an experimental edge and sound design element for the songwriter’s most musically adventurous recording of her career thus far. Additionally, the lyrics probably startled listeners that expect artists to be vague in their sentiments in a pop song setting but hasn’t Allison been poetically pointed and vivid in her words all along? Opening the show is Montreal’s indie pop band TOPS whose gentle yet passionate compositions seem like they’d be pretty light and airy live as well but at the show the band seems to exude an unexpected vitality.

HaemoGoblin, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: HaemoGoblin and Fast N Loose at L. Lazer art opening
When: 9
Where: The Crypt ($10 cash)
Why: HaemoGoblin is an electronic duo that will be performing what it calls a ritualistic invocation. Calling the performance “Inauguration” what you will see is a “mini stage play set to music, designed to disorient, disturb and ‘shake awake’ the audience for a half hour or longer.” What will this look like? Well, veteran carnie frontwoman Ortenzia von Deadworry and S.S.G. her “summoned demon” synth player will definitely bring some theater to an often very predictable local music scene. Also on the bill for this art opening featuring the work of L. Lazer is Fast N Loose is a Motorhead tribute band.

The Soft Moon in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 12.04
What: The Soft Moon w/Nuovo Testamento and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Luis Vasquez was a little ahead of the curve when he launched The Soft Moon in 2009. Originally a solo project, The Soft Moon evolved to become more of a live band that brought Vasquez’s songs of nervy energy and anxiety-purging urgency to life. His most recent album is 2022’s Exister which in the wake of one of the most challenging periods in recent world history on a wide scale is a catharsis of overcoming the enervating influences that come your way and considering the mere continuation of existence a triumph in itself. The songs seem to have leaned more into the industrial side of Vasquez’s songwriting with some real visceral power driving the moody atmospherics. Los Angeles-based darkwave/synth pop band Nuovo Testamento opens the show.

Hembree, photo by Jonny Marlow

Sunday | 12.04
What: Hembree w/Little Hurt, False Report and Mae Mae
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Hembree from Kansas City, Missouri that formed in 2015 and its big break to a national audience was the placement of its single “Holy Water” in an Apple ad during Super Bowl LII. The group’s tight rhythms serve as a foundation for the rest of the songwriting to stretch out whether into focused, unadorned rock songs or expansive, moody pieces and the techno-underpinned indie funk that is at the core of its sound. The group’s new album It’s a Dream! is a record tinged with nostalgic examinations of the roots of current anxieties and insecurities expressed in hazy melodies and resonating tones driven by a hypnotic beat. On the surface it may sound like another current indie rock offering with more than its fair share of more imaginative songwriting but Hembree really charts an internal journey in which one is prepared to exit the gauntlet of lucid dreams trapped in feeling everything until it makes sense and after one is able to move through tangled emotional memories.

The Lemonheads, photo by Barry Brescheisen

Monday | 12.05
What: The Lemonheads w/Bass Drum Of Death and On Being an Angel https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/443688
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Lemonheads are one of few still extant bands to have come to prominence during the alternative rock era that didn’t quite fit in with the more trendy subgenres that made that era one of the most vibrant in the history of popular music. Its own brand of power pop was a vehicle for the songwriting of only constant member, singer and guitarist Evan Dando. The latter seems to have an ability to look into situations and people and extrapolate poetic insights with a compassionate perspective. The title track of the group’s 1992 breakthrough album It’s A Shame About Ray isn’t just about a troubled person who doesn’t fit in with any school and its politics, it’s about feeling like a perpetual outsider and the rest of the songs on the record are vivid stories about people we all know and might even be in a way that didn’t comport with the tales of desperation one heard in a lot of grunge and too “dark” for more faux posi faire of that era to now. Ever since The Lemonheads went on hiatus in 1997 and returned to operations in 2005, the group hasn’t been prolific with original material but Dando’s interpretations of artists that have influenced him on Varshons (2009) Varshons 2 (2019) have been a peek into what Dando’s brain has latched onto for inspiration and perhaps for this performance we’ll get to hear what the veteran songwriter has been up to in recent years. One thing is for certain his own songs have aged far better than those of many of his contemporaries owing in part to the gentle but raw honesty of the songwriting. Also on this bill is Bass Drum of Death originally from Oxford, Mississippi whose blues tinged noisy garage rock has a refreshing level of grit and menace befitting the name of the project.

Monday | 12.05
What: W.A.S.P. w/Armored Saint
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: W.A.S.P. is the kind of band out of the glam metal era in Los Angeles of the 1980s that more than any other group out of that world that courted controversy. Its music was and is a spirited, melodic hard rock with a strong sense of theater even in the songwriting. Sure its cover art for its debut single “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” with the circular saw codpiece offended people that took it more literally than could even remotely be intended. Certainly former guitarist Chris Holmes looked the buffoon drunk in a pool with his mother sitting by in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years seemed to affirm the extreme and self-destructive hedonism associated with the band. But at its best W.A.S.P. were avatars of a music scene that could be cartoonish, bombastic and puerile while offering an alternative to a conformist puritanical culture with its lurid and triumphant storytelling. Perhaps co-headlining though less notorious is Armored Saint who also started in 1982 in Los Angeles and also pre-dated glam metal though often associated with that world of music due to the big hair and knack for solid melodic hooks. But like W.A.S.P. there was something with more edge than most of its glam rock contemporaries. While never quite having any mainstream breakthrough hits, Armored Saint was a staple of 1980s metal that has held up better than much of the music out of the 1980s Los Angeles heavy metal scene has.

Water From Your Eyes, photo by Ana Fangayen

Tuesday | 12.06
What: Palm w/Water From Your Eyes
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: As Water From Your Eyes, Nate Amos and Rachel Brown have made a career of using an eclectic and ever evolving palette of sounds to explore ideas and concepts through what could be considered dance pop. That is if your frame of reference might be the experimental electronic and punk out of New York and Los Angeles of the last fifteen years. Its 2020 album 33:44 is something you’d expect more out of a band on the Northern Spy label with its beautifully dire, ambient and modern classical soundscapes that are almost an homage to Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” crossed with Howard Shore’s work for the films of David Cronenberg. But the duo’s most recent album Structure at times sounds like what might have happened if Aphex Twin in writing Selected Ambient Works Volume II had decided to turn those into pop songs. Except that Water From Your Eyes inserts enigmatic spoken word elements that serve as a a meta narrative that re-configures traditional album structure and gives the whole album a non-linear quality made cohesive by reimagining the nature of how creative work is structured. Fitting that this arty yet incredibly accessible group is sharing the stage with Philadelphia’s art rock weirdos Palm touring in support of Nicks and Grazes, an album that sounds like the band challenged its members to go on separate retreats to clear their minds of contemporary influences and to immerse themselves in non-musical art forms and come back to make the kind of psychedelic rock record that comes across like a collage of playful daydreams and arranged in a way that brushes aside conventional structure itself.

OFF! photo by Jeff Forney

Thursday and Friday | 12.08 and 12.09
What: OFF! w/Zulu
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: OFF! is of course the newer hardcore project fronted by legendary vocalist Keith Morris formerly of Black Flag and of Circle Jerks. The current lineup includes founding member Dmitri Coats of Burning Brides on guitar and as of 2021 Autry Fulbright II on bass and Justin Brown on drums. After an eight year hiatus on releases, OFF! released Free LSD in 2022. It’s still the searing hardcore sound you’d expect from the group but there are some clear differences with what sounds like synth and other ambient sounds giving the songs a psychedelic feel that wasn’t so much a part of its earlier sound. A refreshing update for a band that still maintains the intensity and edge without being stuck in a stylistic rut. Opening both dates at the Hi-Dive is anti-racist powerviolence band Zulu which injects its music with R&B samples and eschews the tough guy stance of hardcore.

Pond, photo by Matsu

Friday | 12.09
What: Pond w/Cryogeyser — rescheduled to April 16, 2023
When: 8
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Pond has shared membership with Tame Impala over the years with lead singer Nick Albrook being involved with both bands for a few years and Kevin Parker serving as drummer in earlier years and as a producer until 2020. The polished psychedelic pop of its first eight albums was helped in no small part due to Parker’s influence in the production department but with the 2021 album 9, Pond has given us its most interesting record to date with more grit in its overall sound, some edge to its funk elements and a willingness to embrace some rawness in its sound as well as take its atmospherics into a realm flirting with space rock. Los Angeles-based jangle fuzz trio Cryogeyser opens the show with its melancholic, lo-fi dream pop.

Obituary, photo by Tim Hubbard

Friday | 12.09
What: Obituary w/Amon Amarth, Carcass and Cattle Decapitation
When: 5:30
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Obituary is touring ahead of the 2023 release of its new album Dying of Everything. After nearly 40 years as a band exploring the outer edges of the death metal format and pioneering some of that aesthetic it can be challenging to have something new to say with your music and a return to form can be tedious. But Obituary this time decided to stick to writing a strong set of material worthy of its pre-1997 split output. The dire messaging delivered with still convincingly brutal vocals but without cartoonish lyrics. Rounding out the bill are Seattle grindcore outfit Cattle Decapitation who are somehow both keenly aware of the absurdity and cruelty of modern human civilization and the need to ridicule the hubris of our species without making light of the situation in which we and other animals find ourselves due to a tolerance for savage forms of economic and social organization. And yes, grindcore/death metal legends/pioneers Carcass and Swedish, melodic death metal group Amon Amarth and its proclivity for lyrics about the Viking Age and a time before the Christian domination of Nordic culture.

The Smile, from the band’s Facebook page

Saturday and Sunday | 12.10 and 12.11
What: The Smile w/Robert Stillman
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Smile is Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame with drummer Tom Skinner of Sons of Kemet. The trio made its debut at Glastonbury Festival in 2021 and its music produced during the limitations of association and collaboration during the COVID-19 lockdown emerged as an intimate and spacious, lonely set of melodies and fragile emotional expressions. In 2022 the group released its debut album A Light for Attracting Attention. The record is contemplative as one might expect with the musicians involved but also vulnerable and open in sentiments embracing a massive level of uncertainty and peril that continues to flow seemingly unchecked in a world beyond the ongoing pandemic and perpetuating a sustained anxiety that will have untold impacts for decades to come and written about in history books or their equivalent in some future time should such indulgences be permitted in a post-authoritarian era. The Smile seems to have written a record from the perspective of people keenly attuned to these concerns and not knowing if they’ll live long enough to see better days but not being attached to a sinking spirit of despair.

Bartees Strange, photo by Luke Piotrowski

Wednesday | 12.14
What: Bartees Strange w/Pom Pom Squad and They Hate Change
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Bartees Leon Cox Jr. has worn various hats in his career both musical and otherwise. But he is perhaps best known for his music under the moniker Bartees Strange following his stint in in the post-hardcore band Stay Inside. With the release of his 2020 debut Live Forever, Cox has proven himself a master of writing emotionally nuanced and vulnerable pop songs that incorporate elements of indie folk and, synth pop and hip-hop but with a production element that seems to make the music and its complex arrangements hit with a stirring immediacy. Fans of Twin Shadow will hear some similar sonic touchstones and the sophomore album Farm to Table (2022) revealed more of Cox’s gift for genre bending to great effect in delivering songs that are at once deeply personal and politically charged.

Twin Tribes, photo from Bandcamp

Thursday | 12.15
What: Twin Tribes w/Dancing Plague and Plague Garden
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Twin Tribes from Brownsville, TX have garnered no small amount of buzz for its blend of minimal synth and post-punk and a kind of vitality amid melancholic tones. Its most recent studio album Ceremony (2019) sounds like songs written during a flurry of peak emotions and capturing the urgency and desperation of a recent breakup. In most cities of size, Twin Tribes is performing in medium sized clubs but in Denver we’re fortunate to be able to catch the popular band in a small club like HQ. Dancing Plague is a darkwave solo act from Portland, OR whose dusky synth pop is like a darker OMD with some touches of influence from John Maus. In the interest of full transparency, the author of this blurb is in Plague Garden, a noteworthy post-punk/New Wave band from Denver.

ABANDONS, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.15
What: ABANDONS w/Old Soul Dies Young, Almanac Man and Fainting Dreams
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This show is a nice split of experimental noise rock and shoegaze. ABANDONS might at another time be considered a post-rock band but in its mix one hears bits of post-metal, noise rock and ambient and it live shows have a visceral quality with music that one might more expect to be performed in a more meditative spirit. Old Soul Dies Young is the kind of band that happens when guys who were way into post-hardcore and doom drop that sound palette for something more melodic and atmospheric but with the same level of sonic bombast. Almanac Man is like a collision of doom and borderline aggressive, Chicago style noise rock. Fainting Dreams is the kind of dream pop band that comes about when its members maybe came up through hardcore and death metal and are shedding the aggression and mathematical precision and heaviness for radical vulnerability and dreamlike tones.

Organ, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.16
What: Sounds for Charity: Avarice, Organ, No More Cheering, Gabriel Albelo
When: 7
Where: Glob
Why: Proceeds from this show go to Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Warm weather gear and hand warmers also accepted. For your donation you can catch the glitch industrial dance stylings of Organ, Gabriel Albelo’s solo performance of his heavy psychedelic rock, Avarice’s dark, menacing industrial techno and the prepared noise environment soundscapes of No More Cheering.

Meet the Giant in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Love Stallion w/Shanghai Metro Temple and Meet the Giant
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Love Stallion is basically an 80s style glam metal band and if that’s your thing they’re definitely on the better end of the modern version of that with of course stage antics and style and the level of musicianship you’d expect. Shanghai Metro Temple is a fairly straight ahead indie rock band that sounds like it is heavily influenced by late 90s alternative and hard rock. Meet the Giant fuse downtempo electronic pop with post-punk, heavy shoegaze and imaginative soundscapes on the production end.

Wave Decay in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Bluebook w/Wave Decay and Mon Cher
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Bluebook these days isn’t the experimental indie folk jazz band of its early days. Instead there is a darkness and not so buttoned downed, controlled intensity to the performances. Seems like Julie Davis is letting her flaws, anxieties and dreams hang more loosely with this version of the band and that has just meant its music has blossomed more and its sound palette greatly expanded with the inclusion of formery Monofog and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake singer Hayley Helmericks on drums and backing vocals, Jess Parsons on keys and other instrumentation and maybe even Anna Morsett on guitar. Wave Decay is the kind of band that sounds like it took the door through psych garage into more shoegaze sounds and all the better for it. Mon Cher’s music is a particularly transporting and lies somewhere between dream pop and downtempo jazz.

Milk Blossoms in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Milk Blossoms w/Meek and Knuckle Pups
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Knuckle Pups write radically vulnerable and thoughtful indie pop in the classic mold and its 2022 album TV Ready is both heartbreaking and uplifting. Milk Blossoms play a rare show with Michelle Rocquet now that she spends much of her time in New York City for professional and academic pursuits. So with this configuration of the band you’ll get the full dual vocal effect of powerfully rendered, tender pop songs that are irresistibly twee and cathartic.

Master Ferocious in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 12.18
What: Never Kenezzard w/Zingaro, Sea of Flame and Master Ferocious
When: 3
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Never Kenezzard don’t really fit in with the metal scene so much though its blend of progressive rock sensibilities, doom and psychedelia finds it in a particularly more interesting corner of that realm of music. Sea of Flame are a sludge rock/doom band whose epic arrangements are not the rote edition of what doom has become. Master Ferocious somehow mix classic power metal with glam rock without seeming corny because the musicianship is so strong and the performance bordering on theatrical.

Alaska Thunderfuck, photo by Albert Sanchez

Sunday | 12.18
What: Alaska Thunderfuck Presents: The Red 4 Filth Tour
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Alaska Thunderfuck is perhaps best known for her competing in RuPaul’s Drag Race but over the last several years she has cultivated a pop music career. Steeped in modern electronic pop and a showcase for her outsize stage persona. Her latest album Red 4 Filth leaves behind some of the camp and humor of previous releases with a more obviously sincere set of pop songs that bring together sounds from hip-hop and classic modern pop including a cover of “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base.

Faceman in 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.22
What: FaceMan Western Jupiter vinyl release, Tivoli Club Brass Band and Anthony Ruptak
When: 7
Where: The Skylark Lounge/Bobcat Club
Why: Faceman celebrates the release of its latest album on vinyl as well as making available on vinyl for the first time its 2016 album Wild and Hunting. The band fronted by Steve Faceman has long offered finely crafted pop Americana with an experimental edge though its new album Western Jupiter shows an embrace of a more straightforward approach to songcraft. But every release is fulled with songs that have heartfelt and sharply observed lyrics in stories about life that feel like they’re part of your life because Steve has honed in on an aspect of culture and social reality that seems to be in the air in that moment. In years past Faceman has put on theatrical performances with set pieces and costumes that help to illustrate the music in dramatic fashion in collaboration with local visual artists who have helped to make these outfits and elaborate sets and pieces of artwork like the stage Megalodon of several years ago or the huge tornado of paper made for the epic Faceman’s 100 Year Storm event of 2016 at The Oriental Theater in which Faceman invited 100 bands to perform. So there’s a bit of community involvement and creative vision behind what drives the band even if it’s not necessarily abundantly obvious from listening to its excellent songs on their own.

SORROWS, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.23
What: Baby Baby, Gila Teen, SORROWS and Ray Diess
When: 7
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Baby Baby is the indie dream pop project of Lily Conrad. Reminiscent of bedroom pop artists of the late 90s and 2000s and has the aesthetics of lo-fi but with better sound production than much of that stuff often had. Gila Teen is the genre defying emo-shoegaze-post-punk band whose eccentric songs nevertheless always seem to be a direct line into the anxieties and affections coursing through the cosmos at the given moment of the performance. SORROWS is an emotionally charged downtempo band comprised of vibrant vocals, elegantly crafted rhythms and electronic production. Ray Diess is one of the Denver scene’s most compelling darkwave pop artists operating today.

Julian Street Nightmare, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.23
What: Fast Eddy, Julian Street Nightmare and Morning Oil
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall (free)
Why: When garage punk and the more mundane end of psychedelic rock collapsed under the weight of its own hubris and fake excitement some of the people who were on one end of that broader scene with any talent or imagination had to do something different and Fast Eddy came out of that milieu as a solid power pop band. Julian Street Nightmare create music from a thrilling nexus of post-punk, surf rock and art rock. Morning Oil sounds like it took some bit of inspiration from the better part of 80s glam metal and The Dead Boys.

Tuesday | 12.27
What: The Roots and BIG K.R.I.T.
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Roots are the influential, jazz rooted hip-hop band from Philadelphia that many may also know for serving as the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Its use of live musical instrumentation has always set The Roots apart from most hip-hop groups whose use of samples is most often used to craft the beat and thus its live performances have a powerful physical presence that is impossible to duplicate otherwise. Big K.R.I.T. is the acclaimed rapper and producer from Mississippi whose eclectic production and socially conscious lyrics seem to hit at a very grassroots level of appeal with an accessible sound and a way of presenting heady ideas in a way that is both creative and personally relatable.

Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.29
What: Watch Yourself Die, Voight, Sell Farm https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sell-farm-voight-wyd-at-the-mercury-cafe-tickets-481076160747?aff=ebdshpsearchautocomplete
When: 8
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Watch Yourself Die is kind of a post-punk supergroup comprised of members of Hex Cassette, Ray Diess and Julian Street Nightmare. Voight has long blurred the line between shoegaze, post-punk, darkwave and techno and infused it with emotionally intense live performances. Sell Farm might be an indiepop band but one that doesn’t see a reason why heavy dub and industrial music can’t be a part of the overall wheelhouse of sounds going into the project’s eclectic but always interesting songwriting.

Thursday | 12.29
What: Discomfort Creature w/Curious Things, Nightfishing
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Discomfort Creature is a punk band from Denver whose lineup includes current and former members of Gamits and Uphollow and this show signals the vinyl release of its 2021 self-titled debut on Snappy Little Numbers now that Chris Fogal is back in town for the occasion from his current residence in Switzerland. The record is an energetic fusion of pop punk and the more angular, Dischord-esque variety of punk.

Brotherhood of Machines at Deep Club event in 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.30
What: FOANS, Brotherhood of Machines (album release) and Luxury Hearse
When: 9
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: FOANS is the brainchild of producer Andrew Dahabrah whose melancholic house and techno music has been at the center of Denver’s underground dance music world for several years. Luxury Hearse is the project of Dan Coleman (Blank Human) and Rin Howell (Psychic Secretary) that breaks the barrier between techno, ambient and musique concrète. Brotherhood of Machines is apparently returning with its first new release and album in over six years. The project live has been a mysterious and sonically rich example of where ambient, abstract industrial, techno and noise converge to produce a sound that establishes a deep sense of mood and place.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver March 2022

Nation of Language, photo by Robin Laananen
Monolord, photo by Josefine Larsson

Wednesday | 03.09
What: Monolord w/Firebreather and The Munsens
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Monolord formed in 2013 at a time when the whole wave of stoner rock was pretty much over and before doom metal hits its ascendency later in that decade. Its members had been part of a more boogie rock oriented band Marulk but at rehearsal had riffed in more drawn out dynamics and sustained atmospherics while incorporating those impulses into coherent songwriting. So its current sound while rooted in what is now called doom metal contains melodic elements lend its crushing rhythmic leads an accessibility that sounds more like an updated version of power metal. The group’s 2021 album Your Time to Shine is arguably its most streamlined manifestation of an aesthetic that draws on the psychedelic heaviness of Sleep and Kylesa and infuses it with its own impulse to impart a mood of catharsis and triumph to its listeners.

Owosso, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 03.11
What: Owosso, Moon Pussy, Church Van and Gestapo Pussy Ranch
When: 9 p.m. doors, 9:30 p.m. show
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Moon Pussy’s scorched earth noise rock and underpinnings in musical experimentation can be disorienting in the best way. Like Big Black with creatively expressive human drums instead of a drum machine. This will be Owosso’s first show. The group is comprised of veterans of the local punk/post-hardcore and indie rock scenes including people from Modern Goon. The group was been described as “post indie wook rock” but it’s hopefully safe to assume it’s not some ironic jam band with punk roots. Though if it is it’ll probably be alright anyway considering the band’s lineage.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Mitski w/Michelle
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Mitski released her latest album Laurel Hell in 2022 and it is arguably her most vulnerable and raw album while also her most poignantly melancholic. Few other artists have articulated the disillusionment of the current era and the perils of an over mediated culture with as much precision and resonance as Mitski over the course of her two most recent records. As a live performer Mitski always has something different in her repertoire like on her most recent tour in 2019 when she had stage sets and a costume that looked like somewhere between a workout suit and a martial arts dancer uniform.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Jen Korte & The Loss, Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds and Heated Bones
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Jen Korte & The Loss this time out is basically her excellent experimental singer-songwriter project Lady Gang but with a full band instead of pulling off the full range of sounds herself. But it’ll still be Korte deep diving into emotionally rich explorations of hurt, resilience and the complex nuances of human experiences and relationships. Korte’s imaginative musicianship and songwriting elevates her work beyond the usual expectations one might have when one thinks of singer-songwriter. Her body of work is eclectic and runs a range of Americana, indie rock, folk and what might be described as experimental pop with loops and electronics. Many artists reach a point where they rest on their laurels and Korte hasn’t done so.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Mayhem w/Watain and Midnight
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Mayhem is indeed the legendary black metal band from Norway whose lore and history is worth looking into for the lurid details alone. It makes for a fascinating origin story. But the music and its harrowing and heavy sweeps of epic storytelling speaks for itself as does the unforgettable stage presence of frontman Attila Csihar who always brings a deep sense of theater and performance art to every one of his performances whether with Mayhem or SunnO))). The show will be worth it to see what he does alone and that chilling, sepulchral, operatic voice.

Sunday | 03.13
What: Drug Church, One Step Closer, Soul Blind and Lurk
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Drug Church is a band that has managed to bridge the sonic worlds of pop punk, hardcore and noise rock with super catchy hooks and made powerful and meaningful music in the process. Currently touring in support of its forthcoming album Hygiene out March 11, 2022.

SUMAC, photo by Reid Haithcock

Sunday | 03.13
What: Sumac w/Blood Spore and Patrick Shiroishi
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: SUMAC formed in 2014 when Kurt Ballou of Converge connected guitarist Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mammifer, House of Low Culture) who had written the initial elements of songs with Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn to help realize Turner’s vision of crafting the heaviest music of his career then thus far. Brian Cook of Russian Circles and formerly of These Arms Are Snakes and Botch rounded out the classic and current line-up in time for the group’s debut album. The resulting four albums since (The Deal from 2015, What One Becomes in 2016, Love in Shadow out 2018 and May You Be Held released in 2020) are indeed some of the heaviest records of recent years. But as with Turner’s other projects it’s never just heavy for the sake of that quality, it’s intricate and imaginative, emotionally charged soundscapes in which the contributions of all the players seems to be highlighted. Certainly with the most recent album it’s not relentlessly crushing dynamics but a flood of textures seemingly elevated in a suspended and sustained whirlpool of sound that rushes through you and then out like experiencing a state of being. Calling it post-metal or sludge metal is one way of giving people an idea of what they’re in for but the music itself has more in common with artists like Neurosis and SunnO))) than with some other bands lumped under those genre designations. Perhaps it is conceived of as a mind-altering experience to perform and thus witness when you’re in the room with it live. The fact that SUMAC has collaborative albums with noise legend Keiji Haino who is highly selective with whom he does work speaks much to how SUMAC isn’t merely a metal or heavy band.

Turner has long been a champion of forward thinking underground music since the 90s with his label Hydra Head Records which issued releases from the likes of Boris, Big Business, Cave In, Daughters, Dälek, Jesu, Kayo Dot, Oxbow, Khanate, Harvey Milk, Xasthur and The VSS. Its roster is a kind of who’s who of heavier experimental music of its heyday. Through the label and touring Turner has had a vehicle for exploring his creative interests in music and visual art which brings an added dimension to SUMAC’s releases as well and the ethos with which the band operates. On its current tour the group will be joined by purveyors of death doom Blood Spore and Los Angeles-based avant-garde saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi. Listen to our interview with Aaron Turner on Bandcamp.

Lala Lala, photo by Miwah Lee

Monday | 03.14
What: Lala Lala w/Elton Aura
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lillie West was already stretching the boundaries of music that might loosely grouped under the vague term “indie rock” earlier in her career with imaginative pop songwriting. But with her 2021 album I Want The Door To Open with Yoni Wolf as co-producer she finely tunes her soundscapes as perfect complements to her expressively ethereal vocals andan exploration of themes of where an artist fits in with a world in which they often need to make their own lives the fodder for some of their most meaningful work and how that can affect your sense of self. It’s a bit like synth pop for fans of Holly Herndon or Virginia Wing.

Monday | 03.14
What: Portrayal of Guilt w/End, Yashira and Wake
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Portrayal of Guilt might be described as a post-hardcore, grindcore adjacent noise rock band with the visceral live quality all that implies. But there is a bit of the irreverent trickster to their presentation and their 2021 album Christfucker was sent out in a jacket that displayed the letters “ST” like “Self-Titled” so that maybe the record could be stealth sold at record stores in more conservative areas of the country and as a signal to fans of the ridiculousness of actual censorship and not the myth of it perpetrated by bad faith actors. Wake from Calgary, Alberta is of like mind and its 202 album Devouring Ruin is like a psychedelic flavor of later era Napalm Death.

Choir Boy, photo by Jordan Utley

Tuesday | 03.15
What: Choir Boy w/Riki
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Choir Boy is a post-punk band from Salt Lake City that has garnered a bit of a cult following in recent years for its tender, synth-pop ballads about loss and desire recalling the likes of the more melancholic end of Thompson Twins and Felt. Riki sounds like she came from an alternate dimension where she had a career making sensual pop songs for David Lynch movies with her soulfully expressive voice. Elements like cool jazz saxophone and chimes that might sound cheesy and dates in the music of other people just sounds perfect for the mood Riki has evoked of late night adventures in secret Bohemian dives across two albums: her 2020 self-titled and Gold from 2021. Not many artists have a maintained a mystique to them but Niff Nawor aka Riki certain has.

Wayfarer, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.17
What: Wayfarer w/Midwife and Snakes
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Denver’s Wayfarer is finally getting to celebrate the release of its 2020 album A Romance With Violence and bringing its flavor of dark Americana, at turns spaghetti western and doomy black metal, to stage bigger stages. This night the band’s guests are Midwife and her intensely evocative and poignant ambient folk and art country/dark pop supergroup Snakes.

Thursday | 03.17
What: Ellen Allien w/Mr. Frick and Mort.Domed
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Ellen Allien aka Ellen Fraatz makes a rare appearance in Denver and brings her experimental style of techno that is somewhere between minimal, IDM and acid house with an imaginative flair that can seem subtle until you listen to her work alongside other artists in similar realms of music.

Squirrel Flower, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | 03.17
What: Squirrel Flower w/Tenci
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Ella Williams aka Squirrel Flower recently released Planet EP, the follow-up to her acclaimed 2021 sophomore album Planet (i). Her gritty yet introspective songs like “Hurt A Fly” are so honest and real about her mistakes and shortcomings you feel that deeply in your own heart. Williams really has a gift for creating strong imagery and emotional impressions and matching it with songwriting that is simultaneously forceful and vulnerable like she respects your time with the music and wants it to be a fortifying experience to give it a listen.

NightWraith, photo by Holden Kudla

Friday | 03.18
What: NightWraith album release w/Space in Time, Ghosts of Glaciers and Ashes For the Mute
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Calling any band a “supergroup” is a bit of a misnomer but Denver’s NightWraith has a major pedigree of Denver metal and art rock luminaries including the following with their past and current bands in parentheses as applicable: Benjamin Pitts (To Be Eaten, The New Rome, False Cathedrals, Vimana, Black Sleep of Kali, In The Company of Serpents, Giant Eyeball and others), Igor Panasewicz (Valiomierda, Vimana, Necrosophik Abyss, Abhoria), Isidro “Spy” Soto (Ashes For The Mute, Primitive Man), Caleb Tardio (I Sank Molly Brown) and Jerry Hilger (who is just the affable guy you run into in the scene regularly and wonder when he was going to be in a band). In 2019 NightWraith put out its excellent self-titled debut but on this night the outfit celebrates the unleashing of its new record Offering (available digitally, on CD and limited edition vinyl starting March 25). The early singles highlight the way this quintet brings together melodic riffs with epic sensibilities and black metal grit for an orchestral display of a particularly glorious brand of heavy metal. There is a playfulness to the songs that also doesn’t detract from the heaviness of the riffs and the elegantly precise dynamics. Also on the bill is the psychedelic hard rock and metal of Space In Time whose own hybrid influences from the likes of Hawkwind, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep has resulted in an always surprisingly powerful performance. You also get to see the instrumental post-metal band Ghosts of Glaciers and cosmic black metal outfit Ashes For The Mute in which “Spy” will be doing double duty for the night. Clearly the best metal show of the week.

Lost Walks, photo courtesy the band

Friday | 03.18
What: Lost Walks w/Friends of Slim Cessna and f-ether
When: 7 p.m.
Where: LFX Filmworks
Why: Lost Walks released its weighty and harrowing new album Blood Lantern in December 2021. The theatrical, dark Americana of Wolf, Woman, Man, its 2017 debut album, is still at the root of this new batch of music but the band which collaborates with a regular dance troupe for its performances shed some of the folk and blues aspects of its prior musical incarnation in any obvious ways and sounds now more like Neurosis except that Dameon Merkl still sounds like the mysterious and charismatic figure you want to narrate a future documentary about H.P. Lovecraft. Also for this show you get to see members of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club bring their own imaginative and compelling style of gritty old time music and theater while f-ether performs his own highly refined and stylized techno and house-informed electronic soundscapes. Considering the venue expect more than a touch of theater to the show.

Friday | 03.18
What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and De Gringos y Gremmies
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock revival band originally based out of Huntsville, Alabama but now out of Houston. But that doesn’t quite do justice to the legend of this band that you hear from anyone that has seen them from not just the kaiju (giant monsters in Japanese popular culture i.e. Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Gamera and others not so well known) aesthetic and themes but also the kabuki masks, the use of fire when they can and energetic/borderline unhinged live performances that are part of the lore of the group as well. But make no mistake, yeah, a surf rock revival band but one with chops and imagination and not the rote surf rock that has plagued the indie underground for way too long. Think more like Man Or Astro-man or The Mermen. As for TripLip, some journalist wrote this about them in 2013 and they are a much neglected local institution: “A drum and bass instrumental duo (not in the EDM sense, of course), TripLip can’t be said to fit into any particular musical subgenre. Reminiscent only of a a band these two guys have probably never heard of — Denver’s The Hellmen, because of its perfect fusion of jazz, punk, noise rock and surf with flourishes of improvisational funk — it can safely be said that TripLip isn’t following any trends, local or otherwise, because there’s nothing trendy about what the act is doing. The outfit’s solid musicianship and sonic creativity is refreshingly out of time and place, and it’s always interesting. – Tom Murphy, Westword. 11/24/2013”

Saturday | 03.19
What: Lost Walks w/Friends of Slim Cessna and Florea
When: 7 p.m.
Where: LF Filmworks
Why: See above on 3.19 but for this show the introspective and dusky folk of Florea will open the proceedings.

Circle Jerks, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Saturday | 03.19
What: Circle Jerks w/Negative Approach and 7 Seconds
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Circle Jerks were one of the earliest and one of the most enduringly influential hardcore bands out of Southern California in the late 70s with former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris. Morris’ surreal and absurdly wry sense of humor and self-deprecating social commentary informed much of the band’s material which can be lost in flood of energy of the live show and Morris’ exuberant energy as a vocalist. This tour is technically the 40 year reunion tour that was supposed to happen in 2020 but everyone knows what happens there so here’s your chance to see the Jerks in high form with Morris, guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Zander Schloss and Joey Castillo formerly of Queens of the Stone Age joining on drums. But wait, there’s more. Negative Approach is also one of the pioneering bands of hardcore having formed in Detroit and fronted by one of the most elemental vocalists of our time in John Brannon. Brutal, nihilistic and desperate in lyrics and crushing and devastating in sound. And then of course 7 Seconds from Reno, Nevada also helped to lay the foundations of hardcore beginning in 1980 with the fast and hard dynamics with a core of catchy melodicism that helped shape a body of work that in itself has inspired generations of punk bands since.

Saturday | 03.19
What: Daikiju, TripLip and friends
When: 7:15 p.m.
Where: The Matchbox
Why: See above on 3.18 for this show in case you had to miss that performance.

Monday | 03.21
What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and Ego Death
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Final chance to catch Daikaiju with TripLip before the touring band hits the road for places out west.

Monday | March 21
What: W.I.T.C.H. w/Night Beats and Mauskovic Dance Band
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Incredibly W.I.T.C.H. is the Zamrock band formed in the 1970s meaning of course that they’re pioneers of the unique flavor of psychedelic rock that happened in Zambia during that decade before multiple forces led to the demise of the movement by the mid-1980s. Articles have written about the movement and vinyl reissues of classics by Witch and of course Ngozi Family lead to a resurgence in interest in that era of music and the reunion of Witch in 2012. Not often you get to catch legends like this in the flesh. But also on the bill is the great psychedelic garage rock band Night Beats from Seattle who were always weirder and more interesting than most of the recent wave of American psychedelia. Also opening is Mauskovic Dance Band whose blend of cumbia, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Krautrock sensibilities will fit right in with the headliners.

Jawbox, photo by Pete Duvall

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Jawbox w/despAIR Jordan
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Jawbox emerged from the vibrant late 80s and early 90s post-punk/post-hardcore DC punk scene to go on to become one of the most influential guitar bands of the 90s and beyond. Its 1991 debut album Grippe is like the missing link between Dinosaur Jr and midwest post-punk and hardcore like Articles of Faith and Naked Raygun. But the beautifully atonal and angular “Savory” from the 1994 album For Your Own Special Sweetheart, the band’s major label debut, was a surprise hit during that era before the alternative rock being championed by major labels was a watered down version of the music seemingly flooding forth in the early part of the decade. Jawbox split in 1997 and didn’t reunite except briefly in 2009 until 2019 though in 2021 founding member Bill Barbot left the group replaced by War on Women guitarist and singer Brooks Harlan. Opening the show is Denver’s despAIR Jordan whose own post-punk flavor is as informed by melodic hardcore as it is the atmospheric, melancholic variety.

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Yves Tumor
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Yves Tumor is like the Prince of experimental electronic music whose exuberant stage presence is as colorful as Bowie at peak weirdness but whose sensibilities and aesthetic are very much of the present. That their music has been coming out on Warp Records is saying something about the forward thinking quality of the songcraft and for someone who many might consider a weird hip-hop artist, Tumor has cited Throbbing Gristle as a major influence.

Tuesday | 03.22
What: New Candys and Mint Field w/Wave Decay
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: New Candys from Venice, Italy released Vyvyd in 2021 and it proved to be one of the best psychedelic rock albums of the year with its hybrid of krautrock and shoegaze. Mexico City’s Mint Field brings its own ambient/shoegaze soundscapes to the show with touches of psych folk and cinematic aesthetics making what can often be abstract music that transports you to other spaces into something that feels deeply personal. Wave Decay’s soothing dream pop sound combines motorik beats with gossamer melodies.

Indigo De Souza, photo by Charlie Boss

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Indigo De Souza w/Field Medic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Indigo De Souza recently released her latest album Any Shape You Take on Saddle Creek in August 2021. Though its neo-soul and pop sound is somewhat stylistically different from her fantastic 2018 debut album I Love My Mom with its introspective, guitar pop songs it goes further into an approach of radical vulnerability in plumbing the depths of emotional trauma, self-doubt and the use of creativity as a path out of the darkest places of the mind. The gentle touch of the songs have an unconventional power through honoring wounded feelings with a compassionate honesty that informs the songwriting in general.

Wombo, photo by Fallon

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat w/Wombo, Apollo Shortwave and H-Lite
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat has been a fixture of underground American art punk. Somewhere between angular post-punk, funk and jazz, the duo’s releases have been varied and always interesting with viscerally impactful and fun live shows. Its forthcoming album Nightclub Daydreaming has all the hallmarks of a great Ed Schrader offering with intricate rhythmic minimalism but decidedly moodier and more atmospheric than we’ve come to expect from the project’s rich sonic palette. Wombo’s psychedelic alternative rock with the dispassionate vocals have been one of the more consistently interesting left field bands out of the indie milieu of recent years that fans of Dry Cleaning and Ganser might appreciate. H-Lite’s electronic experiments unites minimal techno with a more playful and expansive type of glitchcore.

Lightning Bolt, photo by Nick Sayers

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Lightning Bolt w/Problems
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Saying that Lightning Bolt is a noise rock duo is a little like saying a hurricane is a storm. Doesn’t quite cover it. Though only a duo, Lightning Bolt seems to produce more sound than one might expect from just two people and its aggressive rhythms and explosive live performances are like small scale riot of their own. Which one might expect from a group from Providence, Rhode Island where some of the wildest and noisiest bands of the modern era (Mind Flayer, Arab on Radar, Six Finger Satellite and The Body to name a few) have come from over the past 30 years. Sonic Citadel, the band’s 2019 and latest album, is a masterclass of constant motion and barely controlled chaos and inspired weirdness. In place are also the usual rambunctious soundscape of intense yet modulated drums, processed vocals, distorted bass played both for rhythm and as accents in a call and response dynamic with lyrics sung with a nearly unhinged style. If you’ve never seen Lightning Bolt be prepared for pretty much anything to happen except that it’ll be more fun than you can usually have in a small rock club. Problems is the strange yet also fascinating techno house music project of Darren Keen based out of Lincoln, Nebraska whose 2020 album Ought Not Be Overthought is worth a listen for anyone interested in electronic music that doesn’t have obvious connections to what anyone else is doing yet remains accessible to most people.

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Dance With The Dead & Magic Sword w/Das Mortal
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Dance With The Dead is a synthwave band currently touring on the festival circuit and in support of its new album Driven To Madness. But a major reason to go to this show is to see Boise’s Magic Sword whose own mix of fantasy and science fiction imagery and hard rock synthwave is on another level than most like-minded artists as the band members perform as space knights and other than differently colored costume lights largely anonymously. With a handful of albums out and their own comic, Magic Sword is consistently entertaining and its music though technically born out of a gimmick has an appeal far beyond that like the kind of retro science fiction action movie soundtrack for a film that has yet to be made.

Yob, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.24
What: Yob w/True Widow and Glacial Tomb
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Yob guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt founded Yob in 1996 after spending some years in hardcore bands in Eugene, Oregon. The mid-90s weren’t exactly the height of the popularity for metal of any kind but in embracing the kind of heavy music that was being called “stoner rock” in the 90s but today the sludgy, sometimes psychedelic, metal might be called doom or post-metal depending on where on the stylistic spectrum the music falls. But whatever genre tags one might put on what Yob has done at this point its newer music as having emerged on both Clearing the Path to Ascend and Our Raw Heart has more than a little in common with experimental heavy artists like Neurosis and Isis (the former having been released on Neurot Recordings). Despite the sometimes cosmic bent of the lyrics and themes of mortality and struggle there is a real joy to the band’s live performances that draws you in for a shared catharsis. Denver death doom band Glacial Tomb opens the show and in the middle is True Widow from Dallas whose blend of doom and shoegaze is entrancingly melodic and moody.

Friday | 03.25
What: Gary Numan w/I Speak Machine
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan is a pioneer of synth pop whose work with his old band Tubeway Army along with the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Fad Gadget and Human League brought a sophistication of creative vision, nuanced social commentary and inventive incorporation of synthesizers into well-crafted pop songs proved influential on a generations of other artists. Numan forged a solo career for himself with 1979’s The Pleasure Principle and the hit single “Cars.” Since that time Numan has reliably experimented with technology and his own songwriting approach in ways that proved to be an influence on many of the more popular industrial bands of the 80s and 90s including Nine Inch Nails. Pick up anywhere in Numan’s recent catalog and there is worthwhile material including his 2021 album Intruder with its thoughtful commentary on climate change and its impact on the world and not just one human civilization. I Speak Machine is an electronic artist of recent years whose own synthscapes recall the era of music Numan helped to establish with horror cinema aesthetics and a live show to match. Definitely for fans of ADULT. and Xeno and Oaklander.

Saturday | 03.26
What: Quits w/Endless Nameless, Sell Farm and Pythian Whispers
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Quits is like the Hasil Adkins of post-hardcore noise rock. Endless Nameless are like the Iceburn collective of post-Canadian instrumental art shoegaze. Sell Farm is the Townes Van Zandt of doom industrial twee. Pythian Whispers is the Hüsker Dü of elevated Krautrock. These absurd characterizations are true in spirit so come on down and see for yourself. Full disclosure, the author of this bit is in Pythian Whispers.

Dust City Opera, photo by Gracie Meier

Saturday | 03.26
What: Dust City Opera w/Split Lips
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Albuquerque’s Dust City Opera recently released its new album Alien Summer with its colorful story arc of science fiction, horror and the drama of the human experience. The sound mixes a bit of the group’s dark Americana with fuzzy rock grit to lend all of the songs more of an edge than one might assume given the band’s theatrical presentation. The new album sounds like something that could have come out of the later era indiepop bands steeped in the 90s version of that music like Beulah or Red Pony Clock but with a bit more refinement of sound.

Sunday | 03.27
What: Kat Von D w/Prayers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Kat Von D is perhaps best known as a tattoo artist who has been in a couple of reality shows related to the profession. But in 2021 she released her debut album Love Made Me Do It and its mix of darkwave and synthpop is surprisingly accomplished. Her set alone with be worth seeing but opening is her husband Rafael Reyes’ band Prayers who garnered a good deal of attention as a “Cholo Goth” band when really Prayers is just one of the best modern electronic post-punk bands with a bit more actual edge to go along with the moody soundscapes and intense and dramatic lyrics.

The Spirit of the Beehive, photo courtesy the artists

Monday | 03.28
What: The Spirit of the Beehive w/Deeper
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spirit of the Beehive probably seemed like a slightly weird indie rock/pop band early in its career but anyone that has been paying attention across the arc of its albums it’s like the Philadelphia-based group has been pulling back the veils of normalcy and convention with every album. Pleasure Suck and its hazy atmospherics and melodic left turns was reminiscent of something Black Moth Super Rainbow or Stargazer Lilies might do. This shifting to more experimental songwriting continued on 2018’s Hypnic Jerks with an approach to songwriting and structure reminiscent of cinema rather than simply music. With Entertainment, Death (2021), The Spirit of the Beehive is further opening its Pandora’s Box of unexpected tonal experiments, textures and raw sound composition to craft pop songs unlike much of anything anyone is making, even genius weirdos like Deerhoof. Often the songs sound like you’re stepping into a room in a horror movie funhouse and not sure where to find the exit and find you like it there. Deeper is one of Chicago’s bright post-punk stars and their album Auto Pain is something akin to music The Cure might have done if they had gone the route of angular art rock and emerged in the 2010s having been impacted by The Rapture and Women.

Monday | 03.28
What: Blunt Bangs (Athens, GA), Supreme Joy, Moodlighting and Public Opinion
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Blunt Bangs from Athens, GA includes Reggie Youngblood formerly of buzz indie band Black Kids. But this project is like power pop with a touch of soul. The Big Star influence is obvious but the self-aware lyrics are very much in tune with the social environment of today and the cultural touchstones and lingo of the moment and a poignant portrait of the struggles young people have navigating relationships and a world that seems to make most aspects of life challenging for everyone. Blunt Bangs also includes Eli Saragoussi formerly of psychedelic garage rock phenoms Hair Cult. Also on the bill are Ryan Wong’s lo-fi post-punk band Supreme Joy and twee dream pop outfit Moodlighting who are set to release their new album Boy Wonder with a show at the Hi-Dive on May 5, 2022.

Glove, photo by Ivana Cajin

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Nation of Language w/Glove and Ducks Ltd.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Nation of Language released its debut album Introduction, Presence in 2020 at a time when no one could or did tour but its bass-driven, moody synth pop songs were reminiscent of early OMD in a way worthy of that obvious influence. The group’s 2021 album A Way Forward was aptly named because the synthesizers came more to the front for a starker yet richer sound overall. It initially recalled Magnetic Fields’ 1995 album Get Lost and its rhythms and pacing seemed to draw on Krautrock influences like Kraftwerk, Cluster, Harmonia and Ashra. And an exploration of OMD’s 1983 artpop masterpiece Dazzle Ships. But whatever the influences or inspirations, Nation of Language has fused the avant-garde with pop in a way with modern methods that draw you in and induce a mood of looking toward a future of possibilities. Glove is a post-punk/darkwave band from Tampa, Florida, a city rightfully more well known for its influential death metal milieu. But Glove’s knack for composing songs that wed energetic rhythms with pulsing low end to melancholic mood may do something toward changing that impression. Its new album Boom Nights breaks free from the cookie cutter darkwave sound that has emerged with more lo-fi recordings. Glove’s album has not slick production so much as strong. Reminiscent of The Prids and Modern English circa Mesh & Lace. Ducks Ltd. from Toronto, Ontario released Modern Fiction on Carpark in 2021 and its ebullient jangle pop sounded like a mix of New Order, all that great 80s Kiwi rock and groups out of the C86 movement of that era. But the content of the songs were inspired by an examination of modern human civilization in decay and its impacts on our lives on a very personal level. The songwriters also took some cues from the fiction of Graham Greene whose life in MI6 and fiction were likely the model of spy fiction to follow.

Greet Death, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Dummy, Greet Death, Infant Island, American Culture, Dirt Sucker, Candy Apple
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: [Greet Death and Infant Island show moved to this event due to issues with Meadowlark Bar] Dummy from Los Angeles released its latest album Mandatory Enjoyment in 2021 and immediately established itself as a band to watch with its consistently fascinating soundscapes somewhere betwixt post-punk, Krautrock, indie pop and whatever avant-garde mix of all that you’d call Stereolab. Greet Death is the kind of modern shoegaze band that sounds like its members came up through post-hardcore or some kind of punk or metal as its guitar work has some nice sharp edges even as its soundscapes sound like the shattered glass of disappointed emotions. Its 2019 album New Hell is overflowing with a sublime catharsis that genre bends in ways that one doesn’t hear much in this realm of music. Unless you’re listening to Drowse or another band with seemingly similar roots and an ear for vulnerable emotional expressions put very much forward. American Culture from Denver is no stranger to these hybrid musical impulses and singer Chris Adolf has been someone who never limits himself to a narrow genre though an innovator in indiepop going back to the 90s with bands like Love Letter Band, Bad Weather California, V-Tech Orchid and the various musical incarnations of American Culture with its Cure-esque guitar soundscapes and raw yet tenderly executed vocals. Candy Apple from Denver might be considered hardcore but only if you include the influence of early Christian Death and maybe Jesus and Mary Chain.

Video Vision, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Video Vision w/DJ Julian Black and DJ Niq V
When: 9 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Video Vision is a post-punk/deathrock band from Athens, Georgia whose 2021 album Inked in Red feels both melodramatic and intimately rendered. Sounds like something plucked from the early 80s except for the synth treatments which feel very modern. The male and female vocals recall the dynamics you’d hear in a 45 Grave song but with more ethereal music, just that grit and confidence seems very much in place.

Wilderado, photo by Grant Spanier

Wednesday and Thursday | 03.30 and 03.31
What: Wilderado w/flipturn
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre and Bluebird Theater
Why: Though Wilderado released its self-titled debut album in October 2021, the band originally based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, now out of Los Angeles, has put in its time over the last seven years honing its songcraft and performances through regular touring. Its sounds sound like they were written with acoustic guitar in a living room contemplating a feeling or a thought that strikes you so strongly you end up writing it down or committing it to memory as best you can. But those skeletons of songs get the full-fledged manifestation across an album of lively pop songs that are stronger for having been worked out before any adornments and embellishments are added.

Wednesday | 03.30
What: Black Ends (Seattle), Sell Farm, Joseph Lamar and Fainting Dreams (members of Endless Nameless, Direct Threat and Asbestos)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Black Ends and its “gunk pop” sounds like something you’d get if you took an experimental punk band and found a way to deconstruct the traditional sounds and structures into this melted mutant version. Meaning it’s more original than most things you’ll see actually on tour and would have found a home on Siltbreeze in the 2000s alongside Pink Reason, Eat Skull and the like. Sell Farm is a dub-industrial-indie pop band whose own sound experiments in real time pretty much place it outside all trendy styles happening right now which is always a reason to go see a band. Joseph Lamar is a glam R&B space alien whose soulful vocals can’t be constrained by convention either and his songwriting while hyper tuneful also colors outside the lines of expectation. If Fainting Dreams includes members of Endless Nameless, Direct Threat and Asbestos and still playing this show they’re probably using their considerable musical talents and chops to make something unusual and interesting as well.

Thursday | 03.31
What: Prism Bitch w/Horse Girl and Bud Bronson & The Good Timers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Prism Bitch from Albuquerque, New Mexico fuses synth pop with garage rock in unpredictable ways while not compromising solid pop songwriting yet coming off very unfiltered and punk. Horse Girl is part inspired performance art and art pop with a show that always breaks that barrier between the spectator and performer in creative ways. Brilliant weirdos, always. Bud Bronson & The Good Timers is the best power pop band out of Denver. Full stop.

Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.31
What: Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Oftentimes when actors get into making music it’s either quaint, ill-considered our insufferable. But Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum which includes Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) alongside Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers, Morningwood) and Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie) is shockingly good. Like a synth pop glam rock band. Its debut album THANKS FOR COMING comes off more like an art rock concept record the likes of which you’d expect more from the 1970s with strong ideas and commentary on life and society and ambitious songwriting. But with modern sensibilities like the musicians are well aware that Radiohead and Arcade Fire already happened. Its tonal exercises are poignant and evocative and the songs cinematic.

The UMS Virtual Festival Livestreams From the Hi-Dive on July 25, 2020

The Milk Blossoms at UMS 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

As with all things live music the annual The Underground Music Showcase (UMS to most) can’t happen in the usual manner but the organizers put together a lineup for a virtual music festival, variety show and retro telethon. Partnering with Colorado Music Relief Fund which supports Colorado musicians and music industry professionals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event with run on Saturday, July 25, 2020 from 7 p.m. through 10 p.m. Mountain Time. There will be prize giveaways and party supplies delivered to viewers and while not quite the sprawling marathon of music, local and otherwise, it promises to provide some humor and good times with hosts comedians Christie Buchele and Nathan Lund. The event will broadcast from the Hi-Dive a venue that has been associated with the festival for most its run thus far.

This year’s lineup (in alphabetical order) includes:
Down Time
Float Like a Buffalo
Lily Fangz
Los Mocochetes
Nathaniel Rateliff
Neoma
Ramakhandra
The Milk Blossoms
The Still Tide
TheyCallHimAP
Turvy Organ
Wave Decay
Wes Watkins
Whitacre
Wildermiss
YaSi

With additional music provided by DealzMakesBeats.

For more information including where to catch the livestream, please visit undergroundmusicshowcase.com. And you can donate to Colorado Music Relief Fund at www.comusicrelief.org/home.