Best Shows in Denver and Beyond May 2022

ADULT., photo courtesy the artists
Dehd, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Monday | 05.02
What: Dehd w/Pixel Grip
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Chicago’s Dehd amalgamated and stripped to their essence strands of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelic garage rock that might have informed the trio’s bands prior to forming this group in around 2015. The result has been a body of work including what tracks have been released for listening of its fourth album Blue Skies (due out May 27 via Fat Possum Recordings) that consistently deconstructs recent trends in indie rock to create something somehow familiar yet decidedly different. Its inventive rhythms seemingly counter to the R&B flavor of some of its songwriting yet works well in spite of fusing styles so otherwise incongruous and as a live band there is a wash of atmospherics and moods that nonetheless comes across as focused and energetic. Sometimes its early records can when listened to in small samples don’t seem to convey this quality of the band but a deep dive on their records seems rewarding for the attentive listener. Pixel Grip is also from Chicago but its mutant blend of industrial disco synth pop would sound like a noise version of commercial pop if not for its eccentric streak in processing sounds and disregard for convention. Like a more accessible Atari Teenage Riot.

Mudhoney, photo by Niffer Calderwood

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Mudhoney w/Cyclo Sonic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Mudhoney is arguably the pioneering grunge band that cohered an aesthetic and attitude beyond the earlier explorations of Green River. Its wild dynamics and ramshackle rock and roll is almost like the early Replacements but more rooted in garage rock and punk. Mudhoney is also a charismatic and highly entertaining live band whose music isn’t inherently silly but despite the immense talent of its membership this group doesn’t take itself too seriously. Opening is Cyclo Sonic which includes members of various important Denver punk bands including Choosey Mothers, Rok Tots and of course Matt Bischoff of influential garage punk legends The Fluid who may have been an influence on Mudhoney and countless other bands of that era.

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Interpol w/Matthew Dear
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Most people who haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years, unless they’re also too young for it to have mattered, have heard of Interpol. More than most other bands of its time and of the so-called “post-punk revival” in the late 90s and early 2000s its brooding and widely dynamic post-punk reached the widest audience. Its 2002 album Turn On the Bright Lights was probably among the most played record in college dorms, hip bars and indie dance nights of that time outside of The Strokes’ 2001 classic Is This It. Paul Banks’ controlled yet highly emotional vocals jibed so well with Daniel Kessler’s nuanced and expressive guitar atmospherics and Sam Fogarino’s ear for subtle detail in percussion alongside Carlos Dengler’s duskily melodic bass lines. Dengler hasn’t been with the band since 2010 but Interpol continues to make evocative and beautifully moody music including its forthcoming 2022 album The Other Side of Make Believe. Brilliant experimental pop artist Matthew Dear could probably have a headlining tour of his though hard to say it would be at Mission Ballroom but you get to see his scintillating songwriting and performance on the same bill with Interpol so treat yourself and don’t skip the opener this time. It’s been 4 years since the release of Bunny so maybe Dear will treat us to new material.

Moodlighting in April 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 05.05
What: Moodlighting album release w/Mainland Break and Style Animal
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver dream/twee pop band Moodlighting is released its debut album Boy Wonder at the beginning of April and is now celebrating the occasion on this night. Musically the group sounds like it came out of the more recent bedroom pop aesthetic with strong melodic lines and evocatively vulnerable vocals. The album seems to be an assessment of what it’s been like living your post-college years trying to establish your adult life during a global pandemic on top of the usual struggles and the things that make it all endurable from small joys to creative and personal aspirations that you know won’t manifest now but serve as a beacon to get you through the roughest stretches. Mainland Break is a power pop band with a fuzzy and urgent edge that sounds sometimes like it was influenced by the more psychedelic end of Jay Reatard and of course Ty Segall without being weighted down by the now faded psych garage aesthetic of the 2010s.

Thursday | 05.05
What: Drune w/Only Echoes, New Standards Men and Nightwalker
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Remember when there was this active organization called the Denver Art Rock Collective that put on shows featuring bands that were either inspired by or by default fit in with bands inspired by experimental rock of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Stuff like New Ancient Astronauts, The Skivies, Action Friend, Mourning Sickness and such? Maybe not. Well these bands would have fit in that milieu nicely. Drune might have had some origins in doom metal but has long since expanded into more progressive, noise and psychedelic territory as it has developed and a more interesting and original group because of it. Only Echoes is a post-metal/post-rock band that includes Austin Minney who has engineered the releases of more underground Denver bands in the DIY scene than most other people you could name as well as Alex Goldsmith who has spent more than his fair share of time in a broad range of music from hard rock band Sharone to the late, great experimental noise pop group Roommates. Only Echos releases its own album Sunsickness at Seventh Circle Music Collective on May 13, 2022 with Endless Nameless, Abandons and Old Soul Dies Young on that bill. But of course one of the current also outstanding and unusual bands out of Denver now is the art rock/prog/post-rock/space jazz group New Standards Men.

BleakHeart November 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.06
What: BleakHeart tour kickoff w/Matriarch and No Gossip In Braille
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver shoegaze/darkwave metal band BleakHeart is ready to go on a tour with Blackwater Holylight and marking that occasion with a hometown show with the colossal, doom-drone soundscapes of Matriarch and the elegantly haunted post-punk of No Gossip In Braille.

Friday | 05.06
What: The Cult w/King Woman and DES ROCS
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Cult were pioneers of post-punk and death rock in an earlier incarnation but by the late 80s were making the kind of bombastic yet moody hard rock that strode the line between heavy metal, alternative rock and the music of its early days. With charismatic frontman Ian Astbury and the surprisingly consistently inventive guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult remain a forceful live band worth your time to witness. But then there’s also the dark and dramatic metal/folk/psychedelic stylings of King Woman whose 2021 album Celestial Blues was one of the best albums of that year placing her in company with great songwriters who don’t feel the need to fit into a narrow genre yet embraced by fans of experimental music, metal and folk like Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler.

Friday and Sunday | 05.06, 05.07 and 05.08
What: Henry Rollins
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre on 05.06, Stargazers Theatre on 05.07 and Boulder Theater on 05.08
Why: Henry Rollins is of course the legendary frontman of the final incarnation of Black Flag in the 80s. And he had his own group Rollins Band from the 80s through the 2000s. But for much of that time Rollins was writing intense poems and observations about life and tales from the road that he published in various books across a prolific career as a writer and parallel to that he also did spoken word shows and arguably it is that work that is his greatest legacy as a cultural figure with insightful commentary on what it means to be a human trying to navigate an often perilous social and political landscape and try to pursue a life exploring what interests you and bring it back to inform and hopefully entertain others. His spoken word shows have always been highly entertaining and he’s usually very generous with his time. The most recent tour found Rollins sharing photographs from his extensive travels in parts of the world most of us will never go as a way to hopefully expand the perspective of people who show up. This time around who can say other than it will be well worth the time and resources invested in making it to the gig. You have three chances in Colorado over this particular weekend.

Dorothy, photo by Courtney Dellafiora

Sunday | 05.08
What: Dorothy w/Joyous Wolf and Classless Act
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Dorothy is a hard blues rock band fronted by the charismatic Dorothy Martin. A lot of bands have been tapping into classic rock and the blues in recent years with mixed and often cringeworthy, laughable results. But there’s some genuine gusto behind what Dororthy brings to the music. Could be an unusual comparison to make but imagine some 80s glam metal band with better songwriting minus the questionable lyrical content but with the bombast and larger than life energy that those bands aimed to put across and you get some of the vibe of Dorothy.

Sunday and Monday | 05.08 and 05.09
What: The Church
When: 6:30 p.m. (05.08) and 7 p.m. (05.09)
Where: Washington’s (05.08) and Fox Theatre (05.09)
Why: The Church may still mostly be known for their 1988 hit “Under the Milky Way” by most people who only pay attention to a band’s Top 40 charting. But The Church has been releasing extraordinary records consistently from its 1981 debut Of Skins and Heart through its most recent record Man Woman Life Death Infinity (2017) and the forthcoming, tentatively titled, In the Wake of the Zeitgeist is likely to not be short of thoughtful, emotionally stirring material as well. And as a live band The Church has a mystique about them that is also relatable like you want to be a part of it and they make you a part of the experience. Their music is hard to pin down for genre but the psychedelic rock is there, the post-punk, the folk roots and one has to assume most shoegaze bands since the 80s has had more than a brush of influence by The Church. Two Colorado shows this tour and maybe you’ll get to hear some of the new material before it finds official release.

Monday | 05.09
What: Fontaines D.C.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Fontaines D.C. from Dublin has garnered an international cult following since the 2019 release of its debut album Dogrel. A couple of the members of the band met at college and bonded over a shared love of poetry and inspired in part by both the Beats and classice modern Irish poets like James Joyce and Yeats. And that sensibility can be heard in its narrative songs depicting the way the slow moving wrecking ball of late capitalism is crushing the life out of life for most people and their communities. Yet the music isn’t a bummer, just honest and unpretentious. Its fiery live performances early have evolved into something more nuanced and intense without losing that power and emotional resonance.

Monday | 05.09
What: Christian Death w/Luna 13 and Plague Garden
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Christian Death was the foundational band of the death rock side of early eighties post-punk and its 1981 debut album Only Theatre of Pain a classic of the genre. Valor Kand wasn’t part of the band at that time but for the group’s 1984 follow up Catastrophe Ballet Kand was the band’s guitarist and only constant member since 1983 including beyond band founder Rozz Williams departing and then doing his other projects and establishing a different version of Christian Death before his death in 1998. Under Kand’s leadership the group has explored a variety of styles and in recent years the sound has been more like a fusion of metallic blues punk and deathrock including its 2022 album Evil Becomes Rule. Luna 13 is sort of a blackened industrial metal band from Los Angeles. Plague Garden is a post-punk group from Denver that in the interests of transparency the author of this piece writes but figures people are really coming out to this show to see Christian Death.

Slow Crush, photo by Kat De Laet

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Slow Crush w/SOM
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SOM’s new album The Shape of Everything (2022) picks up where its previous releases have drifted with a colossal yet deeply melodic sound. Like a slow moving fusion of a classic shoegaze group and a doom band. Post-metal and post-rock doesn’t quite cover it because it has hooks like you’d expect out of one of the better emo and post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s except translated to something with exquisite and epic soundscaping. Fitting that SOM is sharing this bill with Slow Crush from Belgium whose 2021 album Hush is a flood of luminous sounds and grainy textures like SubRosa gone full shoegaze or Tamaryn collaborating with members of Kylesa. Clearly the transcendental metal/shoegaze crossover show of the month and likely the whole year.

Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Metz w/Moon Pussy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Canadian post-punk/noise rock trio Metz has been evolving its beautifully discordant sound since 2008. But its 2020 album Atlas Vending though a bit of a grower showcases the band at its most dynamic, frantic and raw yet fully realized. And in many ways its most overtly political in a general rather than topical sense. Obviously Metz wasn’t able to tour in support of the record so this is your chance to catch the wiry power of the group showcasing its recent work. Opening the show is probably the perfect Denver band for the slot in Moon Pussy. The sheer eruption of sounds and nearly unhinged musical dynamics and scorching yet angular sonic assault always seems like something that could go off the rails at any moment but never does. Fans of Touch and Go noise rock weirdness or that of Amphetamine Reptile should definitely make the effort to see Moon Pussy but your appetite for that kind of sonic savagery will get filled aplenty by this show.

MXMTOON, photo by Lissyelle Laricchia

Tuesday | 05.10
What: MXMTOON w/Chloe Moriondo
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: MXMTOON garnered a cult following as a bedroom pop YouTuber but her songwriting chops were clear from early on and her thoughtful lyrics expressing the yearnings of a young, sensitive person examining her own insecurities and the intricacies of her own psychology and observations on life resonate much more broadly than one might expect. Employing mostly a ukulele and her own resonant voice, MXMTOON’s performances are confident yet introspective and imbued with a fresh and spontaneous energy. Her sophomore album Rising is due on May 20, 2022.

Wednesday and Thursday | 05.11 and 05.12
What: Nox Novacula (w/WitchHands and Plague Garden on 05.11 and w/Radio Scarlet and Witch Hands on 05.12)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Fritzy’s (05.11) and HQ (05.12)
Why: Seattle’s Nox Novacula is a brash and energetic post-punk band whose fast-paced songs are more akin to a classic deathrock group with widely dynamic, propulsive rhythms and passionate vocals. Its 2021 album Ascension is a combination of grit and fire with vividly macabre and inspired lyrics that are dark and dramatic yet never cartoonish.

Thursday | 05.12
What: Front Line Assembly w/Rein, Choke Chain, DJs Paul and Eli
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Bill Leeb the vocalist of Front Line Assembly got his start as a member of an early incarnation of Skinny Puppy but by the late 80s he had branched off with his own with long time bandmate and collaborator Rhys Fulber called Front Line Assembly in 1986. A pioneering band of the EBM movement and then electro-industrial, Front Line Assembly built on the political consciousness of the music with its often dystopian depictions of the effects of commercialized technology and industry on human lives and civilization. But even if you weren’t into that content as much its soundscapes and mix of menacing sounds and hard, danceable rhythms has been a consistent feature of its music from the beginning up to and including its 2021 album Mechanical Soul. Swedish electro-industrial pop artist Rein is also on the bill with her soulful vocals and well-orchestrated synths and textures. Choke Chain’s distorted, ominous songs are reminiscent of early Nitzer Ebb and his 2021 EP Invoking Shadows has an uncommon edge even for the genre with Mark Trueman sounding a little like William Faith at his most unhinged.

Friday | 05.13
What: William Basinksi w/Tripp Nasty
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Outside of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and a few others, William Basinski is likely the most famous avant-garde composer in America and certainly one whose work has been most celebrated in recent years including his now classic 2001 electronic masterpiece The Disintegration Loops. His career has been greatly varied and includes work in modern classical and ambient music and styles that are unique to him though informed by process music and tape collage. He rarely comes to Colorado and not often playing a small club. Opening is Tripp Nasty who is no stranger to classical avant-garde, noise, experimental pop music, noise rock and analog synthesizer composition. You never quite know what to expect from Tripp except that it’ll be interesting and of quality.

Fozzy, photo by Adrienne Beacco

Friday | 05.13
What: Fozzy w/GFM and Krash Karma
When: 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Fozzy is the hard rock/melodic metal band fronted by Chris Jericho. The latter most probably know from his professional wrestling career throughout the 90s and on into the 2010s and his outsized persona like he was auditioning to be the lead singer of a rock band. The early Fozzy records were mainly covers albeit pretty solid as far as that goes but more recent offerings reveal the group’s knack for anthemic hard rock as evidenced on its 2022 album Boombox. The single “I Still Burn” has all the aggression and bombast you’d want from a band like this but its lyrics are also introspective and vulnerable and lacking in the bravado that helped make Jericho a celebrity and yet that’s why it’s definitely a cut above a lot of other hard rock that might get compared to 80s glam metal which this is not yet has a similar appeal I its uplifting dynamics and willingness to indulge a tasty and tasteful guitar solo.

ADULT. circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.14
What: ADULT. w/Kontravoid and Spike Hellis
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers (mostly if not entirely designed by Kuperus) and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux. Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Bluebird Theater, March 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.15
What: OMD w/In The Valley Below
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were early pioneers of synth pop in the 1970s and turning the style of music into a mainstream phenomenon throughout the 1980s. Turned off by what today might be called toxic masculinity of too much guitar driven rock in the 70s, singer and bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Humphries arrived at their own style of music inspire by Kraftwerk as solidified by their having witnessed the foundational electronic band live (McCluskey has the seat number memorized and mentions it now and then in various interviews, such was the enduring impact). The electronic post-punk of OMD quickly caught attention early on and their 1979 debut single “Electricty” was was released on Factory Records, the imprint started by Tony Wilson to release Joy Division’s records. Following a tour with Gary Numan OMD’s self-titled debut failed to chart commercially but the group had built their own studio and had a place to refine recording and composition. And with the release of their second album Organisation (1980) and the hit, anti-war single “Enola Gay” (named after one of the airplanes that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to great horror and bringing to a swifter end World War II though at what cost, thus the point of the song), OMD garnered international popularity. Through ups and downs of popularity including the lack of love for its arguably most experimental and interesting album Dazzle Ships (1983), OMD persevered until splitting in 1989. But By 2006 interest in synth pop was starting to become more pronounced than it had in decades and OMD re-convened as chillwave, vaporwave and related musical forms gained popularity in the indie music world and then well into mainstream music. Don’t go OMD expecting to see a sedate band performing some of the most gorgeous, most heartfelt electronic-driven pop of all time. OMD plays it like they’re a punk band but with grace and humor.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Cut Copy w/Suzanne Kraft
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Unfortunately Australian band Cut Copy is playing opposite a clear influence in OMD not far from the Paramount at The Ogden. The quartet has made finely sculpted pop songs informed by not just synth pop but modern dance music and shoegaze soundscaping and guitar work since 2001 with a string of albums that seem to have pushed the band into new territory even if in what can sometimes come across as subtle ways but all are beyond a surface level massively different. Freeze, Melt, the 2020 and most recent record, hit a tonal yet highly evocative plateau that sounded like an attempt to reach a place of emotional tranquility and put that across in a set of songs for a time of great turmoil. Also, a consistently surprisingly passionate live band in spite of its ethereal melodies.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Eve 6:The Extreme Wealth Tour w/Field Medic and Jake Flores
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Eve 6 had a bunch of hit singles in the 90s and did well for itself with songs like “Inside Out” and “Leech.” Nevertheless, Eve 6 was one of those mid-to-late alternative rock acts that weren’t so bad but nothing as exciting and as innovative as what came much earlier in the decade. And yet, nothing cringey which can’t be said about all the later-era alternative music. So probably the show will be good. The band also named itself after the titular character in the “Eve” episode of X-Files (S1E11). But one thing that is indisputable is that singer Max Collins’ Twitter account is one of the most real and amusing things you’ll read from any musician in social media and that must be honored.

Collen Green, photo by Jason MacDonald

Monday | 05.16
What: Juan Wauters w/Colleen Green
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Juan Wauters was once a member of psychedelic, indie garage band The Beets who garnered some critical acclaim and popularity during its heyday of the early 2010s. His albums under his own name show a broad spectrum of musical interests. His 2021 album Real Life Situations is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson crossed with Devendra Banhart. Except that Wauters has his own sound wherein he freely goes off the conventional map. Colleen Green made a solid career out of fuzz pop songs across a handful of releases with songs that seemed like a vivid portrait of personal insecurities discussed with a poetic honesty and sardonic humor. Her 2021 album Cool found Green using her songs as a vehicle for shedding outmoded lifestyles and frames of mind that might have seemed critical to one’s identity at an earlier point in life. Her career got going at the height of the indie/surf punk explosion of the 2010s and the influence of pop punk is obvious in Green’s work but her songwriting has always been more interesting than the prevailing trends and her lyrics consistently more sharply observed.

Tuesday | 05.17
What: Nilüfer Yanya w/Tasha and Ada Lea
When: 8:30 doors 9 show
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Nilüfer Yanya is a UK-based singer-songwriter whose music is a hybrid of various styles and modes somewhere between what some might call indie folk, synth pop, jazz and trip hop. Her subtly expressive vocals alongside lush arrangements and layered textures give her songs a gentle presence with great nuance of emotional resonance. The artist is now touring in support of her 2022 album Painless.

Author & Punisher, photo by Becky DiGiglio

Wednesday | 05.18
What: Author & Punisher w/MVTANT
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tristan Shone has refined his Author & Punisher project from its early days of using his mechanical engineering skills to modify mechanical and electrical devices as controllers for sound generators and other instruments into a sort of industrial noise project. His latest album Krüller (2021) found Shone pulling back from the colossal wall of sound that characterized a good deal of his previous body of work and the melodic side of his songwriting is more obvious and enhanced as is his expert use of space and overlapping rhythms this time used with even more atmospheric effect so that one might get lost in the gorgeous soundscapes rather than be thrillingly overwhelmed by them. But don’t worry, A&P hasn’t lost its visceral edge and sense that you’re seeing a musical project from an actual cyberpunk future and not the second rate, B-movie version.

Thursday | 05.19
What: Testament w/The Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste and Meshiaak
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Testament is one of the second wave of bands to have emerged foundational to Bay Area thrash metal. Its aggressive precision was rooted partly in progressive/technical metal and jazz fusion except Testament utilized those ideas to make imaginative, thoughtful, politically charged music. With Chuck Billy’s commanding bark and Eric Peterson’s and Alex Skolnick’s intricately interweaving guitar work these days buoyed by Steve Di Giorgio’s bass and now Dave Lombardo’s (formerly of Slayer) paradoxically tastefully bombastic drums, Testament remains one of the greats of the genre.

Molchat Doma, photo courtesy Sacred Bones Records

Friday | 05.20
What: Molchat Doma w/Pompeya
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Considering world events it’s fortunate that Belarusian post-punk band Molchat Doma (“Houses Are Silent”) is touring North America at the moment. Formed in Minsk in 2017, the trio’s sound fuses synth pop, New Wave and the sort of post-punk informed by both as perhaps most notably embodied by classic Russian post-punk band Kino. There is a melancholic and resigned tenor to much of the music as though there is a spirit of not wanting to get your hopes up too much only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control. Which makes it a solid soundtrack not just for a band living in Belarus and in the sphere of Russia but life under this particularly crushing version of late capitalism where you’re encouraged to grind yourself to death just don’t cause any major trouble for the powerful and wealthy. The group’s latest album Monument (2020) was to have come out the same year the band was to undertake its first tour of North America with a May 2020 date at the Hi-Dive. But the pandemic hit and the band’s cachet grew dramatically beyond the appeal of a few dozen connoisseurs of post-punk in every city of size in America and beyond. The track titles on the new record spell out a bleak present and future and despite the sound of the music it also points to an ability to resist the inevitable despair which is always key in the toughest times. This show is sold out and has been for weeks but you never know. Maybe it’ll get moved to a bigger venue or will should there be a future tour.

Elder Island, photo by Nick Kane

Friday and Saturday | 05.20 and 05.21
What: Elder Island w/JORDANN
When: 8 p.m. (05.20) and 8:30/9 p.m. (05.21)
Where: Bluebird Theater (05/20) and Fox Theatre (05.21)
Why: Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK. Starting life as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even experimental folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.

Kurt Vile, photo by Adam Willacavage

Monday | 05.23
What: Kurt Vile and the Violators
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Kurt Vile has more than proven himself as one of the foremost songwriters to have emerged from the American indie underground with a thoughtful and evocative body of work that traverses and transcends simple categories like psych, Americana and garage rock. His new album (watch my moves) (2022) isn’t too much of a surprise to long time fans of his songwriting and its homespun charm. But where it perhaps departs a bit from expectation is in the subtle sonic details. None of Vile’s albums seem overproduced but this one, granted recorded in his home studio OKV Central, really feels like Vile was honing in on a sound like his own version of what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska—relatively stripped down production, spare arrangements, a sense that this could have been done on a four track with few overdubs. Which is saying something considering multiple collaborators worked on the album including Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Cate Le Bon, Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt), Farmer Dave Scher (Beachwood Sparks), Annie Truscott and Lydia Lund (both also from Chastity Belt) among others. It’s a deeply introspective and layered album that sounds disarmingly intimate so it should be interesting to see how it translates to a big stage.

Monday | 05.23
What: Weedeater w/High Tone Son of a Bitch and J.D. Pinkus
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A lot of sonic brutality for the small stage at the Hi-Dive this night with Wilmington, North Carolina’s kings of stoner rock Weedeater. Its doomy, grindy music is like a flood of caustic sonic tar like Thrones but even more metal. J.D. Pinkus will probably bring his heavier solo material rather than his excellent country tunes to this show but you just never know and either way the Butthole Surfers/Honky bassist will be entertaining and fit in somehow. Veteran, Bay Area psychedelic doom band High Tone Son of a Bitch rounds out the lineup.

Spoon, photo by Oliver Halfin

Tuesday | 05.24
What: Spoon w/Geese
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022) is Spoon’s latest album and its most arduous in terms of production and release mostly because of the whole pandemic thing that’s still going on. But, as with every other Spoon album, it finds the group exploring new songwriting and stylistic territory. Its previous album 2017’s Hot Thoughts at times sounded like an old synth pop album but with modern sensibilities informing the songwriting architecture. The new record has an immediacy that was always part of the group’s sound but the production makes the music seem very up close and its blend of soul and Americana in the more raw rock and roll songwriting with touches of the unusual around the edges and at times what seems like a sound design approach to arrangements gives the song a different dimension and aural depth than most of its previous output. Of course live Spoon has always been a lively and charismatic group of performers all around. The inclusion of Brooklynite post-punk band Geese on the bill may be a label or management arrangement but it’s also an inspired selection of an opening act as its soul, funk and psychedelia-infused post-punk is reminiscent of something Factory records would have signed in the late 80s. That or a band that would have fit in at 99 Records because its sound is so richly eclectic and its 2021 album Projector a refreshingly different entry in the post-punk canon. Fans of Parquet Courts will indubitably appreciate what Geese is offering.

Bauhaus, photo by Gary Bandfield

Wednesday | 05.25
What: Bauhaus w/Automatic and Vinsantos — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Bauhaus is one of the most influential albums in post-punk and like the best of that first wave of bands they borrowed heavily from dub, early glam rock, psychedelia and the avant-garde. Its gloomy and often hypnotically otherworldly music immediately set itself apart from other bands from a similar background with not just the art school influence and conceptual soundscaping but also the theatrical aspect of its performances as manifested in the songwriting. Its use of melodrama never seemed corny and only enhanced its mysteriousness. Of course it got boosted into a wider circle of fame by basically opening the 1983 vampire film classic The Hunger with its own enduring classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But Bauhaus never rested on its creative laurels with its albums and each one expanded what not just post-punk could be but was essentially an art rock band without the progressive rock baggage. Nearly four decades hence Peter Murphy’s haunting and dramatic warble can still give you chills, David J and Kevin Haskins’ unconventional and fluid rhythms expand the brain with compound time experiments and Daniel Ash’s guitar-as-soundscape approach to the instrument hits like few other guitarists of the era. One of the most imaginative bands of the post-punk era, Bauhaus could just be going for a cash grab, nostalgia tour but it’s not that rote a thing and its new song “Drink The New Wine” (2022) is vintage Bauhaus weirdness and inspired dreamlike moodiness. New wave-esque, minimal post-punk band Automatic, which includes Kevin Haskins’ daughter Lola Dompé on drums and vocals, is also on the bill. Their turn opening for IDLES in April 2022 revealed a band more visceral than its excellent new album Excess might immediately suggest.

A Place To Bury Strangers, photo by Heather Bickford

Thursday | 05.26
What: A Place to Bury Strangers w/Glove and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: A Place to Bury Strangers is often lumped in with the resurgence of shoegaze around the turn of the 2010s and the exquisite sound sculpting with noisy, atmospheric guitar shaped into evocative melodies definitely fit in that loose realm of music. But the knack for employing raw, nearly uncontrolled or not always reigned in noise in the mix made the music have an edginess closer to some kind of old noise rock band like Big Black or even the most unhinged guitar wall of noise that The Jesus and Mary Chain perpetrated so brilliantly on Psychocandy. This group could have skated on those core ideas but its body of work has evolved without compromising an individual vision for how music can occupy psychological spaces with not just organized tones and sonic textures but with the sheer physicality of that sound. Its most recent record See Through You (2022) on initial listen seems more pop oriented in some ways than the more avant-garde Pinned or even earlier records but with it definitely goes off into realms of experimentation that has more in common with some 2000s band that might have not decided to choose between styles and influenced by the most anti-music No Wave, the lowest of lo-fi psychedelic garage rock/punk you might find on the Siltbreeze imprint and menacing, scuzzy post-punk but with lyrics that give glimpses into a head space where a person is trying to pull themselves back together after having their heart stretched thin and feeling like they’ve hit the point of no return and finding some shred of meaning and truth in that low place as a thread to crawl back to something resembling normalcy. It’s both vintage APTBS and the next step in its sonic evolution. Glove is a post-punk band from Tampa that apparently didn’t get the memo that you can’t combine disco with synthpop, glam rock and post-punk and its music all the more interesting for it since the style side of its performance isn’t lacking either. Polly Urethane is a darkwave/industrial artist from Denver whose music has an enveloping vulnerability that feels like a memory of a dream at times even when evoking painful memories while transforming those strong emotions into catharsis. Think The Knife or Jenny Hval but perhaps inspired by the likes of SRSQ.

Thursday | 05.26
What: Faster Pussycat w/Love Stallion and Grind Cat Grind
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: In the bloated haze of Los Angeles and international glam metal in the 80s a few bands stood apart from the rest of the Aquanet-teased hair fashion victims wishing they were Led Zeppelin but couldn’t even pull off Aerosmith or Hanoi Rocks with any integrity. One of those was Faster Pussycat whose hedonistic, sleazy glam rock had a core of good songwriting and strong stage presence. It didn’t hurt that lead singer Taime Downe is one of the few people in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) to not look silly and whose band in retrospect isn’t incredibly cringe. After the band split in 1993 Downe formed an industrial band called The Newlydeads but reformed Faster Pussycat in 2001.

Built to Spill, illustration by Alex Graham

Friday and Saturday | 05.27 and 05.28
What: Build to Spill w/Sunbathe and Distant Family
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre (05.27) and Boulder Theater (05.28)
Why: Built to Spill like contemporaries Pavement established that jammy, psychedelic guitar was not antithetical to authentic alternative rock rooted in punk and the 80s underground beyond punk. Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch had been in the more overtly psychedelic post-punk band Treepeople at the same time Built to Spill was forming but the latter became Martsch’s going concern after 1994. The singer’s unconventional yet melodious voice served as a consistently interesting and elegant contrast to the sometimes amped ocean of sound that the band could unleash during the climax of a song and as the embodiment of the music’s more tender moments. BTS’s 1997 album Perfect from Now On was a masterpiece of late era alternative rock with a wide-ranging style of songs that unabashedly indulged in thought-provoking, heartbreaking epics like “Randy Described Eternity” and the bombastically celebratory “Stop the Show.” The band has consistently provided a soundtrack to introspective exploration and contemplation on the meaning of life up to and including its 2022 album When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Most live albums are not as good as the studio albums but BTS’s 2000 Live might as well be a greatest hits album performed at the near peak of its powers surpassed perhaps only by witnessing the band in the flesh.

Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Friday | 05.27
What: The Antlers w/Wild Pink (solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: When Brooklyn-based indie folk project The Antlers released its first full band offering with 2009’s Hospice it immediately established itself as a band that could make powerful emotional statements with great delicacy and simplicity. The concept album is about a hospice worker and his relationship with a patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. After a hiatus of five years until 2019 due to primary songwriter and singer Peter Silberman experiencing hearing loss. While in recovery Silberman discovered he could still write music and following the 2017 release of the solo album Impermanence The Antlers returned with 2021’s Green to Gold. Opening the show is John Ross of Wild Pink performing solo. His band’s 2021 album A Billion Little Lights is one of the most affecting albums out of the indie rock milieu to be written from the adult perspective with adult concerns without waxing into self-parody or “dad rock” territory.

Animal Collective circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.27
What: Animal Collective w/The Spirit of the Beehive — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Animal Collective is one of the most influential bands of the past 20 years. Its amalgam of psychedelia, folk, electronica, ambient and the avant-garde has yielded a rich and prolific body of work across several albums that has been oft imitated but rarely in a way equal to the group’s truly idiosyncratic songwriting and eccentric methods of composing and performing music with an almost live orchestration/remixing live during performances. It’s truly transporting music, an otherworldly pop. Its new album Time Skiffs (2022) marks the return of Deakin and a robust organic tonal element in the group’s signature, unconventional percussion and what appears to be its most sonically interesting record since Strawberry Jam with its arrangements sounding like weather events coming together to make songs through a purely intuitive process that likely involved a great deal of work to make sound effortless. The Spirit of the Beehive has been making pop music that sounds like something from another dimension like Black Moth Super Rainbow turned into more of a rock band but with a live show that sounds like it’s been orchestrated like a set of medleys and remixes performed in real time.

Friday | 05.27
What: Fiddlehead w/Flower Language, Destiny Bond and Public Opinion
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Boston’s Fiddlehead is an anthemic, melodic post-hardcore band that for the uninitiated sounds akin to an emo band that was more influenced by Fugazi and Jawbreaker than what you might expect. Destiny Bond and Public Opinion are both post-hardcore bands from Denver whose songwriting stretches beyond the too often self-imposed limitations of hardcore.

Ezra Furman, photo by Tonja Thilesen

Saturday | 05.28
What: Ezra Furman w/Grace Cummings
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ezra Furman and the Harpoons was an excellent band in the more indie folk vein but Furman herself had more to say in music than that loose format. And since writing and releasing music under her own name as a solo artist she’s seemed to have slowly shed obvious stylistic influences like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed among others across several albums since the literary, haunted Americana of 2012’s The Year of No Returning. With the new album All of Us Flames Furman takes into the consideration the concept of the end of the world, certainly the world as we know it, and examination the assumptions and hopes and dubious freedom from thinking the world is over and even finding proof of that with the pandemic and the failure of all political parties in America to deal adequately with the crisis even to this day nevermind the ecological disaster slow crashing through human civilization, the perils of right wing extremism entering into governments worldwide posing a threat on its own and compounding all others as fascism is completely unprepared to actually deal with the crises we face and establish a sustainable response to issues those types fail to comprehend to the detriment of all. The lead single from the new album “Forever In Sunset” is a fiercely compassionate presentation of that whole backdrop as the ambient weight that amplifies whatever mood we’re feeling but suggests we don’t have to be overwhelmed while in survival mode and the meaning and significance of our lives can and will continue beyond the immediate brace of crises at our collective doorstep. Sonically it’s like a great glam rock song with an elevated folk flavor layered with enveloping atmospheres. Which is reason enough to go see how Furman pulls this music off live. But you also get to see Australian singer Grace Cummings whose 2022 album Storm Queen has a brooding grit and fiery passion that is a little reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. But Cummings isn’t ethereal like the latter yet both songwriters have an almost spiritual immediacy and an instinct for crafting the kind of guitar rock that burns from within like the ghost of another era of music trying to manifest through her performance. For instance one hears in the single “Heaven” shades of Big Star, Tommy Bolin and Zeppelin. The rest of the album proves that Cummings isn’t just a rocker, her expressive voice and songwriting chops range far from bombastic heights to tranquilly introspective songs with emotionally vibrant performances. Fans of Aldous Harding will find much to like in Cummings’ rich repertoire.

Grace Cummings, photo courtesy the artist
Causer in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.30
What: Bestial Mouths w/CXCXCX and Cau5er
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with industrial noise dance phenom Cau5er and Denver-based power electronics artist CXCXCX.

The Body, photo by Zachary Harrel Jones

Tuesday | 05.31
What: The Body w/Midwife and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With its extensive history of touring since starting in 1999 there’s a good chance that if you’ve been involved in underground music since that time you’ve seen or had a chance to see The Body from Providence, Rhode Island. The experimental duo might in a reductive way be described as a doom metal band crossed with a grindcore band informed by harsh noise. But drummer Lee Buford and guitarist Chip King really push their art into different sonic territory and in different formations with a fairly long list of collaborative releaes with the likes of Thou, Full of Hell, Unform, BIG BRAVE, and Krieg to name a few. The 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness was inspired by synth pop music and sounds it while also being one of the heaviest and most raw albums of that year that had an inexplicable and undeniable sonic nuance. Its most recent release is a split record with OAA called Enemy of Love and is harrowing fusion of doom, power electronics and intensely pointed social commentary fitting the state of the world today. But it’s not all just the sound of civilization crashing into a burning heap, there are moments when the record uses an almost ambient aesthetic to arrange the denunciation of the world’s destructive bastards and humanity’s seemingly unending instinct for self-destruction. By contrast though completely fitting Midwife is also on the bill with Madeline Johnston’s heartbreaking and soul soothing soundcapes that express a similar pain and rejection of a horrifying situation in the world in a broad and not topical sense while doing so through deeply personal songs about loss and trying to make sense of losses so deep they leave you shaken to the core. Midwife’s 2021 album Luminol provides some of the most transcendent and cathartic passages of music to address the aforementioned to have come out in the past decade. Opening this show is Polly Urenthane mentioned above opening the A Place to Bury Strangers show and will bring to this event her own music to transform trauma into inspiration.

To Be Continued…

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 12/6/18 – 12/12/18

Cupcakke_courtesyArtist
CupcakKe at Summit Music Hall, Saturday, December 8, 2018. Photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | December 6, 2018

Quits_May4_2018_TomMurphy_Mod1
Quits circa Spring 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Red Fang w/Telekinetic Yeti and Quits
When: Thursday, 12.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Red Fang is a “stoner rock” band from Portland, Oregon that started out when that form of music was a big trend in underground metal. But Red Fang’s knack for writing a solid melody and its self-awareness and sense of humor set it apart from early on. After all, who gets über metal nerd comedian Brian Posehn to cameo in your music video (“Wires) unless you’re somewhat legit but don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s been a couple of years since the band’s most recent album but in 2018 it released an interesting choice for a single in Tubeway Army’s “Listen to the Sirens.” Opening the show are two fairly different kinds of bands. Dubuque, Iowa’s Telekinet Yeti makes a sort of groove-oriented doom-sludge, like a more psychedelic Fu Manchu. Quits from Denver is a noise rock juggernaut whose membership includes Luke Fairchild of Git Some fame, Doug Mioducki (formerly of indie pop band Felt Pilotes and noise rock groups Sparkles, Witchdoctor and CP-208) and Darren Kulback (ex-Hot White and Poison Rites). When the band started former Hot White vocalist/bassist Tiana Bernard brought her emotional intensity and charisma to the band but since she moved out of state, Neil Keener has stepped in with his considerable abilities honed in projects like Planes Mistaken For Stars, Git Some and Woven Hand.

Friday | December 7, 2018

 

Godflesh
Godflesh, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Godflesh w/In The Company of Serpents
When: Friday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Godflesh was oft-cited as an early grindcore band by the national music press in the late 80s when the group’s landmark industrial metal album Streetcleaner was released in 1989. That same year other significant records in the realm of what came to be called alternative music emerged with Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine, Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love and Pixies’ Doolittle. The combination of scorching, grinding, forbidding guitar and bass work backed by beats generated through drum machines was not in line with metal orthodoxy and too abrasive even for most fairly adventurous radio stations. Though in being explicitly against the tough guy stance in its lyrics, Godflesh was certainly articulating an ethos that was in opposition to the hypermasculine rock and roll image and rhetoric of the time.

Fast forward decades and the duo has experimented with atmosphere and dynamics, expanding the palette of Godflesh overall while not dispensing with a style of music that reflects the harshness of the world as a sort of sonic totem against it. Guitarist Justin Broadrick has also explored various musical interests including forays into the realms of electronic music not always present in his work with Godflesh including the projects Techno Animal, Jesu, Pale Sketcher, Final and Scorn, among others. Bassist G.C. Green, who founded Godflesh with Broaderick in the mid-80s when the latter was a teenager whose pioneering guitar work on the first half of the 1987 Napalm Death album Scum was one of the blueprints for extreme metal generally and grindcore in particular, has also contributed more than his fair share to experimental music with his contributions to Final and Main. All the biographical details aside, Godflesh as a live duo is even more beautifully brutal than the records might suggest and as powerfully menacing.

Opening the show is the excellent Denver doom/extreme metal band In the Company of Serpents. The group has evolved quite a bit over the years from an early sort of high contrast death-grind doom sound and now Grant Netzorg’s songwriting has folded in his inspirations from dark Americana, Swans and Earth. It’s still towering riffs and gritty vocals but with a more song-oriented approach rather than what could at times seem conceptual.

Who: The Number 12 Looks Like You, Rolo Tomassi, Arsonists Get All the Girls
When: Friday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Number 12 Looks Like You melded together an instinct for amped emotional expression and math rock and by not sounding like every other screamo and post-hardcore band, established a bit of a cult status for its inventive sound that fans of Hella and Blood Brothers might find incredibly appealing. After breaking up in 2010, the group returned to active status in 2016 with this its first appearance in Denver since reconvening.

Who: Weaponizer w/Rotstrotter and Flight of Sleipnir
When: Friday, 12.7, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Bannock Street Garage
Why: Weaponizer’s blackened thrash has surprisingly keen songwriting as though the guys in the band grew up listening to metal but not getting lost in just the making sounds their parents might hate and actually writing songs that will probably endure past the time it’s no longer active. This show celebrates guitarist Justin Kelly’s fortieth birthday and the band will be joined by deathgrind band Rotstrotter and Flight of Sleipnir who seem to draw some major inspiration from Scandinavian, transcendental metal bands and perhaps people in the band have read Egil’s Saga or Heimskringla or any of the old Viking epics.

Saturday | December 8, 2018

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Calm. circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: CupcakKe
When: Saturday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Maybe CupcakKe is considered a “dirty rap” artist because of the sexual content of her raps. But she’s no more so than many artists who haven’t been similarly dubbed. Her creatively layered beats alone would make her an artist of note but even among the unapologetic, sometimes boastful, stream of words, CupcakKe actually makes some interesting, insightful and poignant truthful commentary about life. Her fourth album, 2018’s Eden, may be a bit moodier on a few tracks than some of her previous releases but it just demonstrates her range as an artist and nowhere on the album is the IDGAF about foolishness attitude in short supply.

Who: Calm. album release w/Extra Kool, Joe Alan and Cosmicam the Cosmos
When: Saturday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Two of Denver’s underground hip-hop greats, Calm. and Extra Kool, perform tonight to raise awareness of the issues facing the homeless by inviting those who show up to donate coats and other warm gear to Denver Homeless Outloud which also dedicates its efforts to stop the city’s misguided and destructive camping ban. Calm. also releases its incendiary new album Things I Learned While Dying in Denver on this night as well.

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Anthony Ruptak, photo by Nick Velharticky

Who: Anthony Ruptak release of A Place That Never Changes w/Los Mocochetes and Kramies
When: Saturday, 12.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Anthony Ruptak’s new album A Place That Never Changes nearly didn’t happen when all his music gear, songbooks and money for recording was stolen from his home. But years of good karma playing in the Mile High City and running one of the best open mic nights in town meant the community came to his aid and helped him to complete the debut LP. The record is never just one flavor. There are bits of freak folk, indie pop, chamber rock and pastoral country but it all comes together as a statement, in the form of vignettes, on a how life and your surroundings change even if you feel as though it never really, in essence, does. Ruptak brilliantly explores the frustrations, the worries, the aspirations, the fantasies and yearnings of a generation and a society that seems to be stalled out and assaulted by forces seemingly beyond our control. All while suggesting we can work around the situation if we open ourselves up to our own imagination and share the angst and struggles with others even if just a little. Fans of Mercury Rev, My Morning Jacket and Iron & Wine will find much to love about A Place That Never Changes.

Monday | December 10, 2018

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Protomartyr, photo by Daniel Topete

Who: Protomartyr and Preoccupations w/Teeth of the Hydra
When: Monday, 12.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: On a short list of the great post-punk/art punk bands of today would have to include Detroit-based noise rock weirdos Protomartyr and Preoccupations from Alberta, Canada and its brooding yet expansive atmospheric guitar rock. So it’s only fitting that the two bands are touring together and releasing a split single on which each band covered the other. Preoccupations’ interpretation of Protomartyr’s “Pontiac 87” from that band’s 2015 album The Agent Intellect is brimming with a moving, haunted sense of resignation. Whereas Protomartyr’s cover of “Forbidden” from Preoccupations’ 2016 self-titled album honors the somber grit that gives way to elevated emotional states that made the original so compelling. Both bands have a gift for using atmosphere with an emotional push and intensity coupled with layered musical textures and dynamics that even when each hits a hypnotic peak of repetition it remains heady until the end. Each band would be worth seeing alone but a bill together makes it potentially one of the great shows in Denver of 2018.

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Middle Kids, photo by Maclay Heriot

Who: Middle Kids w/The Shacks
When: Monday, 12.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Australian rock band Middle Kids released its debut full-length, Lost Kids, in 2018 and did us all a favor by showing how one can be pretty much unabashedly influenced by music that one’s peers made trendy and do something more interesting with it. The songs seem to be rooted in a sort of folk rock songwriting mode, twinges of 70s Laurel Canyon haunting its edges, while incorporating elements of fuzzy 90s rock. But with uncommonly thoughtful and wise lyrics that are nostalgic yet self-conscious of the tendency to romanticize when the bare truth can often be more poetic than a sanitized personal revision of one’s life.

Tuesday | December 11, 2018

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The Helio Sequence (Benjamin Weikel), photo by Ana Pupulin

Who: The Helio Sequence w/Wild Pink
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Helio Sequence were exploring spacious melodies and daydream tones when it wasn’t too widely present in modern music outside of IDM acts like Boards of Canada and Clark. As a duo, the band had to be creative and efficient in their execution of sounds so there is a fairly different sound from other bands that are often placed under the banner of indie rock. Before the latter was a clumsily vague banner term The Helio Sequence was often described as being within the realm of psychedelic rock and shoegaze, which is true enough, but its musical roots also stretch to Pacific Northwest underground rock, drummer Benjamin Weikel even having drummed on the 2004 Modest Mouse record Good News for People Who Love Bad News. In 2008 The Helio Sequence released its second, and breakthrough, album Keep Your Eyes Ahead. It represented a more overtly well-composed pop direction that band would expound upon thereafter—soaring melodies, introspective lyrics and always inventive soundscaping. For this tour the project is celebrating the ten year anniversary of the album that propelled it into a circle of success wider than underground cult status.

Who: Demoncassettecult w/Machu Linea and Mirror Fears
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Beat driven, noise influenced experimental electronic music is the theme for this show. Demoncassettecult combines industrial soul samples (close enough) with R&B vocals for something that shouldn’t exist but completely makes sense live and on the projects recordings. Machu Linea is the latest project from Armando Garibay who was a member of The Circus House, a sort of avant-garde psychedelic pop band that included former Ancient Elk vocalist Anna Smith. Machu Linea is like downtempo deep house reminiscent of Sunday 8PM-period Faithless but updated. Same dusky, beautifully moody, hip-hop-inflected dance music. Machu Linea’s 2018 album GIRL would be in the upper echelons of a best of dance music list for the year if the wider world was aware of it. Mirror Fears, of course, has been pushing the envelope of electronic music in Denver without being an electronic dance artist per se. Not that dance beats and programming aren’t part of her sound because they are but she also comes to the music from the perspective of someone who spent time in a dream pop band as well as being steeped in the local noise and experimental music scenes. Lately her songwriting has delved further into beat-driven electronic composition.

Who: John Grant w/Two Medicine
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: John Grant’s Denver music history is pretty respectable as the keyboard player of an early incarnation of gloom rock legends Twice Wilted and then as the lead singer/pianist of dream pop band The Czars. But upon leaving Denver to pursue his artistic fortunes elsewhere, Grant embarked upon a critically acclaimed career under his own name beginning with 2010’s excellent Queen of Denmark. His command of electronic music composition in the context of artier pop songwriting has made all of his solo albums worth listening to on their own. That his lyrics are thoughtful, even insightful, and relevant to the vagaries of modern life has kept his songs fresh and striking. Currently Grant is touring in support of his 2018 album Love is Magic.

Who: S A D Nois, Lipglo$$, Equine and more
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: S A D Nois and its sound sits somewhere at the intersection of modern classical, noise and textured environment sound composition. Lipglo$$ is sort of like a weird, ambient, noise take on trap and profane and hypnotic. Maybe influenced by video game music and Tim & Eric. Equine is Kevin Richards’ use of his mastery of weird jazz chords and phrases, minimalism and processing both in fascinating directions.

Wednesday | December 12, 2018

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Allout Helter circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: La Armada w/Allout Helter, Targets, No Sign of Remose and others
When: Wednesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: La Armada from Santo Domingo in the Domincan Republic is one of the most popular hardcore bands in the country and it has made an impact throughout the North American underground with its crossover sound and political lyrics. The quintet is in good company for this bill with Denver’s Allout Helter and Targets. The former shares some of the thrash sound of the latter and a bit of the grindcore edge of the latter.

Who: Kid Astronaut w/Kayla Marque, Dylan Streight, Shalom Dubas
When: Wednesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Jon Shockness is moving to London soon to explore what the wider world of music outside of Denver and outside the United States has to offer his eclectic and considerable talent. He was once a member of the late great hip-hop group Air Dubai and a graduate of Denver School of the Arts where he recently told Colorado Public Radio he was able to be taken seriously even as a young artist, providing a solid foundation for his efforts sine. In 2018, as Kid Astronaut, Shockness released the project’s debut full-length, the sultry, powerful and imaginative Full Moon.