The UMS is back for its 2019 edition running from July 26 through July 28 in the Baker Neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. The festival is unarguably the easiest way to take in the largest representative slice of the local underground music scene with the emphasis on indie rock and some choice representation from the city’s worlds of metal, hip-hop, electronic music and punk. Some years you might even run across more than a couple of the city’s rich experimental/avant-garde, darkwave and noise scenes but not so much this year aside from the Glasss Records showcase Sunday afternoon from 12-5 p.m. which is a well-curated sampling of Denver music’s weird side.
What follows is a guide to my picks for ten of the most interesting acts not from Denver performing at the festival. There will be no local band guide because I already write up enough about local bands throughout most of the year and you can see many of them the rest of the year and I encourage you to visit the UMS website and sample any and all of the bands that look interesting and see them because there are hundred. If you’re from out of town and coming to the UMS, refer back to any of the Best Shows lists I’ve done up to now. Other sites have provided their guides so you can consult those if you’re looking for specific recommendations. For tickets please visit the UMS website and thanks for reading.
Who: Black Mountain When: Friday, July 26, 8:30-10 p.m. Where: Showcase Stage Why: This Canadian, heavy psychedelic rock band combines 70s psychedelic prog, stoner rock and all the excess and transporting soundscaping that implies. The group released its new album Destroyer in 2019, the first with ex-Sleepy Sun member Rachel Fannan and Adam Bulgasem from Soft Kill. Synth player Jeremy Schmidt has a side project called Sinoia Caves which did the darkly beautiful and unsettling soundtrack to the experimental science fiction horror film Beyond the Black Rainbow.
Who: Chicano Batman When: Saturday, July 27, 5-6 p.m. Where: Showcase Stage Why: Chicano Batman embodies a true synthesis of 60s Chicano rock, Tropicália and psychedelia. Like those 60s bands, this Los Angeles-based quartet performs in matching outfits to provide that level of rock theater and it’s songs a fantastic blend of rock and roll and melancholic atmospheres.
Who: Drama When: Saturday, July 27, 6:20-7 p.m. Where: Showcase Stage Why: A blend of R&B and synthwave, Drama’s songs and videos reflect the multicultural side of American culture and breaking stereotypes of what people look like that make lush, melodic electronic pop music and how that’s presented to the world.
Who: Empress Of When: Sunday. July 28, 7-7:45 p.m. Where: Showcase Stage Why: Lorely Rodriguez took this project name from a tarot card reading and her synth pop/experimental R&B is bilingual with vocals that traverse registers with finesse. Imagine something like a combination of Cocteau Twins (who Rodriguez cites as an influence) and Toni Braxton and you’re in the right territory.
Who: Gardens & Villa When: Friday, July 26, 5:20-6 p.m. Where: Showcase Stage Why: This band from Santa Barbara, California is probably lumped in with the whole synth pop thing but it’s a way stranger and more experimental band in the vocals and in its songwriting having more in common with Big Black Delta, Fad Gadget and TR/ST than the chillwave that was in vogue when the band started in 2008. Its songs tend to be darker and more willing to indulge sharper edged dynamics than groups going for maximum soft tunefulness.
Who: Leikeli47 When: Friday, July 26, 8:30-10 p.m. Where: Odyssey Stage Why: Leikeli47 performs with some kind of head covering and otherwise conceals her true identity like a hip-hop super hero. Her unusual style of music is heavy on swagger and accented beats. At times her songs sound like she listened to a lot of Suicide, Death Grips, M.I.A. as well as dub. But it also means she doesn’t really sound much like anyone else and capable of surprising you.
Who: Tessa Violet When: Sunday, July 28, 5:45-6:30 p.m. Where: Showcase Stage Why: Tessa Violet’s breezy, sonically rich synth pop is so accessible it’s almost easy to forget what a sharp wit is behind the songwriting. After all she has a song called “I Like (the idea of) You.” But it’s not all reverence and her songwriting style itself is fairly broad and endearingly frank in the realm of pop music and her videos colorful and imaginative.
Who: Tuxedo When: Sunday, July 28, 8:15-9:45 p.m. Where: Showcase Stage Why: Mayer Hawthorne made a respectable career for himself in the 2000s for his retro soul style and big stage persona. Teaming up with Jake One he’s part of Tuxedo, a funk and electro R&B band that was ahead of the current trend of all of that, which Hawthorne was already presaging when a lot of people dismissed him as something of an eccentric despite his undeniable cool.
Who: Y La Bamba – photo on website When: Sunday, July 28, 6:20-7 p.m. Where: Knockout Stage Why: Luz Elena Mendoza found a unique place as a songwriter in Portland, Oregon who is making a kind of folk-rooted pop. Her music and outlook comes out of the Mexican folk tradition inspired in part from a young age by mariachis. Her songs use her heritage to explore personal as well as collective struggles with an elegance and creativity that reconciles the dark side of life with hope and joy informed by grace and patience for the process.
Who: Yves Tumor When: Saturday, July 27, 7:20-8 p.m. Where: Showcase Stage Why: Yves Tumor cites Throbbing Gristle as an influence for its hypnotic qualities. And Yves Tumor’s music is not short on ambient noise, confrontational sounds and political consciousness within the context of fairly accessible electronic pop music. For my ears and tastes, the most interesting and boundaries pushing act not from Denver playing the festival and a must see if you’re there on Saturday.
Who:Why? plays Alopecia w/Lala Lala When: Thursday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: 2008’s Alopecia signaled the break between Yoni Wolf’s solo work as Why? and the band of the same name. As with its 2005 predecessor Elephant Eyelash, Alopecia included contributions from Wolf’s former cLOUDDEAD bandmates Doseone and Odd Nosdam. But Alopecia opened up even more frank lyrics and surreal soundscapes from Yoni Wolf and his brother Josiah and signaled a true synthesis of hip-hop and lo-fi indie rock in a way few other artists had accomplished up to that time except for maybe hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities, Aesop Rock and experimental music weirdos such as Black Moth Super Rainbow and Karl Blau. Why? took that sensibility and made it into something grand and, to use a now overused term, epic—private musings given a cinematic presentation. It might be argued that later Why? albums are better or achieve greater heights of artistic achievement but Alopecia is the bedrock upon which they were built and remains one of Wolf’s finest records in an already impressive career.
Who:Morlox album release w/Demoncassettecult, Juniordeer, Flesh Buzzard, Housekeys When: Thursday, 11.8, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Patrick Urn established his production and noise-making bonafides as a member of industrial band In Ether in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since then he has spent time in various cities in America including Seattle and Pittsburgh where he made dark ambient music, hip-hop beats and soundscape noise in projects like Herpes Hideaway and Syphilis Sauna. In the mid-2010s Urn returned to Denver and one might say quietly re-established himself as a producer of note among those in the know in the underground. Having worked with, among other artists, Church Fire, Urn demonstrated a mastery of sampling as a tool for composition in both the recorded and live environment. With his latest album Report From Sector zx88z out on Glasss Records, Urn worked with multiple noteworthy noise and hip-hop artists to fill out songs that were already strong, making them even more fascinating. R A R E B Y R D $, ERASERHEAD FUCKERS and Sheetmetal Skin Graft as well as HarmOny ov thee FYRE formerly of political punk band Dangerous Nonsense all shine on the record and give the songs an accessibility not always found with artists that are associated with noise and industrial music. But Urn’s music making could never be said to be limited to genre conventions of any kind. Check out this show if you’re into seeing someone pushing the envelope of electronic music because it may be the last time to see Urn perform some of these songs before he moves on to his next sonic adventure.
Who:The Orb w/Mental 69 When: Thursday, 11.8, 8 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: The Orb basically took the electronic and production ideas then influencing and synthesizing into various manifestations of what became rave music in the 90s and created a style of ambient dub and house that influenced IDM, trip hop and anyone making electronic dance music with an adventurous bent in the 90s and beyond. The duo’s latest release is 2018’s No Sounds Are Out of Bounds. If you’re thinking of going, these guys put forth sounds that transcend the usual two guys with headphones nodding their heads on stage sort of thing. Their music will reorient your brain in good ways getting to experience it on a loud sound system.
Who:Y La Bamba w/Don Chicharrón When: Thursday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Luz Elena Mendoza found a unique place as a songwriter in Portland, Oregon who is making a kind of folk-rooted pop. Her music and outlook comes out of the Mexican folk tradition inspired in part from a young age by mariachis. Her songs use her heritage to explore personal as well as collective struggles with an elegance and creativity that reconciles the dark side of life with hope and joy informed by grace and patience for the process. Y La Bamba recently released a seven inch of “Mujeres” b/w “Paloma Negra” and will drop the new full length, also titled Mujeres, in February also on Tender Loving Empire.
Friday | November 8, 2018
Who:Glacial Tomb album release w/Call of the Void and Saddle of Southern Darkness When: Friday, 11.9, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Glacial Tomb recently released its self-titled debut full-length comprised of seven songs of relentless blackened death metal driven by powerful yet nuanced percussion. It’s primal stuff that sounds like it was inspired by a not so far future that isn’t post-apocalypse so much as post-collapse of human world civilization as we know it. Guitars as insectoid sirens, vocals as feral pronouncements of the remnants of humanity clinging to twisted versions of earth-based occult mysticism in the attempt to garner a few more years through brutal rituals and quests to find what’s left of the planet where life itself, and not just human, might flourish again while the rest of the planet works through the toxins making it all but uninhabitable. At least that’s what the record sounds like if you let your mind wander a little. Joining the trio tonight are other local extreme metal stars in Call of the Void and Saddle of Southern Darkness.
Saturday | November 10, 2018
Who:Special Guest featuring The Milk Blossoms, Eyebeams and Wheelchair Sports Camp When: Saturday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Next Stage Gallery Why: Special Guest is a series featuring some of Denver’s most interesting and innovative musical projects. The Milk Blossoms is a band whose amalgam of outsider pop, lo-fi R&B and vivid emotional recreations is always surprisingly deeply evocative. The Milk Blossoms is a psychedelic indie pop group with songs that deftly and thoughtfully navigate the vagaries of one’s own mind, illuminate nuanced perspectives on relationships with others and society in general and explore evolving concepts of identity. Wheelchair Sports Camp is a brilliant meeting of hip-hop, electronic production and avant-garde jazz. Also, vocals and songwriting from hopefully future Denver mayor/Colorado governor Kalyn Heffernan.
Who:Den Mother w/Klaus Dafoe and Bryon Parker When: Saturday, 11.10, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Why: This lo-fi pop/rock show includes Bryon Parker of noisy post-punk band Simulators (he recently released a collaborative single with Jad Fair whose solo career is noteworthy on its own but who was also a member of foundational indie pop band Half Japanese and may be known for his album with Daniel Johnston). It is also the final show from indie rock band Den Mother whose own Misun Oh is leaving Denver for Ohio after living in the Mile High City for over a decade. She was once married to cartoonist/visual artist/songwriter John Porcellino of King Cat Comics and Stories fame (she is depicted in several issues). But she also contributed to Denver’s underground music and art community as a gifted practitioner of Chinese medicine and as a musician and supporter of the local music world in her own right as a member of French Chemists and other projects.
Who:SPELLS, Eyes and Ears (tape releases), Great American House Fire (tape release) and Hooper When: Saturday, 11.10, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Good thing SPELLS says 80% is good enough so that the other bands that aren’t such a party punk band can shine. Eyes and Ears comes off of de facto hiatus with a new release and a reminder that pop and loosely conceived punk can be fun if the people in the band don’t take it too seriously. Great American House Fire also releases a tape this night with its unique take on the kind of music that came out of late 90s emo, post-hardcore and Americana. Hooper might be considered pop punk but it’s a bit too gritty for that even if the anthemic and glittery melodic hardcore flavor of some of its sounds suggest the pop punk connection.
Who:Deca w/Felix Fast4ward and Stay Tuned When: Saturday, 11.10, 8 p.m. Where: Leon Gallery Why: Deca from New York is operating in that realm of hip-hop that uses samples that give the music a downtempo vibe with a touch of the otherworldly. Like maybe Deca drew some inspiration from, of course, J Dilla and Blockhead. The 2018 album Flux is instrumental album that works incredibly well on its own as a sound environment form of storytelling but also well suited to someone else’s words. Like-minded Denver acts Felix Fast4ward (whose own beats cross effortless between the realms of hip-hop and deep house) and Stay Tuned whose songs are socially critical but playful and powerful.
Sunday | November 11, 2018
Who:Cro-Mags w/EyeHateGod When: Sunday, 11.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: This double bill of two legends of punk and heavy music is interesting given the backgrounds of members of both bands. John Joseph of Cro-Mags grew up in foster care in New York City, Mike Williams of EyeHateGod got to experience life after both his parents died when he was a child and he left home in his mid-teens and occasionally spending time homeless. Cro-Mags were one of the most important and influential of the New York City hardcore scene known for a kind of tough guy image that was combined with ideas about self-defense, physical as well as psychological, in a hostile world and a clear need for camaraderie with like-minded types in a real, human way that isn’t in step with stoic, tough guy machismo. EyeHateGod’s records, coming out starting in 1990, had songs about self-loathing, despair at humankind’s collective self-destructive behaviors including cruelty toward one another. Williams’ words so insightful about how those self-destructive tendencies in the human psyche manifest on the personal level continued to evolve and refine its critique not just of society and the self but also of the bases of cultural norms themselves. But never abstract, always accessibly personal and vulnerable.
Who:Endless Nameless, Giardia, Feigning, Masons When: Sunday, 11.11, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Endless, Nameless is a jazz-inflected math rock band from Denver. Fans of Covet should check them out. Giardia is a jazzy experimental metal band. Masons make the kind of post-rock that bridges the gap between breezier shoegaze and the more introspective side of Modest Mouse. Feigning will bring something a bit darker with its noisy, menacing darkwave.
Tuesday | November 13, 2018
Who:Behemoth w/At the Gates and Wolves in the Throne Room When: Tuesday, 11.13, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Behemoth formed in Gdańsk, Poland in 1991 shortly after the nation re-established itself as a democratic republic after decades of domination by the then splintering U.S.S.R.. It was a time when black metal and death metal were cohering in the European underground and a theatric sensibility informed how that music was performed throughout Scandinavia and formerly communist states. Initially, the band had a sound that was not unlike that of its peers, a kind of taking thrash and death metal and either pushing it to a brutal, forbidding extreme or giving it an epic, almost orchestral, grandeur. Behemoth did a little of both and injected the music with occult and fantastical/mythological imagery and themes—which it has continued to do up to and including its 2018 album I Loved You at Your Darkest. But the latter is arguably the band’s best album at times sounding like it synthesized a Napalm Death-esque assault with a sonic transcendence, creating a contrast that the band uses with great dynamic affect across the whole record. That you also get to see At The Gates, the Swedish melodic/Gothenburg death metal legends that came up at the same time as Behemoth in the early 90s, and Wolves in the Throne Room, the Olympia, Washington-based black metal band whose own sound is informed by the natural environment of their home region and synth heavy Krautrock, is more than just a bonus but probably the best heavy music line up in that vein for the rest of the year.
Wednesday | November 14, 2018
Who:Rubblebucket w/Thick Paint and Toth When: Wednesday, 11.14, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Rubblebucket’s 2018 album Sun Machine is a powerful and intimate depiction of survival and the drive to create something meaningful in the most trying of circumstances. Annakalmia Traver and Alex Toth had been a couple but had split while making the new record and in there too Traver struggled with and overcame a bout with cancer and Toth came to terms with his own challenges with alcoholism. Those kinds of pressures often break bands and relationships of all kinds. But the bond between the two artists persisted and they found a way to articulate difficult truths with a poetic truth and its typically eclectic and dynamic songwriting. This may not be the band at its yet-to-be-attained peak but it certainly is a high point for Brooklyn duo.
Who:Weird Wednesday: Mirror Fears, Lady of Sorrows and Hot Slag When: Wednesday, 11.14, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday includes performances from ambient/dance/noise phenom Mirror Fears. Lately she’s been performing some visionary deep house style music that isn’t a huge departure from her already fascinating work in the realm of emotionally-charged darkwave. Lady of Sorrows is darkwave/dream pop with operatic vocals. Hot Slag has similarly dusky soundscapes but more in the vein of a compelling crossbreeding of IDM and weirdo hip-hop.
Who:Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Pale Sun When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre didn’t kick off any of the handful of psychedelic rock revivals since the 60s but it is one of the few bands that had the emotional resonance and quality of songwriting that made the original wave so interesting. The BJM also brought to the music a musical sensibility that didn’t emerge and synthesize until the 90s after the impact of the alt-country and Paisley Underground of the 80s refined psych, until after house and electronica generally, shoegaze and slowcore brought about different ways to use drones, atmospheres and beats in different contexts. The BJM freely absorbed all of that sort of thing and produced more consistently interesting rock music than most bands of its era. On later records, Anton Newcombe even brought in musical ideas that one might usually attribute to synth pop and krautrock for a hybrid music that pushed far past the bevy of modern psych bands it directly influenced. Pick up pretty much any of their early records and you’ll hear those echoes across a broad stripe of modern rock music. Pick up any of the band’s albums and you’ll hear something interesting that not anyone else is doing quite as well if at all. This show will probably be a more classic Jonetown Massacre set but that just means a good deal of emotionally changed, tonally nuanced songs that come from the heart. Even people who are stuck on the depiction of Newcombe in the great 2004 documentary film Dig! have to admit that he at least seemed like a sincere artist even at his lowest points. Opening is Denver-based shoegaze band Pale Sun, which includes former members of two of the best bands out of that realm of music that never quite hit national prominence in guitar genius and singer Jeff Suthers of Bright Channel and Moonspeed and multi-faceted drummer Kit Peltzel formerly of Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.
Who:Bevin Luna album release w/Jen Korte & The Loss and Wildflowers When: Thursday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Like most of the musicians/bands that come out of Memphis, Bevin Luna’s songwriting is quite eclectic but not in that trying-to-please-too-many-people way. You get the feeling that Luna had to prove herself to some unforgiving audiences before she moved to Denver and started playing in the local scene in 2005. It’s rock haunted by country, traditional blues, folk and played with the energy of what a punk band should be. While not as swamp-haunted as, say, Gun Club or as countrified as Green On Red, Bevin Luna’s songwriting has roots in similar musical territory. Her new album, Baby Dragon, is fuzzier than some of her earlier music and the raw quality of the recordings really enhances Luna’s natural grit.
What:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: R A R E B Y R D $, Shocker Mom, Pearls & Perils When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Oh, sure, these artists play more than a few shows together. But it’s an example of some of the best bands/artists going playing shows in less-than-fancy situations to friends regardless of whether strangers will get it, thankful for friends showing up and putting on a great show anyway. To call any of these projects “hip-hop” would be technically accurate but wouldn’t encompass the imaginative soundscaping and beats and the use of natural dance moves in performing the music in a way. A short list of the most emotionally moving vocalists in Denver now would have to include KokoLa and Key Lady from R A R E B Y R D $, Robin Walker who is Shocker Mom and Olivia Perez who is Pearls and Perils. Fans of downtempo, lushly produced hip-hop and R&B should make the effort to check out these artists whether tonight or another time.
Friday | May 18, 2018
Who:Hot Snakes, Le Butcherettes and Git Some When: Friday, 05.18, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Hot Snakes’ Jericho Sirens, out March 2018 on Sub Pop, is the band’s first album since 2004’s excellent Audit in Progress. And, of course, it’s less playful than Rick Froberg’s and John Reis’s other projects (Obits, Rocket From the Crypt), and has perhaps more in common with their pioneering noise rock band Drive Like Jehu. Angular, at times clashingly atonal, jagged breakdowns, the songs somehow have an anthemic quality that one might attribute to a pop punk band. Except that Jericho Sirens is a seething commentary on how every part of our culture and world civilization in general seems to be on the verge of collapse with public and political rhetoric amping up a kind of Manichaean world view in which one must pick a side or one will be presumed for you. The title of the album, alone, brilliantly and poetically clues one in on the constant state of alert that is encouraged in everyone everywhere all the time now. On this leg of the tour is Le Butcherettes, a band whose own music embodies the violence and contrasts of modern Mexico while examining the nature of identity and the role it plays in our lives and how notions of such can warp perception and impose a harmful cognitive framework. But all headiness and doom and gloom aside, both Hot Snakes and Le Butcherettes are bands whose live show is so viscerally entertaining that even if you don’t look beyond the surface level you won’t regret going. That bands aren’t creating essentially content-free art right now, though, is incredibly refreshing. Git Some, from Denver, is cut from a similar cloth and even if you see Luke Fairchild moving around like a marionette drive by forces beyond his control, what he’s singing about also cuts to the quick of the harrowing reality of modern human, especially North American, life.
Saturday | May 19, 2018
Who:Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/Marisa Anderson When: Saturday, 05.19, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Marisa Anderson’s guitar compositions channel the sound of the natural world around her. Pastoral in tone with a detail of sound that suggests emotions rendered as sonic texture. Her forthcoming album, Cloud Corner (due out June 15, 2018 through Thrill Jockey), is like a step into that part of America that is off the main roads and outside the thought patterns and resultant culture that pushes us all to go, go, go at the expense of our own long term psychological health. It is music that if we take it in on its own terms reminds us to make time for being human and not the servants of modern post-industrial society. So it makes sense that Anderson is opening for one of the few bands that has maintained some sense of mystique and one that makes futuristic music commenting on world culture using a more classic music approach but not held back by a sensibility and tradition that emphasizes canon through interpreting the works of past masters. Godspeed! You Black Emperor shows how a group of small, committed people can use their talent and work to use conventional tools to demonstrate unorthodox, and even rebellious, ideas. Its 2017 album Luciferian Towers was released along with a statement reflecting a radical, yet completely sensible, view on international human rights. Maybe the band thought it better to think ahead than let the horrible leaders of the world try to dictate all its narratives.
Sunday | May 20, 2018
Who:Mary Lattimore w/Hannah Samano and Bellhoss When: Sunday, 05.20, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Mary Lattimore branches out on her latest album, Hundreds of Days. It’s still the beautifully detailed, intricate ambient melodies that have distinguished her earlier releases. This time out she has experimented more with electric and electronic instruments and equipment as well as her own voice to augment her masterful harp work. Lattimore’s playing has garnered her chances to tour (as a live performer) and collaborate with the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Thurston Moore, Julianna Barwick and gigs doing soundtrack work for the biographical documentaries about Marina Abramović (2012’s The Artist is Present) and Fred Rogers (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, also from 2012). Lattimore’s broad expressive range and ability to write pieces with a keen ear for the percussive and tonal quality of her instruments is impressive. And timeless. Except for the electronic elements it would be difficult to place Lattimore’s music in time and seeing it live or even listening to it on a recording. Of course if you go see it live you will also get to see how visceral an instrument a harp can be even as its ethereal tones seem to float off into infinity.
What:Noise Night at Syntax Physic Opera: Ambigere (WA), Rasmussen, eMMAoWEN, Mirror Fears, Clutch Plague and Sunk Cost When: Sunday, 05.20, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ultra Metal presents this edition of Noise Night at Syntax. Noise isn’t for everyone but this lineup will be a much more than the cliché of harsh noise and simple pedal chaining. Rasmussen is a member of local noise legends Page 27 but his solo work is often ambient or even in the realm of dance music. Sunk Cost is Ultra Metal founder Johnathan Cash’s harsh noise project and to some it may sound like tuning in to amplified dead stations on the radio. But there is some soundsculpting going on and the visceral impact of those sounds through a P.A.. Mirror Fears is generally known for her brilliantly crafted, melancholic experimental, industrial pop music but as part of her overall musical identity there is the sensibility of noise and the use of sound in ways that simply don’t fit into a standard pop context. Clutch Plague has a more old school industrial, beat driven sound. EMMAoWEN uses soundscaping, harsh noise and sampling to make impactful commentary on culture and touring act, Ambigere from Olympia, Washington, creates sonically tactile environments that are technically ambient but clearly on the harsh end of that spectrum because there’s nothing soothing about it.
Tuesday | May 22, 2018
Who:Wolf Parade w/Japandroids w/Adrian Teacher and The Subs When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Why: Canadian post-punk band Wolf Parade went on indefinite hiatus in 2010 after producing a few of the most interesting rock albums of that time. Rather than the dance punk or Joy Division-esque mode of post-punk, Wolf Parade’s dusky atmospherics were more akin to those of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Singer and keyboardist Spencer Krug’s multifaceted career in and out of Wolf Parade included stints in noteworthy indie bands Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake as well as his solo project Moonface. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Boeckner subsequently formed Handsome Furs as well as The Divine Fits (the latter with Britt Daniel of Spoon). Wolf Parade announced its hiatus was over in January 2016 and in 2017 it released Cry Cry Cry on Sub Pop. In support of the album, with clear stylistic nods to recently passed rock icons with David Bowie’s lush and emotionally rich songwriting and Tom Petty’s knack for pop storytelling, the band is currently on tour with another of Canada’s most dynamic rock bands of the moment: Japandroids.
From Vancouver, British Columbia, Japandroids played its own brand of punk and what one might call post-garage with a fiery energy at pretty much every show. Influenced by the likes of The Sonics and Gun Club, Japandroids put out an impressive, albeit relatively small, body of work at two full-length albums and two EPs (collected into a compilation humorously titled No Singles) before going on hiatus itself in 2013. And, purely coincidentally, announced it was back together in 2016 with Near to the Wild Heart of Life, which the band said in interviews was its first attempt to craft an album in a more traditional sense rather than written piecemeal in a headlong rush of being a band in its earlier days. If it didn’t have quite the urgency or ferocity of 2010’s Post-Nothing or 2012’s Celebration Rock, the traces of the record’s Replacements-esque, anthemic power pop was already present on the early material. Japandroids now just sounds bigger to match the intensity with which Brian King and David Prowse continue to bring to the live show.
Who:Kimbra w/Son Lux When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Kimbra earned her bona fides by making soulful and eclectic indie rock that reminded fans and critics of other artists. Fortunately, Kimbra had the chops and talent to warrant glowing comparisons. Her debut album, 2011’s Vows, was a combination of upbeat lounge jazz and electronic pop and reminiscent of an Amy Winehouse record. And the album was critically acclaimed, garnering Kimbra the attention of future high profile collaborators like Mark Foster, Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the latter of which performed on Kimbra’s 2014 album The Golden Echo. With the 2018 album Primal Heart, Kimbra has broadened her songwriting palette and vocal range, now establishing a style that’s not so easy to compare to her peers and influences.
Who:Y La Bamba w/Malahierba, Stelth Ulvang, DJ A-Train When: Tuesday, 05.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza was born in San Francisco to parents from Mexico and coming up she took in the folk music and folklore of Mexico. She mostly grew up in Oregon and when she formed Y La Bamba in Portland, Mendoza found musicians who shared her musical tastes and inclinations. But rather than a straightforward folk and Americana act, Y La Bamba included, of course, lyrics in Spanish as well as subtle use of electronic instruments to enhance a sense of the otherworldly present in the group’s vocal harmonies and acoustic instrumentation. In a way, the music suggests the feeling one gets from reading the more mystical works of Zora Neal Hurston in which the material world is very tactile but informed by the presence of the spiritual world in the subject matter and the tone of Hurston’s writing. As with Hurston, Mendoza channels her ancestors and their cultural traditions but bringing her own rich imagination and intelligence to bear in her creative interpretation and expression and extension of those ineffable influences.
Wednesday | May 23, 2018
Who:Wye Oak w/Corsicana When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Wye Oak is the rare band that has recognized a rut as it’s threatening to happen. With its 2011 album Civilian, the duo’s music was finding placement in film and television and that would have reinforced a creative tendency by rewarding creation using a generally specific method. So the band took some time off from Wye Oak with drummer Andy Stack moving away from Baltimore in search of being around a different sort of artistic climate in Texas and Portland. Guitarist and vocalist Jenn Wasner put time into Dungeonesse, an electronic pop and R&B project with producer Jon Ehrens. When Wye Oak was working on new music it took a different direction with less emphasis on Wasner’s admittedly imaginative and evocative guitar work and more on beats and textured, composed melodies. Thus the 2014 album Shriek and Tween, the 2016 album that all but outlined that transition from the musical thinking of Civilian to that of Shriek. The 2018 Wye Oak album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is the kind of album a band releases after it has reinvented itself and then considered what it would like to say next before doing so.
Who:Starjammer vs. Lunetta, Atari, Sleepy Nemo, Human Hearts and Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Starjammer is difficult to categorize beyond it’s self-described “Avant-Garde/Dub-Reggae.” Seems legit as Squids Madden was recently seen playing sax on stage with Godspeed You! Black Emperor at The Ogden. He will also probably bring his lighting rig to add another layer of otherworldliness to this collaborative set with Lunetta, a project that could be described as lo-fi industrial psych. Atari cuts together vinyl records to produce truly unique samples that he manipulates by hand at the live show giving less actual control over frequencies and rhythms from the sample proper. He gives the sounds the contexts and thus the art of what Atari is doing. Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess sounds like some kind of weirdo field recording project mixed with intentional music and noise. Basically, the show with the weirdest music this month unless you’re going to an Ultra Metal event.
Who:Bob Log III w/Simulators When: Wednesday, 05.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bob Log III is a one man band who, sure, plays a mutant version of Delta blues but he does wearing a face-obscuring-ly tinted helmet and otherwise looking like maybe he was pulled from a band in Judge Dredd or a reconstituted civilization following the era depicted in the Max Max movies. When he was a member of Doo Rag, Bob Log III’s confrontational performance style won over audiences when he was opening for much more famous bands. Probably because not many people had seen anything quite like it. Opening for Bob in Denver is SIMULATORS, the noise rock/post-punk band comprised of Bryon Parker formerly of Accordion Crimes and Raleigh and Brian Polk of Joy Subtraction. The band’s jagged rhythms and blunt, to the point music should appeal to fans of Shellac because it often does sound that savage.