Best Shows in Denver and Beyond May 2023

Skinny Puppy performs at Fillmore Auditorium on May 3, 2023, photo by Emilie Elizabeth and John Kraw, 2014
Ruston Kelly, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Tuesday | 05.02
What: Ruston Kelly w/Briscoe
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ruston Kelly has never been limited by his association with country and Americana and his 2023 album The Weakness even expands what that music can sound like. His earnest and dynamically expressive vocals seem to come from a deep place in his live performances and in music that can have a hushed, introspective quality, Kelly brings a vulnerable fortitude to songs that could work as chamber pop or a cosmic and existential brand of folk informed by a frank self-examination that has an appeal that transcends genre. Best to catch an artist at a time of having transitioned to music that bursts past previous boundaries and fans of his earlier work would do well to see Kelly on this touring cycle.

Wilder Woods, photo by Darius Fitzgerald

Tuesday | 05.02
What: Wilder Woods w/Abraham Alexander
When: 6:30
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Needtobreathe lead singer Wilder Woods aka Bear Rinehart is now touring in support of his new album FEVER / SKY, a collection of spirited neo soul roots rock that sounds like it could have come from the same music scene that spawned Joe Cocker. It’s an album that sounds like the songwriter is coming to terms with who he is as a man and as an artist reckoning with his past and his purpose in life born of a time of isolation during the early pandemic and its impacts on the life of anyone that depended on the world of live music and its associated cultural and economic infrastructure. But Rinehart goes much further and hits deep places in his soul bared self-examination that are more cathartic than uncomfortable.

Skinny Puppy photo by Emilie Elizabeth and John Kraw, 2014

Wednesday | 05.03
What: Skinny Puppy w/Lead Into Gold
When: 7
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Skinny Puppy were pioneers of electronic industrial music when it formed in 1982 out of the Vancouver, BC New Wave scene. Taking new technologies like sequencers and samplers and pushing the potential aesthetics of these new tools, Skinny Puppy had as much in common with hip-hop artists of that time and now as it did with underground and experimental electronic and industrial rock acts. Its themes of alienation, environmental destruction, animal rights and left politics, Skinny Puppy innovated musically and challenging convention in musical form as well as content. When early member Dwayne Goettel passed away in 1995 the band ended for several years even as a recording project before reuniting in 2000 for its first live performance since 1992. Four years later the group’s new album, the pointedly titled The Greater Wrong of the Right, released and Skinny Puppy toured again and has remained an active project since but with composition steeped in sound design and even more keen social commentary. Unfortunately this tour has been announced to be its last and will more than likely include Skinny Puppy’s signature high use of theatrical performances and striking visuals and some of the most well crafted, intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging electronic music ever made. The bonus is the opening act is Lead Into Gold, the long time project of Paul Barker, former bassist of Ministry.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, photo by Danny Clinch

Wednesday and Thursday | 05.03 and 05.04
What: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit w/Angel Olsen
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is touring ahead of the June 9, 2023 release of the band’s new album Weathervanes so you’ll get plenty of material from the new record for this show. Isbell has become one of the most acclaimed songwriters of his generation for his vivid, sensitive and imaginative storytelling and delicate vocal style that makes it easy to forget what style of music he’s playing as it engages your emotions with an unexpected immediacy. In that way he’s like Neil Young whose own diverse songwriting and performance draw upon a broad array of methods and aesthetics that nevertheless have a comfortable familiarity. For these two dates Isbell will be joined by another of the modern great songwriters of the current era in Angel Olsen who seems to be able to make retro musical sensibilities seem modern and vibrant.

Nuovo Testamento, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 05.04
What: Molchat Doma w/Nuovo Testamento and Mothe
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Nuovo Testamento is a Los Angeles-based darkwave band whose sound blurs the line between post-punk, italo disco and synthpop. On its 2022 swing through Denver at the Hi-Dive the group’s performance was like seeing Madonna fronting Depeche Mode but with its own distinctive flavor. Its new album Love Lines is filled with gorgeously produced darkwave dance club hits like the soundtrack to a retrofuturist thriller that has yet to be made. Molchat Doma is the cult post-punk band from Minsk, Belarus whose introspective songs of loneliness and alienation have struck a chord well beyond their homeland. Its of necessity thin production style and minimalist guitar sound has proven massive influential in Russia as well as globally in the realm of post-punk and darkwave.

eHpH in 2023, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.06
What: I Ya Toyah w/eHpH, Hex Cassette, DJ Nitrogen
When: 9
Where: The Broadway Roxy
Why: I Ya Toyah is a Chicago-based artist whose dark electronic music has a kind of European flavor in the production and tonal palette. Like a darkwave/industrial Danielle Dax with elements of noise, ambient and breakcore in the mix. ehpH is the evolving, long time project of Fernando Altonago and Angelo Atencio also of post-punk rock band Plague Garden. The blend of EBM and industrial with punk attitude and social commentary always hits harder than expected and for this show more of the industrial side of their songwriting will be featured. Hex Cassette is a one man EBM/industrial cult leader of furiously energetic dance music and confrontational stage performance whose banter unsettles some but the choice and absurd humor value is undeniable.

Fishbone, photo by Pablo Mathiason

Saturday | 05.06
What: Fishbone w/Frontside Five
When: 6
Where: Levitt Pavilion
Why: Fishbone has been genre bending and bursting since 1979. Its hybrid style of ska, punk, funk and beyond was like the punk side of Afrofuturism. Its songs always seemed to depict a time in the non-too-distant days to come where people could just be who they are and have the normal struggles of life we all face. All along the way the group’s sharp social commentary was couched in a surreal sense of humor and infectious party anthem grooves that didn’t downplay the issues so much as provide a soundtrack for working through them and shining a light on corners of American society that are often swept under the rug. The group recently released “All We Have Is Now” on the Bottle Music for Broken People compilation on Fat Mike’s new NOFX imprint with founding member Chris Dowd performing on a recording for the first time since 1994 and the song has the same irreverent and fun-loving spirit one would hope for with new Fishbone material.

Zealot in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.06
What: Zealot w/Owosso and Loose Charm
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Zealot is celebrating the release of its new single “Newer Testament” at the Hi-Dive. Its literate yet spirited music is like if an indie rock band got reconnected with the intensity and musical inventiveness of early 2000s New York City rock with a similar level of imaginative songwriting and aim to make music that isn’t background playlist nonsense but which commands your attention. Owosso is a similarly-minded band comprised of local scene veterans who seem to have rediscovered a knack for crafting pop-inflected post-punk noise rock. If Loose Charm can be considered alt-country or post-rock its because its songs seem to be composed with ear for evocative melody and soundscaping that don’t usually go together unless you’re listening to something like Silver Jews or Wilco though Loose Charm doesn’t really sound like either.

Polly Urethane in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.07
What: Munly & The Lupercalians w/Polly Urethane
When: 7:30
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Munly & The Lupercalians is like a darkly ritualistic, performance art mystical folk version of what Munly has been doing across his career. One might be tempted to compare it to neofolk but it’s more like a musical cognate to cinematic works like The Wicker Man and Kill List including the stage garb but also tied in with the singer’s baroque and stark poetry. Opening the performance is composer and performance artist Polly Urethane who seems to do a different type of performance and while sometimes combining musical elements and methods of previous performance with her new shows she always seems to push the boundaries of where she’s been before. Could be a weird DJ set, a visually striking performance to pre-recorded music with edgy components in presenting the material or who can say but always worth checking out.

Cobra Man, photo by Danner Gardner

Sunday | 05.07
What: Cobra Man w/Starbenders and Stolen Nova
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Cobra Man is a self-styled “power disco” duo comprised of Andy Harry and Sarah Rayne and currently touring in support of its new EP New Paradise which releases on May 19, 2023. The lead single “Thin Ice” has all the bombast and gloriously, unabashedly epic sound of something you might have heard on the soundtrack for a Cannon Pictures action movie from the 1980s. And the live band isn’t just a couple of button pushers basically doing karaoke to well-produced tracks. They’re like a post-irony glam rock band that exults in the grand sweep and sonic excess of its music.

Nox Novacula in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.08
What: Nox Novacula, Plague Garden and Weathered Statues
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Nox Novacula is a post-punk band from Seattle in the gritty death rock vein. Its moody guitar is shot through with a wiry energy and urgency that pairs well with impassioned vocals and driving rhythms. Its 2021 album Ascension bears obvious comparisons with Xmal Deutschland but with a more punk edge. Opening the show are two of Denver’s best post-punk outfits. Plague Garden’s music has a more electronic, New Wave-esque foundation with brooding lyrics and fiery, twin guitar work. Weathered Statues is a little more stark but with bright and buoyant vocals.

Ringo Deathstarr, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 05.09
What: Ringo Deathstarr w/Pleasure Venom, Cherished and Bloodsports
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ringo Deathstarr is the cult shoegaze band out of Austin, Texas’ seemingly vibrant community for that style of music. Its own particular flavor is ethereal, drifty and transporting in that Slowdive and Lush vein but with its own fuzzily psychedelic sheen. It’s been two years since the group’s self-titled full-length so maybe we’ll get to see some newer material for this stop in Denver. For this trip to the Pacific Northwest, Ringo Deathstarr is joined by Austin noise-rock/art punks Pleasure Venom with local support in Denver from Sonic Youth-esque post-punk band Bloodsports and shoegaze/post-punk greats Cherished.

Death Grips in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.09
What: Death Grips
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Death Grips is the now legendary industrial hip-hop group from Sacramento, California comprised of MC Ride, Andy Morin and Zach Hill. The group has become known for its edgy imagery and its disdain for playing along with music industry expectations and doing so with creativity and deep irreverence. But its well-publicized antics perhaps boosted the group’s cachet while its inventive music spoke for itself with artwork and album and track names that demonstrated a keen awareness of internet culture and American social reality. When the band did perform live it was an incendiary and aggressive affair that has been unforgettable.

Pond, photo by Matsu

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Pixies w/Pond
When: 6:30
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Pond from Perth, Australia has been developing and evolving its cinematic, psychedelic art rock since 2008 and its 2021 album 9 sounds like a series of interconnected short films. There’s a spaciousness and dramatic sense of mood and atmosphere that washes around the core rhythms and melodies as they burst with emotion. Like if Pink Floyd hung out with Hawkwind more and ditched their epic sweeps in favor of their more raw rock instincts but infused it with disco and funk. Australia has become known for its popular psychedelic bands but fortunately for the world they’re all very different from each other and Pond is a band whose creative trajectory has left behind some fine listening. Of course there’s also the headlining band, Pixies, who were a choice cult band in its first iteration from the mid-80s through the early 90s and highly influential for its wonderfully eccentric lyrics and brilliantly unconventional, noisy, eruptively energetic alternative rock. But once a younger generation caught wind of the band through the appearance of “Where Is My Mind?” on the soundtrack of Fight Club it became a much more popular band and able to tour on the strength of its older material and bring its sound, foundational to modern rock music, to a much wider audience.

Spike Hellis in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Spike Hellis w/Candy Apple, Moon 17 and Sell Farm
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spike Hellis is basically making the kind of modern EBM and industrial that is informed by punk and even hardcore in its raw energy of delivery. In the live show it’s reminiscent of the kind of hard hitting vibe one might hear in early Nitzer Ebb and Meat Beat Manifesto but with the aesthetics of a modern, glitchcore project but with all the extraneous sonics ripped out but with the bombast left in place. One of the most electrifying live bands in the modern realm of darkwave. Sell Farm has lately been dipping deep into sequencing and sampling to create dystopian, politically charged dub dance post-punk. Candy Apple bridges the gap between a hardcore band and shoegaze-tinged noise rock. Moon 17 is a “Sci-Fi Industrial” band from Kansas City helmed by Zack Hames. The genre seems to fit even if it was dropped as slightly humorous but one hopes Nicolas Winding Refn taps these bands for his next movie soundtrack.

Greg Puciato, photo by Jim Louvau

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Greg Puciato w/Escuela Grind, Deaf Club and Trace Amount
When: 6:30
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Greg Puciato is the former lead singer and lyricist for metalcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan. Outside of the context of that band, Pusciato has been a member of synthwave band The Black Queen with its deep atmospheric, cinematic sounds akin to something you might expect to hear from the likes of Failure. And in recent years his solo records have been a fusion and evolution of his past work into something that reconciles an aggressive sound and energy with introspective sentiments and electronic aesthetics. The 2022 album Mirrorcell sounds like where metalcore should have gone and might be more favorably compared to a project like Author & Punisher or Blacklist. Opening are some heavy hitters as well with noise rock supergroup Deaf Club with Justin Person of The Locust, Brian Amalfitano of AcxDC, Scott Osment of Weak Flesh, Jason Klein of Run With The Hunted and Tommy Meehan of The Manx. And Escuela Grind, the modern grindcore/powerviolence legends from Pittsfield, Massachusetts who are quickly establishing themselves as a live band to catch whose songs are informed by a “intersectional progressive” revolutionary, inclusive fervor.

Metronymy, photo by Hazel Gaskin

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Metronymy w/Glüme
When: 7
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Metronymy has been constantly evolving its experimental pop sound with an early focus on exquisitely alien techno soundscapes to its more recent albums that demonstrate its finely honed songcraft with organic elements that seem to more directly reflect tender human experiences with a startling poignancy. Its 2019 album Metronymy Forever wasn’t the first hint at a shift in sound and style but it is an album full of the kind of songwriting one might expect on a Wilco record or an album by The National. And the group’s 2022 album Small World is fully in that mode with songs that are vulnerable yet rich in subtle production that clears the space for the lyrics and organic textures of the music to shine making Metronymy a fascinating anomaly in the expanded realm of modern indie rock.

Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.12
What: Church Fire w/Calm., Moon Pussy, Sorrows
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire is celebrating the release of its new music video. For what song? Who knows? You’ll have to go to find out and maybe it’ll be released online later. But video or not, Church Fire’s emotionally vibrant industrial dance music is best experienced live without the filters of a purely online experience. Calm. is the hip-hop duo of Time and Awareness who have been putting out some of the most literate and politically charged hip-hop out of the Mile High City in recent years and don’t do many shows at venues like the Hi-Dive or similarly-sized venues these days. And hip-hop in generally isn’t getting a lot of traction at smaller clubs in general but Hi-Dive is an exception to that general rule. Chris “Time” Steele will probably crack wise between songs with genuine wit. Moon Pussy is the getting to be known nationally on the underground circuit noise rock band from Denver whose eruptive music and explosive energy always seems to exceed expectation. SORROWS is a downtempo electronic duo of Glynnis Braan and Lawrence Snell whose dark atmospherics and operatic vocals pull from diverse influences.

Friday | 05.12
What: 7038634357, Verity Larsen, Emilie Craig, sleepdial and Polly Urethane
When: 9
Where: Glob
Why: 7038634357 seems to be a generative ambient noise artist from Arlington, VA whose releases display a knack for signal processing. Verity Larsen combines musique concrète with prepared environmental recordings and ambient soundscapes to produce sonic experiences that recontextualize everyday experiences. French Kettle Station is performing as sleepdial, his more ambient experiments in electronics and sometimes guitar. Polly Urethan you just never know what to expect from how now broad palette of ideas for performance and music and just be prepared to get to witness something unique and potentially challenging.

Friday | 05.12
Frontline Assembly and Whorticulture
When: 9
Where: Tracks
Why: EBM pioneers Frontline Assembly is performing for this “Bladerunner — A Cyberpunk Party” and providing the perfect soundtrack for such an event with its dystopian lyrics and electronic industrial.

Friday | 05.12
What: Crowded House w/Liam Finn
When: 7
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Australian band Crowded House is perhaps best remembered for its outstanding 1986 hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over” with its spare yet orchestral melody. But Crowded House produced some quality folk pop during its initial run of 1985-1996 and when it has since reunited in the 2000s and 2020s still led by singer/guitarist Neil Finn who had a fairly successful career while Crowded House was split.

White Rose Motor Oil circa 2021, photo courtesy the band

Saturday | 05.13
What: Scott H. Biram w/Garrett T. Capps and White Rose Motor Oil
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Scott H. Biram is the renowned blues punk musician/solo artist whose troubadour country ballads could seem like pure affectation but he’s done his time in punk and metal and bluegrass in crafting his signature gritty, gospel blues sound. Supporting this bill is the great Denver-based alternative country/outlaw rockabilly band White Rose Motor Oil whose own spare line-up as a duo always seems to punch above its weight in its forcefulness and emotional impact.

Indigo De Souza, photo by Angella Choe

Sunday | 05.14
What: Caroline Polachek w/Alex G and Indigo De Souza
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Indigo De Souza’s songs have since early on been an expression of a moody vulnerability cast as deeply atmospheric pop songs that are often pointed but never cruel, simply honest and poetic. Her latest album out on Saddle Creek is 2023’s All of This Will End continues the development of her vibrant songwriting filled with stories that take the pain of lived experience and reflecting on the broad expanse of feelings one goes through in life and sitting in them and finding a way to put them into stories that give them a context that makes them something from which to learn and exult in life rather than be overwhelmed by disappointment, bitterness, petty betrayal (by others and by oneself). And she’s a perfect artist in this line-up of other art pop practitioners of note such as Alex G who has taken conceptual psychedelic rock to fascinating new heights and headliner Caroline Polacek who as a member of Charlift (which was founded in Boulder, Colorado while she was attending CU) made some of the cooler indie rock to have emerged out of that decade that produced the foundations of much of what we hear now. But in her solo career she has emerged as an innovative and experimental artist whose pop songs don’t seem beholden to anyone else’s style bending genres and sounds to suit her creative vision of the moment. For her 2023 album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You you can hear the impact of hyper pop and glitch but as elements and not a root.

Salads and Sunbeams, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.14
What: Spooky Mansion w/Sour Magic and Salads and Sunbeams
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spooky Mansion is a surf-rock inflected psychedelic lounge pop band from Los Angeles making a couple of stops in Colorado including this date at the Hi-Dive. Denver’s Sour Magic sound like they could have come from a similar musical lineage but with more luminous guitar melodies. Like maybe they got deep into DIIV and Mac Demarco and found their own voice as a band. Salads and Sunbeams is the kind of band that has crafted exquisite psychedelic indiepop that might have come right out of an unlikely scene that included the Zombies and The Apples in Stereo. But it works and doesn’t have that throwback yesteryear worship vibe even if to some extent that’s what it is because the songwriting stands on its own and worthy of its obvious and not so obvious influences.

Wednesday, photo by Zachary Chick

Monday | 05.15
What: Wednesday w/Cryogeyser
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Wednesday from Asheville, North Carolina has garnered a bit of a cult following among fans of experimental noise rock and shoegaze and whatever one might call Canadian guitar bands like Women, Preoccupations and FRIGS. But then there’s another side of the band’s sound and that’s the more country flavor of some of its songs, unabashed, borderline cosmic honky tonk stuff. And Wednesday makes it work because it’s obvious the group is fully steeped in both creative instincts and its records are a journey for which a variety of sounds make sense. In particular its 2023 record Rat Saw God and its vivid stories of life in the American South told with great nuance, insight and poignancy. At times the songs can take you by surprise with an offhand lyric that’s so real but delivered with the nonchalance that makes it palatable and it all feeds into what’s making Wednesday one of the most fascinating bands of this moment.

Monday | 05.15
What: Yves Tumor w/Pretty Slick and NATION
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Yves Tumor is an artist whose genre-bending art rock/hip-hop/electronic dance music/funk seems tapped into a raw, otherworldly energy that is a reflection of the anxieties and nightmares of the world we experience everyday. The 2023 album Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) is more overtly rock than earlier albums but still like an alien glam rock that feels ahead of the curve. Live, Yves Tumor is a commanding figure with a lot of swagger and electrifying presence.

Narrow Head, photo by Nate Kahn

Monday | 05.15
What: Narrow Head w/Graham Hunt, Public Opinion and Flower Language
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Houston’s Narrow Head much like Phoenix’s Holy Fawn probably come from a general realm of local scene music but whereas Holy Fawn has transcended black metal into more the realm of a post-rock shoegaze, Narrow Head may have found its origins in a music scene that had or has fine examples of the resurgence of hardcore and emo in the compelling form that emerged all over the country in the past decade. But the band as we hear it on its new album Moments of Clarity is the kind of heavy shoegaze with dynamics like blossoming melodies and soaring vocals that seem to harmonize with the ethereal fuzz and dense low end to give the songs an undeniable uplift.

Tim Hecker in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Tim Hecker
When: 7
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Can’t really blame Tim Hecker for expressing in his recent interview in the New York Times his misgivings for having helped to popularize ambient music since it has become such a workhorse of the bland playlist culture of Spotify. Who wants to be handmaiden to that? But to Hecker’s credit he’s always been an artist who has explored new vistas of the art form in terms of form, structure, sound palette, presentation and instrumentation. His new album No Highs is imbued with a textural, intimate quality that feels very much of the body as his music does in the live setting rather than the offensively bland and background quality of generic playlist ambient.

Mr. Bungle, photo courtesy Buzz Osborne

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Mr. Bungle w/Melvins and Spotlights
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: No matter where you check in on the Mr. Bungle timeline you will find boundary-pushing music that bends and breaks genres from the early death metal-surrealism to the lush and theatrical art rock of its late 90s output. Currently the band is touring with a lineup that includes Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn, Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo so who can say what the setlist will sound like whether its more baroque pop stuff or the material from its recently reissued 1986 demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. Whatever it might be, the show will be bombastic and mind-expanding. Bonus: Melvins, the sludge rock legends, will bring their always riveting and cathartic performance of its own music that spans various ends of heavy rock with a hard hitting finesse.

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Hoodoo Gurus
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Hoodoo Gurus are the legendary Australian garage rock band that was an influence on generations of bands that have been keyed into its particular brand of jangle psychedelia and punk. Currently the band is touring in support of its 2022 album Chariot of the Gods.

Future Islands in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.17
What: Future Islands w/Deeper
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Future Islands has come a long way from playing DIY spaces in Denver to Red Rocks and now headlining Mission Ballroom. But what hasn’t changed is its emotionally gripping synth pop and impassioned live performances. For this night Chicago’s arty post-punk band Deeper will bring its darkly atmospheric and poignant music to the proceedings.

Sparta, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 05.18
What: Sparta w/’68 and Geoff Rickly
When: 6
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The 2002 album Wiretap Scars is where Sparta picked up where At The Drive-In, singer Jim Ward’s then most recently prominent band, left off. The angular, Fugazi-esque, anthemic songs that astutely commented on the times without being so topical as to age poorly in the years ahead. Rather, Wiretap Scars today seems perhaps even more relevant than it did when America was in a state of confusion and nascent authoritarianism and misplaced nationalistic patriotism was starting to settle into the swing of public life. There is a passionate coherence of productive outrage on the record and based on the group’s 2022 tour Sparta will deliver on that messaging on this tour as well.

Thursday | 05.18
What: The Mssng w/To Be Astronauts and Tiny Humans
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Mssng is a band whose hybrid of styles sometimes comes off like people who were inspired by the agglomeration of 90s alternative rock, post-punk revival and the glam rock end of modern garage rock. To Be Astronauts has generally been sort of a 90s throwback, alternative hard rock band who displayed all the stylistic fingerprints of 2000s stoner rock but with more melody. Lately some of the band’s recordings have included versions of songs, live and otherwise, that reveal that if you strip away some of those hard rock instincts you find a band that has some solid songwriting with nothing to prove. Sure, it’s a bit like a better version of the kind of acoustic and electric alt-rock you might have heard from the likes of Counting Crows which isn’t for everyone but respectable nonetheless. Tiny Humans, what can you say, except that the singer has to stop being carted on stage in a wheelchair and in hospital robes and pretending like he’s doing a Nirvana tribute band when it’s more obvious it’s a strange attempt to fully emulate The Amboy Dukes’ guitarist’s entire solo career. But hey, who doesn’t appreciate such fetishistic performance art?

Friday | 05.19
What: Vast Aire (Cannibal Ox) w/Gee Tee and guests
When: 9
Where: Bar Red 437 W. Colfax
Why: Vast Aire is the charismatic and enigmatic rapper who is perhaps best known for his work with alternative hip-hop group Cannibal Ox. His forceful delivery and vivid, socially conscious storytelling once encountered sticks with you because his various collaborators like El-P on the 2001 classic album The Cold Vein are able to create a darkly haunting soundscape from which his voice stands out like an urban mystic and mythological poet.

MUNA, photo by Isaac Schneider

Friday | 05.19
What: MUNA w/Nova Twins
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Given that the members of MUNA all have academic backgrounds in music or cultural studies one might expect the music to be something more cerebral or conceptual. And initially when developing their own material the trio of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson experimented with sounds and styles before coming upon exuberant pop songs with earworm hooks and lyrics that are sure about instantly relatable subjects of love and relationships but also with a sensitivity toward issues of identity beyond the usual tropes and which resonate broadly. The group released its 2022 self-titled album to critical acclaim and now MUNA is on a headlining tour of large concert halls with a supporting slot on the upcoming Taylor Swift tour where an appreciative audience for its particularly expansive and upbeat songs will be found.

Friday | 05.19
What: Shady Oaks w/Weary Bones, Fern Roberts and The Picture Tour
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Shady Oaks is a mix of blues and indie rock and Americana. Weary Bones is a bit of an Americana jam band from Louisville, Colorado but more in the vein of Widespread Panic where there are coherent songs that have resonance beyond the genre. It released its latest album Humble Echoes in 2023. Fern Roberts might be described as an indie rock band that seems to be equally influenced by Bright Eyes, 90s alternative rock and the more pop end of Built to Spill. The main reason to go to this show is to see the live debut of former Emerald Siam guitarist Billy Armijo’s band The Picture Tour. Its 2022 album Before the Sound, Before the Light was an audacious debut of introspective, gloomy shoegaze with an ear for interweaving atmospheres and feedback sculpting to produce unique melodies and an enveloping sound.

Fruit Bats, photo by Chantal Anderson

Friday | 05.19
What: Fruit Bats w/Kolumbo
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The new Fruit Bats album A River Running To Your Heart seems assembled and composed as a cinematic experience as much as one more musical. When the record gets up and going its intricate guitar arrangements flow with a grace and elegance that one normally hears more in music that operates at a slower pace and yet for this set of songs Eric D. Johnson and the band never sound rushed. The music is just focused even in reflective passages and there is an energy to the music that pulls you in. Fans of early The War on Drugs will hear some resonance here but Johnson’s songs seem to reign in the impulse to psychedelic self-indulgence and one gets the sense that as free as the music feels that it’s been crafted to edit out excesses that don’t contribute to one of the most consistently enchanting pop albums of the year.

Placebo, photo by Mads Perch

Saturday | 05.20
What: Placebo w/Deap Valley and Poppy Jean Crawford – canceled
When: 7
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Placebo emerged at a time in the mid-1990s when the alternative rock wave was basically spent and a lot of really dull, beige rock and roll and uninspired pop was peddled as exciting. Placebo offered something that seemed to reinvent the edginess of the darker end of grunge with a more glam rock sense of theater and drama. Its early albums dipped into rock and dance music equally before it became even more of a thing at the turn of the century and in a fashion different than had been done by the likes of New Order, Primal Scream and their storied ilk. Its 1998 album Without You I’m Nothing and its promotional videos revealed a band that seemed to have embraced Goth-like personal darkness in musical style and outward presentation. That the band appeared in Velvet Goldmine, Todd Haynes’ 1998 glam rock fictional biopic of David Bowie and Iggy Pop and that early 1970s era didn’t hurt in establishing Placebo’s cred as a band that embodied the emerging new alternative culture. The band’s 2022 album Never Let Me Go, perhaps a reference to Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 tragic novel of of the same name as well as the 2010 film, its first in 9 years has Placebo pushing its own boundaries beyond where it has been before as a band with an unabashed use of saturated synth melodies and a much more creative use of processed guitar in rock music than we’ve heard in awhile. And if you’re going to have an opening acts like mutant garage psych duo Deap Valley and experimental pop/singer-songwriter Poppy Jean Crawford that just hints that someone in your camp has been listening for something different and actually cool which isn’t always the case in the music industry even on accident.

Fenne Lily, photo by Michael Tyrone Delaney

Saturday | 05.20
What: Fenne Lily & Christian Lee Hutson w/Anna Tivel
When: 8
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The intimate production on Fenne Lily’s new album Big Picture puts her expressive and breathy vocals front and center without pushing the delicate, almost impressionistic, warm and layered guitar work into the background. The songwriter sounds resigned on these set of songs but that seems to come more out of a sense of having to come to terms with how you can never really get too complacent in life nor do you want to and that sometimes getting to used to comfort can be a path antithetical to personal growth but also how feeling like you’re always having to fend off life’s static and unpredictably intermittent challenges can be kind of a bummer even if you’re able to brush them off and move forward. Lily sounds like she understands and has some deep empathy for how in recent years everyday challenges have seemed like a bit much and how that pace isn’t exactly relenting yet we do have to maintain a core of some grace to weather this steady stream of a whole lot of everything. Big Picture, the title alone, points to how stepping back in the moment can give you the pause you need to keep things in perspective even if you have a moment or ten.

Shania Twain, photo courtesy the artist

Sunday | 05.21
What: Shania Twain w/Hailey Whitters
When: 6:30
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Shania Twain needs no introduction. The “Queen of Country Pop” is one of the best selling artists of all time. Certainly in the realm of country and pop music of the last 30 years. Normally in this show listing these kinds of artists don’t make the cut because they’re just too mainstream and not creatively interesting. But Twain was a pioneer in pushing country music into the realm of pop. She and Garth Brooks, whether you’re into their music or not, paved the way for people like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood to find an audience beyond the niche of country. Twain’s humor and charisma made her songs appealing beyond genre and continue to do so. In 2023 Twain released her new album Queen of Me which features current production techniques (even some elements of hyper pop) one might expect to hear on the record of a newer artist but of course the draw is her commanding voice and ability to articulate a range of feelings that seem to capture timeless experiences in new ways that fortunately hint that Twain is keenly aware of not only her place as a country artist that has always embraced new sounds but as one who has also been trying on new ways of having her songs hit with fresh sounds and songwriting that doesn’t sound like she’s stuck in the past.

Sunday | 05.21
What: Violent Femmes w/Jesse Ahern
When: 5
Where: Levitt Pavillion
Why: Violent Femmes will perform its 1983 self-titled debut album in its entirety for this show. That record was a staple of alternative rock radio and college dorms for decades. Its weird blend of folk, punk, jazz and outsider pop had an undeniable, immediate and enduring appeal with classics like “Blister in the Sun,” “Add It Up” and “Gone Daddy Gone” but the whole record beginning to end is a journey into the essence of youthful angst and frustrations but expressed in a way that somehow remained relevant well beyond anyone’s teen years. The Femmes remain a force in the live setting and always surprisingly powerful yet fun.

Arts Fishing Club, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Arts Fishing Club w/Homes at Night
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Arts Fishing Club is an indie rock band from Nashville that formed in 2016. Singer/guitarist Christopher Kessenich grew up seeing live music with his father and older brothers witnessing a mix of alternative music, classic rock and jam bands all of which fed into his own eclectic songwriting. The band’s debut album Rothko Sky (due out June 16, 2023) is arranged as a kind of personal journey of a person who in the first half of the record sets out in life idealistic and open to everything only to find out that all of us have limitations both human and of our own unique psychology. On the album’s second half there is a reflection on the nature and impact of love, sex and pain and how that can shape who we are once the shine and novelty of new experiences evolves into appreciating the breadth and depth of life. The songs have a bluesy grit and an often impassioned delivery informed by the flow of its narrative element for a record that sounds like it had to be made by a band a few releases into its career once it has figured out who it is and what it wants to say with intention but with the exuberance of a new band intact. Listen to our interview with Kessenich on the Queen City Sounds Podcast on Bandcamp.

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult in 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.22
What: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/ADULT. and KANGA
When: 6:30
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult is currently touring celebrating its 36 years as a band with a set list that focuses on the group’s first decade. The band’s campy, industrial disco sleaze has always demonstrated a more fun and lighthearted side of industrial culture while offering a distinctive visual and musical style in its bombastic live shows. By the time Thrill Kill Kult appeared in The Crow (1994), the band had already been staples of the more underground end of alternative rock write large but its performance in the film was the perfect embodiment of the aesthetics of the movie. ADULT. is the great industrial post-punk duo from Detroit whose music of the past few years has really been the musical reflection of the conflicted and dystopian times we’ve been going through with a world on the brink of domination by authoritarian regimes and the already unfolding disastrous consequences of climate change with little to no vision and action by world leaders. ADULT.’s music is an act of human solidarity and a catharsis of ambient despair. KANGA is a Los Angeles-based producer whose dusky pop music is darkwave adjacent but also adjacent to a more dance beat infused chillwave and vaporwave with sultry vocals. It might be more apt to compare KANGA to the likes of Charli XCX and Jessie Ware than an artist out of the Goth world.

Martin Dupont, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Martin Dupont w/Julian St. Nightmare and French Kettle Station and Kill You Club DJs
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Legendary French New Wave band Martin Dupont, formed in 1982, is playing few shows on this tour through the US and one of those stops is in Denver. The group has a new album out called Kintsugi that with its sweeping synths and darkly melancholic melodies seems to have arrived in time for the current era of appreciation for its particular style of cold wave pop/minimal synth and marking its first album in 36 years. French Kettle Station might be described as a hybrid New Age/glitch/post-Cloud rap/abstract post-rock artist whose stage antics involve some impressive dance moves and prodigious energy. Julian St. Nightmare is one of the best post-punk bands from Denver at the moment whose songs seem to have emerged out of its members having gone through phases of playing garage and psychedelic rock and surf but come through with some strong songwriting skills and the ability to craft moody yet powerful songs that don’t sound like the cookie cutter version of modern darkwave.

Y La Bamba, photo by Jenn Carillo

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Y La Bamba w/Ritmo Cascabel
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ya La Bamba is currently touring in support of its new record Lucha which in its typically exploratory fashion employs folk music of various traditions and an experimental soundscaping aesthetic that allows for a rich expression of themes and the sounds that serve to anchor them in your mind. The album is one about various identities and how they overlap and how we can come to embrace them as a coherent and intermingled part of our existence no matter what those categories might be of gender, sexuality, culture and individual psychology. It’s a gentle record but one that runs deep into the aforementioned subjects and through that more vulnerable approach that encourages patience with self and others is able to more successfully enter into the more tender realms of the heart and mind and comment with an intuitive insight. The psychedelic folk of these songs are ambitious in scope and imagination and the live band always seems to truly render the songs into a vibrant and moving form.

Mareux, photo by Nedda Afsari

Friday | 05.26
What: Mareux w/Cold Gawd
When: 7
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Mareux established his cult following as a darkwave artist with singles and EPs over the past few years. What set him apart from some of his peers though are his deeply lush and detailed production with rich low end, his dusky and soulful vocals and his poetic tales of romantic yearning like something out of late night cafe reminiscing about heartbreak and lost loves. Currently the producer/singer/songwriter is touring in support of his debut full-length Lovers From the Past, a record that reveals a dimensionality to Mareux’s gift for conveying sonic depth and emotional nuance. Opening is the Cold Gawd whose 2022 album God Get Me the Fuck Out of Here was one of the records of choice to connoisseurs of shoegaze and music that pushes the boundaries of established styles. With R&B beats and granular guitar melodies in densely expressive layers, Cold Gawd is helping to reshape what both forms of music have to sound like and whether there has to be a separation.

Hot Chip, photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Friday | 05.26
What: Chromeo and Hot Chip w/Coco & Breezy and Cimafunk
When: 5
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo seems to regularly tour with its bombastic and visually arresting live show and always with an innovative opening act or two along for the ride. For this outing at Red Rocks you will get to see Hot Chip. The UK band came to prominence in the early 2000s for its innovative fusion of synthpop and dance music that sounds like a successor to the kinds of sounds we heard out of Madchester, the Balearic Beat, disco and neo soul. Hot Chip always seems to have a keen ear for use of space in its compositions and how that can have a very powerful emotional resonance that goes beyond the mere us of dazzling, atmospheric melodies and strong beats. Its latest album is 2022’s Freakout/Release which found the band leaning heavy into its alternative pop sound with some nice experimental moments reminiscent of Kraftwerk and perhaps contemporaries it influenced like Cut Copy. It might be the group’s most full-realized album in its long career.

Ganser, photo from Bandcamp

Friday | 05.26
What: Ganser w/Antibroth and The Red Scare
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Ganser is probably well within the realm of post-punk but artier and with a more interesting palette of sounds upon which it draws. In moments like noise rock math rock psychedelic weirdos with angular flow but with an ear for sculpting the collective soundscape it creates. In this way the band has more in common with other Chicago weirdo post-punk bands like Facs or Dehd or beyond the Windy City and akin to bands like Studded Left, Body Double, Dry Cleaning, Lithics or FRIGS. Whatever the exact nature of Ganser might be for anyone into more experimental post-punk that isn’t being defined by a trendy sound. Opening are confrontational, mathy post-punk band Antibroth and the more noise rock The Red Scare.

Suzanne Ciani, photo by Katja Ruge

Saturday | 05.27
What: Suzanne Ciani w/Colloboh
When: 7
Where: Central Presbyterian Church
Why: Synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani is doing a rare performance in Denver this night with quadraphonic sound and a projection-mapped light show. Ciani’s long career has seen her work appear in film, television and commercials as music and sound effects and her 1980s and beyond New Age albums have been nominated for a Grammy five times. Her contributions to sound design and music has been a part of popular culture in ways both subtle and overt and her unique achievements as a composer in league with the likes of Morton Subotnick, Wendy Carlos, Laurie Spiegel, Pauline Oliveros and Delia Derbyshire. Don’t sleep on these shows. You may never get another chance to see Ciani live.

Nerver, photo from Bandcamp

Saturday | 05.27
What: Nerver, Almanac Man and Edith Pike
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Nerver from Kansas City is a rising noise rock band in the vein of the kinds of artists you’d hear from Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go. It’s 2022 album CASH was a brutal yet haunting selection of songs that are somehow both melancholic and introspective yet fiery in their cathartic moments. In 2023 Nerver released a split with noise rock legends Chat Pile called BROTHERS IN CHRIST. Edith Pike’s self-titled EP from 2022 may have been pretty lo-fi but you can hear the kind of screamo-noise rock crossover sound that may have its roots in hardcore but has evolved beyond the predictable version of that music. Almanac Man also from Denver has the kind of gristly noise rock that’s feral like Neurosis but with a post-punk angularity that gives its music a vibe like Shellac if Steve Albini had come up in the music world he helped to influence.

Meet the Giant in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.27
What: Meet the Giant album release w/Church Fire and The Mssng
When: 8
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Meet the Giant is releasing its new album We Are Revolting. The group’s 2018 self-titled debut was the product of several years of woodshedding musical ideas and songs as well as production and its gritty mix of rock and downtempo with emotionally stirring vocals reflected with the then emergent live band. This time around the trio appears to have focused on an even sonically edgier catharsis with songs that express an anger born of frustration and weariness at the political and cultural situation in which we find ourselves in America and really worldwide. As touchstones one might point to the likes of Failure and its own fusion of rock and electronic sensibilities and a sheen of the cinematic. Or Nine Inch Nails in even further implementing sound design elements in the mix. But Meet the Giant’s songs tend to be more melodic and its sound having more in common with a modern shoegaze band with a bit more rock and roll kick to its songwriting. Church Fire is also on the bill bringing its own reinvented amalgam of political, electronic industrial dance music and are rock touches.

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, photo by Harvey Robinson

Sunday | 05.28
What: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Porlolo and Wheelright
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Outlaw country, country-punk, whatever designation fits Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Sarah Shook is one of the most distinctive voices in modern country music on the still fairly underground level where a great deal of the best of that and other musical styles are found. Shook’s voice has enough of a rough edge to be interesting but their melodic resonance serves well stories of every day life written in a way that seems so specific yet relatable in spirit and substance. Speaking of, Pololo is more an indie rock band but Erin Roberts has a gift for turning a sense of humor into music with a sharply observational and existential bent.

Yob, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 05.28
What: Yob w/Cave In and Dreadnought
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Yob is an influential doom band that began in 2000 before splitting in 2006 and reconvening in 2008. Its sound is definitely in that realm of mining what Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Sleep and Earth had done before but seeing Yob live it seems obvious that Mike Scheidt is injecting a sense of fun into the music and its flows of heavy rock is tinged with psychedelia. This coming year the group is re-issuing its debut album Elaborations of Carbon so perhaps the set list will favor that record but either way, Yob is a fun live band that makes music that is both cosmic and deeply human. Cave In is the influential post-hardcore, foundational metalcore band from Massachusetts. Dreadnought is the doom band from Denver whose rhythmic style has a tribal sensibility and whose overall sound is more atmospheric, psychedelic and more rooted in dark folk than many of its heavy music peers.

Djunah, photo from Bandcamp

Monday | 05.29
What: Djunah w/Moon Pussy and Limbwrecker
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Djunah is a noise rock band of the kind that fans of the jarring and cathartic music of HIDE and Diamanda Galás might find much to their liking. Fronted by guitarist/singer/Moog bass player Donna Diane, Djunah recently released its new album Femina Furens. The heaviness of the music doesn’t just come from its gloriously clashing dynamics and instrumentation, it’s, per Djunah’s Bandcamp page, “the story of diagnosis and continuing recovery from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD. The album’s title comes from the Latin for ‘furious woman.’ The artwork is inspired by representations of the divine feminine in 1970s sci-fi metal art.” Touchstones on a quick listen would have to include Chelsea Wolfe, Patti Smith and Nick Cave for the exuberantly unleashed emotional energy present within. Who better to open than Denver’s Moon Pussy whose own eruptive noise rock while often accompanied by an eccentric sense of humor between songs has a similarly elemental energy that releases personal darkness, pain and frustrations in built and rapidly uncoiled tensions. Limbwrecker has a similar aesthetic though from a place that seems more steeped in a foundation of hardcore and extreme metal.

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Monday and Tuesday | 05.29 and 05.30
What: LCD Soundsystem w/M.I.A. and Peaches
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: LCD Soundsystem is the band started by James Murphy of DFA Records as a vehicle for his experiments in blending indie rock and electronic dance music. Though often associated with “dance punk,” LCD Soundsystem is much more wide-ranging than that designator would suggest with innovative production and a highly experimental approach to songwriting format and style beginning with the early single “I’m Losing My Edge” to its newer material like “New Body Rhumba” from the soundtrack to Noah Baumbach’s 2022 film White Noise based on Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel of the same name. Perhaps just as noteworthy for this show are the opening artists. Sure, irreverent and theatrical electroclash pioneer Peaches was in Denver recently with a powerful and entertaining show at the Summit Music Hall but rapper M.I.A., who learned how to make her own music from Peaches, hasn’t played in this area since her most recent national tour in 2008 at the Fillmore Auditorium, and her own music and performances are informed by her fusion of hip-hop, experimental electronic dance music, non-Western musical styles and an activist bent that challenges human rights abuse and imperialism.

Helloween, photo by Martin Häusler

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Helloween w/Hammerfall
When: 6
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Helloween is the influential power metal band from Hamburg, Germany. Since 1984 released a string of albums that have often featured concepts and storytelling commenting on the human condition in both personal, emotive narratives and paralleling historical references with current events and commenting on recurring themes of human civilization and the impact of culture and those in power on the lives of people within and without a particular country. The iconography of the pumpkin has been part of the group’s artwork since early on and infuses the often weighty subject matter of the songwriting with a touch of humor and humanity. In 2016 older Helloween lead vocalists Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen rejoined along with long time singer Andi Deris for the kind of sound not many groups in metal have ever had in one band. In May 2023 the group was slated for induction into the Metal Hall of Fame. In the coming days look for our audio interview with guitarist Sascha Gerstner on the Queen City Sounds Podcast series.

Ryan Oakes, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Ryan Oakes w/Layto and Cherie Amour
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ryan Oakes released his new album WAKE UP on May 12, 2023. The album makes good on the rapper’s experiments in genre bending and blending. The subject matter is about personal struggle, mental health difficulties and overcoming adversity but the attitude and delivery is punk set to trap beats and production for a sound that could be a complete disaster but works because the words are raw and real and the music hitting with an exhilarating immediacy. Somehow Oakes takes the anthemic quality of modern post-hardcore emo and a dazzling parade of current cultural references to tell stories of striving and struggling in an era of amplified anxiety and pressure to succeed despite human limitations and vulnerabilities. Oakes doesn’t bother not tapping into hyper pop’s sonic surrealism and industrial hip-hop as well as the aforementioned styles to create a compelling sound of his own.

Drain, photo by Christian Castillo

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Drain w/Drug Church, MSPAINT and TORENA
When: 7
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Drain is a melodic hardcore trio from Santa Cruz, California that recently released its new album Living Proof. Drug Church hails from the opposite end of the country in Albany, NY but its own style of hardcore is also not short on melody but its style is one with some roots in pop punk or the modern, better, version that emerged in the early 2010s. But the real reason to go to this show is to see MSPAINT from Hattiesburg, Mississippi whose debut full length Post-American release came out on Convulse Records. Clearly the band came out of the punk/hardcore scene but it’s synth-driven art punk is stranger and more colorful than a lot of what else is on offer for this night but delivered with the same level of intense energy and outpouring of passion. One might compare the band to Milemarker and The VSS but it’s really its own, unique flavor of challenging-to-classify punk.

Chella and the Charm in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.31
What: Chris King & The Gutterballs w/Chella and The Charm and Silver Triplets
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chris King & The Gutterballs is a band from Seattle whose flavor of Americana has more in common with CCR than the more modern country folk strain though that’s in the mix too. Chella and The Charm has for the past decade or so provided the kind of Americana that is an urban soundtrack to contemplating life and the sorts of issues and thoughts and feelings that drive an authentic existence and performed with the earthy energy of a rock and roll band. But even within that you can hear the irreverent humor and sharp social commentary and observations on human behavior with affection and insight.

Ultrabomb, photo from

Wednesday | 05.31
What: Ultra Bomb w/Black Dots, The Black Gloves and Shiverz
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Ultrabomb is a punk supergroup featuring Greg Norton of Hüsker Dü, Jamie Oliver of UK Subs and Finny McConnell of The Mahones. The music that’s been available appears to be a particularly vibrant style of power pop and fantastic vocal melodies that one might expect from a group of such punk luminaries.

Best Shows in Denver February 2022

Dinosaur Jr, photo by Cara Totman

Tuesday | 02.08
What: Everything is Terrible KIDZ KLUB Tour
When: 7 and 10 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Los Angeles-based video collage and and performance collective Everything Is Terrible! Brings its latest live show and presentation of some of the best of the worst video clips found at thrift stores, garage sales, odd ends of video websites and the like to Sie Film Center. This tour is called KIDZ KLUB so surely some of the most demented yet often earnest bits of trash Americana will make its way into the show perhaps themed after some of the surreal and you want to think are manufactured parody but aren’t passages of video made for children and for educational purposes. But who can say and with the costumes and other outright strangeness that comes with an EIT live show it’ll all be maximum weird in a time when normie culture insipidity is the norm and we need stuff this eccentric and inspired as a reminder that accidental creativity can be fun when recontextualized and presented with a spirit of fun and an odd sense of humor and irony.

Wednesday | 02.09
What: Action Bronson & Earl Sweatshirt w/The Alchemist and Boldy James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt has been one of the most innovative hip-hop artists of recent years mixing a more traditional hip-hop beat making approach with utilizing ideas and sounds well outside the usual spectrum of that style of music making. Some of his albums at times sound more like a noise record than anything you hear much outside the most experimental of underground hip-hop projects. The Alchemist is also one of the cutting edge beat makers of today and his 2021 album with Armand Hammer pushed the art form to new vistas of soundscaping to bolster that duo’s own masterfully creative rapping and production. Action Bronson may not quite be in that league as an innovator but his forcefulness as a rapper and performer is unquestionable.

Spyderland at Down in Denver Fest September 2021

Friday | 02.11
What: Church Fire, Spyderland, Glass Human and Partyteeth
When: 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Church Fire has spent the better part of the past decade honing its vital fusion of darkwave, political punk and electronic dance music and today remains a forceful live act that should probably be known outside of Denver but for now you can still catch them at small stages mostly in and around Denver and the eastern slope of Colorado. Spyderland brings some songwriting heft to its eclectic and inventive pop songs combining Marie Litton’s experience in bands like Clever Elsie, Ghost Buffalo and Lil’ Thunder with Drew McClellan’s knack for hybridizing genres and production methods to make for music that has tactile presence while inviting its listeners to dream beyond one’s immediate limitations.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Down In Denver Fest Presents: Emerald Siam w/Zealot and Gila Teen
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: This is a fundraising event for the 2022 edition of Down In Denver Fest. Last year some local underground music luminaries put together a festival pretty much last minute with a focus on local artists in a way other festivals were not. It featured all the bands playing this event as well as groups from a broad spectrum of time having put into the local scene and genres. At a time when local culture is neglected and otherwise treated as fodder for digital marketing platforms rather than cultivated and curated in a manner outside that technocratic way of thinking an event like Down In Denver Fest is necessary. So for this night you get the brooding and triumphant psychedelia of Emerald Siam, Zealot’s playfully thought-provoking pop and Gila Teen’s emo-enriched post-punk noise rock.

Friday | 02.11
What: Satellite Pilot, King Ropes, Flora de la Luna
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bozeman, Montana’s King Ropes are a bit like the Dead Milkmen of lo-fi psych Americana whose 2021 album Way Out West straddles the line between the early, on-the-verge-of-collapsing charm of early Mercury Rev and the irreverent humor and oddly respectable musical chops of Dead Milkmen.

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Backseat Lovers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Backseat Lovers from Provo, Utah strike that delicate balance between folk pop, hazy, late afternoon psychedelic rock and Americana. It’s a blend that might not work or sound like too much music in the larger indie world. But there’s enough grit in the band’s music and an earnestness in its performances to set it apart from other bands in a similar spectrum of style. Its dynamics and balance of force and delicacy allows its songs to go from hushed, contemplative moods to heightened emotional flares of intensity with a rare grace. The band is set to go back into the studio to record its next album so this would be a good time to catch it in high form performing its earlier music and maybe catch some of the new material before these guys put it through the studio process.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Bluebook, American Culture and Alison Lorenzen
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bluebook has had an interesting arc of musical evolution since its inception in the 2000s and lately its experimental, baroque pop has emerged as theatrical and dramatic with Julie Davis striking a commanding and focused figure with a band that creates a mysterious atmosphere. So with punk-infused indie pop band American Culture on the bill seems like an odd pairing but one fitting since American Culture frontman Chris Adolf is a bit of a musical rebel whose own vision places a premium on authenticity and not fitting in with expectation. Its 2021 album For My Animals on the respected Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records imprint is possibly Adolf’s most fully realized album to date with expert players to help manifest meaningful and powerful pop music in an era of entirely too much blandness.

The Siren Project in April 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Siren Project w/The Midnight Marionettes and Katastrophy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Siren Project is one of the longest running bands in the Denver post-punk and Gothic-industrial underground with roots in the 90s, influenced by both alternative rock, European folk music and downtempo electronic music. Charismatic frontwoman Malgorzata Wacht and longtime keyboard player Alex Seminara weave a beguiling and unique style of thrillingly dramatic and lush dark pop with a strong strain of romanticism and self-affirmation.

The Wombats, photo by Tom Oxley

Monday | 02.14
What: The Wombats w/Clubhouse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: UK indie band The Wombats like many bands began work on their new album in 2019 and had to piece together the songwriting and recording as best they could from 2020 through 2021 due to the ongoing global pandemic. But Fix Yourself, Not the World was finally released in January 2022 and it’s the sort of cinematic pop with a literary flair we’ve come to expect from the band. The lead single “Method to The Madness” builds into a glorious torrent of sound like a manifestation of our collective frustrations unleashed. And the album appears to be a struggling against and an acceptance of the things we can’t change but learn to work around or take into account in our attempts to move forward through life.

Wednesday | 02.16
What: Public Opinion, Destiny Bond, No Roses and The Clue
When: 7 p.m., $10
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Local hardcore show. Destiny Bond has a bit of D-beat flavor.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Abandons, New Standards Men and Hoverfly
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: If heavy instrumental music is something you’re into Abandons has been making some of the more dynamic and moody variety thereof for a few years or so. More post-rock than doom and extreme metal but there’s a plenty of that in the mix too. Fortunately for this show you also get to see those instrumental heavy music experimental tricksters New Standards Men whose twin albums I Was a Spaceship and Spain’s First Astronaut answer the question not enough people were asking in wondering where art rock bands into Zappa, Isis, Amphetamine Reptile noise rock, post-hardcore, John Zorn and ambient music were hiding.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Screwtape, MSPAINT, Cyst and CFX Project
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: MSPAINT from Hattiesberg, MS sound for all the world like a noisy post-punk band that came out of a brilliant blend of hardcore, Protomartyr-esque art punk and Sleaford Mods attitude. One wonders also if they were into mclusky or Future of the Left at some point in their creative trajectory. You also get to see one of Denver’s top five punk bands in Screwtape who always put on a ferociously energetic show.

Cautious Clay, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday – Saturday | 02.17 – 02.19
What: Cautious Clay w/Ivy Sole and Julius Rodriguez
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Belly-Up (02.17) and Bluebird Theater (02.1802.19)
Why: Cautious Clay’s wide emotional range as a vocalist and his introspectively and poignantly observed lyrics coupled with the eclectic beats and instrumentation of his songs is instantly captivating. Through a series of EPs over the past few years as well as his 2021 album Deadpan Love, Clay has revealed himself to be one of the most creatively vibrant artists in recent years whose music spans beyond R&B and hip-hop as the jazz influences in his music synergize well with ambient and psychedelic pop undertones. Catch Clay during his run through Colorado at the Belly-Up in Aspen and The Bluebird Theater in Denver (dates and links above).

Saturday | 02.19
What: Machine Girl w/Evic Shen and Polly Urethane
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Machine Girl is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole with any simple genre designation. Fans of digital hardcore, breakcore/glitchcore, industrial in the more modern mode will definitely find something to like about its surreal and colorful production and refreshingly coherent songwriting for a world of music that makes a virtue of the musical equivalent of radical jump cuts in tempo and tenor. People into Ho99o9, Atari Teenage Riot, Ghösh, 100 gecs and their ilk should at least give this band a listen. It’s like the next generation or two out from whatever it was HEALTH did in the 2000s and witch house from the same era. Yet it has some stylistic resonances with all of that. Rumor has it that at a Machine Girl show at a DIY venue people danced so hard part of the floor caved in so Machine Girl goes hard. If a legit horror movie could be made up of memes and rapid cycling anime footage it would sound like the duo’s 2020 album U-Void Synthesizer. Denver’s own dream pop/industrial project Polly Urethane is clearly a good fit for the bill.

Enumclaw, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 02.20
What: Naked Giants w/Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Naked Giants are a lively and playful rock band whose roots in grunge and psychedelic rock are obvious without preventing the trio to lay out some nice surprises where they go way beyond expectations they set for themselves at the show. Enumclaw shares a similar irreverent spirit and effusive punk energy but their guitar work has more in common with The Smiths and The Cure than Nirvana or Mudhoney or even Jay Reatard. Their combination of authenticity and eccentricity as a live band is proving to be uncommonly compelling.

The Weather Station, photo by Jeff Bierk

Monday | 02.21
What: The Weather Station w/Helena Deland
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tamara Lindeman of The Weather Station has the rare gift of being able to project an ethereal thoughtfulness and fragile elegance and emotional strength at once. The group’s 2021 album Ignorance brings forth a full range of sounds and orchestrated emotions for one of the most satisfying listens of any album that we at Queen City Sounds basically slept on last year. Catch The Weather Station ahead of the March 4 release of its new album How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars.

Wallice, photo by Jerry Maestas

Thursday | 02.24
What: Still Woozy w/Wallice
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Still Woozy is part of a big wave of bedroom pop of the past decade but like the better artists out of that world he has some musical chops with a background in classical guitar and formal educaton in electronic music that aren’t so obvious and fortunately get focused in songwriting. After spending a few years in the math rock band Feed Me Jack, Sven Gamsky departed in 2016 to start making music under the moniker Still Woozy. Making a virtue of what might be seen as a limited format, the music out of Still Woozy has a simple charm informed by a subtle sophistication in the songwriting. In 2021 he released his debut album If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is. Opening the show is Wallice whose own roots in jazz training have been channeled into finely crafted and poignant pop songs. Her single “Punching Bag” garnered her early attention as a poetically succinct summation of a friendship gone awry and how our digital footprints can complicate life when we’d really rather just part ways with someone. The track appeared on her 2021 EP Off the Rails which included songs that showcased Wallice’s growth as a songwriter beyond the style of contemporary indie pop. “Michael” really nails how all the tired narratives a young woman or really anyone else has had to suffer from a certain kind of male is just unwelcome. Some things never change but thanks to Wallice all the same for articulating this so well and Philip Stilwell for giving the song visual form.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Ogden Theatre in 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 02.25 and 02.26
What: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
When: 8 p.m. (02.25) and 7:30 p.m. (02.26)
Where: Gothic Theatre (02.25) and Boulder Theater (02.26)
Why: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are pioneers of post-rock but also a band whose left anarchist politics are part of its operating as a group and its music therefore is orchestrated and organic while sounding as planned as a classical piece of music. But the group does not skimp on evoking feelings and pairs the emotional content of its songs with the visual representation thereof often as projections on the stage as a stirring visual component. Godspeed’s 2021 album G_d’s Pee at State’s End! reintroduced a strong component of musique concrète to help ground and reinforce its more than usual tumultuous, brash and direct compositions.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Blood Incantation
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Experimental death metal band Blood Incantation will perform its 2022 ambient album Timewave Zero in its entirety and then engage in some improv for this show. Will there be any of the death metal its more conventionally-minded fans might crave? Who can say but the guys in the band are into enough unusual and experimental music that likely the ambient album will be worth a listen. Heck, if Wolves in the Throne Room could put out Celestite at the peak of their popularity, Blood Incantation can drop something like Timewave Zero at one of the peaks of its own renown.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Dinosaur Jr w/Pink Mountaintops
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr influenced more music than is generally taken into account and clearly an inspiration to the entire shoegaze movement of the 90s, all of alternative rock and even current psychedelic guitar bands from the more indie variety to those heavier. J. Mascis honed in on the tender feelings and angst people often shuffle aside trying to get through life and gave voice and dignity to feelings that many people would otherwise find shameful. Along the way Dinosaur Jr also managed to never release an album that wasn’t always surprisingly well crafted with imaginative guitar rock in a seemingly endless knack for reinventing the language of the instrument in the context of tasty hooks and evocative storytelling. And as a live band always intense yet seeming to tap into a daydreamy quality.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Denial Of Life w/Implied Risk, Moral Law and Ukko’s Hammer
When: 10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Tacoma, Washington’s Denial of Life brings its thrash punk stylings to HQ for a late night set with local hardcore bands of similar spirit including the D-beat super group Ukko’s Hammer.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2019

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins

This best of list was intended for publication in 2020 and parts of the entries with comments were published in my year end best list for the print edition of Birdy magazine in Denver for the December 2019 issue. The full best of list is presented here with those short reviews included with the appropriate album and the rest included without comment and several album covers shared as well. The album of the year was All Your Sisters’ Trust Ruins (listed first) because it encapsulated the mood of the year and the band put on one of the best shows of 2019 and the record felt like a leap forward in style and execution for the band. Soon I’ll publish the full best of 2020 list too in a similar format with the commentary for those items that made it into the print edition of Birdy for December 2020.

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins | The Flenser
A brutal, maximalist summation of the turmoil, conflict, sense of chaos and confusion, rage and frustration and overwhelming flood of negative input from world and societal events of the previous few years. In articulating those feelings and experiences and more alone as powerfully as it does, this album by All Your Sisters transcends genre by providing an example of how industrial and darkwave music can burst beyond established conventions with the sharp-edged and precise percussion framing and channeling the fiery energy at the core of the songwriting.

Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic

Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released

Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD

Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian

Altas | All I Ever Wanted Was | Self-released
A lush deepening of the band’s sweeping, cinematic aesthetic.

Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl

Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records

Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love

Angel Olsen | All Mirrors | Jagjaguwar
Poignantly dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny.

Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin

Bellhoss | Geraniums | Self-released
Buoyant, lo-fi slowcore love songs for inner awkward nerd.

Bethlehem Steel | s/t | Exploding in Sound
The utter exorcism of oppression through bursts of melodic/atonal poetry.

Big Dopes | Crimes Against Gratitude | Self-released
Captivating indie pop earworm vingettes of American malaise and hope.

Big Thief | U.F.O.F. / Two Hands | 4AD

Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released

Black Belt Eagle Scout | At The Party With My Brown Friends | Saddle Creek

black midi | Schlagenheim | Rough Trade Records
A primer for the new avant-guitar rock revolution.

Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar

Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones

Blood Incantation | Hidden History of the Human Race | Dark Descent

Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-

Briffaut | A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away | GROUPHUG

Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop

Cat Tyson Hughes | Gentle Encounters With Things | Self-released
Ambient, aural snapshots of memory fragments from the hypnogogic state.

Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released

Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records

Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art

Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers

Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released

Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House

Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released

Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better

clipping. | There Existed an Addiction to Blood | Sub Pop

Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser

Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records

Cop Circles | Vacation for Hurt | Self-released
Subversive, Laurie Anderson-esque, New Age, No Wave send-up of corporate seminar jingles.

Cosey Fanni Tutti | Tutti | Conspiracy International
Heavy and hypnotic industrial rave autobiography through sound.

Curse | Metamorphism | Fake Crab Records
Eight, powerful, darkwave, prophetic warnings of our potential future.

Danny Brown | uknowhatimsayin¿ | Warp Records
Relentlessly inventive beats and tragicomedic, self-immolating swagger, sci-fi autobiography.

Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music

Deafkids | Metaprogramação | Neurot Recordings
Immersive, ambient-industrial death grind.

Doo Crowder | One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims) | Self-released
The greatest art pop record since the death of Harry Nilsson.

Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released

Drab Majesty | Modern Mirror | Dais Records
Moodily heartbreaking deep dive into the essence of love, memory and beauty.

Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser

Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art

Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida

Elizabeth Colour Wheel | Nocebo | The Flenser
Majestic, urban-tribal, noise-sludge dream psych.

Empath | Active Listening: Night On Earth | Get Better Records

Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records

Ex Hex | It’s Real | Merge Records
Cosmic New Wave power pop gems beginning to end.

Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind

FEELS / Shannon Lay | Post Earth / August | Wichita / Sub Pop

FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released

Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes

Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop

French Kettle Station | Over X Millennia | Self-released
Retro-furturist, New Age pop shade jams on contemporary wack culture.

Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital

Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released

Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records

Gold Trash | Quiet Violence | Glasss Records
Collage glitch industrial hip-hop daggers into misogynist culture.

Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records

Guerilla Toss | What Would The Odd Do? | DFA
Mind-altering, subtropical, disco punk dance pop.

Guidon Bear | Downwardly Mobile: Steel Accelerator | Antiquated Future Records

Gun Street Ghost | Battles | Self-released

Half Shadow | Dream Weather Its Electric Song | Illusion Florist

Haunted Horses | Dead Meat | SIXWIX

Have a Nice Life | Sea of Worry | The Flenser

HEALTH | Slaves of Fear Vol. 4 | Loma Vista Recordings

HIDE | Hell is Here | Dais Records

Holly Herndon | Proto | 4AD

HTRK | Venus In Leo | Ghostly International
Love songs from downtempo dance clubs in the future urban decay.

Jamila Woods | Legacy! Legacy! | Jagjaguwar

Jenny Hval | The Practice of Love | Sacred Bones

Kal Marks | Let the Shit House Burn Down | Exploding in Sound

Kid Mask | dead sore(s) | Self-released
Dispatches from the industrial glitch techno hard rave revolution.

Kim Gordon | No Home Record | Matador Records
Scathing jazz cool poetry set to hip-hop-inflected noise.

Kristin Hersh | Possible Dust Clouds | Fire Records

Kyle Emerson | Only Coming Down | Swoon City Music

Larians | Looming Boy EP | Self-released
Loneliness and isolation distilled as shimmering IDM nuggets.

Legendary Pink Dots | Angel in the Detail | Metropolis Records
A brilliant synthesis of classical sonic architecture, emotionally charged ambient and deep social critique.

Lightning Cult | EP 2: Ether Waves | Cloud Command Sound

Lingua Ignota | Caligula | Profound Lore
Caustic, industrial fusillade against patriarchal fragility.

Lisa Prank | Perfect Love Song | Father/Daughter Records

Little Fyodor | Pithy Romantic Ballads | Self-released
Arch punk cynic and curmudgeon begrudgingly admits affection and survives.

Lot Lizard | s/t | Different Folk Records

Lower Dens | The Competition | Ribbon Music

Malibu Ken | s/t | Rhymesayers

Mannequin Pussy | Patience | Epitaph

Mdou Moctar | Ilana: The Creator | Sahel Sounds
Intricate African prog suffused with the joy of the creative act.

Moon Pussy | Band Meating | Self-released
Eruptive, searing, angular, anti-pop exorcisms.

Muscle Beach | Charms | Sailor Records

Necropanther | The Doomed City | Self-released

New Standards Men | Field Recordings From Late Capitalism Vol. 10 | Self-released

No Gossip in Braille | Bend Toward Perfect Light | Cercle Social Records
The transmogrification of sorrow into transcendent melodies.

NoSwoon | s/t | Substitute Scene Records
Effervescent yet introspective dark wave synth pop.

Nots | 3 | Goner Records

Nuancer | I Hardly Know Her | Self-released

Obtuse | Who’s Askin’? | Self-released
Gloriously earnestly meaningful, off-the-cuff, utterly unpretentious pop punk.

Oh, Rose | While My Father Sleeps | Park The Van

Oko Tygra | Assistoma | Grey Market Records
Masterfully executed emotionally stirring downtempo dream pop.

Old Time Relijun | See Now And Know | K Records

Orbit Service | The Door to the Sky | Self-released

Pedestrian Deposit | Dyers’ Hands | Monorail Trespassing
The sonic analog of places we don’t want to visit but are drawn to anyway.

Pharmakon | Devour | Sacred Bones

Pinkish Black | Concept Unification | Relapse Records

Pile | Green and Gray | Exploding in Sound
Furiously poetic, orchestral and thoughtful blueprint for arty, noisy post-punk to come.

Plaid | Polymer | Warp Records

Pop. 1280 | Way Station | Weyrd Son Records

POW! | Shift | Castle Face Records

Priests | The Seduction of Kansas | Sister Polygon

Redwing Blackbird | Too Klaus For Comfort | Self-released

Rowboat | Birchwood Halls | Self-released

Secret Shame | Dark Synthetics | Portrayal of Guilt Records

Sheer Mag | A Distant Call | Wilsuns Recording Company
Modern blues punk’s equivalent of Judas Priest’s Stained Class.

She Past Away | Disko Anksiyete | Metropolis Records / Fabrika Records

ShitKid | DETENTION | PNKSLM Recordings

Silence in the Snow | Levitation Chamber | Prophecy Productions

Sleaford Mods | Eton Alive | Extreme Eating Records

Sleater-Kinney | The Center Won’t Hold | Mom + Pop

Slugger | Is Real | Self-released

Sole & DJ Pain 1 | No God Nor Country | Black Box Tapes

somesurprises | s/t | Drawing Room Records

Spirettes | Esoteria | Self-released
An ethereal distillation of deep yearning and determination.

SRSQ | Temporal Love/Unkept | Dais Records

Stonefield | Bent | Flightless

Strange Ranger | Remembering The Rockets | Tiny Engines

Studded Left | Popular Intuition | S/L INTNL.
Psychedelic post-punk portraits of life and love in our dystopic USA.

Summer Cannibals | Can’t Tell Me No | Tiny Engines

SunnO))) | Life Metal and Pyroclasts | Southern Lord

Swans | leaving meaning. | Young God

Tacocat | This Mess Is A Place | Sub Pop

Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough | Ghostly International

The Coathangers | The Devil You Know | Suicide Squeeze

The Hecks | My Star | Trouble In Mind Records

The Ocean Blue | Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves | Korda Records

The Paranoyds | Carnage Bargain | Suicide Squeeze

The Stargazer Lilies | Occabot | Rad Cult

The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All the Time | Rock Action
The sound of a valiant struggle against existential failure.

The Vanilla Milkshakes | Punching Cows | Self-released
Humorous and heartfelt pop grunge odes to perpetual outsider status.

Total Trash | Field Guide | Self-released
Melancholic, post-psychedelic, slowcore, glitter jams.

Turvy Organ | The Ghost at the Feast | GROUPHUG

Tyler The Creator | Igor | Columbia
Dense, gritty, hazy beats and meta-exploration of identity as human and artist.

We Are Not a Glum Lot | The Price of Simply Existing | Self-released
Gripping, emo-inflected, math-y, post-punk bummercore.

Weeping Icon | s/t | Fire Talk
Cathartic, thorny, darkwave doom garage.

Whipporwill | The Nature of Storms | Self-released

Wreck and Reference | Absolute Still Life | The Flenser

Xeno & Oaklander | Hypnos | Dais Records
Heavy/heavenly techno for the dance club on Mount Olympus.

Xiu Xiu | Girl with Basket of Fruit | Polyvinyl

Zealot | The Book of Ramifications | Self-released

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 10/31/19 to 11/6/19

Bethlehem Steel performs 11.1.19 at Lion’s Lair, photo by Jeanette D. Moses

Thursday | October 31

What: The Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service, The Drood, DJ Mudwulf and VJ Dizy Pixl
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Legendary Pink Dots and its mystical, spectral, ambient psychedelia will turn 40 next August and is currently undertaking a tour celebrating the landmark date along with its new album, 2019’s Angel in the Detail. The new record contains elements of what has always made LPD great including entrancing atmospheres, singer Edward Ka-Spel’s poetic lyrics that articulate deep truths about the human condition and how it manifests in our lives and civilizations. It also comments on the perilous state of things in the world today and especially in “The Junkyard” and how the elites are trying to finish completing a world system that renders those of us not in that upper one percent of one percent as pieces of junk in world civilization. The surreal and beautifully disturbing music video is well worth a view. Also sharing the bill tonight is the likeminded Denver-based ambient psychedelic rock band Orbit Service which has been gracing local stages and well beyond since the mid-90s. The Drood, also from Denver, is like a dark psychedelic prog band with punk-intensity and a sense of theater and the ability to create exorcistic emotional experiences in song. DJ Mudwulf will set the mood with what is sure to be a great set for the holiday and VJ Dizy Pixl will set the visual mood as per her usual level of excellence.

What: Wu Tang Clan w/Jedi Mind Tricks, Immortal Technique and Dillon Cooper
When: Thursday, 10.31, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

What: T.S.O.L. w/Noogy and The Pitch Invasion
When: Thursday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Dragondeer w/Dog City Disco and What Young Men Do
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Friday | November 1

yungbaepinkflamingo-peter dons
Yung Bae, photo by Peter Dons

What: Bethlehem Steel w/Gila Teen and guest
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bethlehem Steel has been together since 2012 but started garnering national attention for its outstanding performances at the South By Southwest festival in 2016. At that time the group had out a couple of EPs but released its debut full length Party Naked Forever in 2017. Its thrilling collision of fuzzy pop and dynamic atmospheric rock has drawn comparisons to 90s noise pop acts like Weezer and contemporary artists like Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. But often enough the group’s expansive, imaginative songwriting and creative ambition has resulted in some music that pushes boundaries of the loud and quiet format that many bands have adopted of late so that its songs will remind some of the emotionally stirring music of older bands like Failure, Slint and Rainer Maria. It has that kind of fire and caustic sound as well as lyrics that delve deep into the darker regions of the psyche with a defiant spirit lighting the way. In September, Bethlehem Steel released its fantastic self-titled full-length for which it is touring in support. Also on the bill is Gila Teen, the experimental post-punk band that brilliantly mixes moody atmospheres with a splintery pop punk.

What: Yung Bae w/Birocratic and Jaguar Nights
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dallas Cotton started making music as Yung Bae while living in Portland, Oregon but his production-based future funk started garnering him wider audiences while still a student at Oregon State University. His sound straddles that sort of 70s soul and R&B-inspired sounds and the aesthetic of modern electronic pop music. So while he references classic music it comes off with a more modern sensibility and energy. It hearkens to a previous era and the unsullied excitement of that music but in a way that couldn’t really have been accomplished at the time in terms of how he sculpts sound and edits it together. In 2019 Yung Bae released his fifth album in as many years with Bae 5.

What: Red Wing Black Bird album release w/Plague Garden and Married a Dead Man
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver darkwave band Red Wing Black Bird is releasing its latest album produced by DJ Charon of Necromantic/Fenando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

What: Future of Bass: smith, Mize, Wriza and Killa Nova
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box

What: Lucy Dacus w/Liza Anne and Sun June
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Saturday | November 2

Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Dia De Muertos celebration: Altas, Plume Varia and Los Mocochetes
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver instrumental rock band Altas is doing its now annual Dia De Muertos show in which the members will dress in the appropriate regalia for the occasion making the show a true event rather than just another gig. The group’s sweeping, cinematic grandeur and fiery musical pyrotechnics and mastery of mood and atmosphere is worth witnessing alone but also on the bill is psychedelic rock band Los Mocochetes and downtempo dream pop band Plume Varia and its emotionally rich and haunted compositions.

What: The Locust w/Disposal Notice and Its Just Bugs
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Locust recently reconvened to bring its mutant, death metal inflected, noisy hardcore on a national tour. The group’s surreal imagery and costumes along with its equally bizarre lyrics has made it difficult to lump in with any convenient musical movement. Its Just Bugs (the apostrophe is left off) is an industrial punk hip-hop group from Colorado and just as impossible to pigeonhole.

What: Twin Peaks w/Post Animal and Ohmme
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Twin Peaks from Chicago weathered the mid-2010s blowout of garage rock and neo-psychedelic rock that was making the underground rock scene of a certain stripe become fairly stale and performatively exciting. What helped was that Twin Peaks was writing good songs and hasn’t stayed stuck in the same sound for its entire career thus far. Its 2019 album Lookout Low sounds like an odd and interesting hybrid of power pop and the weirdo punk of The Fall at its most Lou Reed-inspired, mix in some unusual flourishes of 70s rock with nods to Peter Frampton and Thin Lizzy. All while delivering spirited and sometimes gloriously ragged performances which are much needed at a time when a sanitary quality has permeated too much modern music.

What: Fathers, Limbwrecker, The Munsens and Muscle Beach
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Dendera Bloodbath, Endometrium Cuntplow, Cau5er, Brother Saturn, Church Fire and Equine
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Rocket Dust, Tokyo Rodeo and The Slack
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Sunday | November 3

Vivian Girls circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Vivan Girls w/Down Time, Short Shorts and Backseat Vinyl — CANCELLED
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Vivian Girls caused a stir in the indie underground of the 2000s and 2010s with their lo-fi, noisy pop songs. The group’s ability to mix buoyant dynamics with dark, brooding moods and sounds was a fascinating contrast. The band split in 2014 with members going on to perform in La Sera, The Babies and Upset (all still going concerns). But in summer 2019 the group announced it was reforming with a new record, Memory, on the way and released in September.

SRSQ, photo by Tom Murphy

What: TR/ST w/SRSQ and DJ Slave 1
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: TR/ST came to prominence as the new darkwave movement was coming together with a sound that seemed to come out of the then renewed interest in vintage synths, that cold, bright, moody sound of Goth-y 80s synth pop and its cousin chillwave. But Robert Alfons’ vibrant, soulful voice and imaginative soundsccaping are the key ingredients that elevated this project above many of its contemporaries. In 2019 TR/ST released The Destroyer (Part 1 and 2), a more experimental and ambient, ethereal set of songs than his previous offerings and a clear product of reassessing directions and ideas to produce something different. SRSQ (pronounced Seer Ess Que as in the lettes for the latter two) is Kennedy Ashlyn the charismatic singer formerly of brilliant dream pop band Them Are Us Too. Her 2018 album Unreality is a moody and emotionally harrowing and cathartic downtempo album that seems to have absorbed the darkness and pain of the underground world in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and given it a voice that exorcises some of that energy.

What: Keytar Fest IV: The Jinjas, R A R E B Y R D $ and Claudzilla
When: Sunday, 11.3, 4 p.m.
Where: Glitter City
Why: Just like the title of the event suggests, this is a mini festival featuring all projects that incorporate keytars as an essential part of the songwriting and this includes weirdo synth punk Claudzilla and experimental hip-hop/IDM-inflected trio R A R E B Y R D $.

What: Danny Brown w/Ashnikko and Zeeloperz
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Ever since the larger world outside of Detroit started cluing into Danny Brown’s genius following the release of 2010’s The Hybrid, the rapper has garnered a large cult following for his eccentric yet sharply cogent and thoughtful yet raw lyrics and production that incorporates a wide range of sounds that one hadn’t often heard in hip-hop outside of the underground and alternative circles of the 90s and early 2000s. Brown picked up where that left off and pushed things further particularly on his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition which borrowed its title from a science fiction novel by J.G. Ballard and whose beats sounded almost like a new hybrid of industrial and rap that reflected the atmospherics as much as the textures and rhythms. With his new album, 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿ Brown follows a similar sonic path but brings together more organic, almost found sounds with processed layers of atmosphere. Intact is his gift for surreal imagery and wordplay that gets under your skin.

Monday | November 4

GRÜN WASSER, photo courtesy the artists

What: GRÜN WASSER w/Natural Violence, French Kettle Station and Night Shift DJs
When: Monday, 11.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: GRÜN WASSER is a Chicago-based electro-pop/industrial whose pulsing rhythms and dreamlike moods sound like endless nights wandering a menacing urban landscape and commenting on the culture of the nightlife. That is if the group’s new album Not OK with Things (Holodeck Records) is any indication. There is an almost claustrophobic quality to its densely atmospheric beats contrasted with Keely Dowd’s lightly echoing, ethereal vocals. French Kettle Station has been through more permutations of his sound than many artists bother to explore but of late he’s been developing a sound that’s still rooted slightly in 1980s No Wave disco and modern glitch dance pop but also influenced by 1980s adult contemporary music and its unexpectedly newly influential use and voicing of drums and vintage synths in a way that in any other contexts would be utterly wack but takes on an almost spiritual cast in certain underground electronic artists including that side of what FKS has been up to in the past year or two. His latest album, Over X Millenia takes those ideas and injects them with non-western rhythmic ideas and a New Age music aesthetic for something new yet strangely familiar. Its closest cousin that comes readily to mind is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Tuesday | November 5

HTRK, photo by Kate Meakin

What: HTRK w/Midwife, Echo Beds, Human Tide
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since 2003 HTRK, originally from Australia, has been making music inspired by the brooding, otherworldly atmosphere of the films of David Lynch. Though the name of the band is pronounced “Hate Rock” it’s not so much rock except in the experimental sense as much as downtempo and ambient soundscaping. In 2010 founding musician Sean Stewart passed away leaving Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to carry on and as a duo HTRK has released a handful of some of the most fascinating music mixing electric music with an electronic aesthetic being made today. The group’s latest album is Venus in Leo with its exquisitely subtle dynamics and cinematic approach to its composition and sound design with lingering, impressionistic guitar riffs drifting around Standish’s hushed and soulful vocals.

Minami Deutsch, photo courtesy the artists

What: Kikagaku Moyo w/Minamu Deutsch
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Kikagaku Moyo from Japan is a true synthesis of 70s Krautrock, classic Japanese psychedelic rock and more traditional Japanese folk. Currently the group is touring with the like-minded Tokyo band Minami Deutsch. The group’s urgent rhythms, mesmerizing drones and hypnotic dynamics sound like what it is to travel through Tokyo and its subtle but odd mixture of old world and high tech metropolis side by side in all of the city’s giant districts. On the group’s new EP, Can’t Get There that dynamic often takes you to a place of anxiety and then release as it draws you into its irresistible groove.

What: Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage w/Adam Baumeister
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A rare chance to see eccentric, genius freak folk and comic artist legend Jeffrey Lewis and his band along with local star of experimental folk and psychedelia, Adam Baumeister, head of Meep Records and former member of Navy Girls and Bad Weather California.

What: Cannibal Corpse w/Thy Art is Murder, Perdition Temple
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater

What: Arc Sol, Slugger and Gothsta
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café

What: 1349 w/Uada and Cloak
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Wednesday | November 6

Dinosaur Jr, photo by Levi Walton

What: Negative Approach w/Blood Loss and Tuck Knee
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Negative Approach from Detroit was one of the bands out of that early wave of American hardcore than seemed particularly seething and intense and fronted by John Brannon who went on to noisy psychedelic blues band Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action. Easily one of the greatest frontmen of rock music because he seems to actually be losing his mind swept up in the moment.

What: Weird Wednesday: FangFuck, Zealot and Bolonium
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl & Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday includes left field indie rock local supergroup Zealot and Bolonium a band inspired by Devo and which comes off like an odd combination of band, cheesy game show and Troma film.

What: Kurt Vile and the Violators w/Dinosaur Jr
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the missing link between gritty classic rock like Neil Young, hardcore and 90s alternative rock and more influential on modern music than is often obvious. The mixture of sheer volume with tunefulness reconciled eras of music in a way that is often taken for granted and which bands like Nirvana and other massively commercial successful bands took to topple the music industry marketing machine and culture. Apparently modern folk/psychedelic artist Kurt Vile has felt this influence and thus has Dinosaur on this tour and for its part, the members of Dinosaur Jr have continued to release music, some of the best of its career in the past decade.

What: (Sandy) Alex G w/Indigo De Souza and Tomberlin
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Best Shows in Denver 9/19/19 – 9/25/19

Jay Som performs at Larimer Lounge on September 24, 2019

Thursday | September 19

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, photo by Josh Ludlow

What: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets w/Meatbodies and Serpentfoot
When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The unlikely named Psychedelic Porn Crumpets from Perth, Australia at least picked an apt moniker because it captures what you’re in for. Oh, sure, stoner rocked psychedelia thrown together with prog and fuzzy melodies and tripped out choruses. Its new album And Now For the Whatchamacallit has surreal song titles like “My Friend’s a Liquid,” “Digital Hunger,” “Hymn For A Droid” and “Keen For Kick Ons.” If Lewis Carroll had been born in the 90s and grew up at a time when the older kids in Tame Impala and Pond were kicking around in the local scene he might have ended up in a band like this.

What: Why? w/Barrie
When: Thursday, 09.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Swim (Baltimore), Horse Girl, Eamonn Wilcox and Cop Circles
When: Thursday, 09.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Cuco, photo courtesy the artist

What: Cuco w/Ambar Lucid and KAINA
When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: At twenty-one Omar Banos aka Cuco is a bonafide pop star who came up on Chicano rap stars like Baby Bash and MC Magic. Like the latter he also sings and raps in English and Spanish. Banos has also folded into his soundscapes a laid back kind of psychedelic pop sound. While his songwriting and the production thereon is strong and evocative, his music videos and storytelling shows a side of life that is honest, surprisingly candid and often uncomfortable but real and therein lies the power of the presentation of his music. “Bossa No Sé” from his debut album Para Mi (2019) navigates the troubled waters of a breakup with sensitivity, complexity and comfort with uncertainty and confusion. Cuco’s balance of the romantic and the realistic has been fascinating so far.

What: GEL SET (L.A.), Natural Violence, DJ Noah Anthony, DJ Rewd and guest
When: Thursday, 09.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Meadowlark Bar

Friday | September 20

Melvins2019Chris Mortenson2
Melvins, photo by Chris Mortenson

What: The Melvins w/Redd Kross and Toshi Kasai
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have done pretty much whatever they’ve wanted to that was fun for them music-wise since beginning in 1983. Before grunge was a thing, Melvins had already perfected that sound and aesthetic as well as a certain strain of doom. Most left field heavy music today can probably trace a bit of influence to the band originally from Montesano, Washington. The group’s prolific catalog covers a good deal of sonic territory and the band has collaborated with the likes of industrial music pioneer Lustmord, Jello Biafra and, recently, with Swedish noise-punk stars Shitkid (who are performing select dates on the current tour) on the Bangers EP. The group has experimented with the format of its lineup such as when the members of Big Business joined for two drummers and a bassist. And now with two bassists and a single drummer. Or as Melvins Lite with Mr. Bungle (among other projects) member Trevor Dunn on bass. Melvins might also be the only American band to have played all fifty states in fifty days. You never quite know what you’re in store for with a Melvins show except that it’ll be worth your time unless heavy, imaginative music and powerful performances thereof aren’t your thing. Melvins bassist Steven McDonald is doing double duty this tour with his original band, the influential punk/power pop group Redd Kross.

Boris, photo courtesy the artists

What: Boris w/Uniform
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Japanese heavy, experimental psych and drone extravaganza, Boris, is currently touring in support of its 2019 album LφVE & EvφL due out October 4. If you’re going expecting their mind-altering psychedelic freakouts, rumor has it you may be let down. But if you are into the slow roiling drone the band has engaged in in the past but updated and more like a psych SunnO))) this would be the tour to catch. Opening the show is industrial noise band Uniform which is comprised of former members of The Men and Drunkdriver.

What: Brian Wilson (Al Jardine & Blondie Chaplin featuring selections from Friends, Surf’s Up and the hits) w/The Zombies
When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre

What: Eventually It Will Kill You showcase 2nd anniversary: TWINS (ATL), Golden Donna (PDX), Lone Dancer Peer Review b2b E.I.W.K.Y., you already know
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: The anniversary party for Denver electronic music and darkwave imprint Eventually It Will Kill You.

Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

What: 30 Years of Work: VAHCO 1989-2019 Physical release w/Dead Characters, Chromadrift, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS, Bowshock and Demoncassettecult
When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Vahco Before Horses aka Vahco Strickland has spent the last thirty years involved in producing, promoting and writing music in various formats and styles. This show celebrates his career retrospective and the release of the flash drive containing one hundred of his songs. The performances will include collaborations with various members of bands affiliated with his Glasss Records imprint as well as a showcase for his more electronic pop songs and his industrial ambient collage songwriting as Demoncassettecult.

Saturday | September 21

Zealot, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Zealot album release w/Simulators and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Zealot is releasing its debut album The Book of Ramifications. But what this debut album doesn’t make obvious are the musical roots of the group in Denver underground rock. Does that matter? It does if you know who The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, Supply Boy, Façade and Ideal Fathers were. Or The Outfit, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer or Fingers of the Sun were. Much less Catatonic Lydia or Le Divorce. All of that goes into informing the upbeat, well-crafted pop songs that comprise the band’s new album and the sizzling, wiry energy of its performances. There is a tick toward the positive running through the record. Rather than a “city of the dead” there’s “City of the Living.” Instead of irrevocable mistakes there’s “Fix it in Post.” Rather than a dark horse there’s a “Show Pony.” Instead of a broken heart there’s “Overloud Heart.” You get “Somnambulist” instead of insomnia. “Black Paint” rather than institutional yellow. A “Snake Goddess” rather than the insecure dictator Yaweh. “Casio Argento” in place of Dario or Asia. And more. It’s an upbeat record with some tight melodies and a charming economy of songwriting. The Simulators will bring the angular menace of its music and Vanilla Milkshakes will deliver earnest, blustery pop punk as companion to Zealot’s fastidious songcraft. Oh yes, there’s also a companion covers album called Revised Edition featuring renditions of all the songs on the new record as done by the band’s local scene peers as well as a solo cover done by the band’s bassist Suzi Allegra. All of which is a gesture not many bands would bother to attempt to release concurrent with a new album.

What: Das Ich w/Velvet Acid Christ, Oberer Todpunkt, DJ Katastrophy
When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway

Anna Morsett of The Still Tide, photo by Anthony Isaac

What: Charlie Cunningham w/The Still Tide
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Still Tide’s Anna Morsett has played in Colorado musical projects as varied as Ark Life, Porlolo and These United States as well as with Natalie Tate and Brent Cowles. But perhaps where she shines brightest is in her own band The Still Tide. Her guitar work is both ethereal and fiery, her ear for dynamics and tone keen and imaginative. Morsett’s songwriting is both intimate yet expansive, introspective and yearning, reconciling contrasts with a broad emotional palette. And she’s opening for noteworthy UK singer-songwriter Charlie Cunningham whose 2017 album lines included the deeply evocative single “Minimum” and its entrancing atmospheres.

What: Wovenhand w/Jaye Jayle
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Evan Patterson is rightfully known for his heavier music with Young Widows and Breather Resist. But his Jaye Jayle project is taking him in a different direction with a pastoral songwriting style that serves well the contemplative storytelling of the music he initially wrote as a solo project rather than something that needed to fit into the format of a full, loud band. These days he has partners in realizing the musical vision and the results is a kind of haunted Americana. Which makes it an ideal pairing with Americana infused post-punk/noise rock band Wovenhand from Denver. Wovenhand started out as very much in the post-Sixteen Horsepower vein continuing what singer and main songwriter David Eugene Edwards had been developing since the late 80s. But in the past decade the music has become more sonically intense (it was always emotionally so) and incorporating a broader range of dynamics and sounds so that early fans may even find it, except for Edwards’ undeniable spiritual presence, unrecognizable.

What: Bison Bone, Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Greg Laswell w/Sarah Slaton
When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Greg’s warmth and humanity expressed in clever and insightful turns of phrase has made him a national treasure of a songwriter.

What: Future Days: Can Tribute
When: Saturday, 09.21, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Mdou Moctar w/Pale Sun
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mdou Moctar might be the most internationally renowned guitarist and songwriter out of Niger in the modern era and his electric adaptations of Tuareg guitar music has made him a favorite among discerning music fans who are open to such fusions of musical ideas, rhythms and sounds. To the uninitiated he may sound like an exotic prog artist but his music is deep and sophisticated. He is again touring in support of his 2019 album Ilana (The Creator).

What: Seventh Circle 7 year anniversary night 1: 1476, Only Echos, Postnihilist, Causer, Kid Mask, Videodrome, GACK, DOX, Didaktikos, Tuck Knee and secret guests 
When: Saturday, 09.21, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Rarely do anniversaries happen on a numerically specific date related to a venue or an endeavor of any kind of this all day all evening marathon of music across two dates celebrates the continued success of Denver’s DIY venue Seventh Circle Music Collective.

What: Speedealer w/Barstool Messiah and Valiomierda
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver

Sunday | September 22

Surf Curse, photo by Julien Sage

What: Surf Curse w/Dirt Buyer
When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Surf Curse is a duo from Los Angeles whose name may convey the impression it’s one of those surf rock/garage psych bands that have plagued the musical landscape for around a decade. And to some extent that’s exactly what these guys are. Except there’s something raw about their songwriting and performances and their music videos, whoever is directly involved in their scripting and design, speak to an uncommon creative imagination and as though the people in the band had in mind films that their songs might suit. Pick any of the videos and you’ll find something that’s a cut above most videos most bands are making these days. The band’s new album, Heaven Surrounds You, was released on September 13 on Danger Collective. For a duo Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck manage to have a full sound yet spare songwriting so they’re doing something right.

What: Seventh Circle 7 year anniversary night 2,: JSR (Alex from this band named Seventh Circle), Sliver, Arctobog, Curtis T and the Duffel Bag Boys, Caustic Soda, The Slacks, Unit-Y, Pinetree Janitorial Service, American Psychonaut, Astral Planes, Hellspoon and Activate Boner and secret guest
When: Sunday, 09.22, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Second day of Seventh Circle Music Collective’s seven year anniversary going from early afternoon until midnight.

What: Pop Will Eat Itself w/Chemlab and Scifidelic w/DJ Dave Vendetta
When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Pop Will Eat Itself is a genre bending band that dispensed with the usual stylistic boundaries between grebo, sleaze rock and industrial dance music akin to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Chemlab was one of the bands that helped define the sound and aesthetic of industrial rock in the 90s fusing old school industrial with hard rock.

Monday | September 23

Acid King, photo courtesy the artists

What: Acid King w/Wizard Rifle and Warish
When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m.
Where: MarquisTheater
Why: Acid King is on tour in support of the twentieth anniversary of its classic psych doom album Busse Woods. The group began in the early 90s when its sound was very much not in vogue but two decades later its heavy, experimental psych metal, not fully duplicated by other artists, has made it a cult band among connoisseurs of that realm of music.

What: God is an Astronaut w/Spiral Cell and Brother Saturn
When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Tuesday | September 24

Boy Scouts, photo by Ulysses Ortega

What: Jay Som w/Boy Scouts and Affectionately
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jay Som’s hazy pop songs have a personal emotional insight and sophistication of songcraft that can be easy to miss when you’re lost in the moment with her. Her new album Anak Ko blurs the lines between noisy shoegaze, indie pop and the 70s Laurel Canyon sound. Taylor Vick of Boy Scouts has written one of the most affecting, vivid and cathartic set of songs about loss and healing from sorrow and setbacks of the past few years for the new Boy Scouts album Free Company. Her unconventional melodies and song dynamics give her compositions a depth and complexity that reward repeatedly exploring her catalog.

What: Like A Villain, Harms, Earth Control Pill and Debaser
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Like A Villain is sort of an industrial ambient act whose dark and heavily textured atmospheres explore the personal and collective psyche in operatic vocals and processed loops. The new album What Makes Vulnerability Good, released on September 20, 2019, makes exquisite use of space in tone and rhythm that it engulfs you gently before you realize it.

Wednesday | September 25

Photo: Dara Munnis. @daramunnis
Tash Sultana, photo by Dara Munnis (@daramunnis)

What: Tash Sultana w/The Tesky Brothers
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Tash Sultana is a guitar prodigy whose psychedelic rock, blues and folk songs created with her expert ability to play multiple part at once and along with loops is impressive on its own but the energy and enthusiasm with which she plays is infectious. As a multi-instrumentalist, Sultana crafts her songs real time in an almost orchestral manner as an orchestra of one. Difficult to pigeonhole a genre for Sultana as her songwriting style is unique but might be compared to an artist like Tune Yards.

Russian Circles, photo courtesy the artists

What: Russian Circles w/Facs
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Russian Circles is an instrumental metal band from Chicago but it’s songs are more akin to post-rock in their use of mood and nuanced dynamic builds from spare tonal echoes to roilingly triumphant riffs that burst and rain down like ash following a volcanic eruption or like a dam bursting releasing a torrent of sonic water and debris. Its 2019 album Blood Year finds the band evoking ancient civilizations (“Kohokia”) and primal mythological imagery (“Hunter Moon” and “Ghost on High”). Opening the show is Chicago’s Facs. The latter is making the kind of post-rock that is more like some of the most experimental post-punk going now. Guitarist and vocalist Brian Case was once a member of weirdo math rock band 90 Day Men and experimental rock band Disappears. With Facs he and the rest of the band are pushing the creative envelope with song structure, texture and dynamics. That group’s 2019 EP Lifelike has a secure place on our year end best list for its chilling, cinematic soundscapes and gritty, stark, moody songwriting.

Best Shows in the Denver Area 3/21/19 – 3/27/19

R A R E B Y R D $ performs at Mercury Café on March 23. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | March 21

What: Throwing Thimgs, Bert Olsen (tour kickoff), Sad Dance Party and Zealot
When: Thursday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Bert Olsen is taking its post-punk/death rock pop songs beyond Denver for a tour and kicking it off with this show alongside other musical misfits like Zealot, a pop band that is deep under the influence of The Mountain Goats—texture rich melodies, irrepressibly upbeat and crackling with wiry energy.

Rubblebucket, photo by Rob Abelow

What: Rubblebucket w/Twain and Toth
When: Thursday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Rubblebucket reached deep into its members hearts in search of the material for Sun Machine, which discusses the struggles of life, death, heartbreak, despair, a yearning for rebirth into a next, better chapter of life while sitting in the depths of one’s psyche. The live presentation of this material, alongside the group’s fine earlier work, is done with an exuberant sense of theater.

What: Equine Tour Kickoff w/Death In Space, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Radiant Filth
When: Thursday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Equine will be taking his abstract guitar compositions on the road for a series of shows out to the east coast. Calling it ambient or “prepared guitar” isn’t quite accurate as Kevin Richards brings to bear a technical knowledge of tone and chord structure applied to his imaginative ear for an interesting and compelling arrangement. To launch him on his way are local peers in the like-minded Death In Space whose own guitar and loop experiments will be on full display as well as J. Hamilton Isaacs and his way of making analog synths make playful and bright dance beats and melodies.

What: Bright Light Social Hour w/Rubedo and Other Worlds
When: Thursday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Austin’s Bright Light Social Hour will treat you to an uplifting blend of ethereal tones and motorik beats. If psychedelic rock went a little bit synth pop and the emphasis was on soothing vibes rather than simply pursuing wild sonic gyrations, it might sound like what Bright Light Social Hour has perfected. Denver’s Rubedo is one of the opening acts. The trio has evolved its sound, aesthetic and conceptual thrust over the years. But lately it’s been a nice balance of heartfelt, soulful vocals and blues-inflected art work with intricate yet intuitive changes throughout its songs. It’s a band whose themes are essentially uplifting and on accentuating the positive but never with a heavy-handed and corny take.

Friday | March 22

Marchfourth, photo by Andrew Wyatt

What: MarchFourth w/Southern Avenue
When: Friday, 03.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: MarchFourth predates by several years but is otherwise spiritual kin to Denver’s Itchy-O. Both used to have “Marching Band” as part of their name due to the robust horn and percussion sections of both bands. But wheres Itchy-O embodies a more experimental, darker, post-apocalyptic ritualistic side of the music, MarchFourth plays an eclectic kind of instrumental funk. Both are an eye-catching spectacle the likes of which you’re not likely to quite see with a more conventional band format. At a MarchFourth show you’ll also see acrobats, dancers and stiltwalkers with members dressed in a dazzling array of color and personalized detail.

What: Rubie Gold, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS and Talk Perfect
When: Friday, 03.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: nIGHtIMEsCHOOLbUS is the downtempo hip-hop collaboration between Otem Rellik’s Toby Hendricks and Robin Walker of Shocker Mom. Emotionally tender, borderline ambient beats and warm vibes.

Saturday | March 23

Rachael Pollard, Bonnie Weimer on left, Johnny Sherry behind. Photo by Tom Murphy, May 2008

What: Spine, Raw Breed, Cadaver Dog, Videodrome and Mob
When: Saturday, 03.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Aggressive hardcore night at 7C with some of Denver’s best as well as Spine from Kansas City/Chicago. If those guys drive to practice that truly is hardcore.

What: R A R E B Y R D $ tape release w/Bulldozer Boy
When: Saturday, 03.23, 9:30 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: R A R E B Y R D $ is releasing its debut tape MIXTO$ at this show as well as other merch. The album was released digitally in 2018 under a slightly different name on Glasss Records but underwent a remixing via Tyler Breuer whose work as a musician and producer in various bands in Denver brought a different sensibility and ear to the proceedings. The experimental hip-hop trio will celebrate the occasion with a show including downtempo-jazz beatmaker Bulldozer Boy.

What: Get Your Ears Swoll: Night 4: Sweetness Itself, Rachael Pollard and Death In Space
When: Saturday, 03.23, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Get Your Ears Swoll is a monthly music event at The People’s Building in Aurora. Rachael Pollard has been playing her fragile, playful, thoughtful, introspective songs in and around Denver for twenty years or more. The music feels like you’re getting glimpses into a private universe of talking animals, rainbow bridges to other dimensions and some of the most confessional poems written by anyone. Her shows invite you to connect with the better part of your own psyche. Death In Space could be anything at this point since Aleeya Wilson has integrated synths and guitar with loops. Only expect something interesting and sonically spare but not simplistic.

Sunday | March 24

Liz Phair, photo courtesy the artist

What: Liz Phair w/Califone
When: Sunday, 03.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Had Liz Phair only released her 1993 album Exile in Guyville, her place in music history would have been set. The album was a deep, sophisticated, at times profane, feminist exploration of the dynamic in far too many music and creative scenes then and now in which men dominate and sideline women (or anyone that can be sidelined for reasons of identity) in subtle and not subtle ways. Her stories are so vivid and capture a truth so poignant they sound personal but they were not, Phair was just particular adroit in her portraits verbally and emotionally. Since then Phair has written straight ahead pop songs, fuzzy alternative rock, soundtracks and done sound design work so that her more recent albums seem like experiments integrating her career as a musician. Live she’s not the type to refuse to play her classic, beloved material and her sense of humor and sensitivity makes for a captivating time.

What: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
When: Sunday, 03.24, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Carla Bley was a major figure in 60s free jazz and her 1971 album with Paul Haines (father of Emily Haines of Metric), Escalator Over The Hill. Called a “jazz opera,” Escalator combined avant-garde jazz and folk and one has to assume it exerted influence on the spontaneous compositions of French prog band Magma. While Bley has played in various configurations large and small this Denver show, her first in around thirty years, will be a trio performance with Andy Sheppard on saxophone and Steve Swallow on bass.

Monday | March 25

Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
When: Monday, 03.25, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: For Carla Bley see above.

What: Centered Volume 5: Paperbark, Entrancer, Street Soul Nekyia and Pameshen
When: Monday, 03.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jacob Isaacs has been putting together some of the greatest, underground showcases for artists of synthesizer music in the Denver area with his Centered series. This edition includes modular synth artist Paperbark. John Mulville lived in Denver for a handful of years where he became entrenched in the avant-garde and ambient scene with his atmospheric work that projected a tactile sensibility like sculpture done with sound. Entrancer’s own modular synth work has absorbed the influences of old school avant-garde electronic music as well as techno. Both Paperbark and Entrancer also draw inspiration from the production side of hip-hop and while it may not be so obvious in their work with more adventurous hip-hop artists embracing noise and experimental music of late the connection seems obvious especially when the waves of this music hits you in the live setting where its visceral impact is undeniable.

Wednesday | March 27

Jerry Paper, photo by Monika Mogi

What: Jerry Paper w/Ava Luna and Ashley Koett
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lucas Nathan was involved in making noise and psychedelic music before he finally decided to start making electronic music to disabuse himself of his prejudices against it. Because of that his music has a truly unusual and original take on what is essentially sample-based composition and retro-futurist weirdo hip-hop.

What: Palehorse/Palerider, Nox Novacula, No Gossip In Braille, Voight
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Post-metal, post-deathrock, post-punk, post-shoegaze. The kind of bill that should happen all the time but rarely does when artists so unlike each other (beyond all being some kind of rock) have sounds that compliment each other well.

What: Deafheaven, Baroness and Zeal & Ardor
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Baroness is on the verge of releasing its latest double album Gold & Grey. The band that has distinguished itself in the realm of sludge metal with intricate and imaginative guitar work and solid vocal harmonies has said that the new record will be the last in its series of color-themed titles. Seeing as guitarist and singer John Baizley is one of the most distinguished and sought-after visual artists in metal and music generally, it’ll be interesting to see what themes emerge from here. Until then you will likely be able to hear a good deal of the new material on this tour with blackened shoegaze band Deafheaven and experimental black metal outfit Zeal & Ardor.

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Eugene Chadbourne, photo courtesy the artist

What: Eugene Chadbourne / Ryan Seward, Bret Sexton / Farrell Lowe
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Eugene Chadborne has been one of the important figures of avant-garde/free jazz for over four decades. Born in Mount Vernon, New York (just north of NYC), Chadbourne grew up in Boulder, Colorado before leaving for Canada to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War. Can hardly blame him. When he came back to America, he moved to NYC where he worked with Henry Kaiser and John Zorn and was encouraged by Anthony Braxton to keep with playing music rather than enter into a career as a journalist. Chadbourne’s prolific output, not fully documented on his Wikipedia page of course, has encompassed a broad range of musical styles and ideas. He has collaborated with Fred Frith, Sun City Girls, Camper Van Beethoven and Charles Tyler (who worked with Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman). For this performance, Chadbourne will perform with Colorado based improvisational/spontaneous composition artist Ryan Seward with a performance from other Denver area heavy hitters in the local avant-garde scene, who frequently perform with Seward, Bret Sexton and Farrell Lowe. Chadborne will also play a fundraiser for the nonprofit Creative Music Works on Thursday and we’ll provide the information on that event in our next show listing.

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

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

Thursday | January 10, 2019

Nekrofilth, photo courtesy the artist

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

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

Friday | January 11, 2019

Product Lust circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Saturday | January 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday | January 13, 2019

Crushed!?, photo by @scenesplitter

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

Monday | January 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

Tuesday | January 15, 2019

Mick Jenkins, photo by Sam Schmieg

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

Ensiferum, photo by Andy Whittle

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

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

Best Shows in Denver 10/4/18 – 10/10/18

Squidds of Starjammer, which performs Friday, October 5, 2018 at Goosetown Tavern with Hot Apostles, Joshua Trinidad Trio and The Noise Gallery. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | October 4, 2018

Lord Huron, photo by Ian Holliday

Who: Muscle Beach, A Deer A Horse and Flesh Buzzard
When: Thursday, 10.04, 9: p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse is often referred to as sludge and doom and yeah, those sorts of sounds are in there. But the noise punk trio has great melodies and dynamic momentum amid the heaviness reminiscent of the likes of KARP, Melvins and Unwound. Its new 7” for “Double Wide”/”Cold Shoulder” is an abrasive, menacing, harrowing listen—a haunted, dangerous, fuzzy, psychedelic doomy blues. The New York band is paired with one of Denver’s best, equally impossible to pigeonhole punk/post-hardcore band Muscle Beach who are due for their next album to drop any time now. Flesh Buzzard, the harsh noise bludgeoners from Fort Collins, round out the bill with their own brand of sonic brutality.

Who: Lord Huron w/Cut Worms
When: Thursday, 10.04, 7: p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Lord Huron’s luminous indie pop has manifested in interesting forms across its career suggesting an unspoken goal within the band to give the era of a band represented by the albums a unified aesthetic visually and sonically. The effect being like that of a novel where images, themes and moods tie together into a whole experience rather than simply disconnected vignettes. Lonesome Dreams evoked the 70s Westerns vibe, Strange Trails has the sound of Wim Wenders’ mythical imagining of the American West in Paris, Texas. The group’s 2018 record Vide Noir is like an alternative soundtrack to an unlikely P.T. Anderson and Nicolas Winding Refn collaboration on a story of doomed romance and redemption. The imagery may be science fiction-esque this time around but the moods still grounded in heightened emotional colorings.

Friday | October 5, 2018

Suicidal Tendencies, photo by Lightbox Revelation

Who: Scream Screen: Invasion of the Body Snatchers with musical guests Little Fyodor & Babushka Band
When: Friday, 10.05, 9 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Little Fyodor & Babushka Band might be succinctly described as an avant-garde punk band but its songs are as catchy and well-crafted as the best of them. The 1970s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a weird science fiction classic but Little Fyodor & Babushka Band is even weirder than that. If you’re treated to a rendition of “Dance of the Salted Slug” during its short opening set, consider yourself getting the double bonus strangeness for the evening.

Who: Starjammer w/Hot Apostles, Joshua Trinidad Trio and The Noise Gallery
When: Friday, 10.05, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Squidds Madden is perhaps best known for his turns playing in Denver area ska and funk bands like Action Shot and, more recently, The Dendrites, Champagne Charlie and currently with Roka Hueka. Over the past handful of years he has developed a solo “avant-garde/dub reggae” project called Starjammer. His instruments set up in a rig (the USEV, see below) making them accessible to Squidds all have science fiction concept names and the music itself rooted in Madden’s extensive experience with improvisational composition. Until now the project’s recordings have been under wraps captured in live sessions and relatively unedited. But tonight Starjammer unveils the debut album at an event including some of Madden’s favorite musicians and peers. Witness the Universal Sound Exploration Vehicle yourself tonight or wherever the USEV lands next. If Jodorowsky ever does a futuristic epic as he had planned with Dune, the new Starjammer record should be kept in mind for part of the soundtrack.

Who: Suicidal Tendencies w/Madball and Clusterfux
When: Friday, 10.05, 8: p.m.
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Suicidal Tendencies has created pioneering music in whatever realm it’s found itself since it began in the 1980. Everyone familiar with the early, hardcore era of the band knows “Institutionalized” and its being featured in the film Repo Man. But Suicidal evolved in a more skate punk/thrash direction by the middle of the decade and its transitional album, 1987’s Join the Army, helped make punk accessible to hardcore metalheads. 1992’s The Art of Rebellion brought the band into the mainstream with Top 40 Hits “Nobody Hears” and “I’ll Hate You Better.” Since then the group has become something of a cult phenomenon when some of its members aren’t playing in the hard funk other project Infectious Grooves. These days Suicidal Tendencies don’t write as many songs about personal darkness and alienation but the anti-authoritarian messaging remains strong as does the sense of struggle that most people, whatever one’s background, feel and which founding vocalist Mike Muir seems to be able to articulate in new, relevant ways. The group’s 2018 full-length Still Cyco Punk After All These Years is basically a re-recording of Muir’s 1996 solo album as Cyco Miko Lost My Brain! (Once Again) and while energized, anthemic, uplifting punk, addresses mental illness and emotional trauma with a surprising level of sensitivity that may not be obvious at first listen.

Who: Lord Huron w/Misty Boyce
When: Friday, 10.05, 8: p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For Lord Huron see above for 10.04.

Saturday | October 6, 2018

Flesh Buzzard, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Noise Vs. Doom Day 1
When: Saturday, 10.06, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This two day event showcases that is a fairly comprehensive sampling of artists from the doom and noise music worlds where there is often overlap in membership and playing of bills. Over the course of the two days are veterans like Colorado Springs-based project Clark Nova and Herpes’ Hideaway’s more dark ambient take on the same, Denver’s longest-running and active noise group Page 27, more pop-oriented acts like Mirror Fears and Church Fire, noisy guitar drone experimental metal bands such as New Standards Men, avant-garde noise punks Yardsss from Portland, Oregon and newer harsh noise auteurs like Flesh Buzzard. Not to mention whatever one might call Snails and Oysters and Night Grinder whose own music is impossible to fully categorize but who weave the aesthetics of noise into their soundscapes. Go one or both days and expect to see artists very different from one another no matter when you choose to check in.

4:30-4:50 Clark Nova (opens)
5-5:20 Sporehive
5:30-6pm Heathen Burial
6:10-6:30 Flesh Buzzard
6:40 – 7:10 Snails And Oysters
7:20:-7:35 DJ Zombie
7:40-8pm Floating Cave
8:10-8:40 New Standards Men
8:50- 9:20 Clutch Plague
9:25-9:45 Mirror Fears
9:50-10:20 Voideater
10:30-10:50 Herpes Hideaway
11pm Text ESP

Who: Zealot, Jacob T. Skeen and Rat Bites
When: Saturday, 10.06, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Luke Hunter James-Erickson has left his imprint on Denver’s indie rock world with his stints in various projects like The Don’ts And Be Carefuls and Violent Summer. For a short while he said he was going to start a band called The Devil. Which was funny considering the guy doesn’t seem particularly diabolical or sinister or offensive, really, unless you count his noise projects. But no, instead he started a fuzzed out indie rock project more in the vein of noisier garage rock bands and The Mountain Goats. Joining him has been former The Outfit and Ideal Fathers bass phenom Michael Jeffrey King on drums rather than the instrument for which he’s mos well known, Nathan Brazil former singer/guitarist in Fingers of the Sun and The Pseudo Dates and Kitty Vincent, former singer and guitarist for Violent Summer. Also on the line up is Rat Bites, a like-minded band that is more punk than garage rock and includes former Sin Desires Marie and Rainbow Sugar drummer Germaine Baca.

Sunday | October 7, 2018

Yardsss circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Noise Vs. Doom Day 2
When: Sunday, 10.07, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: For Noise Vs. Doom see above for 10.6. Today’s/tonight’s schedule below.

4:30-4:50 Catdog
5:00 – 5:20 Ice Troll
5:30-5:50 ATARI
6:00-6:20 Night Grinder
6:30 – 7:00 Still Valley
7:10 -7:30 Red Side
7:45 – 8:15 Deer Creek
8:20 – 8:40 Page 27
9:50 -10:20 Yardsss
10:30 Church Fire

What: Primus w/Crown Lands
When: Sunday, 10.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Leave it to Les Claypool to take the genuinely populist left and environmentalist message of Ul de Rico’s 1978 children’s book The Rainbow Goblin and turn it into The Desaturating Seven a surrealistic album with relevance for the current era. The book is about a group of seven evil goblins who plot to travel around the world to steal the color from rainbows. Its critique of greed and environmental degradation is on par with that of Dr. Seuss’ 1971 classic The Lorax. The album sounds almost like an audiobook rendition of the original text but with the chapters evolving into Primus’ usual, beautifully eccentric experimental funk. So chances are the show will have a special presentation different from its usual already strange enough performances  as well as selections from across the group’s career, and all the more reason to check this tour out if you’re a fan or if you just want to see something a little or a lot different.

Monday | October 8, 2018

Fickle Friends, photo by Daniel Harris

What: Primus w/Crown Lands
When: Monday, 10.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For Primus see above for 10.07.

What: Fickle Friends w/Bulow and Rumours Follow
When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Fickle Friends are a British pop band that apparently paid attention to what CHVRCHES and Purity Ring have been doing for the last several years. The latter two have made innovative use of electronics and production as part of their songwriting process and the 2018 debut album by Fickle Friends, You Are Someone Else has a similar level of lushness synthesizing synth pop, R&B and rock. The album title, taken from the song “Brooklyn,” not unlike the name of the band, suggests, amid bright and upbeat songs, an alienation from what should be one’s community and from oneself in society that seems to push everyone to present a manufactured and commodified version of identity as one’s genuine self—the fake it ’til you make it quasi-ethos that has grossly manifested itself in the politicians that lead too many governments and the impact of corporate culture on real culture. Not that the band is aiming all or any of its songs that way but the lyrics accompanying fun music certainly seems to point out how things aren’t alright even if we often have to pretend they are to get through life.

What: Against Me! w/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog
When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Against Me! Is performing a pair of shows in Denver this week, each night focusing on a particular album. This night the band will be performing 2003’s As The Eternal Cowboy. Something of a country/folk punk album, As The Eternal Cowboy is certainly not what was in step with much of what was coming out on Fat Wreck Chords at the time. “Cliche Guevara” sounds something like a mixture of Mission of Burma and acoustic Misfits. Whatever influences went into the music, the record holds up better than most anything by the band’s peers. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog being on the bill for both nights alone would make the shows worth attending.

What: The Vaccines w/Jesse Jo Stark
When: Monday, 10.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Vaccines new album Combat Sports seems apt enough considering the conflict and artistic self-questioning and self-ruthlessness that went into its making. Supposedly the songs were to sound like 70s and 80s power pop but even after switching producers partway through recording, the band ditched most of the songs and wrote new material for the new record. Nevertheless the band succeeded in capturing the mood and dynamics they were aiming for in the beginning. Additionally, singer Justin Young told the NME in 2016 that he’d listened to much more Leonard Cohen in the wake of the legendary songwriter’s death and found too much of his output lacking by comparison. Likely many songwriters feel that way but it did result in more sophisticated lyrics and musical phrasing. And yet, The Vaccines didn’t mellow out, their sound palette expanded in more interesting directions rather than getting stuck in a rut many bands get caught in when they get a taste of success.

Tuesday | October 9, 2018

The National, photo by Graham MacIndoe

Who: The National w/Sharon Van Etten
When: Tuesday, 10.09, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: The National is most often associated with 2000s indie rock but the band has its roots in the 90s when lead singer Matt Berninger and bassist/guitarist Scott Devendorf met as graphic design students at the University of Cincinnati. A few bands and a move to Brooklyn later, the two formed The National in 1999 with some friends from same musical circles in Ohio. Hardly an overnight success, The National nevertheless garnered critical acclaim and a fairly large national and international audience by the time of its 2005 album Alligator. Berninger’s smoothly melodic vocals punctuated by raw emotional passages alongside the group’s almost orchestrated melodies and melancholic yet expansive songs have since early on offered a coherent and ambitious artistic vision rendered with an ear for emotional subtleties and in rich sonic detail. 2017’s Sleep Well Beast may be an “adult” album but one that taps into the modern zeitgeist without succumbing to the temptation of going overtly topical. The group’s signature cool shimmer crackling, luminous melodies that would be paired well with a Matthew Frost short.

Who: Against Me! w/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and A Giant Dog
When: Tuesday, 10.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The second night of Against Me! performing albums (plus generous bonus material, as it were) will focus on the 2007 album New Wave. It was the group’s first record on a major label, a move inspiring some fans to cry “sellout.” As if that wasn’t a tired narrative two decades on hence aimed at bands that weren’t really changing their sound, the content of their lyrics and their ethos. Against Me!, it should be noted, never really entered the pop mainstream. But not for lack of writing some of the best power pop of the 2000s.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Natalia Mantini

What: Soccer Mommy w/Sasami
When: Tuesday, 10.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Sophie Allison has had a big year in 2018 with the release of her debut full-length Clean on Fat Possum in March followed by a summer tour with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Kind of a steep upward arc for a musician who played her first show as Soccer Mommy at DIY venue Silent Barn at its Bushwick location . Allison’s songs are about the usual struggles and angst of a person in their 20s but her sound seems to be some parts 70s folk rock and the edgy, color-out-side the lines guitar music of the 90s without really coming off throwback—no mean feat in modern music.

Who: Slugger, Origami Ghosts and Eyebeams
When: Tuesday, 10.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Former Silver Face guitarist/singer Gabriel Albelo started what became Slugger as a vehicle for his solitary songwriting endeavors. Now it’s a full-fledged rock band. Seeing as Albelo grew up in Puerto Rico and had limited access to live music but not so limited access to hearing music from across decades rather than having a lot of pressure from peers imagining themselves hip but largely into music of the moment. Thus his own songwriting is fairly richly informed even if at first blush it might come off as garage rock had it spawned in the immediate wake of 1970s glam rock. But the songwriting isn’t imitative so much as evocative and sounds like some retrofuturist band that should be in an unlikely sequel to the 1983 film Rock & Rule. Eyebeams shouldn’t be a well-kept secret in Denver or elsewhere but for now the psychedelic pop band has been a little under many people’s radar despite the fact that former Fingers of the Sun and Pseudo Dates singer/guitarist Suzi Allegra is at the songwriting helm. Rather than simply an indie pop band that discovered psychedelic music in the last decade, Allegra’s sonic palette is much broader as she grew up on a lot of that music throughout the 80s and 90s. And her lyrics are incisive, poignant and thought-provoking if you choose to listen beyond the exquisite melodies. Indie psych folk band Origami Ghosts is on tour from Seattle.

Wednesday | October 10, 2018

Stella Donnelly, photo by Cooper Gordon, Gordonco Visuals

What: Soccer Mommy w/Sasami
When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery
Why: For Soccer Mommy see above for 10/9 at Globe Hall.

What: Natalie Prass w/Stella Donnelly
When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Stella Donnelly told Fact in March 2018 that she had been in a punk/thrash band when the humorous title of her debut solo full length Thrush Metal suggested itself to her. The album that is simply Donnelly finger-picking her guitar and singing is beautifully sparse and spacious but powerful and heartbreakingly poignant in its depictions of the struggles of women today. “Boys Will Be Boys” seems particularly relevant in the wake of the appointment of alleged sexual abuser Brett Kavanaugh to the bench in the Supreme Court not to mention the fact that the president of the United States garnered any votes despite his despicable comments regarding his own self-avowed sexual assaults. For starters. Thrush Metal is a starkly beautiful portrait of terrible things and speaks with a poetic honesty to the experience of them. Headliner Natalie Prass was once a touring keyboard player who in June 2018 released her sophomore full-length, a chill but soulful R&B inflected pop record called The Future and the Past.

What: Stones Throw Records Presents: Jerry Paper, Keifer and Stimulator Jones
When: Wednesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jerry Paper is coming to hip-hop from many different angles having been influenced by, according to a 2017 interview with The Blaaahg, the likes of noise/drone project Growing and krautrock. His own beats are like reading what it looked like in the 1970s and 1980s and watching movies from the era with the sound turned off and making music to provide all the audio content. Paper has used all the usual technologies and methods to create music from various synthesizers and Acid to get to where he is now in his mastery of production and the intentionality of the lo-fi sound in creating a realm of soundscaping that might be best compared to indie pop lo-fi geniuses like Owen Ashworth and Karl Blau.