Like many other musical projects A Place To Bury Strangers emerged from the early phase of the global pandemic a different band, certainly with a different membership other than guitarist and singer Oliver Ackermann. Following the highly experimental, even by APTBS standards, 2018 album Pinned the group probably had to have a different approach and lineup to avoid coasting into too familiar territory and musical habits. So we heard Hologram (2021) and what seemed more pop and garage rock in structure and sonics. Then the new full-length See Through You (2022) which felt like a reconciliation of Ackermann’s songwriting and soundcrafting instincts and channeling that through new creative filters and doing a sort of self-remix of a sound to expose a raw core that sometimes, if not for the obvious level of creative development, sounded like an early demo from a time before a band has settled on a sound that might appeal to some more conventionally-minded record label type. Then again APTBS doesn’t seem to have kowtowed that direction with any of its records. But whatever the motivations in assembling these sounds for the new record and whatever the methods for achieving these sounds both jagged and vulnerable how would this version of APTBS translate live.
For this leg of the tour Florida-based post-punk band Glove was to have opened the dates but something went sidewise in its camp and that left only the Denver-based openers Polly Urethane & Rusty Steve. It’s a relatively new musical entity though Polly Urethane at a minimum has garnered attention and praise and even recommendation in the local scene with unexpected people telling me I should check out her work and initially thinking it was Polyurethane of Zach Reini vintage, the Godflesh-esque industrial grind duo, upon listening to Polly Urethane’s 2021 EP Altruism with Rusty Steve, Altruism, it was obvious this was going to be something very different. The lush production of the EP and the emotionally refined and powerful vocals hit with greater dramatic effect and force live bolstered by Amber Benton decked out in a white, gauzy dress and long, black hair lending an aspect of one of those vengeful female spirits of Japanese folklore. When Benton crawled up top of some cases on the side of the stage and sang from there as well as going out into the crowd she broke the convention of the audience and performer barrier with a seeming fearlessness but also the intention of transgressing unspoken rules that protect nothing but a subconscious status quo.
The music combined with the theater of the performance was reminiscent of Zola Jesus and her own fusion of classical music and ethereal yet cathartic, darkly electronic pop. And Benton’s persona has to be compared to that of Diamanda Galás—that intensity and conviction perfected melded with a musical sophistication that helps to elevate aspects of the show some less charitable types that aren’t open to witnessing something different might call gimmicky to a realm of high art. At the beginning of the performance there was a projection of a the great, highly political collage artist Barbara Kruger—looked specifically like her 1990/2018 “Untitled (Questions)” piece—that calls into questions assumptions about society, challenging power and privilege. Seemed entirely appropriate to the current political climate even before the Supreme Court started to in full force dismantle civil rights in America. The performance seemed informed by the spirit of Kruger’s piece and if you take the time to give the EP a listen it’s a deeply personal and emotionally rich expression of the fallout of authoritarian influence on culture on the psyche. Really, an unforgettable performance that wasn’t the typical local band opening for someone with whom their music might fit.
From the flood of colored lights projected in shifting arrays and textures to the sheer controlled caustic sonics and brutally syncopated rhythms A Place to Bury Strangers unleashed its steady flow of electrifying sound and launched into “We’ve Come So Far” and didn’t much let up minus some breaks between songs and an unexpected and brilliant interlude toward the end of the set. It felt like being elevated into a different psychological space where your brain is stimulated in with a bright and dense energy pulsing with a driving momentum until we were let down at the end. The guitar and rhythm section just had that kind of rare synergy that is pretty much impossible to ignore with sounds that hit different parts of your listening spectrum.
Even songs you already know and have heard many times over several years had a heightened freshness like the band had learned to rediscover its music to deliver in a way that still felt exciting for them. Most bands probably do this especially after roughly two years of not being able to play live shows. Seeing the outfit going back to 2008 when it came through Denver and played the Larimer Lounge with its gloriously disorienting, scorching swaths of sound this performance felt like the trio was connecting to a new source of inspiration.
At one point toward the latter half of the set the band came off the stage to the center of the room where Ackermann had set up what looked like a self-contained sound generating device through which he could process vocals and his bandmates brought instruments to join in what certainly had to be a familiar experience for anyone who got to go to DIY spaces in America circa 2006-2012 akin to Ackermann’s own venue and studio in New York City, Death By Audio. In taking the show to people off stage in this way it was like the band recreated that experience in a more commercial venue thereby injecting the situation with some of that free form and free flowing spontaneous spirit and energy of the DIY world pre-Ghost Ship and pre-complete corporate/private equity firm takeover of the real estate market nationwide more or less ending that era completely into the foreseeable future. For that alone, this show felt exceptional and subversive. But of course there was more to come including the familiar strains of the always epic and enveloping “Ocean.” But the whole set came off like a scrubbing away of the mundane world and getting reconnected to one’s own raw emotions as expressed through this band that is inaccurately called a shoegaze band or noise rock or simply noise or dream pop or industrial. It’s all of that and beyond that. When the show was over that purging of regular life lingered for long afterward from two sets of deeply imaginative and creative music that directly challenged convention and that’s a gift no one should take for granted.
Partial Set List We’ve Come So Far (Transfixiation) You Are The One (Worship) My Head Is Bleeding (See Through You) Hold On Tight (See Through You) Everything Always Goes Wrong (Exploding Head) Let’s See Each Other (See Through You) Never Coming Back (Pinned) End of the Night (Hologram) In Your Heart (Exploding Head) I Live My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart (Exploding Head) Have You Ever Been In Love (new song) Ocean (s/t)
Normally when an artist sounds like they’re putting distance between themselves and those that might encounter their work it can be off-putting. But with “White Walls” Wrené’s production invites a spirit of solidarity with feelings of isolation and the coping mechanism of emotional dissociation and a yearning to restore oneself to a more functional place in the heart and spirit. Her wide-ranging vocals brim with a strength of feeling even when it expresses a feeling of emptiness yet from a place of intuitively knowing that can’t and won’t last forever. The song starts of sounding a bit like Portishead broadcasting from space and later the orchestral swell of sounds and emotions is reminiscent of Chelsea Wolfe’s more folk and ambient work or that of Zola Jesus. Once the dramatic tension of the song peaks Wrené ends on a deeply melancholic and lingering note that doesn’t suggest that it’s easy to come back from a place where you feel like you’ve cut yourself off from the passionate drives of the heart you once knew. Surely a song that embodies a way of feeling and being many of us have experienced over the last few years. Listen to “White Walls” on YouTube and connect with Wrené on Spotify.
Friday | 10.01 What:Muscle Beach, Cheap Perfume and Mainland Break When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This is a now rare opportunity to see Denver post-hardcore band Muscle Beach. Fitting somewhere in between noise rock, the aforementioned subgenre of punk and extreme metal, Muscle Beach also somehow manages to create an inviting rather than forbidding energy. Cheap Perfume’s strident and thrilling feminist punk anthems challenge tropes of punk and social convention equally with great energy and sass. Mainland Break’s jangle-y power pop is absolutely for fans of Franz Ferdinand and Nick Lowe with a perfect balance of homespun storytelling and burning off everyday frustration with fuzz-tinged melodies.
Saturday | 10.02 What:Franksgiving 2021: Ralph Gean, Little Fyodor & Babushka Band and The Pollution, DJ Don Bess When: 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: The late Franklin Bell was a local character whose eccentric DJ nights were a hit with the local weirdo music cognoscenti. For several years he held an event called Franksgiving as a fundraiser for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. With the relatively recent passing of Bell, his friend Little Fyodor has taken up the cause in Bell’s name and merch sales as well as proceeds from the evening will be donated to the aforementioned charity. If you show up you’ll get to see Denver rock and roll legend Ralph Gean, the über punk of Little Fyodor & Babushka Band (don’t go expecting another Ramones or Black Flag clone, this is weird, smart, eccentric stuff and as filled with attitude and as informed by existential anxiety as the best of the genre), the psychedelic punk of The Pollution and DJ Don Bess whose own bizarre choice of cuts for the evening will be decidedly different. Some of the city’s finest all on one bill and for a good cause.
Sunday | 10.03 What:Titwrench 2021: Nacha Mendez (Santa Fe), The Milk Blossoms, Machete Mouth, My Name is Harriett (Colorado Springs) and Sol Vida Worldwide When: 4-10 p.m. Where: City Park Pavilion 2001 Steele St, Why: The Titwrench Festival launched in 2009 as a means of shining a light on the creative efforts of marginalized groups beginning with the musical and art works of female identified folks and expanded to other groups including the 2SLBGTQIAP+ community at large and people of color and so on. While the curation has been thusly focused, the festival has always been all ages and inclusive and open to everyone to get to experience creative performances in a safe environment from people whose work isn’t always featured in the usual venues and rooms where you generally get to see live music. The current edition of the festival takes place on Sunday, October 3, 2021 from 4-10 p.m. at the Denver City Park Pavilion. The event will include educational workshops, dance parties, food from Maiz food truck (selling homemade Mexican cuisine) and a market featuring Witch Collective, a group of local artisans and herbalists. Also, this year Suzi Q. Smith will be the MC. Our recent podcast includes interviews with the event organizers (Sarah Slater, Michaela Perez and Katie Rothery) and members of all the performing artists including My Name is Harriet, Machete Mouth, Nacha Mendez, April (Axé) Charmane of Sol Vida Worldwide and Harmony Rose of The Milkblossoms which you can listen to on Bandcamp. For more information on the festival please visit titwrenchcollective.org.
Monday | 10.04 What:The Shivas w/Rootbeer Richie & The Reveille and Honey Blazer When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Since forming in 2006, Portland, Oregon’s The Shivas has developed a sound that incorporates elements of 60s psychedelic garage rock and pop but out of step with obvious trends. Its idiosyncratic songwriting style has always seemed to have more in common with the 90s indie pop and its emphasis on raw expressiveness and tapping into classic sounds and aesthetics as a vehicle for expressing timeless themes and universal human emotions with an intensity and artistry that feels vital and of the moment and not trying to recreate a previous era of music and culture. The band started making a name for itself in the American underground in the late 2000s but its breakthrough to a wider audience might be traced in the wake of the release of its 2013 album Whiteout! On the respected and influential label K Records. Heavy touring every year and a string of solid albums garnered the band a bit of a cult following when, in 2020, The Shivas, like many touring entities, had to effectively stop operations. The foursome had already written its next album and had to put plans on hold for any kind of release until the following year. During the first part of the pandemic and a de facto blackout of live shows happening, three fourths of the band worked with the unhouse population of Portland through a non-profit and took time to rethink and rework how the band would operate going into the future. In early 2021 the group released its latest album Feels So Good // Feels So Bad through Tender Loving Empire, a record that evokes the sense of urgency and uncertainty that all of us felt during the bleakest times of the 2020-2021 pandemic but which many of us poignantly felt prior to that global, and ongoing, health crisis. It is both a cathartic and comforting listen. Check out our interview with The Shivas on Bandcamp.
Monday | 10.04 What:Indigo De Souza w/The Slaps When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Indigo De Souza recently released her latest album Any Shape You Take on Saddle Creek in August 2021. Though its neo-soul and pop sound is somewhat stylistically different from her fantastic 2018 debut album I Love My Mom with its introspective, guitar pop songs it goes further into an approach of radical vulnerability in plumbing the depths of emotional trauma, self-doubt and the use of creativity as a path out of the darkest places of the mind. The gentle touch of the songs have an unconventional power through honoring wounded feelings with a compassionate honesty that informs the songwriting in general.
Tuesday | 10.05 What: Arlo Parks w/Michelle When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Arlo Parks’ debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams was one of the more anticipated releases of the past year. Her early EPs showcased a unique and soulful voice from an artist with a deft and easy wordplay that gave an added dimension to her jazz-inflected downtempo pop songwriting. Her performance video for Seattle’s KEXP recorded during the pandemic verified Parks’ self-possession as a performer capable of commanding attention within the coolly dynamic flow of the music.
Friday | 10.08 What: Japanese Breakfast w/Luna Li When: 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: With every album Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast has seemed to take on powerful emotional challenges as almost an engine for her creativity. Psychopomp was written while her mother went through treatment for cancer, Soft Sounds From Another Planet was written in the wake of her mother’s death and seemed like a personalized science fiction story as an attempt to make a meaning of events for anyone listening in to her heartfelt sentiments and poetic exploration of inner space channeled into expansive and inventive art rock. Her latest album, Jubilee, is a departure from those first two records in being more overtly pop in the sense that writing a pop song with resonance and poignancy is a challenge and a way to remain focused on something that distills joy for at least a few moments of time with observations that express essential truths. The record has much in common with the great indie pop bands of the 90s and 2000s and how that music was ambitious and experimental in utilizing sounds and song dynamics that were out of step with what was popular but which has gone on to age well. 2021 has been a bit of a banner year for Zauner as it also marks the release of her powerful memoir Crying in H Mart. If you’re lucky enough to have an H Mart in or around your city and, perchance, have spent time in one the book has a special, tactile, cultural resonance that is difficult to fully appreciate without experiencing that gloriously pan-Asian market for yourself.
Friday – Saturday | 10.08 and 10.09 What: Convulse Records 3 Year Anniversary When: 5:30 p.m. Where: Aztlan Theater Why: Hardcore label Convulse Records celebrates its three year anniversary with a two day festival at the historic Aztlan Theater where many a punk and underground music show took place in the decades leading up to the 21st century. The scheduled performers include Goon, Spine, Militarie Gun, Ingrown, Raw Breed, Discreet, The Consequence, Spy, Urban Sprawl, Faim, Entry, Big Laugh, Video Prick, Punitive Damage, Gel, Scowl, Closed In, Sweat, Cyst, Battlesex, Public Opinion, Direct Threat, MSPaint, Drill Sergeant, Yambag, Rash, Candy Apple, L.I.B., Blood Loss, Reality Complex and Asbestos. See set times below and keep in mind that with all festivals set times can be a little loose around the edges.
Saturday | 10.09 What:Grief Ritual album release w/Church Fire, Lost Relics and Dulled Arrows When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Grief Ritual celebrates the release of its debut album The Gallows Laugh. The band’s blend of post-hardcore and extreme metal is threaded through with surprisingly uplifting melodies as contrasted with distorted vocals and fluidly heavy riffs. Also on the bill are sludge metal greats Lost Relics whose own 2021 album Now We’re Even dropped in April. Dulled Arrows is a bit of a departure from the heavy with its blend of math rock and Americana. Even more of a departure for this show is Church Fire and its revolutionary industrial dance synth pop.
Saturday | 10.09 What:Nation of Language w/Oko Tygra When: 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: For its new album, A Way Forward due out on November 5, 2021 on PIAS, Nation of Language reached back to the roots of its sound to early pioneers of electronic pop and rock like Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh, Suicide and OMD. It also has the transformative sense of wonder mixed with nostalgia heard in the music of Tor Lundvall in the 90s as released on the 2019 compilation A Strangeness In Motion. So called minimal synth from the early 2010s was very much part of the emergent modern darkwave movement and Nation of Language has refined those sounds and impulses in a way that should also appeal to fans of Perfume Genius and Future Islands. Opening the show is the great, soulful dream pop band Oko Tygra who though clearly inspired in part by Cocteau Twins also bring an R&B sensibility to its lush and affecting guitar rock.
Saturday | 10.09 What: Supersuckers w/Reno Divorce and Luke Schmaltz When: 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Supersuckers were part of that whole mess of the Seattle music scene explosion of the early 90s and benefited from that association but somehow survived the fallout of that collapse to become a beloved underground touring act for some 30 years now. Reno Divorce may be a roots punk band but its stories of everyday struggle hit deep and its spirited performances help drive that content home. Luke Schmaltz was and is the frontman for long running Denver punk legends King Rat and he brings a literary flair to his punk songwriting though for this show he’s going solo.
Monday | 10.11 What:cleopatrick w/Zig Mentality and Ready The Prince When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: cleopatrick’s 2021 debut album BUMMER seethes with irresistible intensity. Like a hop-hop album written by guys who make music that sounds like they had to listen to Soundgarden and Sleaford Mods through blown out speakers growing up. The vocal cadence has that kind of flow and the burning, distorted, pulsing guitar work is almost like a sample in the way it is employed in the mix of sounds.
Friday | 10.15 What:Cellista PARIAH tour w/Zero Collective (LA) and Herpes Hideaway When: 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Cellista returns with her latest album PARIAH which is a fairytale concept album of a sort. But it’s a fairytale about confronting injustice by daring to speak the truth even though rejection by one’s community is often inevitable with a long and uncertain road to vindication for refusing to accept the official version of events. In live performance Freya Cellista aims to break down the barrier of performer and audience with a collective experience of the music. The combination of classical music, pop and opera makes the type of creative work one often has to go to a fancy theater or art gallery to see accessible in a smaller setting like Mutiny.
Friday | 10.15 What:The Final Sound (Brooklyn) w/eHpH and Weathered Statues When: 8 p.m. Where: HQ Why: New York’s The Final Sound brings its moody post-punk flavored dream pop to Denver in the wake of the release of its 2021 album Automata Theory. Fans of The Chamleons and Pink Turns blue will appreciate what The Final Sound have to offer. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver with a touch of punk brashness that gives the music an expansive momentum and pop flavoring. EhpH is one of Denver’s most interesting EBM/industrial bands even though its latest album, 2020’s Infrared, revealed a bit more than a passing gift for making brooding and deeply atmospheric post-punk.
Friday | 10.15 What:Valley Maker w/Patrick Dethlefs When: 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Austin Crane was already writing thoughtful, delicately textured folk style songs on the 2010 self-titled debut Valley Maker album. But with the 2021 release of When The Day Leaves it’s like you’re getting to see those modest though sophisticated creative beginnings attain a full bloom with subtle layers of dynamics interlocking and resolving around rhythm of the poetic imagery of the lyrics. It’s a mastery of songcraft in this loose realm of songwriting that one hears in the work of Sam Beam where storytelling, elegant turns of phrase and delicacy of feeling work together with a nuanced evocation of life’s poignant moments strike you with power of gentle epiphany.
Saturday | 10.16 What: 100 Gecs When: 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: 100 Gecs is, loosely and perhaps imprecisely speaking, an experimental pop duo from St. Louis whose sound combines noise, trap, industrial pop, EDM and video game music. The auto-tuned vocals and hyperkinetic yet chill production is the kind of thing that will alienate and outrage more conventionally-minded tastes which is why it’s interesting in the first place in flouting outdated notions of good taste. It is unabashedly its own thing which is why the group has garnered a cult following not just for the music but its non-gendered presentation as performers. If you thought people hated Riff Raff, this is weirder with stage personae that really do push the envelope in a creative way and thus culturally significant for that as well as pushing into hybrid musical territories in making something new and undeniably accessible and interesting if you’re open to the unfamiliar.
Monday | 10.18 What:Erykah Badu When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Erykah Badu is one of the pioneers of psychedelic neo-soul whose emotionally vibrant and deep songs have rightfully caught the attention of a wide audience since the late 90s after the release of her 1997 debut album Baduizm. Her gift for jazz idiom and poetry in the context of hip-hop and soul is second to none and her commanding live performances are always moving and worth witnessing.
Monday | 10.18 What:Cradle of Filth w/3TEETH and Once Human When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Cradle of Filth is currently touring and performing its 1998 album Cruelty and the Beast in its entirety. The concept album centered around the story of the 16th/17th century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory. So go expecting the band’s usual theatrical, extreme metal bombast with some older fan favorites and perhaps some cuts from the group’s forthcoming album Existence is Futile.
Thursday | 10.21 What:Juliet Mission, Jacket of Spiders, Amalgam Effect When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Juliet Mission is a trio that includes former and current members of classic Denver alternative rock band Sympathy F. Juliet Mission has less jazz elements than the latter and its music is more in vein with the great, gloomy, dark vibe of old Denver. Jacket of Spiders includes former members of Twice Wilted and Tarmints doing a more shoegaze-y and post-punk thing.
Sunday | 10.24 What:Kal Marks w/Moon Pussy and Tender Object When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kal Marks from Boston has been making some of the most scorchingly abrasive yet accessible noise rock this side of Big Black for over a decade all while mixing in haunting atmospherics and irreverent storytelling. The title of the group’s 2019 EP Let The Shit House Burn Down about summed up widespread frustration with the direction of American society and government. Did this band woodshed songwriting while listening only to releases on Amphetamine Reptile, Touch and Go and Siltbreeze before putting out any releases? Probably not but thankfully they sound like that was part of the creative process to shield musical instincts from the temptation to aim for appealing to tastes dullened by having become used to music that sounds tame and having gone through focus group meetings before being marketed as exciting when it’s anything but. Moon Pussy from Denver are a similar type of band with its own eruptive dynamics and emotional intensity coupled with scorching soundscapes.
Tuesday | 10.26 What:Lords of Acid w/Aesthetic Perfection, Praga Khan and MXMS When: 6:30 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Lords of Acid is the Belgian industrial dance band whose overtly sexually themed songs are a hedonistic celebration of life and a repudiation of puritanical sensibilities and a-human hypocrisy. But even if that’s not completely your thing the songs are fun especially in the live setting when you don’t always know what frontman Praga Khan will get up to on stage all in the spirit of a good time. MXMS is the excellent dream pop/downtempo group from Los Angeles whose lush, sultry sound is reminiscent of MIA by way of Crystal Castles and Goldfrapp.
Wednesday | 10.27 What:Snotty Nose Rez Kids w/Lex Leosis When: 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Snotty Nose Red Kids is a Canadian First Nations hip-hop duo whose production seems as dark as it is playful. Their songs suss out the corners of depression and alienation with sharp couplets that flow with a jagged yet sinuous flow. Currently the group is touring for its fourth full length album Life After.
Thursday | 10.28 What:Mr. Atomic w/Trash and Gila Teen When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Denver’s Gila Teen is what happens when punk and emo kids discover post-punk and manage not to go Goth yet embrace that emotional intensity as a vehicle for making honest art. Mr. Atomic from Fort Collins could be dismissed as yet another 2010s/2020s band that really hopped back on that retro 90s alternative rock revival bandwagon. But its energetic shows and strong songwriting makes such considerations irrelevant because if you band can bring it live that’s all that matters in making it something to recommend.
Saturday | 10.30 What: Tokyo Police Club w/Pkew Pkew Pkew https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/405233 When: 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Tokyo Police Club got going in 2005 and benefited directly from the peak years of the music blog phenomenon from roughly 2006-2016. The band hit the sweet spot of a mix of influences that sounded like 90s indie rock like Cursive and Modest Mouse and the then still strong post-punk revival. What set the band apart from a steady stream of cookie cutter indie rock was its strong songwriting and thoughtful, insightful lyrics. This was perhaps best embodied in its first half decade by the 2010 album Champ which the 10th anniversary edition of which TPC announced at the end of 2020 and released in 2021. Opening the show are fellow Canadians Pkew Pkew Pkew and their brand of anthemic pop punk.
Saturday | 10.30 What:itchy-O Hallowmass w/J.G. Thirlwell When: 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: itchy-O is the experimental, maximalist electronics and rhythm mobile orchestra that has graced Denver, Colorado and worldwide stages for over around a decade. It’s performance art as much as music though both can be enjoyed independently, which is why itchy-O is still interesting and not an inspired gimmick, as the collective has evolved all aspects of its show and recordings from launch. It’s a bombastic and unforgettable spectacle everyone should get to see. Opening the show is legendary producer and influential industrial artist J.G. Thirlwell whose project Foetus helped to pioneer and develop the industrial and noise genres at the beginning of the 1980s. He has been involved in other people’s records for decades including a fascinating collaboration with Zola Jesus for her 2013 remix album Versions.
Who:Desert Daze Caravan 2018: Ariel Pink w/DIIV When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall Why: Desert Daze Caravan is the traveling mini-version of the Desert Daze festival in California that features some of the best of the more psychedelic-leaning bands existing today. While the festival happens in October, for this touring edition, Desert Daze brings along a couple of the most interesting artists playing music in its wheelhouse. Los Angeles based lo-fit mutant pop renegade Ariel Rosenberg, aka Ariel Pink, has had a varied and storied musical career that should be the subject of a book someday because it’s not short on drama, controversy and artistic achievement. In 2017 Rosenberg released Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, a collection of songs that bridge dream pop, psychedelic rock, what one might called garage soul and lo-fi funk. As with all of his records, Rosenberg plays with the form of genre with an offbeat use of sound and weaving together aesthetics that most other artists wouldn’t. At times one is reminded of some early 80s German synth pop, others of Get Lost-period Magnetic Fields and of the music of his friend and contemporary, John Maus. Unlike many of his contemporary synth artists Rosenberg isn’t trying to show how big a sound he can get with a synthesizer, he makes it serve the song as much as any other musical element and not as the basis for the composition.
DIIV became a bit of a cult band for Zachary Cole Smith when Oshin came out on Captured Tracks in 2012. Though the record felt a bit indistinct it made krautrock’s repetitive beat structure softer like downtempo with a little more emotional urgency. The follow-up, 2016’s Is the Is Are found Smith embracing the raw and vivid emotionalism of Elliott Smith’s lo-fi pop and the messy, atonal trash rock of Royal Trux. It’s challenging to hear that on the beautifully melodic songs of Is the Is Are but that the songwriting is growing beyond the band’s earliest phase is obvious and at times Is the Is Are sounds like Smith is training himself to deconstruct his own musical instincts to make something more creatively rewarding.
Who:In/Planes Radio Wave tape release w/Down Time and Kyle Emerson When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: In/Planes’ music has a very soft touch and is the “Mixtapes” single from its new tape, Radio Waves, is any indication, the duo has a gift for taking fairly common experiences and making them resonate with an immediacy of the deeply personal. Joining the band for the tape release show are like-minded tender pop band Down Time and Kyler Emerson with his jazz-inflected, incisively poetic, desert-y folk pop gems.
Who:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series season 2: Lepidoptera, MYTHirst, Bow Shock When: Thursday, 05.03, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: MYTHirst’s sound is part bright, modular-synth sounding beats with organic string sounds and textured percussion. The Denver version of Lepidoptera, not the Palm Beach, Florida band, has a dream-like guitar and minimal atmospheric sound reminiscent of mid-90s Flying Saucer Attack but not quite as noisy. Bow Shock is somewhere between improvisational electro jazz funk and whatever it is one might call Prefuse 73 with its own mixture of samples of records and live instruments in a way that expands the parameters of what constitutes electronic dance music.
Friday | May 4, 2018
Who:Jane Doe, Television Generation and Meet the Giant When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m. Where: Skylark Lounge Why: Three of Denver’s best off the beaten path rock bands are playing the Skylark on this bill. Jane Doe is in the realm of post-punk but there are elements of noise rock and avant-garde jazz and performance poetry as delivered by Becca Mhalek. The latter spent some time playing with Nels Cline as well as Denver experimental bands Nightshark, MVP and Aenka. Television Generation takes the harrowing intensity of early grunge and mixes it with melodic and energetic post-punk. Meet the Giant has taken what could be fairly gloomy music and given it a driving rhythm and grit that somehow perfectly captures urban melancholy and desperation as experienced by anyone living in American west: uncertainty, disconnection, disaffection, undercurrents of fatalism and a sense of pondering whether or not its foolish to hope for things to change for the better where or not you give it a good try. All while sounding scrappy and not ready to give up on the rewards of creative expression for one’s own fulfillment. Meet the Giant’s self-titled full-length releases digitally on May 15 with a vinyl release later in Spring or Summer.
Who:Porlolo (album release) w/Land Lines and Spirettes When: Friday, 05.04, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Porlolo released Awards on April 27 but this is the official release show. Erin Roberts, the lead singer and guitarist in Porlolo, has kept the band going for years while not exactly breaking through to a mainstream audience, Roberts’ songwriting has been noteworthy for its humor, wisdom and sensitivity. Maybe some of the roots are in folk and Americana but at this point Porlolo transcends both and has as much in common with Luna, Cat Power, Mojave 3 and Mazzy Star as it does with anything fully in the country spectrum of songwriting. Getting to see Land Lines’ experimental, string driven pop and Spirettes’ incandescent dream pop in person just makes this show three times worth seeing.
Who:SPELLS, Quits, Wild Lives When: Friday, 05.04, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: SPELLS is a poppy punk band that is as much a party as a band. Wild Lives is more in the realm of punk bands from the 80s and 90s who were melodic but not pop punk. Like The Didjits, New Bomb Turks and Blatz. Quits, a little different from the rest of the lineup in being more a noise rock band than punk. Which makes sense in that every member of the band has contributed to some of the most noteworthy post-hardcore and noise rock out of Denver of the last two decades including former Hot White members Tiana Bernard and Darren Kulback as well as Luke Fairchild and Doug Mioducki who were last in a band together in the early 2000s with Sparkles who always seemed to play like they were ready to explode.
Saturday | May 5, 2018
Who:Alice Glass – Snowblood tour w/Zola Jesus and Pictureplane When: Saturday, 05.05, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: When Alice Glass released her self-titled EP in August 2017 it sounded like a a purging of several years of having told hold back in revealing her own truth and a declaration of her identity as an artist viable beyond any past associations with Crystal Castles. In the latter, Glass was a riveting performer and a singer that channeled perfectly the synthesis of 8-bit music, synth pop, modern dance music and hip-hop that was the essence of Crystal Castles and its being ahead of a curve in modern electronic music that embraced lo-fi and collage production as much as more conventional compositional techniques. For this tour Glass paired with one of the other powerful songwriters in electronic underground music with Zola Jesus whose own 2017 album Okovi represented her own breaking with the methodology and career path of an “indie” artist that might have been open to her. Instead, she trusted her personal and creative instincts and put together an album that was awash in ambient sounds and an hypnotic melodies and sonic structures reminiscent of classical music and black metal. Pictureplane is an old friend of Glass’s from his days as a Denver artist living at Rhinoceropolis. As an artist whose work traverses noise, electronic pop, hip-hop and dance, Pictureplane has a broad palette of sounds and sensibilities employed in his songwriting and performance style.
Who:Al Scorch (full band), Gun Street Ghost, Matt Rouch & The Noise Upstairs When: Saturday, 05.05, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chicago’s Al Scorch earned a name for himself as an energetic and engaging performer with his blend of punk and Americana. Sure, a ton of punks have turned country and the great Camper Van Beethoven and Green On Red, among others, set a high bar for that sort of thing. A number of punk and country artists have even threaded in some eastern European and non-Western musical ideas into their mix. But Scorch does so with an irresistible energy and charisma. His most recent record, 2016’s Circle Round the Signs, contained more than a small amount of poignant social commentary about class and the consequences of war and conflict.
Sunday | May 6, 2018
Who:HIDE, Curse, Echo Beds and Jump Scare – DJ Brian Castillo When: Sunday, 05.06, 8:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Chicago-based post-industrial duo HIDE makes a return visit to Denver in the wake of the release of their 2018 album Castration Anxiety. Using samples, pounding beats and corrosive drones, HIDE’s shows are like confrontational rapidfire snapshots into our culture’s nightmares and insecurities set to a heady soundtrack and as embodied in vocalist Heather Gabel’s ritualistic performance style. Fortunately, the band’s tour intersected with that of Baltimore industrial/darkwave punk band Curse whose own synth-driven heavy music predates some of the current darkwave renaissance and yet sounds like a future form of the music. Curse recently released a split 7” with noteworthy Austin-based industrial act Street Sects. Also on the bill are local industrial noise phenoms Echo Beds and Jump Scare, which includes Anton Kruger, formerly of experimental electronic dance project Bollywood Life. Brian Castillo will DJ the night with some rare cuts from his extensive vinyl library of underground and not-so-underground darkwave music.
Who:Flesh Buzzard, Sporehive, Morlox, Nighttimeschoolbus, Mirror Fears, Yardsss, Ghost House, visuals by Clark Nova, DJ sets by JusJo When: Sunday, 05.06, 6 p.m., show 6:30 Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: A night of mostly local noise and electronic acts at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Patrick Urn of Morlox has long bridged the worlds of noise and electronic music production and has released a fairly diverse body of work including hip-hop and ambient music beyond the noise and industrial music for which he’s best known. Whether as a member of defunct industrial legends In Ether, as Herpes Hideaway, as Syphilis Sauna or Morlox, Urn’s imaginative compositions are highly worthy of exploring in recorded form and witnessing live if you can. Nighttimeschoolbus is an underground hip-hop duo comprised of Toby Hendricks of Otem Rellik and vocalist extraordinaire Robin Walker. The name tells you a bit about the aesthetic and sense of play involved in the songwriting but it also articulates perfectly the necessary emotional state in which you’re indulging your whimsy as a refuge from the rest of the time in life when you’re dealing with the heavier side of human existence. Mirror Fears will not be short on bringing the feels with her melancholy yet cathartic, beat driven electronic pop songs. Yardsss from Portland, Oregon in this configuration is the three-piece band so the show is more like a post-punk, industrial ritual performance than the inspired, hermetic electronic performance art piece it was when Krist Kruger performed as Yardsss solo in Denver in 2017.
Monday | May 7, 2018
Who:MGMT When: Monday, 05.07, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: MGMT came up a time when many of the big time electronic pop acts of the 2000s were getting going. That LCD Soundsystem, Paramore, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Matt and Kim and MGMT and the like started experiencing the first stirrings of popularity in roughly the same timeframe before chillwave became a thing should be noteworthy to future popular music historians. MGMT, though, started when Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were students at Wesleyan and like many dorm/bedroom projects in the 2000s the early musical ideas were noisier and more experimental than their more developed work. But when MGMT got more accessible it also became more interesting and its weirdo psychedelic pop struck a chord with an increasingly wide audience. The 2007, Dave Fridmann-produced Oracular Spectacular took MGMT out of the underground for good and when the band returned to Denver after the release of that album it wasn’t playing the Hi-Dive, it was much larger venues. The band’s subsequent albums, Congratulations and MGMT, didn’t seem to advance the band’s musical ideas much but 2018’s Little Dark Age finds the group not returning to form so much as a re-embrace of the band’s core idiosyncratic vision of electronic pop and dance music that made it interesting in the beginning.
Who:Curse w/Echo Beds and Ghost House When: Monday, 05.07, 8 p.m. Where: Triple Nickel Tavern (Colorado Springs) Why: This is your second chance to see Curse (see above) in Colorado also with Echo Beds. It’s not too common that these kinds modern darkwave and industrial bands perform in the Springs so don’t sleep on the opportunity if you’re into that kind of music.
Who:Smoking Popes (acoustic) w/The Bigger Empty (feat. Mike Felumlee) When: Monday, 05.07, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Smoking Popes were one of the best of the 90s Chicago punk bands. It came out of the same scene that produced Screeching Weasels and Pegboy. But Smoking Popes was a bit more melancholy than than many of their peers even when the pace was high energy and one might even say the Popes were basically an emo band. Combining a punk edge with an emotional vulnerability wasn’t terribly common in the early 90s but the Popes did it in a way that seems more a feature of punk than an anomaly these days. The band flirted with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s but by the end of the decade Josh Caterer found his newfound strong religious convictions didn’t jibe with what the band was about the end group broke up in January 1999. Six years alter, the band played a reunion show in Chicago before which Caterer explained that songs he didn’t think he could perform again weren’t songs the band tended to play live anway. But the reunion would happen without original drummer Mike Felumlee. Over a decade later, Felumlee is back in the fold and playing this current “acoustic” tour as well as playing with opening act The Bigger Empty.
Tuesday | May 8, 2018
Who:Curse, Church Fire, Kill Your Darlings When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m. Where: Downtown Artery (Upstairs) Why: Baltimore darkwave band Curse makes it to Fort Collins for a show with Denver-based electro-industrial-dance band Church Fire and Fort Collins’ industrial band Kill Your Darlings which includes Brett Scheiber of Stella Luce and formerly of dance pop band Pep*Squad and noise project Four Pins Pulled. Sure, darkwave but all of these bands have an emotional intensity on stage that may have an element of the melancholy yet never a downer.
Who:Pseudogod, Hellfire Deathcult, Abysmal Lord, Casket Huffer When: Tuesday, 05.08, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Perm, Russia-based black metal band Pseudogod converges with like-minded bands Hellfire Deathcult from Chicago, New Orleans’ Abysmal Lord and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne for a show that, if fantastical conceits could be true, open a gate into the dimension where the Great Old Ones are partying to music like this. Pseudogod’s cover for The Pharynxes Of Hell, part humorous, part spooky, visually arresting seems to encompass the spirit of what this show will be like to see.
Wednesday | May 9, 2018
Who:Tricky w/Young Magic When: Wednesday, 05.09, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Tricky is one of the artists directly responsible for what came to be called trip-hop in the 90s. As an early collaborator with Massive Attack, and having contributed vocals to that band’s 1991 debut Blue Lines, Tricky demonstrated a versatile talent and when he embarked on a solo career in 1993, he brought with him a gift for borrowing musical ideas and production methods from a variety of musical styles resulting in his debut album, 1995’s Maxinquaye. A hybrid of downtempo, post-punk, dub, hip-hop, Tricky’s music was an antidote to the increasingly conformist and bland alternative rock of that mid-decade. Over twenty years later, Tricky continues to make evocative, deeply atmospheric music. Although, his 2017 album Ununiform, co-engineered by Jay-Z, finds Tricky focusing on spare, uncluttered melodies and strong, minimal beats. It has the feel of Tricky’s least abstract and ethereal record while not sacrificing his ability to set a vibrant mood.
Who:Brazilian Girls w/Tiger Party (Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits and Josh Fairman of Sunsquabi and Analog Son) When: Wednesday, 05.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: New York City has been a melting pot of popular musical styles for decades. But in the 2000s a particular brand of mixing Latin, African and non-Western musical ideas in general with dance music, post-punk, pop and noise emerged in various forms including the tropical pop of early High Places and the no-wave funk of bands like These Are Powers. Or, if you prefer, more above-ground acts like Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend who re-popularized polyrhythms and less conventional vocal styles. Brazilian Girls came in on the dance music end of that wave with its always eclectic and lively live show and songs that wove together ghostly, downtempo melodies, pulsing low end, dub-esque percussion, sex positive messaging and singer Sabina Sciubba’s otherworldly jazz vocals and enigmatic, theatrical stage presence – something akin to Björk fronting a lounge band. In April 2018 the band released Let’s Make Love, it’s first in a decade. Not as cool and sonically smooth as its previous efforts, Let’s Make Love, nevertheless, finds Brazilian Girls more thoughtful but musically more urgent, highlighting the band’s talent for reconciling contrasts.
In addition to featuring an excellent cross section of indie and underground music Treefort Music Fest 2018 is bringing some of the more noteworthy newer bands (Magic Sword, Zola Jesus), classic underground and counterculture artists (George Clinton, Karl Blau, Dear Nora, Andrew W.K., Selector Dub Narcotic, Cindy Wilson, Tad Doyle and Brett Netson and Built to Spill) as well as the kinds of reunion shows (H-Hour, Treepeople and Dirt Fishermen) that you’re not likely to see happen at another music festival. Also, this may be one of the few times you will be able to catch Pussy Riot, the band sentenced to prison in 2012 for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in Russia. The performance art/punk band performs at El Korah Shrine at 11:25 p.m. on Saturday, March 24. What follows a list of the musicians that should be on your must-see list for the weekend with the links to more information on those artists.