What:Oryx, Cthonic Deity and Zygrot When: Thursday, 1.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: In the realm of Denver extreme metal it would be hard to find a more solid line-up this month than this. Oryx is perhaps rightfully considered a doom band but its wall of noise is a shifting, mind-altering experience that creatively uses drones and riffs to comment on the world in a way the reflects and exorcises the sense of despair at the way our economic and political system normalizes the ways in which our lives are eroded through the environment, the fake prosperity figures that hide the poverty and desperation that permeates much of society in America and elsewhere and a cultural climate that favors a cultural identity anchored to the fortunes of the world’s oligarchs. And yet it’s not a bummer, there are hopes and dreams in its grinding and harrowing aesthetic. Cthonic Deity released one of the most promising fusions of death metal and hardcore with 2019’s Reassembled in Pain. Zygrot is a crusty grindcore quartet that releases its self-titled debut in September 2019.
What:Origami Angel, Short Fictions, Flora De Luna and Obtuse When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Origami Angel is a band from the Washington, D.C. area that is mining a similar sonic territory as bands in the past half decade or more going beyond the neo-pop punk into a hybrid of math-y emo and indie pop. So a bit retro but at least not yet another band thinking it is discovering Laurel Canyon all over again and with earnest, heartfelt performances. Obtuse is a like-minded band from Denver whose 2019 album Who’s Askin’ is a gloriously raw and incisive examination of one’s insecurities as a normal reaction to a society and economic system seemingly designed to make everyone feel like an inadequate failure. Their songs are an acknowledgment of those anxieties and an attempt to not be completely sunk by them.
What:New Ben Franklins and I’m a Boy 7” split release When: Saturday, 1.11, 10 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Long running alt-country/American band New Ben Franklins and power pop sensations I’m A Boy are releasing their split 7” tonight at The Skylark.
What:Total 80s Live with Bow Wow Wow w/When in Rome and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Sunday, 1.12, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Bow Wow Wow is an English New Wave band assembled by then Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1980 when he convinced members of Adam Ant’s band to form a new group that was fronted by 13-year-old Annabella Lwin who McLaren had heard singing along to the radio at her laundromat job. The other singer of the band in the beginning was George O’Dowd who left the group early and became famous as Boy George of Culture Club and as a solo artist. Bow Wow Wow somehow managed to break into the mainstream with hit songs like “C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!” and a lively cover of The Strangeloves’ 1965 recording of “I Want Candy.” This current version of the band will not include Lwin who hasn’t been in this iteration of Bow Wow Wow since 2013, now performing as Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” So while it won’t be the original line-up except for bassist Leigh Gorman, you can hear those hits as well as When in Rome whose 1987/1988 single “The Promise” has been a staple of 80s synth pop playlists for decades. The Vanilla Milkshakes are a pop punk band with attitude and an offbeat sense of humor that will probably make the nostalgia seekers wonder how they got on the bill but end up liking a lot of the songs in spite of themselves.
Wednesday | January 15
What:Weird Wednesday: Yao Guai, Lady of Sorrows and e-scapes When: Wednesday, 1.15, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes ambient prog project Yao Guai, emotionally expressive darkwave solo act Lady of Sorrows and experimental synth pop composer e-scapes.
What:Sun Blood Stories, Space Jail, The Teeth of the Hydra and Prayer Hands When: Thursday, 10.17, 7:30 p.m. Where: Glitter City Studio Why: Sun Blood Stories from Boise, Idaho, has been creating its experimental psychedelic music since 2011. Though the band emerged around the time when the most recent wave of psychedelic rock was headed toward its peak, Sun Blood Stories seemed to come from a different place. Its shows feel a bit like you’re seeing what a traveling, shamanistic musical ceremony might be like. Its songs, some rock, some weirdo folk, all informed by an attempt to create a mood and an experience as much as, or more so, than melody. The group is now touring in support of its 2019 album Haunt Yourself.
What:Temples w/Honey Harper When: Friday, 10.18, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Temples from Kettering, England made big waves with its debut album Sun Structures at the apex of the neo-psychedelic era. But one thing that has set Temples apart from its peers is its mastery of layered dynamics like an orchestration of oil projections. The Krautrock-like rhythms, the sheets of luminous ethereal sounds, the haunted and the soaring vocals, guitars carrying both melody and texture shimmering throughout, Temples didn’t get stuck playing in an indie folk band that discovered weird pedals one day and jammed out to “Anemone” by the Brian Jonestown Massacre endlessly. Temples perfectly weds pop songcraft with mind-altering sound experiments. Its 2019 album, Hot Motion, finds the band exploring new vistas of evocative soundscaping mixing a palette of classic psychedelic era rock sounds and strong songwriting with modern sensibilities.
What:Riceboy Sleeps (Jónsi & Alex Somers) w/Wordless Orchestra When: Friday, 10.18, 7 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Most people probably know Jónsi as a member of Sigur Rós and thus no stranger to transcendent, orchestral music. With his partner Alex Somers he makes experimental ambient music and their latest album, their first with this project in a decade, is 2019’s Lost & Found. The show will be an evocative production with Wordless Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames with orchestra arrangements by David Handler. A mixture of classical, ambient and the avant-garde, the footage from this tour so far has shown a moving performance of uncommon grace and hushed intensity.
What:Aldous Harding w/Hand Habits (solo) When: Saturday, 10.19, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Aldous Harding’s weirdo folk songs and compellingly eccentric performances is definitely for fans of Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom. Her 2019 album Designer is a showcase for her storytelling genius.
What:Guerilla Toss w/cindygod and Corner Girls When: Saturday, 10.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A brilliant collision of dub, post-punk and psych-synth imbued disco, Guerilla Toss brings an upbeat yet surreal sensibility to its shows. It’s new record, What Would The Odd Do?released October 18 and this is more or less the band’s tour kickoff show.
What:Get Your Ears Swoll 11: The Vagrant Sea, Landgrabbers When: Saturday, 10.19, 8:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: The Vagrant Sea is a punk-inflected noise rock band or a noisy punk band. Either way its members are veterans of Denver’s underground rock scene including former members of The Symptoms, Dirty Lookers, Tarmints and many others. Landgrabbers is a honky tonk punk band with emphasis on the latter. At a time when most punks are aiming for a niche subgenre, Landgrabbers refreshingly focus on writing solid songs and leave the fashion show, sonically and otherwise, to those more inclined.
What:The Distillers w/Death Valley Girls When: Saturday, 10.19, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: The Distillers’ brash punk rock burned bright and flamed out between starting in 1998 and breaking up in 2006 leaving behind a few records of songs about raging against feeling like being kicked to the bottom rung but making that kind of scrappy underdog status seem glorious. Singer Brody Dalle cut a commanding figure and after the band split she spent some time writing music in Spinnerette and under her own name. But as of 2018, The Distillers are back together at a time when maybe its ferocious performances with snotty yet tuneful songs will find a wider audience hungry for something that vital. Also on the bill is Death Valley Girls whose inspirationally bizarre blend of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelia is truly born of an individual collective imagination channeled into spirited performances.
What:Clay Rendering, Weathered Statues, French Kettle Station, Prison Glue When: Saturday, 10.19, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Clay Rendering is often called a mix of dream pop and black metal and that’s fair enough but it might also be considered a rebirth of synth infused death rock. Its 2019 album California Black Vows sounds like what Iceage might have sounded like if it went more darkwave and less in the direction of The Bad Seeds.
What:Jonathan Richman w/Tommy Larkins When: Saturday, 10.19, 7 p.m. Where: Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill Why: Because Jonathan Richman is the godfather of twee pop and radical sincerity in vulnerability in rock music. And he hasn’t exactly toned down that approach as a performer in nearly fifty years. He’s a national treasure.
Sunday | October 21
What:All Your Sisters, Weaken, Voight and Fatal Fantasy (DJ) When: Sunday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: The Zodiac (Colorado Springs) Why: All Your Sisters from Los Angeles and Denver’s Echo Beds (playing the Monday show in Denver at Rhinoceropolis) are headed out on a tour to the East Coast. The former released the album Trust Ruins in April 2019 and re-established itself as practitioners of harrowing, industrial death disco. Voight are a jagged machine of sound and sometimes convulsive, sometimes broodily intense sounds that erupt with a barrage of cathartic energy to purge the dulling effects of late capitalism.
What:All Your Sisters w/Echo Beds, Midwife and B|_ank When: Monday, 10.21, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: For All Your Sisters see above on October 20. Echo Beds is an alchemical combination of stark hardcore aesthetics and organic industrial post-punk.
What:Whitney w/Lala Lala When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Whitney’s debut album Light Upon the Lake (2016) benefited from both hitting a trend early of the sort of Laurel Canyon, countrified psychedelic pop embraced in the American underground and from its exquisite arrangements and ear for dynamics in a way that has been missing from far too much modern pop music. The follow-up album, 2019’s Forever Turned Around is a tender and sensitive meditation on the fear and confusion hanging in the collective psyche of late complicated by issues of addictions of various kinds, a heavier than expected set of subjects from music that sounds so spacious and heavenly.
What:Chelsea Wolfe w/Ioanna Gika When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Stanley Hotel Why: What could be more perfect than the haunting intensity of Chelsea Wolfe’s songs, performed acoustically as is the style of at least one of her albums, at the haunted Stanley Hotel in advance of Halloween? Wolfe recently released her new album Birth of Violence which features some of her more acoustic songwriting than the heavy drones and atmospheric black metal of her last few offerings. It showcases a more intimate side of Wolfe’s deeply personal storytelling rather than the nightmarish visions with which you might be more familiar with the artist and a testament to her enduring talent.
What:The KVB w/Numb.er and Eventually It Will Kill You When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The KVB’s synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of Fad Gadget’s dark avant-pop with its distorted, urgent soundscapes and brooding, introspective vocals. Currently touring in support of its 2019 album Submersion.
What:Shovels & Rope w/John Paul White (of The Civil Wars) When: Tuesday, 10.22, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: John Paul White one half of bluesy Americana duo The Civil Wars with Joy Williams. In 2019 he released his third solo album The Hurting Kind. Its flavor is a little more introspective than some of his previous work with The Civil Wars. But the level of detail and warmth of tone is there. Apparently he was inspired by the almost orchestral production and songwriting of early 60s Nashville acts and he brings that sensibility to this new batch of songs by taking his gift for turning simple and spare elements into a lush sound that touches on fine emotional notes. Exquisitely crafted songs by one of America’s premier songwriters. Shovels & Rope is the alternative country band from Charleston, South Carolina comprised of Cary Ann Hearst and former Denverite, and former Tinker’s Punishment frontman, Michael Trent.
What:mxmtoon w/Alexander 23 When: Wednesday, 10.23, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: mxmtoon went from bedroom pop musician to international renown from 2017 to 2019 initially releasing more humorous songs and moving on to more sincere expressions of feeling. Her 2018 debut EP plum blossom garnered her critical acclaim for her finely composed pop songs that feel spontaneous and insouciant. Through social media and other internet outlets like TikTok, Vine, Snapchat, Soundcloud, mxmtoon, or Maia, has made comedic videos and shared her work connecting with hundreds of thousands of fans. In 2019 she released her debut full-length, self-released, the masquerade. There’s something lighthearted but genuine about her songs and her intuitive knack for an earworm melody and wordplay is consistently impressive.
What:Free Music, Koto Robo, Cop Circles album release, French Kettle Station, J. Hamilton Isaacs When: Wednesday, 10.23, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Cop Circles is the weirdo afrobeat/avant-garde jazz influenced project of one Luke Leavitt. He is releasing his latest album Penultimate Conclusions at this show. Also on the bill is eccentrically brilliant experimental pop project Free Music from Minneapolis, the relentless and inspired adult contemporary/glitch/synth pop hybrid of French Kettle Station, J. Hamilton Isaacs’ transporting modular synth compositions and Koto Robo’s synthesis of 80s video game sounds (though not 8-bit) and synth pop.
What:Derelicts w/Cyclo-Sonic, Clusterfux and The Lurchers When: Friday, 08.16, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: The Derelicts are a bratty punk band from Seattle legendary for its unhinged stage shows in a scene know for them. Lead singer Duane Bodenheimer grew up in Denver and was part of the punk world here before moving to Seattle to join this infamous outfit. Clusterfux are the legendary Denver street punk band that has been going since the early 90s.
What:Flying Lotus in 3D w/Brandon Coleman Spacetalker, Salami Rose Joe Louis, PBDY When: Friday, 08.16, 8 p.m. Where: The Mission Ballroom Why: Flying Lotus returns with his visually stunning “in 3D” performance in support of his new album Flamagra. The sets often involve a bit of a stage set where Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus controls the sound and perhaps aspects of the visuals for an engulfing audio-visual experience. See below for a taste from 2017. Though Flying Lotus has crossed over between experimental electronic and EDM and funk and hip-hop his imaginative soundscaping continues to evolve in ever more colorful directions with an ear and eye for the presentation of that music for people who show up to craft a mutually inspiring performance.
Saturday | August 17
What:Sigilcraft with Tom Banger The Art of Making Things Happen: Using Art, Sound and Video to Create Change When: Saturday, 08.17, 2-4 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Tom Banger, former punk/experimental/underground music promoter in Denver through the 80s and into the 90s will demonstrate the use of creative endeavor to enact change in one’s life and beyond. See event page for details including suggestions for bringing imagery from magazines or books in the crafting of the aforementioned sigil. Banger will also present artifacts of his music promotion past at the Central Library on Monday 8/19.
What:Physical Wash, Voight, Entrancer and Staggered Hooks When: Saturday, 08.17, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Physical Wash is the solo project of High Functioning Flesh’s Susan Abstract. Both are melodic and in the classic industrial/EBM mold but whereas HFF is more akin to the likes of Nitzer Ebb and Front 242, Physical Wash is a little weirder and more in the vein of late 80s Skinny Puppy.
What:The Rotten Blue Menace w/The Repercussions, Noogy, Tuck Knee When: Saturday, 08.17, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: The Rotten Blue Menace was one of Denver’s greatest ska punk bands in the vein of Choking Victim and Against All Authority before going more or less inactive a few years back. Here’s a chance to see the band at the venue you could most often catch its spirited performances.
What:Denver Art Rock Collective All Stars: Inactivists, Little Fyodor, Gort Vs. Goom, Cattle Axe and The Plastic Rakes When: Saturday, 08.17, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: Denver Art Rock Collective is a loose affiliation of bands that don’t really fit into any distinct musical categories but are united by having an eccentric artistic vision behind the music and this event features some of the group’s greatest bands. Naturally punk/noise pioneer Little Fyodor will bring the weirdness as well as great songcraft, Gort Vs. Goom is the Blue Oyster Cult, Melvins and Devo hybrid no one was expecting or asking for but which we need in this bland era and The Inactivists return after who knows how long a hiatus to lay out twisted pop songs too clever for their own good but also catchy enough that in a parallel universe the band would have had a string of hit records. The Plastic Rakes includes former Mourning Sickness guitarist Matt Maher and Cattle Axe includes former New Ancient Astronauts and Superbuick guitarist/vocalist Kasey Elkington.
What:The Claypool Lennon Delirium w/Uni When: Saturday, 08.17, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Les Claypool and Sean Lennon’s band together, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, is making some of the most transporting, conceptual psychedelia being made by anyone right now and at the live show you’ll also probably get treated to some inspired reworkings of their respective individual catalog but also some Beatles material as they did “Tomorrow Never Knows” in their current style when the band stopped through to play The Fox Theatre in 2017.
What:Snail Mail w/Choir Boy When: Saturday, 08.17, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Lindsey Jordan will eventually outgrow her current phase of songwriting with the gentle guitar work, albeit highly refined and sophisticated, that’s a little too much like that of many of her indie rock peers. But her lyrics reveal someone who is capable of articulating great, vivid nuances of feeling and unconventional thinking.
Sunday | August 18
What:Old Man Gloom w/Oryx and Echo Beds When: Sunday, 08.18, 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Old Man Gloom is sort of an extreme/atmospheric metal/post-hardcore super group comprised of members of Isis, Converge, Sumac and Cave-In. Its music is haunting, psychedelic and unrelenting. Oryx is an extreme metal band from Denver that is sometimes lumped in with doom and if you’re into doom you won’t be disappointed but Oryx’s presentation and creativity within that realm of music sets it apart from many of its peers. Echo Beds is the organic-industrial post-punk band whose confrontational sound and political lyrics are both harrowing and transcendent.
What:Y La Bamba and Esmé Patterson When: Sunday, 08.18, 6 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Y La Bamba is a band from Portland, Oregon that is impossible to pigeonhole as folk or world music or “Latin” or post-punk or experimental pop because it’s all of that to varying degrees. It’s music, though, is a sonically rich and engrossing band whose ability to craft a vivid mood and deeply emotional listening experience that’s transporting and grounding at once is impressive. Esmé Patterson in her now long-standing solo career is an artist whose work is rooted more in feeling and concept than genre. Patterson made her mark in indie folk band Paper Bird but her solo records have all explored the nature of identity and relationships and her live performances seem to experiment with the very format of what a live band can look like and how it can present itself without limiting itself to past expectations.
What:Phantogram w/Bob Moses When: Sunday, 08.18, 8 p.m. Where: The Mission Ballroom Why: Phantogram’s synth pop is cinematic and sweeping in scope and presentation even back when the band wasn’t playing rooms as big as The Mission Ballroom. More than some of its early peers, Phantogram created a sound that felt like it was engaging your imagination as much as your emotions and bringing you along for its ride into broad vistas of sound and inspiration while speaking to a broad spectrum of the human experience. Its newer music seems to be expanding into more soulful territory though no album has been forthcoming since 2016’s Three. Its “Into Happiness” single, though, more than hints at its next musical direction.
Monday | August 19
What:Calexico and Iron & Wine w/Madison Cunningham When: Monday, 08.19, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens Why: Calexico and Iron & Wine last collaborated on a recording with 2005’s In the Reigns EP. But in 2018 Sam Beam, Joey Burns and John Convertino were able to get together to write and record the eight songs that make up their new record together, 2019’s Years to Burn. It’s the kind of album that sounds like its intricate details were somehow well mapped out and intuitive. Like friends who get each others instincts and share sensibilities and aesthetics. Which given these artists seems obvious. And it’s an album on which thoughts and observations are explored with a sense of life’s complexities and ambiguities and the comfort that can come with being able to navigate through tentative times in your life and in the world if you’re not too set in your ways and hardened to your own heart and the world around you.
What:Punk Show and Tell with Tom Banger When: Monday, 08.19, 6 p.m. Where: Central Library Floor 7 Training Room Why: Denver punk promoter/musician/underground culture legend Tom Banger will present artifacts from his life and times in that world with actual items from his library donated to the Denver Public Library as part of its history collection. It’s a rare and curated glimpse into Denver’s cultural heritage and its connection with underground music and culture around the world.
Tuesday | August 20
What:Big|Brave w/Deaf Kids, Yakuza, Human Tide, Gruesome Relics and Volunteer Coroner When: Tuesday, 08.20, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: It might be an exaggeration to call this the extreme metal show of the month much less the year. But it does include experimental drone metal trio Big|Brave and its contorted atmospherics and emotionally charged vocals, Deaf Kids’ polyrhythmic, psychedelic industrial punk and Yakuza’s menacing, sludgy, dark and heavy yet ethereal drones. And that’s only half the bill.
What:Deathwish w/Cadaverine, Zygrot and Victim of Fire When: Tuesday, 08.20, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Deathwish is the thrash punk band from Madison, Wisconsin, not the UK thrash band from the 80s. But if you’re a fan of the latter it seems like you’d be into the Wisconsin band as both have a similar proclivity for confrontational vocals, burning guitar riffs and a disdain for mainstream normalcy.
Wednesday | August 21
What:David Dondero and Patrick Dethlefs When: Wednesday, 08.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: David Dondero is a lifer whose music reflects a dedication to telling the truth about various corners of human existence and experience through poignant stories delivered with his signature voice warm and sensitive and on the verge of quavering, accompanied by intricate guitar work played with a dynamic urgency. Patrick Dethlefs is a Denver-based singer songwriter whose highly emotive songwriting is thought-provoking and inspires a compassionate examination of your own feelings and reactions to the events in your life through his own openness in singing about his own travails and reflections.
What:Michael McDonald w/Strange Americans When: Thursday, 07.18, 5:45 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens – York Street Why: Michael McDonald’s smooth and soulful vocals have been a part of American rock and pop music for over four decades now. Whether as a singer in Steely Dan (both live and in studio), The Doobie Brothers, as a solo artist and in his numerous collaborations including with the likes of modern hip-hop/jazz genius Thundercat, McDonald brings a deep musicality and keen ear for melody that transcends genre. This concludes his run of shows in Colorado over this past week.
What:Usnea, CHRCH, Zygrot and Limbwrecker When: Thursday, 07.18, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Kind of a funeral doom show at Rhino tonight w/Portland, Oregon’s funeral doom juggernauts Usnea and the transcendental occult feral drone of CHRCH from Sacramento.
Friday | July 19
What:We Are A Glum Lot and Spirettes dual album release w/Turvy Organ When: Friday, 07.19, 8 p.m. Where: Lulu’s Downstairs – Manitou Springs Why: Dream pop band Spirettes and neo-math-emo-indie rock band We Are Not a Glum Lot are releasing their new albums simultaneously this evening at Lulu’s Downstairs in Manitou Springs. Spirettes’ album being Esoteria and We Are Not a Glum Lot’s titled The Price of Simply Existing.
What:Hammer’s House Party: MC Hammer, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Sisqo, Biz Markie, 2 Live Crew, The Funky Bunch When: Friday, 07.19, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: At this show you can party like it’s 1992 or 1999 depending on who you’re going to see. MC Hammer was ubiquitous in the early 90s with multiple hit songs that helped to put hip-hop into the mainstream. Sir Mix-a-Lot is perhaps best known for his hit song “Baby Got Back” but he was a big deal in Seattle before that and his records worth listening to generally for their swagger and sly and pointed humor. Biz Markie is a character in hip-hop who burst the boundaries of what was acceptable by owning being a little rough around the edges in his rapping and his outlandish performance persona. His 1989 song “Just a Friend” is a classic of the genre. 2 Live Crew traded in x-rated rap for years and garnered attention for its high profile lawsuit regarding its 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be over the record’s alleged obscenity. Seems quaint and inconsequential now considering how the President of the United States has and continued to talk about women but back in the day it made the news and catapulted the underground group into the national consciousness. Sisqó is the lead singer of Dru Hill but in 1999 he had hit songs like “Thong Song” and “Incomplete.” So you’ll get to take in a good swath of 90s mainstream hip-hop in one concert if you go.
Saturday | July 20
What: Flipper 40th Anniversary Tour with David Yow When: Saturday, 07.20, 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: David Yow of The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid will front the notorious San Francisco post-punk band Flipper for this tour and he’s one singer who still seems to have some disregard for his personal safety as a performer.
Sunday | July 21
What:Elizabeth Colour Wheel w/Drowse, New Standards Men and BleakHeart When: Sunday, 07.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s ritual drone, blackened shoegaze, mystic doom, pagan crust sound on its 2019 album Nocebo is Diamanda Galas-esque in its cathartic intensity and SubRosa-like in its sense of mystery.
Tuesday | July 23
What:Beck w/Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler When: Tuesday, 07.23, 4:30 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Beck went from eccentric underground artist with releases on K Records and Flipside early in his career to late-era alternative icon in the mid-to-late 90s with hit songs and videos on MTV to mature singer songwriter with a gift for inventive soundscaping. All the while Beck’s genre-bending instincts and disregard for expectation and convention has meant all of his albums are worth a listen. Cage the Elephant has made a bit of a name for itself by mixing together punk, psychedelia and bluesy garage rock. Even though Spoon has hit the greatest hits compilation (minus tracks from great albums like Girls Can Tell and Hot Thoughts), the Austin-based, arty post-punk outfit has raised its songwriting bar with every album since its 1996 debut Telephono bringing in electronic elements more to the fore on 2017’s Hot Thoughts and always with the rhythm anchoring and guiding the music. That politicians and public radio station managers cite Spoon as a favorite band shouldn’t be held against them. L.A.’s Starcrawler opens the show with its mélange of punk, 70s glam and stoner rock. Which might get the group lumped in with the recent wave of 90s fuzz rock worshippers. But Starcrawler’s songwriting tends to unironically embrace the swagger of yesteryear and take inspiration from the bands that influenced grunge rather than simply the 90s amalgamation of all of it.
Who:Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.
Who:Life After Earth and Brother Saturn When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.
What:Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5 When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.
Who:Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.
Who:Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m. Where: Tandem Bar Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.
Saturday | April 13
Who:DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.
Who:Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m. Where: People’s Building Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.
Who:Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.
Who:Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.
Who:Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.
Sunday | April 14
Who:Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”
All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.
In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.
Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.
Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.
After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.
2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.
What:Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.
Monday | April 15
Who:Ex Hex w/Moaning When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.
Tuesday | April 16
Who:Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.
Who:Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.
Who:Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.
Wednesday | April 17
What:HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.
Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.
Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.