Oh the subjectivity! Trying to decide on my favorite shows from the last few years is truly a difficult proposition. For this post I’m just going to talk about shows that were not a part of bigger festivals. These shows serve as a sampling of events that had such an impact that I can still remember them today.
Hot IQs – Farewell show at The Bluebird – June 19, 2009: The first Denver band I ever got in to was Hot IQs. I would listen to them on KCSU in Fort Collins when I was in high school. I saw them a few times before their farewell show, and every time was something special. Their at-capacity grand finale at the Bluebird was no exception: burlesque dancers, a Cookie Monster costume, and some of the catchiest pop-rock this city has ever known.
Hot Congress Prevue – Patrick Kelly’s Apartment – October 16, 2009: Pulling up to the ill-kept apartment building on Pearl St. had me second-guessing my choice to go downtown until I got inside and experienced the wild house party thrown by Hot Congress. That night introduced me to a bunch of great acts: Old Radio (now Amazing Twin), Night of Joy, the Jim Jims, and Fissure Mystic.
Everything Absent or Distorted – Farewell show at the Bluebird – October 24, 2009: I cannot remember a more raucous, energetic, and ultimately melancholy show than EAoD’s last big gig. Playing through every song they had ever written (and then some), the 11+ members of EAoD kept going until nearly 3 am.
Brand New – The Fillmore – January 30, 2010: Another throw back to my high school years, Brand New has always had a special place in my music library. As I grew up my tastes changed and Brand New changed along with them. No longer an emo-troupe, they brought their newer style of manic Lonesome Crowded West-inspired music to the Fillmore in a set that celebrated the new while appreciating the old.
Tjutjuna & Fissure Mystic – 7″ Split release at Meadowlark – February 5, 2010: Apart from Dick Dale (king of the surf guitar), the loudest show I have ever been to was Tjutjuna at the Meadowlark. With Woodsman and Fissure Mystic opening, it was certainly a night of intense psych the likes of which I have seldom seen replicated.
Julian Lynch – The Low Key – May 20, 2010: On an unassuming street in north Fort Collins sat a rather normal looking house. This was no ordinary house, it was the residence of Matt Sage who had dubbed it “The Lowkey.” During his time there Matt hosted shows for the underground and experimental alike. I happened to be in Ft. Collins one summer when Julian Lynch came through for a set of experimental tunes. I still remember sitting in that basement taking in the sound and color.
Denver Does Denver 2010 – August 28, 2010: It was fitting that my return from Chicago was marked by a showcase of Denver music and art. Hearing Safe Boating is No Accident take on Pee Pee, Pink Hawks doing Bad Weather California, and the Flobots performing Hot IQs made this an unforgettable event.
Sufjan Stevens – The Paramount – November 2, 2010: Last fall was undoubtedly the hardest academic semester I ever undertook. This had me feeling down on most things, concerts included. Fortunately I was lifted out of my funk by the prolific Sufjan Stevens. This performance helped me realize how magnificent The Age of Adz really is.
Hello Kavita – Farewell show at the Hi-Dive – December 28, 2010: Of all the times I saw Hello Kavita, this one was my favorite. Not only did Roger, Roll open (it was their farewell show too), but Hello Kavita played one of the fullest sets I can recall. From old and new originals, to Steely Dan covers, and a mash-up of “Colorado” with Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” it was Hello Kavita at their best.
Bad Weather California – Rhinoceropolis – February 18, 2011: I will close with this show, because it stands as a harbinger of things to come. While I only went to the Rhinoceropolis a few times during the life of SLS, I was always impressed by the nature of the place: it is a venue that encourages innovation. Bad Weather California has played the warehouse space more times than most, and as the group prepares for the release of their new full-length I can’t help but wonder where they’ll go and what kind of audience they’ll reach.
In late 2009 Something Like Sound released Colorado Sounds, a compilation of music from the Centennial State. Two years later Colorado Sounds Volume 2 is making its debut with an expanded roster and greater diversity of sound. The new release comes just weeks before Denver bands and fans swarm Austin, TX for the annual SXSW conference (where download cards for this free compilation will be liberally distributed). Curator Tim Weilert designed this project with one goal in mind: expose people everywhere to the quality and uniqueness of modern music in Colorado.
- Dan Craig – Enough – from Alchemy
- Gregory Alan Isakov – Evelyn – from This Empty Northern Hemisphere
- John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light– In My Neighborhood – from Beautiful Empty
- The Raven and the Writing Desk – Space Grenade – from RECIDIVIST
- Flashbulb Fires – Revenge Song – from Glory
- The Knew – Yellow Moon – previously unreleased
- Monroe Monroe – Ready The Fall – from Love Wins EP
- American Tomahawk – Sunshine People – from Contradictions, Generalities, and Future Criminals
- Fingers of the Sun – In My Basement – previously unreleased
- Amazing Twin – Naked Girl, Pt. 2 – from New Wives’ Tale
- Makeout Point – Don’t Drown Me, Please – from Don’t Look Up
- Safe Boating Is No Accident – Who Will Marry You? – from Isn’t It Fun?
- Thrifty Astronaut – Middleclass Suburban Teenager Blues – from Caffeine Heartache
- I Am The Dot – We Have Not Arrived – from Bridges EP & A Collection of Songs (2008-2010)
- FLASHLIGHTS – More Sunlight – from FLASHLIGHTS EP
- Fellow Citizens – Cincinnati – from Fellow Citizens
- The Biz – Infinite Light – from The Ancient Future
- PANAL S.A. DE C.V. – You Knew I Was A Snake – from You Knew I Was A Snake Single
- At The Forefront – Till I Find You – previously unreleased
- Tjutjuna – Mosquito Hawk – from Tjutjuna
Day four of the UMS began for us a little later than the day before. The rest of the festival was wearing on us, and we struggled to get to the Baker Neighborhood by 4:00pm. Once we got there, however, the music got us excited again. The day started off with The Conjugal Visits at TS Board Shop. This punk band didn’t have a huge crowd, but those of us who were there really enjoyed the sincere and energetic and incredibly catchy punk music we heard. Next up was The Photo Atlas at the Goodwill stage, filling in for an illness-riddled Hello Kavita. Dancy and passionate, The Photo Atlas is always enjoyable to see. We were sad to miss Hello Kavita’s last show for awhile, but the set put on by The Photo Atlas was a nice consolation.
Next, we crossed Broadway to The Irish Rover, to see Bela Karoli. We hadn’t seen Julie Davis and company for quite a while, and were happy to enter the, literally, overflowing bar to see them. Charming as always, the group always delights with it’s musicality and its relaxed attitude. After a fun and relaxing set, we walked down to the Hi-Dive for some auditory whiplash with Tjutjuna. Loud and weird, we loved this set. Their epic soundscapes filled the venue and the audience seemed to deeply appreciate the music. The only problem was the mere half-hour set, which left us calling for more.
Next, we trekked the 10 minute walk to Club 404 to see Old Radio. This shoegaze group was absolutely excellent. Powerful and well-crafted songs made Old Radio one of our new favorite Denver bands, and we hope they continue to play.
After this set, however, the festival caught up to us and we were too tired to continue. As I drove back to Golden after the Old Radio set, feet and back aching and my ability to appreciate live music temporarily destroyed, it struck me how amazing the Denver music scene really is. Certainly at this year’s UMS, we saw bands which are always fun to see and which we’ll check out every time we can. But there were also bands we’d never heard of that kept us more than entertained. I don’t think we saw a single bad set all weekend, and we certainly saw a fair share of amazing ones. Denver has an amazing set of creative and motivated musicians which make it possible for something like the UMS to be as successful as it was.
By the time Sunday rolls around chances are you’re going to be on the verge of passing out from exhaustion. Drink some coffee and cram down another slice of cheap pizza, it’s time for the final set of SLS picks for the UMS.
SUNDAY, JULY 25
Hello Kavita (Goodwill parking lot, 4:30pm): 2009′s To A Loved One was one of my favorite records of the year (regardless of the fact that Hello Kavita is a local group). Catch their set if you dig Wilco, Neil Young, or the like. Edit: As pointed out in the comments, Hello Kavita is going on hiatus following this performance, so don’t miss it!
Tjutjuna (Hi-Dive, 6pm): Spacey and loud, Tjutjuna will have you coming back for more. This group recently released a record called Conch Shell for free via their blog.
Old Radio (Club 404, 7pm): If shoegaze is your thing, then don’t miss Old Radio. They’re a bit of a local super group with a veritably stacked lineup. Unfortunately they’re not the only ones to see at 7.
Arliss Nancy (Skylark, 7pm): Another group from Fort Collins making their mark on the scene in Denver, Arliss Nancy has a raw sound that’s just as country as it is rock-and-roll (and perhaps a little punk too).
The Jim Jims (Club 404, 10pm): She’s drunk, you’re horny; why not have some fun and see The Jim Jims? Their set at Patrick Kelly’s apartment party was a highlight of one of the best parties I went to last year.
Woodsman (Hi-Dive, 11:55pm): Sometimes they’re spacey and ambient; sometimes they’ve got a driving tribal beat. Woodsman always manages to keep things fresh, something Pitchfork recently picked up on (but we’ve been talking about for months already). Also, their set is the last one of the entire week’s festivities, so if you haven’t passed out yet, it would be a good idea to go.
There was a modest crowd at the Hi-Dive on Wednesday night as Minneapolis-based psych-rock bands Vampire Hands and Daughters of the Sun brought their unique styles of music to Denver. Local space-jam band Tjutjuna played the first set of the evening, followed by a strong performance from a personal favorite: Woodsman. Despite the marked similarities between all the bands on the lineup I didn’t feel like I was listening to the same thing four times in a row. Overall the evening was an enjoyable mixture of ambient sounds and surf-esque rhythm and tone.
Daughters of the Sun
It’s warm outside, so that means it’s time to go out and hit the shows. Here are a few that feature stellar poster-art and great lineups.
Vampire Hands with Woodsman & Tjutjuna (5/26 at Hi-Dive): This $6 show pairs 2 of Minneapolis’s finest experimental rock bands with 2 of Denver’s best. Expect to hear new material from both Woodsman and Tjutjuna since both groups have new releases coming out soon (or already out).
DU May Days Musicfest feat. Shiny Toy Guns & Chali 2na (5/27 at Driscoll Greens): Nothing says awesome quite like “free.” The DU May Days Musicfest is great for several reasons: 1. The bands (the lineup is pretty solid and keeps getting better every year). 2. Free food (usually better than what you’d expect). 3. It reminds CSM students that we haven’t been in school for the past month and that DU still has another couple weeks to go.
Danielle Ate The Sandwich, Ian Cooke, & Candy Claws (5/28 at D-Note): Arvada won’t know what hit them after this show. It’s an invasion of sorts: Fort Collins folk singer-songwriter Danielle Ate The Sandwich will bring her unique ukulele styling while fellow Ft. Collinites Candy Claws play their unique style of ambient-indie-dream-pop. Ian Cooke’s amazing cello work will tie everything together quite nicely.
Hot Congress & Long Spoon block party (6/5 at Meadowlark & Larimer Lounge): This mini-music-fest showcases some of the best in what Denver’s music collectives have to offer. The lineup is ridiculously stacked and the evening’s events will feature prize giveaways and food vendors. For more information and a more in-depth preview of the block party visit the Hot Congress website.
Westword Music Showcase (6/19 in the Golden Triangle neighborhood): Westword just announced the full lineup for their annual music showcase and it is shaping up to be the don’t-miss event for June. They’re basically taking over an entire neighborhood for a day of great music and entertainment. Added bonuses this year include cheap tickets (only $15 in advance), more all-ages venues and a VIP option.
There are a few events in my recent memory that warrant further discussion. One of those is my memory of the Tjutjuna / Fissure Mystic 7″ release show at the Meadowlark a few months back. Although I tried to prepare for what was going to happen that evening, I can say that I did not expect to be as blown-away by Tjutjuna as I most certainly was. Their music was loud, layered, frenzied, and memorable. I can remember leaving the venue thinking “I certainly hope to hear more from them soon.”
Well, that time has arrived. Earlier this last week Tjutjuna posted their new album as a free download via SoundCloud (see below for a widget, and for free downloads). Upon my first listening I was thoroughly impressed by the 7 tracks on Conch Shell, each one a unique blending of sound and rhythm. For best effect listen to this album as loudly as possible. According to the band’s blog, Conch Shell was recorded at Woodsman’s “palace” in Curtis Park with the help of Eston Lathrop and Brian Marcus.
Tjutjuna will also be playing a few shows on a tour of the South with Woodsman. A full listing of dates follows the jump.
Last year, when SLS was still in its first stages, we got a big boost from local music journalist Dave Herrera at Westword when he asked me to nominate 20 bands for the 2009 showcase. A year has passed and once again I was asked to nominate 20 local bands that had made an impression on me. In the spirit of transparency, I’m going to list the bands I nominated. I decided to choose acts I had not previously nominated.
Be sure to check out these groups (even if a few didn’t make the final list) and vote for your favorites by clicking here.
In no particular order… Tim’s picks for the 2010 Westword Music Showcase:
Gregory Alan Isakov
John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light
Jim McTurnan & The Kids That Killed The Man
The Meadowlark, a quiet street-corner venue in lower downtown, appeared calm and cool from all outward appearances last Friday night. Inside the bar was a different story. Waves of sound pounded from amps and speakers as the space was filled to capacity. Those who had gathered in that cozy place found themselves carried away by the psychedelic sounds created by the Denver-local bands therein.
The night began to get interesting when Woodsman took the “stage” (which was mostly just a large swath of the floor). With two drummers providing the backbone for their style of ambient lo-fi, Woodsman added to the sound with two guitarists and a slew of effects. Building to crescendos and tearing everything down to its bones, Woodsman certainly showed that experimental music is much more than mere noise.
Fissure Mystic, a group that has aligned itself with the local Hot Congress music collective, was up next. Their set was a nice change up from the spacey sounds of Woodsman and was slightly reminiscent of underground punk music from the early 90’s.
Tjutjuna (I know, just try to pronounce that name) closed out the night with one of the loudest sets of music I have ever been exposed to. Even with earplugs in, my ears were still ringing on the drive home. Their set was spacey and hard hitting. The bass from the speaker cabinets struck my chest as the other-worldly sounds of their Theremin player swirled around the room.
See a full gallery by clicking here.