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.
I usually get about 1 or 2 music submissions every week. Given my lack of free time I haven’t had a chance to do detailed reviews on every record that passes my ears. In an attempt to “catch up” on reviews, here’s another multi-album music feature.
Woodsman – Rare Forms: A layered, expansive, experimental record with enough structure to avoid self-aggrandizing guitar noodling. As the 5th release from Woodsman in 2 years, it reflects the group’s progress thus far and builds anticipation for the next record. Top track: Serfer
A. Tom Collins – OH NO!: Dirty jazz meets piano meets a whiskey-soaked delivery from a former member of the now-defunct band Machine Gun Blues. The record swings from track to track, slowing down on the intro to “Be My Baby,” picking up again on the laughter-driven “Ants.” Top track: Oh No!
FLASHLIGHTS – Hidden Behind Trees EP: A reverb-drenched electro-pop record that blurs the lines between pop and electronic music, Trees marks FLASHLIGHTS first release on LA-based Binary Records (out June 6th). The 6 tracks mastered by Tjutjuna’s Brian Marcus, mix Sam Martin’s retro synth sounds with Ethan Converse’s aural vocals. Top track: Holidays
Thrifty Astronaut – Caffeine Heartache: If Bob Dylan and Neutral Milk Hotel had a baby it would be Thrifty Astronaut. Distorted acoustic guitar, bright toy-keyboard tones, and lyrics about girls (who have lip rings and like boys who huff glue), and middleclass suburban drudgery mix into a sometimes delightful, sometimes heart wrenching experience. Top track: Middleclass Suburban Teenager Blues
Fingers of the Sun – Fingers of the Sun: If the 1960′s had never ended, there might be more bands that sound like Fingers of the Sun. Expanding from their debut EP, the self-titled Fingers of the Sun LP features sunny instruments and lyrics that would fit well in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of years gone by. Top track: Cup of Tea
Friday nights were invented for good live music. Two weeks ago Woodsman celebrated the release of their newest record Rare Forms with a great show at the Larimer Lounge. Experimental-visual musician/artist Milton Melvin Croissant III opened with an electronic set of synthesized music followed by LA-based Speculator. Vitamins brought their style of pop-infused psychedelia in what may have been one of the best sets I’ve ever seen them put on. Woodsman brought everything together by the end of the night by playing a number of new and old songs (with quite a few from Mystery Tape). I found it interesting that since I have started following them, Woodsman has transformed from free-form jams to recognizable song structures and melodies.
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.
This is the kind of news that fits perfectly with the new summer format! Rather than keeping their music confined to the basements and bars of the front range Woodsman and M. Pyres have decided to tour together throughout the last part of June.
Woodsman is already out on tour supporting their newest release Mystery Tape (out now on Lefse Records) and will continue touring after the “Take Me To The Moon” dates are through. M. Pyres will be bringing his band The Season Creeps along to play some new songs as well.
As a special treat we have two tracks from the forthcoming M. Pyres and the Season Creeps record Mountain Pacific available for download. Look for this new album in July on Patient Sounds.
June 17 – DC – house show
June 19 – NYC – 86 Guernesy
June 20 – MA – Copperworks
June 21 – PA – Cafe Metropolis
June 22 – OH – Believeland
June 23 – IL – TBA special show – Chicago (w/o Woodsman)
June 24 – IL – Box Social
June 25 – WI – Project Lodge
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.
Woodsman has been a busy group as of late. In addition to prepping for a summer tour and new 12″ record they’ve been making the rounds in the blogosphere with a few new videos. The first comes via The Fader and is a 9-minute trip called “Smells Like Purple”
The second video here comes via Blood Drank Magazine and is a 3-minute excerpt from a longer performance titled “The Quiet Set.”
Woodsman will release Mystery Tape on June 6 on Lefse Records. A pre-order can be found here and a download of “When The Morning Comes” can be made here (right click “save as”). Listen to the track below.
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
Local experimental instrumental lo-fi group Woodsman released a new single out this week on the French digital-single-label Beko. The two-track download features “Manual Control” and “Chants.” While “Manual Control” is a shorter soundscape filled with ambient guitar and voices, “Chants” uses its 9 minute running time to build from a simple repetitious guitar riff (which sounds a bit like “Dikembe Mutombo” from their recent LP Collages) to a full thematic climax and denouement.