By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
The Boy Howdy Rio Show
Friday, April 16, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 303-297-1772.
Drummer Dave Kerman, profiled in our April 1 issue, chose Denver as a home for ReR USA, the American branch of London's ReR, aka Recommended Records, arguably the planet's foremost prog-rock distribution house and label. To celebrate this project, Kerman is staging the Boy Howdy Rio Show, which matches two of Denver's most intriguing acts -- Hamster Theatre and guitarist Janet Feder -- with three progressive torch-bearers whose reputations stretch far beyond state lines. San Francisco's Thomas Di Muzio, represented by Recommended discs such as 1996's Sonicism, is an important electro-music figure, albeit one whose music is dedicated to creativity and experimentalism, not 130 beats-per-minute dance-floor fodder. Joining Di Muzio is highly respected jazz trumpeter Cuong Vu, a native of Vietnam now headquartered in New York. Finally, there's Chris Cutler, the intellectual godfather of prog. In addition to performing in or collaborating with Henry Cow, the Art Bears and other brainy combos, he founded both the Rock in Opposition movement, which champions acts that prefer unbroken territory to well-traveled paths, and Recommended Records. By traveling to Denver for this performance, Cutler offers his symbolic blessing to Kerman's latest mission even as he provides local music fans with the chance to fill their heads with music that's devoted to moving forward, not back. -- Michael Roberts
The Figgs, with the Candy Butchers
Monday, April 19, Larimer Lounge, 303-291-1007.
As seemingly sweet and chewy as the legendary aphrodisiac that (sort of) bears their name, the Figgs hail from Saratoga Springs, New York. But the catchy, garage-schooled power pop the band produces conjures a style born East of the Atlantic -- where caustic malcontents like Elvis Costello and Paul Weller once dazzled the U.K. with an endless supply of hooks and vitriol. Successors to that tight, punchy sound, guitarist Mike Gent and bassist Pete Donnelly have held course for seventeen years with drummer Pete Hayes -- a prolific stretch of time that includes tours of duty as a backup band to both Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Guns n' Roses) and new-wave legend Graham Parker. Further collaborations with the raspy-voiced frontman of the Candy Butchers, Mike Viola, resulted in Hang On Mike, the self-described "grotesquely autobiographical" new release from the former teen prodigy. Reconciling his own hedonistic rock fantasies with growing older and wiser, Viola isn't ready to hang up the flashy chalk-striped suit just yet. But with a more reflective set list that includes "Painkillers," a somber ode to his late wife, Kim, who succumbed to cancer, the talented tunesmith seems to have different priorities than just hugging the bar night after night. -- John La Briola
The Sleepy Jackson
Wednesday, April 21, Fox Theatre, 303-443-3399; Friday, April 23, Bluebird Theater, 303-322-2308.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but some shit is just plain fine. Liv Tyler? No denying. An order of smothered soft rellenos at La Pasadita? It's like poetry on a plate. The same can be said of the Sleepy Jackson and its debut disc, the convincingly titled Lover. Although this Australian outfit has been around for less than two years, it's managed to hold its own on a tour with the formidable Polyphonic Spree in addition to crafting one of the most organically gorgeous platters in recent memory. Lover finds bandleader Luke Steele (above) -- all sleazed out in a mustache and mascara -- engaging in a bout of heavy petting with a spotless pedigree of influences: Flaming Lips, ELO, George Harrison, Van Dyke Parks. What's left is a heart-shaped hickey that, like the best of classic pop music, hurts so fucking good. Diary pages full of heartaches and sunny days float on a breeze of earth-warmed psychedelia and leafy orchestration -- as well as a gust here and there of vintage rock and roll. Steele's stage presence has been likened to "Jimi Hendrix meets John Lennon," though hopefully, he's a little more animated than a couple of corpses. The music of the Sleepy Jackson may not be the freshest thing around, but it sure is pretty. -- Heller
The Icarus Line
Wednesday, April 21, Bluebird Theater, 303-322-2308.
Punk isn't dead, kids -- it's just obsolete and boring as hell these days. But you know that. You don't shop at Hot Topic. Nonetheless, if any band has embodied the true spirit of punk in recent years, it's been the Icarus Line (below) -- not aesthetically, mind you, but ideologically. From spray-painting the words "$uckin' Dick$" on the Strokes' shaggin' wagon to violating a sacred six-string that (allegedly) once belonged to Stevie Ray in his home town, the Line is punk incarnate -- or at least it was. Emerging from the dank bowels of El Lame in 1998, the Line released a handful of seven-inches before its murderous debut was unleashed on the masses in 2001. Mono was as menacing as it was palate-cleansing. Joe Cardamone's primal screams peeled off layers of skin like a facial via sandblaster. Corrosive guitar lines bore into the skin like chiggers, while the rhythms ricocheted inside the cranium before finally settling in the spinal column and, like strategically placed squibs, proceeding to detonate each vertebra. Now, three years later, the band has set up shop in the terrordrone with a record that's as startling a progression as Nirvana's trajectory from Bleach to Nevermind. More spacious and melodic than Mono, the Line's sophomore effort and major-label debut, Penance Soiree (slated for release next month), saunters more than it lunges, floating through the cosmos like tripped-out Spacemen on a Stooges kick. -- Dave Herrera