Denver's ten best Memorial Day weekend shows
Formed in Seattle in 2009, this project started out playing open mics and within a year after playing countless shows, the Head and the Heart independently released its debut album. The band, whose self-titled album came out on Sub Pop in 2011, is a vibrant live act that still retains its homespun charm, with shades of Nick Drake and Cat Stevens haunting the edges of its melodies. (Catch the Head and the Heart at MusicFest 2013 at the University of Denver, with Mayer Hawthorne, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, PLACES and Vetta Star.)
At this stage of his career, particularly in Denver, Nathaniel Rateliff is a man who requires absolutely no preamble -- his reputation precedes him. Nonetheless, this limited-edition two-song seven-inch (produced in honor of Record Store Day) feels like a fresh and glorious reintroduction to a songwriter we all thought we knew. Although Rateliff has one of the most silken voices around, on these vintage-flavored, horn-bolstered soul songs, he sings with a fervent abandon that adds an unexpected but completely gratifying layer of depth and expressiveness. It's a good thing he's made these songs available digitally; otherwise, the grooves of this vinyl would be so worn from repeated listens that the already lo-fi-sounding recording would seem even more roughed up. Can hardly wait to hear what Rateliff does next with this gem of a project. Catch Rateliff and company with Dawes.
You could say Dawes is a little folky, a little country, a little Americana. But the California quartet is also just stripped down cool, playing the autobiographical musings of Taylor Goldsmith -- founder, singer and principal songwriter for Dawes. Along with Sera Cahoone, Dawes brings its slow swagger to the Gothic tonight.
When Vintage Trouble opened for the Who at the Pepsi Center this past February, it was the kind of soul and R&B-inflected rock and roll band that should be opening for those self-styled exemplars of "Maximum R&B." Ty Taylor cut a charismatic figure who had no trouble coming down into the crowd off the stage at the Pepsi Center -- something very few performers ever seem to do. His vocals had a kind of gospel vibe to them, and his rage as a singer set him apart from many that try their hand at the kind of blues rock and soul thing, making what was already a solid set of music even more compelling. For its part, Vintage Trouble played like it owned the room, and for its roughly half-hour set, it didn't make you wonder when the heck the Who were coming on. (Catch Vintage Trouble at Denver Day of Rock with Fishbone, Lee Bice, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and more.)
Feel like partying in the park this holiday weekend? Here's your soundtrack, courtesy of Jay Bianchi's Summer of Serendipity series. The two days of free music this weekend at Civic Center Park features The Space Lab: Kraftwerk ReAmped, a supergroup of sorts comprising Jesse Miller from Lotus, Steve Molitz from Particle & Phil Lesh and Friends, Allen Aucoin of the Disco Biscuits, Scott Metzger of Gene Ween Band and DJ Logic. As the name implies, the outfit breathes new life into the music of Kraftwerk with live instrumentation and improvisation.
Weapönizer sounds like its members incorporated grindcore percussion into the context of noisy thrash, the kind that comes from the pit of hell where Slayer and Venom are looped. With a self-titled 2012 album that draws influence from Napalm Death's 1987 classic, Scum, the band is led by a bassist known as Barbarian, who sings with a voice that suggests he learned how from Cronos himself. Live, Weapönizer (due at the Seventh Circle Music Collective on Friday, May 8) delivers a darkly biting and aggressive sound that can't be ignored.
Guitarist/singer Coco Montoya started off as a rock drummer. Albert Collins walked into the club where Montoya was working, and the club owner let him use Montoya's drum set -- without asking him. Montoya blew a gasket, and Collins ended up calling to apologize. Collins phoned a few months later, this time with an invitation to tour. Montoya agreed, and the two spent the next five years on the road together, during which time Collins taught Montoya the guitar -- which is kind of like the Pope teaching you how to pray. He later left Collins's band and eventually got a job as a pickup man for the Bluesbreakers, filling Eric Clapton's old chair. Montoya didn't go solo until the mid-'90s, with Gotta Mind to Travel.
On Hazard of the Die, the followup to his 2011 debut, Sometime Around, Andy Palmer shows continued growth as a songwriter. The beginning of "The Monk," the eight-song disc's opener, is fairly tame, but strings, arranged here by Kailin Yong, gradually swell, making the song seem damn near epic at points. On "Heart of Colfax," Palmer, backed by his alt-folk act Grub Street Writer, captures the feel of Denver's infamous avenue with enough rasp in his gravelly vocal delivery to make Tom Waits proud. While Palmer can powerfully belt through a tune like the muscular "Good Son," he can also reel it in somewhat, as on the beginning of the poignant "Moreya," which also features harmonies from Jessica DeNicola.
Ryan Bingham's voice sounds like the guy has spent decades blowing through cartons of cheap cigarettes and gallons of cheaper whiskey somewhere along the lonely, broken mid-American highways. A former bull rider who spent a good chunk of his teens and early twenties on the rodeo circuit, Bingham bounced around the country without a home base before he finally found roots in music. The New Mexico-born, Texas-raised troubadour is based now in Los Angeles, where he claims he's "settled down." His fourth album, titled Tomorrowland, is fresh Americana spiced with gritty rock and electric guitar riffs
Instead of trying to overwhelm listeners with its awesomeness, Blitzen Trapper creates casually adventurous tracks that draw from American music in ways that seem both familiar and fresh. Take songs like "Sleepy Time in the Western World," for instance: The tune boasts an organ line straight off of Blonde on Blonde, yet its lyrics and shambolic arrangement seem more interested in tomorrow than yesterday. Catch Blitzen Trapper with Dawes, Todd Snider, Hot Club of Cowtown, the David Mayfield Parade, Joe Pug, Sera Cahoone, Kristin Hersh and more.
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