Lykke Li, Tech N9Ne, Lucinda Williams, City and Colour and a slew of CD release shows
There's an astounding number of great shows to pick from this weekend in the Mile High City: Lykke Li at the Ogden, Tech N9Ne kicks off his two-night Denver run with an intimate show tonight at the Summit Music Hall, followed by an appearance at the Fillmore, North Mississippi Allstars pull in to the Bluebird tonight for a pair of shows at the Bluebird, as does Big Sean, tonight at the Fox and tomorrow at the Summit. Tomorrow night, Lucinda Williams sets up shop at the Paramount, and there's a slew of local CD release shows. Page down for a complete rundown.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11
There is no one box to check for Lykke Li: Part pop star, part soul singer and partially just her own weird and appealing self, the Swedish performer can place her palpable voice into any fold and command the instruments around it. Only two full albums into a relatively newborn career, the singer weaves lush and wire-like vocals among synthesized beats, organs and acoustic guitars. Melancholic youth is a prominent theme in her lyrics, making her an obvious choice for a contributor to the Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack in 2009. Li has also worked with the likes of Kanye West, Robyn and Kings of Leon on a diverse array of collaborations. Why such exposure hasn't lead to a wider appeal is perplexing, considering that Li is also the bearer of magazine-cover good looks, and that live, she has a magnetic on-stage persona that channels Stevie Nicks with a Siouxie Sioux darkness. Tickets ($28.50/$32). Doors at 8 p.m. Show at 9 p.m. (16+)
A fiercely independent artist with a diverse, dedicated and ever expanding cult following, Tech N9NE has a hustle that simply cannot be knocked. Currently in the midst of tour in support of his latest album, All 6's and 7's, the rapper has staked his rightful place among the top entertainers in the industry the old-fashioned way, by consistently churning out mind-bending music filled with hardcore lyrics, featuring an impressive list of guests like T-Pain, Weezy, B.o.B., and then taking it straight to the masses. In addition to his date at the Fillmore on Saturday, November 12, Tech will be at the Summit Music Hall the night before for his "Lost in the Dark Experiment" set, which evidently has never been seen before. Doors are at 7 p.m. Show is all ages. ($33.50)
A Memphis-marinated trio featuring Luther and Cody Dickinson (the musical progeny of legendary Muscle Shoals producer Jim Dickinson on guitar and drums, respectively), and bassist Chris Chew, the Allstars hold a deep allegiance to their Delta blues forefathers while remaining open to experimentation. Inspired by the time-honored, hill-country standards of R.L. Burnside and Mississippi Fred McDowell (whose steak-bone slide playing was preserved for the Smithsonian in the late '50s by folklorist Alan Lomax), the Allstars bring looped bottleneck beats, dub-reggae and electric washboard into the mix for a decidedly post-punk brand of thrash-blues-boogie. Hip-hooray, as the hippies all say. And while they indeed run the risk of offending purists and snobs alike, there are enough juke-joint flavorings, call-and-response vocals and gospel overtones on hand to delight the lion's share of folks who appreciate a little funk in their gutbucket. Doors at 8 p.m. Show (16+) at 9 p.m. ($25.75-$28.00; two-day pass $48)
It's not surprising that Jake Smith, who fronts the White Buffalo, was influenced by hard-drinking, hard-living singer-songwriters like Waylon Jennings and Townes Van Zandt. With his throaty and raw delivery, it's easy to understand that Smith himself has lived hard himself and has seen a few things in his travels. Show at 7 p.m. ($15)
Signed to Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label, Big Sean legitimately poses this question: "Who came first, Big Sean or Drake?" No kidding. If you don't know Big Sean from "My Last," his single with Chris Brown, let's just say the similarities are uncanny. Whoever came first, the Finally Famous MC brings his sing-song rap stylings to the the Summit Music Hall just before the hype for the holiday season begins.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11
Before ever playing a show together, Ezra-David Darnell and Jordan Hubner had played music and written songs as fellow students at the University of Colorado Denver for a handful of years. When they first got together, Hubner was a member of outfits like Hawks of Paradise and Pacific Pride. Hearts in Space debuted in 2010, and its clearest influences were latter-day psychedelic rock bands and Ennio Morricone. The act's songs were well-written, and overall the band sounded promising. For roughly the past year, Darnell and Hubner have been working with drummer Johnny Lundock and former Moccasin and Moonspeed guitarist Ryan Sniegowski, who most recently played bass in Treeverb. Sniegowski and Lundock have truly helped the band solidify its sound, adding cohesive rhythms capable of stretching melodically with Darnell and Hubner's breezy-dreamy pop songs. Hearts in Space is now releasing its second EP, Already Gone. Doors are at 8 p.m. Show is at 9 p.m. ($5-10)
Since forming in 2005, Aloft in the Sundry has gone through nine members. And while nearly every position in the band has changed hands at least once, founder and frontman Jason Hernandez has been the one constant, keeping the band soldiering on with the addition of new members, including the latest additions, drummer Adam Chiszar and second guitarist Andrew Lopez. In advance of the band's CD-release show this Friday at the Marquis, we caught up with Hernandez and guitarist John O'Kane and talked about the new album and more. Read the full interview. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Show is all ages. ($10)
It's rare when true technical ability is met with imagination and tasteful restraint. But that's exactly what you get with Amphibious Jones, a quirky trio that threads together progressive rock's chops, psychedelic space rock's expansive soundscapes and punk rock's liberating aggression. Although given to lengthy instrumental passages, Jones never quite crosses over into jam-band territory, especially not with its swirly, warped, edgy guitar work. Doors are at 8 p.m. Show is at 9 p.m. ($8)
Tonight, three hip-hop movements will merge at Rockstar Lounge for a massive city-wide release party. Rockie, Pries, DJ Ktone and the Foodchain will all be on deck to perform cuts from their perspective albums. Expect to hear cuts from Rockie's Censored, Pries's mixtape Alopecia, DJ Ktone's compilation album Left Lane Music Vol.1 and Foodchain's Brunch which just dropped today.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12
Lucinda Williams has always been about reinvention. Starting in the country-blues space, she eventually moved on to something more rootsy, then rocking. Her newest album, Blessed, is a culmination of all of that, but where her songs were once about the ways the past has already fallen apart, this record deals more with how the present is building up around her. She's also dealing with a first for herself, a form of contentment -- happiness, even -- on songs like "Convince Me" and "Sweet Love." It's not all that unusual for an artist to find pleasure after years of swollen-cheek heartbreak songs, but from Williams, whose previous eight albums dealt with sadness almost exclusively, it might come as a bit of a surprise. Musically, Blessed still feels like a traditional album, but the sense of hope Williams is feeling is hard to write off as just a fluke. Read full interview with Lucinda Williams. Doors 7:30 p.m. ($30.50-$45.50)
No one can accuse Dallas Green of launching a side project that's a pale imitation of his main gig. He's best known for handling rhythm-guitar duties in Alexisonfire, a band that delivers growling/frothing emo on recordings such as 2006's Crisis. In contrast, City and Colour is an acoustic outfit that turns the volume and the histrionics way down. For instance, "Against the Grain," from Transmissions, begins with the quiet wheeze of a harmonica and the sound of a guitar being caressed instead of strummed, and Green sings lines such as "You must follow your heart" in a soothing voice that wouldn't even be heard over Alexisonfire's between-song amplifier hum. Clearly, Green understands that if he's not going to make music that differs from his other group's stuff, he might as well not bother. Doors at 8 p.m. Show at 9 p.m. ($25-$30)
Madlib, the reclusive, innovative and shape-shifting mastermind from California, is coming to Denver, and to hear hip-hop heads tell it, he's the greatest thing since ice cream. Considered by many to be a purveyor of the progressive sound of the future, Madlib combines beats and words with sounds unlike anything in this stratosphere. His body of work is widely respected and studied by producers and MCs alike. The Madlib Medicine Show series only scratches the surfaces of the beatmaster's prowess, but it's also an incredible representation of his raw and eclectic talent. Madlib, whose persona is as much an enigma as his music, will no doubt be ready to show off and show out at this City Hall gig. Doors 9 p.m. ($20/$25 18+)
Like a 10 p.m. buzz deteriorating into a 2 a.m. depression, Centro-Matic's raucous, feedback-drenched hootenannies career headlong into perfectly twangy, tear-in-your-Lone Star balladry. Exhausted coal miners drink somber toasts to fallen friends while nostalgic grandmothers teach their grandchildren the two-step. When Will Johnson and Centro-Matic take the stage -- be it in Las Cruces or Los Angeles -- they quickly transform a hipster-laden club into a dusty, one-beer-on-tap bar in Denton, Texas, where, starting over a decade ago, the quartet honed the sophisticated blend of lo-fi, fuzzed-out power pop and bare-bones country that has earned it glowing and well-deserved comparisons to Neil Young and Wilco. More than just followers, however, the men of Centro-Matic approach their art with the intensity and commitment of mad, trucker-hat-wearing, canned-beer-swilling monks. The abbot is Will Johnson, the band's reedy-voiced, staggeringly prolific frontman, whose deeply personal songwriting turns Centro-Matic's bar rock into an undeniably affecting and irrepressibly human affair. Doors 8 p.m. Show (18+) at 9 p.m. ($10)
Since the last half of the '90s, the music of Orbit Service has been through a few different permutations, from early soundscaping experiments to blissed-out space rock to deeply introspective psychedelia -- all of it informed by the dark shadings of Randall Frazier's colorful imagination. This year, Orbit Service (due at the Walnut Room on Saturday, November 12) is finally putting out the followup to its exceptional 2006 album, Songs of Eta Carinae. The new record, A Calm Note From the West, out on Legendary Pink Dots label Beta-lactam Records, realizes Frazier's vision of atmospheric music operating on a purely emotional level without the rockist elements of old. If you're looking for the kind of show that takes you on a journey through inner space, beyond the places where the logical mind reigns supreme, this is it.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.