It's another big weekend for music on the Front Range. Tonight, Otis Taylor kicks off his Trance Blues Festival, which runs from this evening through Sunday and is spread across a variety of venues in Boulder. Elsewhere, Nathaniel Rateliff's hosting his annual holiday soiree at the Gothic with stacked bill that includes Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, A. Tom Collins and Bad Weather California; Jesse Sykes is at the hi-dive; White Chapel is at the Summit with Devil Wears Prada; Hopsin's at the Bluebird and Leftover Salmon pulls into the Ogden for a two-night run. Tomorrow, Varlet drops its new disc at the Larimer, and VNV Nation stops by the Summit. Page down for a full rundown.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25
Everyone in Denver got to take Nathaniel Rateliff for granted for many years -- both as the frontman of Born in the Flood and with the Wheel -- watching him perform at intimate places like the hi-dive and the Larimer Lounge. But over this past year, Rateliff's profile grew considerably after he toured with Mumford & Sons and appeared on shows like Later...With Jools Holland, which yielded some of his most powerful live performances on video to date. For his annual holiday show at the Gothic Theatre this Friday, November 25, Rateliff has brought together friends, supporters and compatriots in Denver's underground music scene for a special engagement that includes bands (Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, A. Tom Collins, Bad Weather California) that are headliners in their own right. (TM)
Since releasing 2007's Like Love Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul, Jesse Sykes has left Barsuk Records, her longtime label, left Seattle, her longtime home; left Sweet Hereafter guitarist Phil Wandscher, her longtime boyfriend; and given up drinking, her longtime salve. Today Sykes is intellectually engaged and ferociously curious, and at 44, an age when many artists become pale facsimiles of their younger, bolder selves, she continues to ascend creatively. Marble Son, Sykes's latest effort, which she co-produced with Wandscher (co-founder of the defunct and legendary Ryan Adams-fronted band Whiskeytown), couldn't have been made by an unscathed, elfin newbie. Incandescent and dark, ethereal and serpentine, Marble Son finds Sykes channeling love's beauty, loss and wonder with a knowledge -- or maybe a resignation -- only time affords. (LD)
Tennessee's Whitechapel crafts its malevolent deathcore with three guitarists. The down-tuned doom of this act is marked by finger-widdling flurries and false harmonic squeals, Phil Bozeman's disturbingly possessed post-Pantera vocals and a rhythm section that attacks with a cornered, Gadhafi-esque cruelty. Last year's A New Era of Corruption is both a triumph of actual songs over pure riffs and, in the wake of the tragic death of Bozeman's mother, a monument to pessimism ("The Darkest Day of Man" and "Single File to Dehumanization"). Technically excellent yet utterly heartfelt, Whitechapel is a soundtrack for cynical teens moving out of their parents' shadow and into the world -- and that's no small achievement. (PR)
Hopsin is an equal opportunity offender. Top on his hit list, so-called Hollywood ass rappers. On "Sag My Pants," from his 2010 release, RAW, he puts it rather plainly. "I have no favorite rappers because all you suck!" he proclaims, before going in on Drake, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Lupe Fiasco -- on "Ill Mind of Hopsin," he even takes on Tyler, the Creator. Dissin' a much higher profile rapper is, of course, the oldest trick in the book, played by many an emerging MC long before Hopsin, in shameless grab at notoriety. With Hopsin, a one-time member of the Ruthless Records roster, this seething vitriol, which extends to other tracks like "You Are My Enemy," comes off more as exasperation coming from a dude who clearly has a chip on shoulder at being passed over in favor of what he sees as lesser talent than some sort of hackneyed gimmick. All that aside, Hopsin has a dope flow. He's one of the many bright spots to emerge from the West Coast as of late. (DH)
Leftover Salmon for Thanksgiving? Sounds yummy, doesn't it? Good. Glad you feel that way, because Leftover Salmon is back home for a pair of dates this weekend at the Ogden Theatre on Friday, November 25 and Saturday, November 26, with Head for the Hills. Leftover Salmon doesn't play together very often these days, but when they do, Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Greg Garrison, Bill McKay and Jeff Sipe are guaranteed to deliver a good time. (AT)
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 26
Lilly Scott formed Varlet with her brother David when she was still in high school. In 2009, after playing some low-key local shows, Lilly decided to audition for American Idol. After spending all day at Invesco Field before her audition, Scott ended up in the hospital with appendicitis. Fortunately, she made the cut, and although she was eventually voted off, she displayed an immense vocal talent that was obvious to anyone who was listening beyond the filter of nostalgia. At the time, guitar wizard Cole Rudy was in the band, and with the addition of percussionist and songwriter extraordinaire Will Duncan and genius keyboardist Vaughn McPherson, Varlet has since benefited from not just accomplished musicianship, but a rare and compelling synthesis of impeccable pop songcraft, raw talent and a spirit of experimentation. (TM)
Emo, goth and punk fans who don't go for dance music may already know the Euro-duo VNV Nation: Multi-instrumentalist Ronan Harris manned the samplers on AFI's smash LP Decemberunderground, while his thumping remix of "Miss Murder" caused a sensation in underground dance clubs. VNV (short for Victory Not Vengeance) has been lurking around European clubs since the early '90s, when the previous decade still echoed freshly in its ears. Pulsating with industrial beats and ecstatic keyboards, original cuts such as "Perpetual" and "Homeward" still stand out among all the '80s electro gems and EBM bruisers freshly unearthed and posted to YouTube. When he's not programming for rockers, Harris heads up Modcom, a solo analog-synth project, and scores films. His hypnotic tunes are a perfect match for cinema. (DxF)
Tom Murphy, Litsa Dremousis, Paul Rogers, Dave Herrera, Amber Taufen and D.X. Ferris contributed to this weekend's Good Friday roundup.
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