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Ten best concerts in Colorado this weekend, Friday, August 31, through Sunday, September 2

Phish kicks off its three-night stand tonight at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Phish kicks off its three-night stand tonight at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Brandon Marshall

Welcome to the (long) weekend! As the summer heat continues, so do the shows. There's a great variety to choose from over the next few days, a healthy mix of imports and exports. We have them all listed in our massive concert calendar. If you're feeling industrious, print that bad boy out and break out your Sharpie. Otherwise, we've done all the heavy lifting for you and put together a list of the best concerts this weekend. Continue reading to get the full rundown.

See also:

- Dwarves' Blag Dahlia on kicking ass and not being old guys going through the motions

- IAMTHESHOTGUN: heavy, violent...and funny

- Holy Underground and Dirty//Clean want to grow Denver's electronic-music scene

10. MC CHRIS @ MARQUIS THEATER | THURSDAY, 8/30

Whereas most rappers make a name for themselves by slaying competitors in freestyle rhyme battles, MC Chris came up through strange circumstances: voicing a cartoon spider. Fans of the Cartoon Network's cult favorite Adult Swim series should know Chris from his hyper-obnoxious voice as Hesh on Sealab 2021 and various characters on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, including Sir Loin and Little Brittle. In one Aqua Teen episode, he made his hilarious mark by voicing the infamous MC Pee Pants, a gigantic diaper-wearing, gangster-rapping spider that rhymed "candy" with "Jessica Tandy." MC Chris's rhymes about ninjas, Pikachu and Dungeons & Dragons have rendered him godfather of the newest (and most poorly named) subgenre of rap: nerdcore.

Ten best concerts in Colorado this weekend, Friday, August 31, through Sunday, September 2

9. IAMTHESHOTGUN @ MARQUIS THEATER | SAT, 9/1/12

IAMTHESHOTGUN formed in 2007 when guitarist Bryan Pelle met Kareem Hendricks through an ad for bandmates. The two bonded over a mutual love of the melodic death-metal band Dead to Fall and subsequently struck up a musical partnership that has endured numerous lineup changes. IAMTHESHOTGUN's style of brutal, technical death metal has evolved since the outfit first formed to include sound ideas and rhythms more akin to those of pioneering grindcore bands like Napalm Death and Brujeria. The act's latest, self-titled effort, whose release is being celebrated tonight, showcases this change in direction, which the members say came organically and unexpectedly. While the music is heavy and violent, it's clear these guys have a healthy sense of humor.

Ten best concerts in Colorado this weekend, Friday, August 31, through Sunday, September 2

8. HOLY UNDERGROUND LAUNCH @ LARIMER LOUNGE | SAT, 9/1/12

"We have bands here that would rival some of the best in New York or L.A.," declares Ethan Converse of Flashlights (pictured above). "It's just that the industry eyes aren't on them." Converse is a co-founder of Holy Underground, a name that's sure to become very familiar in the future. "What we are," he explains, "is a music company that operates with a collective mentality." Jumping from garage rock to electro-pop and everything in between, the Holy Underground roster includes acts like Achille Lauro, School Knights and Sauna on the rock side and Flashlights, ManCub, Force Publique and Cerulean on the more electronic side. "More than a company, it's an umbrella term for our crew," notes Converse. "It covers all the bands we play shows with on a consistent basis, all our friends in the scene. It's much easier to spread as a unit than individually."

7. THE DON'TS AND BE CAREFULS @ HI-DIVE | FRI, 8/31/12

From the very beginning, the Don'ts and Be Carefuls possessed an immediacy that was difficult to ignore, and its performances displayed a rare conviction and purity that could never come from jaded careerists miming a sound as its wave was passing out of popularity. After moving to Denver from Greeley in 2009, the outfit shed a bit of its earlier post-punk sound without losing the youthful exuberance that went along with it. After making some great music, tonight the band bids adieu at the hi-dive with Hindershot, Kissing Party and I Sank Molly Brown.

6. BLKHRTS @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | FRI, 8/31/12

An utterly riveting rap-rock hybrid that centers on Abraham's retro-futuristic production, which is both unique and progressive, BLKHRTS is one of the city's most exciting groups in any genre. This is truly some next-level shit, and perhaps it's the context. After all, Joy Division (or Warsaw, rather) isn't exactly the first band you'd expect to hear sampled in a hip-hop song, much less presented soulfully alongside references to Morrissey and Johnny Marr. And therein lies the surface appeal of BLKHRTS. The group has a tinge of familiarity but honestly doesn't sound like anyone else. Live, the act, which is lead by three of the city's most charismatic MCs, Yonnas Abraham, King FOE and Karma, brings an unbridled energy that's as ferocious as Onyx, as primal as Body Count and as frenzied and unhinged as Bad Brains.

5. MUMFORD & SONS @ RED ROCKS | TUES-WEDS, 8/28-8/29

If artists like England's Mumford and Sons continue to produce some of the best music of the genre, the term "Americana" may eventually have to be replaced. Using classic American folk-rock ingredients like banjo, dobro and good old-fashioned misery, the band has become an increasingly growing musical phenomenon. Their debut album, Sigh No More, released in the States in 2010, flows from loud and raucous on songs like "Little Lion Man" to slow and tragic on cuts like "White Blank Page." After two back-to-back sold out dates at Red Rocks this week, the band heads up to Aspen for Jazz Aspen Snowmass, where it will share a bill with Kid Rock and Michael Franti.

4. MAC MILLER @ RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE | SAT, 9/1/12

Following in the footsteps of fellow Pittsburgh native and Taylor Allderdice graduate Wiz Khalifa (headlining this bill), Mac Miller is well known for making feel-good music. His breakout mixtape K.I.D.S. (Kickin' Incredibly Dope Shit), an homage to the notably dark Larry Clark film, and followup Best Day Ever were beloved by casual and hard-core hip-hop fans alike for their fleeting yet satisfying jams about being young; Miller's greatest strength and the chief reason for his success has always been that he raps about what he knows. His first studio album, Blue Slide Park, debuted at number one but received mixed reviews. On his newest mixtape, Macadelic, Miller delves into darker material; he's been praised for being more daring than on previous efforts. Whether he continues on this new path or sticks to what has proven successful for him remains to be seen. What is certain: The future is bright for this twenty-year-old phenom.

3. SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS @ LARIMER LOUNGE | FRIDAY, 8/31

Named after a legendary school for pickpockets, School of Seven Bells came together when Benjamin Curtis met the Deheza twins, Alejandra and Claudia, of On!Air!Library! while his old band, Secret Machines, was on tour opening for Interpol in 2007. The trio struck up a friendship and musical partnership, which yielded several full-length albums. Fans of M83 and Ladytron will appreciate the breezy and sonically rich, electro-inflected dream pop that this group crafts so well. Rooted in lyrics written ahead of the music itself, School's songs have an uncommonly cohesive structure and informal narrative -- not unlike a short experimental film. Although Claudia dropped out of the band in 2010, the remaining members have seemingly enriched rather than stripped down the core sound of expansive melodies.

2. DWARVES @ GOTHIC THEATRE | SAT, 9/1/12

Starting out in Chicago as the Suburban Nightmare, Dwarves (due tomorrow night at SummerGrind with Leftover Crack and Stolen Babies, Speedwolf, Knockout, Potato Pirates, the Atom Age, Frontside Five and more) quickly ditched their early hardcore sound for something less narrow. The band subsequently cultivated a perverse sense of humor and a stage show worthy of GG Allin, and the members played under such pseudonyms as HeWhoCannotBeNamed and Blag Dalia -- like mock serial-killer counterparts to the Misfits. Seemingly bent on offending everyone, the Dwarves were notorious for tasteless album art and a stunt in which they announced the death of HeWhoCannotBeNamed with a tribute to the "late" guitarist in the liner notes of 1993's Sugarfix, which caused their label to drop them. What's lost amid the scandalous on-stage behavior and pranks is the fact that the Dwarves are a potent live band to this day, performing some of the only legit punk rock left.

1. PHISH @ DICK'S | FRI-SUN, 8/31-9/2

Love them or loathe them, Phish is a band that commands respect. Since forming in the early '80s in Vermont, the quartet has reached nearly mythical status on the strength of its inexhaustible and always unique live shows, which have earned a legion of fans whose fandom is among the most unconditionally devoted and enthusiastic in all of music, rivaled only perhaps by Insane Clown Posse's nation of Juggalos. The fans are so invested in the band and attuned to its music that if the act performs a themed set, like it did on the first night of last year's Labor Day run, they can decipher the theme almost immediately within a few songs and tell you the significance. For the second consecutive year, the band closes out the summer concert season with a three-night stand at Dick's beginning Friday night.

Keep reading for more noteworthy shows, and be sure to visit our concert calendar for a complete rundown of this weekend's shows.

TALK ALL NIGHT @ GLOB | SAT, 9/1/12

Talk All Night changed its name from the Clever Deadly, but the band's members stuck with developing their core sound, which is focused on weaving together threads of electro/dream pop, downtempo, glitch and the kind of moody, atmospheric post-punk that some might call goth. Layden Bryant's voice conjures the R&B-inflected stylings of Iva Davies of Icehouse and Jeremy Ryder of Wang Chung around the time of the To Live and Die in L.A. soundtrack. Fans of the regrettably inactive Denver band Fiction 8 will appreciate Kate Warner's detailed and evocative synth work and production, not to mention her own richly emotive vocals. The songs are a perfect blend of dark, bright and dreamy with an earthy dance beat, and the music is vibrant, lush and immediately captivating.

FIERCE BAD RABBIT @ CENTRAL PARK BANDSHELL | SAT, 9/1/12

Fierce Bad Rabbit began as an offshoot of several other Fort Collins bands in 2009. A sort of supergroup without the grandiose intention, it formed as the result of an impromptu meeting of some of the city's best musical minds with Chris Anderson, who, fresh off a departure from the Jimi Austin, had a batch of songs he'd written and had been unable to use. To bring those tunes to life, Anderson enlisted singer and violist Alana Rolfe, a veteran of Slow Crash and Stella Luce; former Arliss Nancy bassist Dayton Hicks; and drummer Adam Pitner of Tickle Me Pink. The new outfit took its name from a Beatrix Potter story and soon started making music together. Catch Fierce Bad Rabbit at Boulder Creek Hometown Festival with Cracker, Rob Drabkin and more.

BUDDY GUY @ DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS | SAT, 9/1/12

Born into a family of sharecroppers in 1936 Louisiana, he eventually got his mitts on an acoustic guitar that gave him an outlet for the sounds in his head. Before long, he was supplementing income generated as a janitor at Louisiana State University with coin earned by performing in local bands. His love of the blues drew him to Chicago, the northern nexus of the style. Then, a scorching guitar duel with soloist supreme Otis Rush brought him to the attention of Muddy Waters, who served as his mentor at Chess Records, an imprint then at its height of power. Guy went on to record for Chess and several other imprints, and left behind some truly seminal vinyl. Even so, Guy wasn't to experience full-scale stardom until 1991, when Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, his first album for Silvertone, caused listeners outside the circle of blues fanatics to belatedly realize what they'd been missing.

IN THE WHALE @ LARIMER LOUNGE | SUN, 9/2/12

There's a lot of Eagles of Death Metal influence happening here. In the Whale's Eric Riley and Nate Valdez take on the brazen, balls-out machismo of bands like Queens of the Stone Age with the nerdy ambition of a pre-bloated Weezer. Propelled by a wall of guitar and sandwiched between Darkness-level falsetto and raucous stadium drums, the lyrics are part caveman, part country boy and overtly rock star. In the end, the guys split the difference, like a Wolfmother you can still take seriously. They might be only a step or two from the garage, but these are two bespectacled escapists who rock out with their cocks (and maybe their calculators) out.

THROWBACK FEST @ 3 KINGS TAVERN | SAT, 9/1/12

If ever there was a stacked bill, this is it. If seeing Black Lamb and To Be Eaten sharing a bill wasn't enticing enough in itself, tonight also marks the jubilant return of such Denver favorites as the North Atlantic, Mustangs & Madras and Out On Bail. Get there early and stay late, and check out the vintage video footage of Denver bands this throwback party will also feature.




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