The 10 best concerts in Denver from March 10 to March 13
Angel Olsen plays Larimer Lounge on Monday, March 9
Fear the gaze of Angel Olsen, whose smirk has a greater effect on a room than the average five guitar-wanker power slides combined. She plays the black box on Larimer Street tonight. Elsewhere, fireworks in the form of Austin's The Sword come to The Black Sheep, slick bro G-Eazy hits the Ogden and there are places where you can dance. Observe:
Though Angel Olsen's music is often dubbed folk or indie rock, it is too diverse to fit neatly into such broad categories. Whatever it's filed under, her music, especially her latest album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, is informed by a delicacy of feeling that allows her to channel deep wells of emotional content into warm, luminous and earthy expressions. If you talk to Olsen, though, she's reluctant to give away too much when it comes to her songwriting.
In the metal world, it seems that everything old is new again. Hundreds of bands are mining the rich ore of melodic British icons like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and combining it with the sludgy doom of Black Sabbath and Pentagram -- with varying degrees of success. Austin's the Sword has arguably been one of the most artistically successful of this new school of old rock. This is not to say, however, that the group's sound is entirely retrogressive or unoriginal. Deftly fingered guitars alternate between screaming and grinding, rumbling bass drives relentlessly and drums thunder like stampeding mastodons, while J.D. Cronise's vocals manage to be simultaneously caustic and harmonious. The overall effect is a new alloy of aggressive, intellectual and undeniably dark metal.
Ladies love G-Eazy. They absolutely adore him. Whether it's his lazy-smooth flow or Dapper Dan look, we don't know, but last time he was in Denver with Hoodie Allen on the Excellent Adventure Tour, bras were flying onstage like roses at a ballet. G-Eazy's 2011 mixtape Endless Summer first brought national attention to the rapper and is notable for his sample of Denver band Tennis's "Marathon" for the track "Waspy." He's taken a huge step forward with Must Be Nice and looks to be one of the better producers around.
Songs like "Getting Live" -- which opens Rebel Era and drips with funky guitars and gritty bass lines before reaching a crescendo of futuristic sounds and robust beats -- notwithstanding, it's clear that GRiZ (aka Grant Kwiecinski) is much more interested in letting the album tell a story with emotion and soul than he is consumed with drops and bass. "Too Young for Tragedy Part II," a followup from the opener on his previous album, and "DTW to DIA (The Travels of Mr. B)" are two tracks that show monumental growth in both song structure and audio production, and "How It Ends" rounds out the collection nicely with help from Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic. All in all, Rebel Era is a clean effort that proves GRiZ is exploring his sounds under a microscope and tweaking each instrument to satisfy his thirst for the perfect blend. This is organic funk wearing a mask of modern technology.
While actor Clint Eastwood has had a long affinity for jazz and plays jazz piano, it's not surprising his eldest son, Kyle, is steeped in the genre as well. A bassist and composer, the younger Eastwood also scored some of his father's films like Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino and Invictus. Starting with 1998's From There to Here, Eastwood has released six discs under his name, including his most recent effort, last year's The View From Here.
As a rapper, gem-sweater museum curator, children's television-show star and overall Internet phenom, Leslie Hall covers quite a few bases. But when flanked by her crew, the LYs, the Iowa-bred diva becomes an audience-commanding, plus-sized powerhouse, unfurling tales of Maury Povich not-the-fathers, minivan rides to the club and other facets of a Midwestern existence atop her own basement beats. Breaking out in 2005 with Gold Pants, Hall introduced the viral world to her strip-mall-maven humor and love for all things bejeweled, using YouTube as the successful vehicle for her audiovisual art pieces. Over the last seven years, she's managed to shoot far beyond her twenty-something social-networking fan base, making appearances on both the televised and touring renditions of eccentric children's show Yo Gabba Gabba!. Whether Leslie and the LYs are churning their butter or showing off their body rolls, their performances emphasize fun, including the importance of a sense of humor in a world of disillusioned pop-culture norms and Internet meme sensationalism.
It's safe to say that no one else has had the kind of musical career that Randy Newman has. He began as a behindthe-scenes songwriter, penning hits for singers such as Jerry Butler and Irma Thomas. Despite unassuming looks, a froggy, drawling delivery and a penchant for featuring reprehensible characters in his songs, Newman found success in the '70s and '80s as a singer-songwriter. But in the past twenty years, his work as a soundtrack composer has brought him a different kind of exposure, acclaim and audience, as endeavors such as the Toy Story franchise introduced him to a broader, pint-sized audience.
But Newman's Hollywood success hasn't sidetracked his own songwriting, which retains the satire, sarcasm and button-pushing misanthropy of his most well-known work. In 2003, he released The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1, which featured modern recordings of old and new favorites (Vol. 2 came in 2011). And 2008's Harps and Angels was a welcome return to form.
3LAU is one of the prodigy producers who seemingly came out of nowhere with orbiting momentum that keeps him constantly touring and sharing his house beats with the world. Gaining recognition through a couple remixes in 2011, he has kept the ball rolling by always being where you want him: directly behind the decks with headphones on and a smile on his face. This guy treats each set like it's his last, and that energy reverberates through the crowd as he brings the heat. Catch 3LAU on Beta's massive sound system with Denver's Ecotek and Jontron.
For a good idea of what the great pianist Bill Charlap is capable of you can hear his handiwork on the 2007 Grammy-nominated disc, Live at the Village Vanguard; that's a good place to start. While Charlap has no problem swinging heavy on up-tempo cuts like "Rocker" and "The Lady is a Tramp," his elegant phrasing is superb on ballads like "Autumn in New York" and "It's Only a Paper Moon." Charlap has worked with Gerry Mulligan, Benny Carter, Tony Bennett and Barbara Streisand, but the pianist also clearly excels in the trio format. Longtime drummer and cohort Kenny Washington, as well as bassist David Wong, join Charlap for this two-night stint.
This electronic trio has live-looping vocals that are actually sung live, mixed smooth and clean and then blended perfectly into synth-heavy tracks. Their last live set in town was energetic, and the blooming flower that is the M Machine will most certainly grow into a force to be reckoned with as the group matures in the electronic dance music scene.
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