The 10 best concerts in Denver from March 17 to March 20
The SXSW floodgates probably extend as far as Denver, and regardless this week brings an exceptionally strong crop of bands to town. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, subjects of a recent cover story in our sister paper in St. Louis, play the Gothic tonight. There are plenty more below.
Okalahoma band Broncho -- the name is a term used for a mustang that has yet to be broken -- plays back-to-basics rock and roll with an unvarnished sound that bears no affectation or appropriation of style. Frontman Ryan Lindsey is also the keyboard player and guitarist for experimental indie-pop act the Starlight Mints, but Broncho's sound is closer to the Fall embracing the punk rock that helped spawn it: The dispassionate yet intense vocals and disregard for conventional rhythms and song dynamics (unless they serve to propel the song forward at a near-reckless pace) would make Mark E. Smith proud. The music of Broncho is frayed and frantic in a way that more garage punk should be.
On "Got a Thing on My Mind," from 2002's Dap Dippin' With Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Sharon Jones wasn't lying when she sang, "Good things don't come easy/Lord knows that I've tried." Jones started singing early: She first made a go at a music career doing session work with funk bands in the early '70s before embarking on a long stretch as a corrections officer at Riker's Island. While she did some other vocal work in the mid-'90s, she didn't release an album under her own name until 2002; Dap Dippin' came out when she was 46 years old. Over the past decade, Jones's popularity has grown significantly, with her fiercely energetic live shows and recordings steeped in '60s and '70s funk, soul and R&B. Shortly before she was scheduled to release her most recent effort, Give the People What They Want, Jones was diagnosed with cancer. But after treatment and months of recovery, she's back and in fighting form.
Tosin Abasi first made his mark as the guitarist in technical-metal band Reflux. He so impressed the band's label, Prosthetic Records, with his proficiency and creativity that it offered to release a solo album. But Abasi decided he needed firmer grounding in music theory and formal training in his instrument. After graduating from the Atlanta Institute of Music, he formed Animals as Leaders, a name inspired by Daniel Quinn's 1992 novel, Ishmael. Musically, Abasi didn't cast too far afield from his roots, and his instrumental songwriting for Animals is well within the realm of progressive metal. The trio's third album, The Joy of Motion, is due out at the end of March.
Coming out of the Bay Area, Creative Adult has spent a couple of years releasing some of the best noisy punk rock in recent memory. Sonically not unlike acts such as No Age and The Men, Creative Adult often gets compared to My Bloody Valentine for its raw, urgent, surprisingly not effects-laden, expansive and atmospheric but grittily textured riffs. But it also shares that splintery earnestness and willingness to throw even punk rock convention out the window completely with the same glee and abandon one hears in the first decade or two of the the albums of The Fall. Its latest release is the aptly titled 2014 album Psychic Mess.
Founded in 2011, Oakland's Twin Steps traverses that same mysterious and treacherous-to-define musical territory occupied by artists like King Khan & The Shrines, Foxygen and Man Man. Its music is reminiscent of some kind or rock and soul act in the vein of The Make-Up, but it's not as dark and confrontational. In 2013 the group release its latest seven inch, Plague Songs. Blending samples with live music in a rock and roll context, Twin Steps is a band that clear sees no reason to avoid any method of music-making in crafting its winning tunes.
Since forming in Tulsa nearly two decades ago, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has changed its line-up nearly as many times as the band's chameleonic approach to music has changed over the course of 21 albums. While the act has delved in a multitude of styles, including rock, funk and electronica, there has always been a communal ear bent toward jazz, especially in the extended improvisations. 2011's Race Riot Suite, a long-form conceptual piece that tells the story of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, is an ambitious piece that's a bit more rooted in jazz than more recent efforts.
Guitarist Toby Driver was once in the experimental metal band Maudlin of the Well before that outfit split in 2003. Drive took what he learned in his old band to his next project, Kayo Dot. As a student of pioneering jazz-world music fusionist, Yusef Lateef, Driver's music has been informed by the informal, intricate structures of jazz and the ability to engage in spontaneous composition and improv. Kayo Dot's debut album was produced by John Zorn, no stranger to heave music in his own artistic career, and released on his respected Tzadik Records imprint. In recent years Kayo Dot has released its own records including 2013's Hubardo. Blurring the lines between prog, jazz, post-rock and noisy exploration, Kayo Dot isn't a lot like any other band -- a real accomplishment in the modern world of so many bands aspiring to recapture the sounds of another era.
Fedde Le Grand was in our "Ten best EDM songs of 2013" list thanks to the success of "Rockin and Rollin." Here's what we had to say about it: "This monster of a track comes straight from the Sensation phenomenon Fedde Le Grand. It's made for big rooms with big crowds getting loud as fuck, and the "rockin... n rollin" distorted vocal draws you in. Then, you have the gradual buildup up rolling keys into the crescendo: An anthem of epic proportions. The crashing drums two-thirds of the way through the song start the insanity over, and then, as predicted, the hard bass comes in and you lose your mind." So you can imagine what his show will be like when he takes over the decks at Beta.
Mr. Gnome tours more than most bands. The act's music is often thrown under the umbrella term "psychedelic." But clearly this Cleveland-based duo isn't really trying to sound like another psychedelic band. From the way Nicole Barille and Sam Meister present themselves in their press photos to the cover art of their albums to the songwriting and videos, one thing is clear: Barille and Meister have cultivated and run with a richness and depth of imagination that escapes many bands. Because the two came to their music through via the visual arts, a medium that provided an immediacy of experience, their whole presentation has an uncommon artistic totality and coherence.
Yelawolf's career -- since blowing up with Trunk Muzik, an outstandingly good mixtape, and signing to the illustrious Shady Records -- has unexpectedly slowed. However, the mixtape Trunk Muzik Returns shows that Yelawolf still has the capacity to make good music, and the short film "Growin' Up in the Gutter" (which is disturbingly graphic) shows that he still has plenty of artistic ammunition. Yelawolf is also due at the Aggie Theater on March 21 and Three20South on March 22.
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