The 10 best punk and DIY shows in Denver this March
Sat | Propagandhi at Summit Music Hall | 3/8/14 In an era where many punk bands form and release their first album less than a year after starting, Propagandhi's development seems remarkably long. Formed in 1986, playing its first live shows in 1989, the band released its early demos a years after that and its first full-length, the now classic How To Clean Everything in 1993 on Fat Wreck Chords. Propagandhi spent all that time honing its irreverent humor and songwriting skills, and became the sort of cult band with a widespread underground popularity. It's pointedly political but always with a sense of humor and humanity and ultra catchy songs to carry the message. While in later years Propagandhi took on a more metallic edge in its guitar sounds and sonic quality, it has never lost its gift for writing songs that are fun but which also challenge conventional thinking.
Guantanamo Baywatch @ Rhinceropolis | Saturday, 3/8/14
Portland, Oregon's Guantanamo Baywatch formed in early 2009 and mulched the aesthetics of early surf rock with punk and the early psychobilly of artists like Hasil Adkins and The Cramps in threading together its core sound. The result is music that sounds like it could be from the '60s but is just ineffably weirder than most of that stuff. Stylistically, this group's music has more in common with modern outfits like Shannon & The Clams and Hunx & His Punx than with something from fifty years ago.
American Culture @ Rhinoceropolis | Saturday, 3/15/14
Chris Adolf made a name for himself in his home town of Grand Junction for his diverse musical skills and his heartfelt, unabashedly earnest songwriting. Whether as a member of his long-running indie pop group Love Letter Band or the more noisy V-Tech Orchid, Adolf made an impression on people as someone who was doing it for real and not as a ploy for popularity. When he established the DIY venue The Pop-Up House, Grand Junction became an unlikely stopping place for touring bands on the underground circuit of the early 21st century. When Adolf moved to Denver he started performing solo as Bad Weather California and commanded rooms full of people with just his emotionally-charged vocals and an acoustic guitar. That project evolved over time into a full band that became one of the most beloved acts in the Denver underground before calling it quits in the summer of 2013. Immediately following the demise of BWC, Adolf and most of the then members of the band formed American Culture, which has released a couple of tapes of American New Wave-esque rock. This work is some of Adolf's finest songwriting to date.
Formed in 1995, The Ataris from Anderson, Indiana started off as kind of a bedroom recording project. In 1996, the band got a demo to one of the members of The Vandals, who contacted singer/guitarist Kristopher Roe about putting out an album on Kung Fu Records. The resultant release, 1997's Anywhere but Here was fairly standard, if decent, pop punk fare. Roe moved to California and put together an actual band. He wrote and recorded the follow-up EP, 1998's Look Forward to Failure, which included one of the group's most popular songs, "San Dimas High School Football Rules." The Ataris entered more into the musical mainstream with the release of its 2003 album, So Long, Astoria and after some more years being inactive than active of late, the band's current tour features a performance of that album in its entirety.
Creative Adult @ Larimer Lounge | Tuesday, 3/18/14
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.
Twin Steps @ Rhinoceropolis | Tuesday, 3/18/14
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.
Kayo Dot @ Rhinoceropolis | Wednesday, 3/19/14
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.
Against Me! started off as the solo project of singer/guitarist Laura Jane Grace. At that time, Grace was known as Tom Gabel but she underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2012 to address a lifelong gender dysphoria. While that garnered the band and Grace some headlines it is Grace's music that stands on its own as a populist rallying cry to people getting by in 21st century America and finding its leaders and political and economic system lacking in terms of addressing the needs of the great majority of its citizens. Whether the songs are the raw, melodic punk rock or the more countrified variety, Against Me!'s songs always seem to strike a chord. Its latest album, the clearly personally topically titled Transgender Dysphoria Blues released in 2014 reconciles Grace's various songwriting styles while commenting thoughtfully and poignantly on issues very close to home.
Eight Bucks Experiment began in 1995 and paved a trail of heavy touring on a national and local level. Its music superficially was that sort of melodic hardcore that was taking shape in the mid-90s across America. But if you went to an Eight Bucks show in the late 90s or early 2000s, when it was more active, it was like witnessing the kind of punk rock experience that doesn't happen often enough with a band that was so visceral and hard hitting with songs that veered decidedly off the standard punk sound well into the realm of experimental rock but much more confrontational than most of that sort of thing. Eight Bucks reached a wider national audience through its appearance in the film SLC Punk, but its excellent records and unforgettable live shows are recommendations enough to catch the band often.
Japanther @ Moe's Original Barbecue | Thursday, 3/27/14
Matt Reilly and Ian Vanek formed Japanther in 2001 as a project that combined music and visual art with performance art. Known for several high profile examples of the latter, Japanther's own music can be seen as a very sonically diverse punk thing but even its songs are imbued with notions of their composition and impact on those who come to the shows. And yet, Japanther never seems to come across as pretentious or overthinking their art -- it is all clearly an attempt to make creative work across disciplines and have some fun with it so that those that choose to be a part of those events have some fun themselves. Its latest record is 2013's Eat Like Lisa Act Like Bart.
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