The 14 best concerts in Denver this week: June 9 to June 12
Jessica Lea Mayfield plays the hi-dive on Thursday, May 12
It's the kind of week where we've got fourteen recommendations below and we'll be spending this introduction talking about the ones we had to leave off: Tech N9ne is in town again/still in town, playing in Colorado Springs. Greater Than Collective's Social Club at Lannie's Clocktower has its June installment tomorrow. And we'll tell you more about hair metal experts Detroit Cobras below, but make damn sure you get to that show early on Tuesday for human firework Pujol.
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities: Monday, June 9
Jamie Cullum tickles the ivories with Jerry Lee Lewis pyrotechnics and a jazz-pop aesthetic equally influenced by Thelonious Monk and Cole Porter. The latter's salacious subtext reverberates on a synth-heavy cover of "Love for Sale," featuring British rapper Roots Manuva on the fresh-faced crooner's latest release, Momentum, a streamlined mix of springy originals that favor radio-friendly pop over jazz standard fare. Cullum exercises subtle restraint on "Pure Imagination," channeling the impish chicanery of Willy Wonka with a saturnine Britpop edge, but otherwise, the analogue dream of the '90s is alive and well; Cullum employed second-hand keyboards and cassette recorders for a vintage bubblegum backdrop
Ogden Theatre: Monday, June 9
Even though Meshuggah stabbed its way into American metalheads hearts when Jack Osbourne blasted the act's music at full volume to annoy neighbors on The Osbournes, Meshuggah has been blowing minds for over a quarter-century with its technically innovative style. With ear-splitting aggression, Meshuggah has admirably pushed the boundaries of extreme metal beyond the comprehension of everyday Joes and into doctorate level ear-drum exploding.
Gothic Theatre: Monday, June 9
When evaluating an artist like Sage Francis, the question inevitably arises: Should a musician be cherished for the values they hold and their loyalty to said values or their ability to make enjoyable and listenable music? If it's the former, then Sage Francis is a top-tier MC. His political appetite is insatiable, and you get the feeling that his lyrical crusade will not stop until he finds the change he seeks or his hand can no longer grip the microphone. If it's the latter, on the other hand, then Sage Francis is only okay. He's almost more of a spoken word poet than a true rapper, and he has a firm command of the words he uses, though the energy of his songs occasionally escapes him.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre: Tuesday, June 10
Everyone loves the summer celebration that is Film on the Rocks, and here's why: It's got comedy, local bands, cult-favorite movies and a party atmosphere, all under the stars at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the most beautiful outdoor venue in the world. This year's new host, Sam Tallent, will keep spirits high with comedic banter tonight for FOTR's fifteenth-anniversary screening of Fight Club (which acknowledges the milestone for both the Red Rocks series and the action-packed Brad Pitt vehicle); before the movie, Flashbulb Fires and FaceMan will rev up the audience with tunes.
"It is not summer in Colorado without Film on the Rocks," notes Denver Film Society festival programmer Britta Erickson. Damn right.
Larimer Lounge: Tuesday, June 10
The saving grace of any good cover band is to not go for the all-too-obvious hit. Credit Motor City's turbo-sleaze outfit the Detroit Cobras for limiting their self-penned material with the full understanding that they'll never write songs as soulful or enduring as the ones by Otis Redding, Bobby Womack or Marvin Gaye. Credit them further for resurrecting vintage R&B obscurities from the likes of Clyde McPhatter, Mary Wells, Solomon Burke and the Marvelettes, then customizing them into souped-up, garage-fueled versions that even a knucklehead like Ted Nugent could appreciate. In their umpteenth incarnation, the Cobras still showcase the husky vocals and bluesy growl of former exotic dancer Rachel Nagy, a feral, chain-smoking bad girl whose solid foundation in Motown and dragster rawk makes for inspired spectacles steeped in sweat and raunch. Updating the Stax-infused sounds of yesteryear for today's bar-hugging gearhead, this White Stripes-approved five-piece might not be the freshest thing to come off the assembly line. But as retro-soul cover bands go, it's one of the most electrifying.
Bluebird Theater: Tuesday, June 10
Yann Tiersen gained international prominence with the charming soundtrack to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 2001 film Amélie, which featured accordion- and piano-centric songs from his first three albums as well as music commissioned for the film. But long before that, the French multi-instrumentalist steeped himself in punk and post-punk. You can't hear those influences directly in the engaging and sometimes minimalistic film scores he's composed in recent years, but they lend an unexpected undercurrent to the music. Tiersen has also been quite prolific on his own, releasing stand-alone albums that are often just as cinematic as his film work. His brand new disc, ∞, the followup to 2011's Skyline, was, for the most part, inspired by the landscapes of his new home, Iceland, and there are some gorgeous and sprawling songs on the disc.
Leon: Wednesday, June 11
When Rachael Pollard started performing in Denver after moving here from Tulsa in the '90s, she played only sparingly, mostly at underground and DIY venues. Her intensely vulnerable stage presence gave power to the emotional delicacy of her songs. Since then, Pollard has made occasional appearances and released some new music. She's also developed a mysterious yet innocent performance style that fuses the intimacy of her early shows with a friendly but absurdist sense of humor. There has always been a quiet magnetism about Pollard that gives her shows the air of catching up with an old friend. Catch a bit of her otherworldly folk on Wednesday, June 11, at Leon Art Gallery.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre: Wednesday, June 11
Forever young, and redolent of a dreamy, low-risk idea of pop maturity, the decades between his prime stardom and the present have been kind to Lionel Richie: Like contemporaries Prince and Bruce Springsteen, the man has never quite been a punchline. And while it's true that the average stranger on the street is more likely to erupt with "Dancing On The Ceiling" or "All Night Long" than, say, "I'm In Love," Richie's voice still carries a distinctive warmth. Admit it: If a pal randomly gifted you with Lionel Richie tickets, you'd be all over it, even if you didn't brag about it on Twitter.
Gothic Theatre: Thursday, June 12
When the Faint released Danse Macabre in 2001, it seemed like a nostalgic look back at the intersection of '80s new wave and post-punk. Now, after the waves of dance punk, electroclash and synth pop that followed in its wake over the past decade, the record seems positively prophetic. It doesn't hurt that the tunes themselves have held up remarkably well -- most of them, anyway. Perhaps that's why the band is reissuing the album in a deluxe edition and heading out to play it in its entirety for the first time ever. If you're not burnt out on the whole retro synths and drum machine beats topped with squalling post-punk guitar noise thing -- and you shouldn't be, as it's stuck around long enough to prove itself as a classic formula at this point -- this is a chance to catch one of the second-wave pioneers of the movement re-creating its finest moment live and on stage.
hi-dive: Thursday, June 12
Jessica Lea Mayfield has risen through the songwriting ranks with one foot in the old and the other in the new. She got her start touring with her family bluegrass band, but after a stroke of luck, she was suddenly pushed into the spotlight with high-profile tours accompanying the likes of Black Keys, Ray LaMontagne, Lucero and Jay Farrar. But success hasn't seemed to make her too happy: Her songs are still dark, brooding little things you'd expect more from a cranky old woman, not a 24-year-old. Listening to her, you might think she was an old country or folk performer, as her drawl comes across as something you'd be more likely to hear in the '70s than today. Still, she doesn't always play the jaded, lovesick adult, and 2011's Tell Me experiments more with rock and pop than her debut.
Club Vinyl: Thursday, June 12
Okay, here's a quick and dirty history of trap music, courtesy of our sister paper, LA Weekly. The music started as a subgenre of hip-hop, named after the slang term "trap," a place where one would go to buy drugs. Atlanta rappers seemed to pioneer what would become called "trap" -- guys like Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy. As the trap sound became popular in hip-hop, electronic music producers began appropriating the sounds into their songs, increasing the mainstream exposure of the music. In that context, meet Keys N Krates, the world's first "trap band." The Toronto trio formed in 2008 and features a drummer, a synth player, and a DJ, all coming together to produce sounds that seem to have no business coming from an instrumental trio. The band somewhat reluctantly accepts the "trap band" label, saying its influences range from house music to mainstream hip-hop, but the results are aggressive and make for a surprisingly engaging listen. Plus, how can you not be intrigued by a band who makes a music video playing their songs to skeptical Mennonites?
Fox Theatre: Thursday, June 12
Before neotraditionalism, before smooth jazz, way before the birth of the cool was a gleam in Miles Davis's appraising eye, hell, even before Louis Armstrong hefted his first trumpet, there were bands like the Rebirth Brass Band in the city of New Orleans. Their raucous horns and slamming bass lines hark back to the time when jazz was for dancers alone, and any observer who would appreciate the stuff as some form of high art would be laughed at by even its practitioners.
Chautauqua Auditorium: Thursday, June 12
The idea of artists overcoming adversity is a modern theme du jour, with dreary storylines custom-made for television documentaries. Yet it's hard to imagine any comeback more unlikely than the one achieved by Steve Earle. After busting out of the stale Nashville of the late '80s with ballsy, rocking albums like Guitar Town and Copperhead Road, Earle served time for heroin possession. When he emerged from captivity, his face was more etched with experience, but he was also clean and sober. On 1995's Train A-Coming, he expelled the sour air of prison life like poison gas, offering a blend of blues, country and rock that was more finely honed than his earlier work.
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