The 9 best concerts in Denver this weekend
Lorde and Robin Thicke are playing the Fillmore this weekend. Oh! Not together. No, it's a Saturday/Sunday situation. But do you know who would make one exceedingly odd twerking couple? Those two.
Elsewhere, the great Tower of Power hits our neighbor to the south, D.R.I. will be yelling at Englewood and people will play dance music while other people dance to it. It is, as always, a wonderful weekend to live in Denver.
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.
A merger of EDM and hip-hop was inevitable, and K Theory has bridged the two quite well with dance heavy tracks that feature fluid lyricism. Malcolm Anthony, the vocalist of the San Francisco-based trio, serves up a smooth lyrical flow, as opposed to the status quo of most modern dance music which simply relies on catchy hooks. The act injects a Bay Area hyphy sound into its music, offering a welcome addition to this convergence of styles, bringing rattling high hats, deep bass drops and crisp rhyming to the dance world. Dylan Lewman and Dustin Musser fulfill the EDM side of the equation with song structures that leave room for crowd-commanding vocals, while also providing just the right amount of instrumental flair to keep the dance party's momentum going. (With Krooked Drivers and Marvel Years).
Mark Farina plays mushroom jazz, and that's just the way it is. Seamlessly fusing funk, soul, jazz, and hip-hop into a fluid soundtrack, Farina has grown into a household name at Bar Standard where he regularly plays sets in what could be called his home away from home. Denver Disco prides itself on bringing nu-disco to the masses, but when Mark Farina gets behind the decks. disco-goes-rogue and turns into a nostalgic funk fest where nothing is safe from the remixing skills of one of the best in the game.
Shon and Cherie Cobbs originally hail from Minneapolis, but they started their Plume Varia project in Denver in 2013. You can practically hear the gentle fall of snow and see the drift at the tail end of a mid-winter storm in the melancholic and melodic music on the duo's debut EP, Prize Enable. It has the same chilling-yet-stirring, darkly hypnotic quality that made Chelsea Wolfe's Pain Is Beauty, also released last year, so striking. A sense of movement characterizes Plume Varia's compositions, but the pace is still deliciously languid, recalling down-tempo bands like Portishead and nightmarish dream-pop acts like Cranes. The Cobbs developed their sound beyond the promise of that debut EP by playing the underground circuit in Denver, but Plume Varia won't stay obscure for long. You can hear them at the Sidewinder Tavern on Friday, March 21.
Just as San Francisco's late-'60s psychedelic scene was winding down, legendary concert promoter Bill Graham helped raise the Bay Area's collective consciousness by bringing in artists such as Miles Davis, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and B.B. King. By the time Oakland's Tower of Power hit the scene in the early '70s, people were ready for its horn-driven brand of soul and funk. Over the last four decades, the act has released nearly twenty recordings, including 2009's homage to classic soul, The Great American Soulbook.
Everyone knows Cheech and Chong for their groundbreaking comedy from the '70s. And, yes, much of their humor revolved around cannabis, and, yes, this tour is coming through Colorado just as marijuana has been legalized for recreational use. So a bill with War, a band whose music appeared in the duo's Up in Smoke, is just about perfect for obvious reasons. But there are other reasons to con-sider this show. Tommy Chong was once in a band called Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers; the Jackson 5 opened for them in the mid-'60s. And Cheech Marin auditioned for the Mothers of Invention before moving to Vancouver and meeting Chong. Both comedians are skilled musicians, with a collective catalogue that includes such classics as "Earache My Eye" and "Basketball Jones." So while this show will be a funny one, it's also sure to be no joke.
Dirty Rotten Imbeciles started out as a speedy hardcore band in Houston in the early '80s. The band was renowned for its short songs, its leftist politics and the frenzied passion of its playing. D.R.I.'s appropriately-titled, landmark 1987 album, Crossover, lived up to its name by introducing a sound that fully integrated breakneck hardcore rhythms with a thrashy guitar attack, which the group had been developing all along. Marketed in the late '80s to both metalheads and hardcore fans, D.R.I. seemed to find an easy audience in anyone who loved aggressive music with anti-authoritarian lyrics. During the course of four more albums, up to 1995's Full Speed Ahead, D.R.I. mastered a sound that can be heard in virtually all metal and punk hybrid groups today. The outfit, which still hasn't put out its rumored eighth album, remains a potent live act.
House music can usually be identified by region, whether it's the sassy, soulful Chicago house sound that was so prevalent in the mid-'90s or the slightly slower, smoother tunes produced in San Francisco in the early '00s. Lately, the scene revolving around underground warehouse parties in the United Kingdom has produced some of the most interesting, playful house you'll ever hear. Huxley has emerged from that crowded field as perhaps its singular talent. No easy feat, that -- but Huxley has done it, releasing tracks on an en-viable roster of labels (including Fear of Flying and 20:20 Vision) and establishing himself as a master of bass-heavy melodic music. His style is fast-paced and eclectic; he pulls samples from a variety of sources and blends them together beautifully, creating a quixotic patchwork sound that hangs together like it was made to be played that way.
Ella Yelich-O'Connor, better known as Lorde, has experienced both the benefits and the pitfalls of a rapid rise to stardom in the Internet age. Her first single, "Royals," got the controversy machine humming, with arguments rolling around the song's possible racist themes. It was a thin accusation, and the seventeen-year-old rode out the sensational storm with grace, ultimately walking away with Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Solo Performance. Sometimes web chatter is just, well, web chatter. Lorde's minimal accompaniment and subtle vocal sass show that her true distinction lies in her ability to be the minimalist's answer to her glammed-up peers, ditching the choreography and costuming of pop life for less superficial teenage rebellion. And while her lyrics might reject the materialist culture she swims in, she triggered online outrage anew when she was photographed shopping with Taylor Swift. Lorde is a star who is nonetheless just like us, in her case doing her best to navigate and understand the weird world of Hollywood life and the connected music industry.
Before playing Jackie to Timberlake's Marilyn -- or Dante to Jon B's Virgil -- and before being the grist to Miley's millstone, he was just Thicke, an ambitious song-peddler earnestly hawking Jamiroquai-esque long-haired, blue-eyed soul over Beethoven beats and doing gratuitous Sprite ads at Andre Harrell's behest. A decade later, Robin Thicke has mastered the art of making slick, sophisticated r&b pop more than anyone since Hall & Oates, freeing him from the promotional whims of label execs. He's his own man now, even though like most contemporary r&b artists, he's never really freed himself from the innovations of his musical inspirations. But that's no huge bother for us, because whether Marvin Gaye is rolling in his grave or dancing in it, songs like "Blurred Lines" keep our bodies moving during these turbulent times.
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