The best concerts in Denver this week
Manowar is powered by lyrics crowned in fantasy-flamed swords, armor, and everything having to do with metal warfare clashing into Norse mythology. Eric Adams's powerful vocals are steeped in wordy wizardry that really drives home the aggressive themes. "Man o' War" was a heavy firepower warship used from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, and just like the warship, Manowar is bringing its own massive armory to the Mile High City to explode eardrums.
Since the band's inception in 2003, the music produced by Philadelphia-based foursome Man Man has defied easy categorization; if anything, it suggests that the bandmembers have listened to a whole lot of Captain Beefheart. The act's album titles, often seemingly surrealistic, make interesting and creative cultural references. The title of Man Man's 2004 debut, The Man in a Blue Turban with a Face, for instance, is a nod to Nostradamus's description of the modern-day Antichrist, while 2006's Six Demon Bag is an allusion to the film Big Trouble In Little China and its focus on Chinese mythology. (Man Man is also due at the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, February 18.)
Superhumanoids formed in Los Angeles in 2009 when friends and multi-instrumentalists Cameron Parkins, Sarah Chernoff and Max St. John convened based partly on a mutual interest in R&B and '80s pop music. Though much has been made of the group's connection to the first wave of synth pop, the music the group actually makes synthesizes that era's footing in R&B and soul, with modern production sensibilities and techniques that one more often associates with hip-hop. Within a year of forming, the trio released its debut EP, Urgency, with the Parasite Paradise EP following in 2011. The outfit then spent some time honing its sound in developing the material for 2013's Exhibitionists. Though possessing the gentle, shimmering dreamlike quality of yesteryear's electronic pop music, Superhumanoids' sound has the energy and urgency of present tense.
Blues lead man JJ Grey headlines an all-star gathering at the Fillmore, and it's sure to be a bluesy, rocking showdown. With a Southern-tinged flavor that adds extra authenticity, Grey commands attention with his big voice, singing songs about cheating hearts and the usual blues fare. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers bring their own brand of soul-filled blues to the stage, and looping singer-songwriter Keller Williams rounds out the bill.
Los Angeles post-rock duo El Ten Eleven isn't your run-of-the-mill indie-rock two-piece. For starters, their live sound isn't stripped down like fellow duos Matt & Kim or the White Stripes, and they don't have to rely on drum machines or pre-recorded backing tracks to faithfully reproduce their recordings, like the Kills and Sleigh Bells. Instead, guitarist/bassist Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty rely on an array of effects pedals and a looping machine to create intricate atmospheric works that actually do sound as big live as they do on record. What's more, El Ten Eleven's danceable melodies pack enough of a punch so that audiences forget they're watching a dreaded instrumental band.
Leo Kottke is a legendary and beloved master of finger picking guitar and a gifted raconteur. He got his start with John Fahey's Takoma Records in the late '60s, and he's been releasing noteworthy albums of some of the most inventive and interesting acoustic music ever recorded. Whether playing intricate folk leads or jazz inflected blues, Kottke is ever the master craftsman with a creative imagination to match. Kottke has overcome physically debilitating damage to his hearing and his tendons that nearly ended his career by switching up his playing style, and he continues strong to this day. A longtime regular guest on A Prairie Home Companion, Kottke, a resident of the Twin Cities, was also awarded an honorary PhD in Music Performance from the University of Wisconsin in 2008.
After first emerging in 2008 and releasing a pair of mixtapes, Dom Kennedy made major waves in the rap scene with his acclaimed mixtape from 2010, From the Westside with Love. In addition to earning high praise from hip-hop's elite, Westside garnered Kennedy a massive online following that he's continuing to cultivate with steady touring.
Dorner vs. Tookie serves as a sampler of LA-based underground hip-hop label Hellfyre Club's heavyweight roster. A group of MCs who nonetheless possess an anti-crew mentality, Nocando, Open Mike Eagle, Busdriver, and others deliver rhymes featuring both brains and brawn, over eccentric and electronic-leaning beats. Political, self-aware and comedic.
John Dadzie, the orbital center of Los Angeles' dubstep galaxy known as SMOG, is the mastermind behind 12th Planet. Transitioning from drum-and-bass to dubstep seems to be a natural course for producers in the past few years, and Dadzie has been at the forefront of that movement's progression.
It was evident early on in his life that New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton had some tremendous trumpet chops. After a stint with legendary drummer Elvin Jones, Payton inked a deal with Verve when he was twenty years old, and he went on to release seven discs for the imprint, as well some other albums on other labels. While the trumpeter is clearly at home in the jazz idiom, he's spent the last decade digging into electric jazz-funk sounds of the '60s and '70s, which is evidenced with his XXX trio that includes drummer Joe Dyson and bassist Vicente Archer. Payton also sings and plays the Fender Rhodes and sometimes plays trumpet and keys simultaneously, as well.
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