The best concerts in Denver this week

The best concerts in Denver this week
Aaron Thackeray

TUES | WU YEAR'S EVE at CERVANTES | 12/31/13 More than just creating a free-associative style that would be emulated ceaselessly throughout the '90s and to this very day, the Wu-Tang Clan engineered an aesthetic and model for profitability with only a spiritual guide, the GZA, a mastermind producer, the RZA, and a crew of like-minded individuals whose whole was more than the sum of their parts. Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers is a landmark album that would help recapture the focus of the rap world from the wild West Coast and lead to an outburst of creativity in 1994 with Nas, Mobb Deep and Biggie, signaling an East Coast rebirth. Wu Year's Eve features Raekwon, Method Man and Ghostface Killah. The Foodchain is set to open.

See also: New Year's Eve 2013 guide: What to do on NYE

DECADENCE NYE at COLORADO CONVENTION CENTER | 12/30-12/31 Just to tease a few of the artists: Bassnectar, Beats Antique, Keys and Krates, Tiesto, Dada Life, Pretty Lights, Odesza, Above & Beyond, Paul Basic and 12th Planet. Need we say more? Decadence landed in Denver as a result of Triad Dragons' consistency in delivering the best dance music to Colorado, and each year, they step up the game just a little bit more. This year, Decadence has expanded to two days, and with the lineup that's in store, it could have easily spread it out over three.

TUES | UMPHREY'S MCGEE at FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | 12/31/13 These guys have steadily climbed up the jam-band ladder over the years, wowing crowds across the country and consistently packing Red Rocks. Lighting director Jefferson Waful is considered to be one the best lighting designers out there right now, and his work is definitely something that should be seen at least once. The musical changes on stage are quickly followed by stunning light cues. Umphrey's is also slated to ring in the New Year at the Fillmore on Tuesday, December 31.

TUES | STRING CHEESE INCIDENT at 1STBANK CENTER | 12/31/13 String Cheese Incident will be presenting its twentieth-anniversary celebration with various openers during its New Year's run at 1STBANK Center. The group has Bootsy Collins joining forces on Saturday, December 28, confetti rockers Flaming Lips on Sunday, December 29, and the Del McCoury Band on Tuesday, December 31 (Tiny Universe Horns featuring Karl Denson and Chris Littlefield are also due Saturday and Sunday). Past SCI New Year's shows have been real spectacles, so don't be surprised if the place is a circus, perhaps with aerialists and all. Mixing many genres from psychedelia, bluegrass, latin, jazz and more, the band attracts a colorful array of fans bearing light-up toys and butterfly wings. This one's sure to be a memorable run.


YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND at BOULDER THEATER | 12/30-12/31 Yonder Mountain String Band is a fast-paced string band that manages to blow your mind with its excellent technicality while toying with your emotions with heartfelt lyrics. Together the four guys work in musical harmony, with animated lead singer and mandolin player Jeff Austin always delighting the crowd. (The Flood Benefit show the band is hosting on Monday, December 30, is sold out, as is NYE.)

TUES | THE DWARVES at MOE'S BBQ | 12/31/13 Starting out in Chicago as the Suburban Nightmare, the Dwarves quickly ditched their early hardcore sound for something less narrow. The band subsequently cultivated a perverse sense of humor and a stage show worthy of GG Allin, and the members played out under such pseudonyms as HeWhoCannotBeNamed and Blag Dalia -- like mock serial-killer counterparts to the Misfits. Seemingly bent on offending everyone, the Dwarves were notorious for tasteless album art and a stunt in which they announced the death of HeWhoCannotBeNamed with a tribute to the "late" guitarist in the liner notes of 1993's Sugarfix, which caused their label to drop them. What's lost amid the scandalous on-stage behavior and pranks is the fact that the Dwarves are a potent live band to this day, performing some of the only legit punk rock left.

JELLO BIAFRA & GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE at SUMMIT | 12/31/13 Jello Biafra first came to the attention of the world as the charismatic, hyperkinetic and relentlessly intelligent frontman of the Dead Kennedys. Never one to mince words, Biafra became a lightning rod with his unapologetic critiques of the regressive swing of American culture in the '80s, as well as the effects of the country's imperialistic ambitions. In his latest band, Biafra is joined by Victims Family's Ralph Spight and Andrew Weiss (who played in the Rollins Band for years as well as Ween and Butthole Surfers). The group's latest album, White People and the Damage Done, may sound like a cross between power pop and fuzzed-out punk, but the title of the album and the irreverent, pointed lyrics are proof that Biafra hasn't lost his touch.


MON & TUES | SLIM CESSNA'S AUTO CLUB at ORIENTAL THEATER | 12/30-12/31 After nearly two decades of playing New Year's shows at the Bluebird Theater, Slim Cessna's Auto Club started moving its NYE shows to the Oriental Theater a few years ago. While the band puts on some incredible visceral shows, the Auto Club usually toss in a little something extra to ring in the New Year. A. Tom Collins opens both nights while Denver Broncos UK play on Monday and Munly & the Lupercalians play on New Year's Eve.

MON & TUES | THE SWORD at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 12/30-12/31 Formed nearly a decade ago in Austin, Texas, the Sword, with its sludgy guitar work and the fantastical themes of its lyrics, is often assigned the stoner rock designation, and understandably so. But while the band certainly bears the clear influence of bands like Black Sabbath, Sleep and Led Zeppelin, it has also developed into a solid hard rock band in its own right that merits consideration outside of some subgenre tag. On the outfit's latest record, Apocryphon, frontman J.D. Cronise displays a clever use of obscure language and a willingness to expose his personal experiences in the lyrics rather than relying on pure fiction.

MON & TUES | REVEREND HORTON HEAT at GOTHIC THEATRE | 12/30-12/31 One of the most successful psychobillys act of all time, the Rev. Horton Heat is always a favorite. Jim Heath's Dallas-based alter-ego trio has been cranking out turbocharged licks from his custom hollowbody Gretsch for more than a quarter-century, winning a following among the wallet-chain set that borders on maniacal. For this two-night NYE stint, Old Man Markley opens both nights; In the Whale also plays on Monday night and Reno Divorce, who have toured with Heat before, plays on NYE.


MON & TUES | BROTHER ALI at FOX THEATRE | 12/30-12/31 Brother Ali has a remarkable presence that is composed and venerable yet friendly and approachable. He's humble but still utterly confident and self-assured, which reflects in his powerfully uplifting lyrics. His delivery is almost like a pastor's sermon: fiery, impassioned and with a soulful voice that hangs on his most important words, but amazingly, he rarely sounds preachy or condescending. His passion for hip-hop is palpable: "The music is still alive," he says, "because it's making us alive." And that's really what Brother Ali seems to want -- to enliven people, to make them question themselves, but still allow them to love themselves, to perpetually push into spaces of uncertainty and grey area, because that's where life really occurs. The ReMINDers will open for Brother Ali, and the bill will perform again the next day at the Fox.

TUES | ITCHY-O at 3 KINGS TAVERN | 12/31/13 Like an Appalachian tent revival performing a Day of the Dead ceremony in the year 2500, Itchy-O's live performances have become infamous for a kind of digital spirituality, a bone-shaking sensory experience of complex instrumentation and feverish exigency. "We always plan a few surprises for all of our shows," says Itchy-O (the 32-piece band insists on being quoted collectively). "Itchy-O absolutely relishes in ceremony. Because most of the band plays down in and amid the audience, our performances feel more like an event than a show," the band continues. "These festival drummers take this already over-the-moon party and send it to Mars. Expect a spiritual experience...of the sweaty kind." Itchy-O will usher in 2014 with new material, more new custom-made instruments, and the release of an extra special new addition to the Itchy-O family. With Men in Burka, lauded as the sultans of intelligent dance music, and DJ Dr. Whom providing his unique audio-visual mash-ups throughout the night.

TUES | FLOBOTS at MARQUIS THEATER | 12/31/13 Half a decade after releasing the platinum single "Handlebars," which made rounds on radios across the country, Flobots have grown significantly, both as a musical group and as a philanthropic force within the Denver community. Since parting ways with Universal Records after the lukewarm reception of the act's second major release, Survival Story, the group has released Circle In the Square, a fresh start from a familiar position -- as underdogs -- a position that they're probably more comfortable with anyway.


FRI | SLEEP at GOTHIC THEATRE | 1/3/14 Stoner rock and doom metal gained mainstream popularity over the past decade thanks to acts like Queens of the Stone Age and High on Fire, whose reach expanded beyond metal fans. Before playing in the latter band, guitarist Matt Pike had been a pioneer of modern sludge metal with Sleep, an outfit that got its start as Asbestosdeath in San Jose, California, in 1990. With Al Cisneros, Chris Hakius and Tom Choi, Pike wrote five now-classic Sleep albums, including 1993's towering Holy Mountain and the belatedly released 2003 masterpiece Dopesmoker. The group split in 1998, after which Pike started High on Fire and Cisneros went on to form the more ex-perimental Om with Hakius. Sleep re-formed in 2009, and, to the delight of metalheads everywhere, has lost none of its legendary power.

FRI | THE BLACKOUT PACT REUNION at 3KINGS TAVERN | 1/3/14 The Blackout Pact's demise was a highly scrutinized one. A fellow touring band's laptop went missing, and a quick search found it nestled among the Pact's personal possessions. Blame was placed, and the band fell apart. More than two years after that fateful day in Las Vegas, the Pact returned with 2009's Wolves in the Lazarette. The music there was exceptionally good, with guitars playfully finger-tapping around an upbeat, punk-rock foundation as vocalists Mike Herrera and Cory Trendler barked lines about trying to find salvation at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey.

FRI | ILL.GATES at BETA | 1/3/14 With more than two decades in the electronic-music scene under his belt, ill.Gates is now helping to inspire a wave of new-school producers via his ill.Methodology online courses and the events he hosts, which cater to those interested in stepping up their game with Ableton Live. The producer, who hails from Toronto, has made his name with live shows that are less of a concert and more of a showcase of production possibilities. Stylistically, ill.Gates takes listeners on a ride through scores of moom-bah-infused dancehall tracks, dubstep bangers that hit deep in the subs, and beats that will leave you wanting to add every one of his tracks to your collection.

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