The best concerts in Denver this week
When Murder by Death first formed in Bloomington, Indiana, nearly fifteen years ago under the name Little Joe Gould, the outfit was somewhat of an anomaly, as the whole chamber-pop phenomenon hadn't happened yet -- and wouldn't for another five years. But the act, as would later become evident, wasn't afraid of swimming upstream. In the ensuing years, Murder by Death often bridged the gap between punk and indie rock, essentially building its name playing the same underground-music circuit as hardcore bands. It didn't really matter if the group's sound fit that milieu or not; the members of Murder by Death had no problem winning folks over with their spirited live shows. In a stroke of inspired booking, Murder by Death is performing three shows at the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's The Shining.
John Doe started the band X in 1977 with Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake and wrote some of the most vivid portraits of American life penned in the annals of punk rock. Combining country and punk, X couldn't be said to be in the traditional punk mold while also being directly influenced by The Ramones. As a solo artist, John Doe has written music in a more singer-songwriter vein but with the same ability to highlight the poetic aspects of the dark edges of culture and a hopeful romanticism that doesn't wax into the naïve or melodramatic. In 2011, he wrote an excellent collaborative album with former Colorado-based singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, A Day At The Pass, as well as his latest record, Keeper.
Roots Americana newgrass sextet Railroad Earth from Stillwater, New Jersey, continues touring heavily and building a strong fan base here, this time taking over the Fillmore for a night of acoustic genre blending; jazz, rock, bluegrass and even Celtic music all come into play in the group's sound. The live shows are full of improvisation and instrumental prowess, and openers Head for the Hills from Fort Collins holds its own with upbeat, fast-paced bluegrass originals and covers like Talking Head's "Life During Wartime."
Phil Anselmo, of course, is best known as the frontman of Pantera. But since the untimely split of that influential late-era thrash band, Anselmo has had his hand in various heavy projects, including Superjoint Ritual and his longstanding side project, Down, in which he plied his gruff, powerful vocals. Last year, Anselmo released a solo album, Walk Through Exits Only, as well as a split EP with Warbeast called War of the Gargantuas. On both of those efforts, done in what some might consider an extreme-metal vein, Anselmo sounded like an especially menacing hardcore vocalist. Not really fitting into any standard metal or punk context, he's now making fiercely compelling material with his current band, the Illegals.
After releasing his prodigious self-titled debut at age sixteen, Earl Sweatshirt was exiled to a Samoan disciplinary program by his mother during the most exciting years of Odd Future's meteoric rise, depriving the act's rabid fans of his music. As a result, Sweatshirt's Doris was easily one of the most hyped rap albums this year. Because of his incredibly deep voice, occasionally repetitive flow and moodiness, Earl can come across as monotonous, but he is an incredibly gifted poet who has the ability to infuse his words with darkness and mystique while baring his soul with a refreshing honesty.
Largely due to his sheer perseverance and business acumen, Nipsey Hussle (born Ermias Asghedom) has rejuvenated his existence as a rapper. Jay Z's buying his albums in bulk and fans are rushing to shell out a hundred dollars to get copies as well. The rapper's devoted fanbase, who have staunchly stuck with the young emcee throughout his entire career, have ensured his hundred-dollar-a-copy release Crenshaw sold out a pop-up shop in LA last year. The overall concept behind the "$100 dollar album," referred to by Hussle and his team as the "Proud2Pay" campaign, originally stemmed from a section in the book Contagious, where business owner Stephen Starr successfully began selling and marketing a $100 cheesesteak at his restaurant Barclay Prime. One of Nipsey's business partners and mentors, known as "Big Bob," handed him the book during the completion of Crenshaw, and the idea behind the business of selling a hundred dollar cheesesteak almost instantly struck a chord with him.
Finding success in signing with Skrillex's OWSLA record label, Kill the Noise has grown into one of the heaviest producers currently touring. Jake Stanczak, the brains behind the operation, has been developing Kill the Noise's sound for years. His powerhouse club bangers melt with melodic pianos and tease the fringes of metal anthems. This burgeoning genre -- this lovely-meets-heavy blend -- blasts from the speakers, leaving you in a state of seizing bliss. Catch Stanczak at Beta, with Fury and MC Dozha. In the Beatport Lounge, Josh Manke and Sergei Loginov host underground techno love.
Over the last five decades, the virtuosic pianist Chick Corea has delved into quite a few variations of jazz, as well as classical, and on his latest effort, The Vigil, he's reinvented himself again. His new band, also called the Vigil, is an evolving collective that included saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist Tim Garland, guitarist Charles Altura, bassist Hadrien Feraud, drummer Marcus Gilmore, percussionist Pernell Saturnino and Corea's wife, vocalist Gayle Moran Corea on the album. Banjo wizard Bela Fleck first teamed up with Corea on 2007's Grammy Award-winning The Enchantment, and now the two are touring again for the first time since 2008. (Chick Corea and Bela Fleck are also due at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins on Wednesday, January 15, and at the Macky Auditorium on Friday, January 17.)
Patrick Urn spends a good deal of his day providing sound to various corporate functions and other professional environments. But his passion is experimental electronic music, and as a member of industrial band In Ether, he helped to create imaginative, dark soundscapes. Since the dissolution of that band, Urn hasn't stopped making music. Herpes Hideaway is his ambient project, and Syphilis Sauna is where Urn sculpts massive breakcore compositions that provide a distinct outlet for any angst he may accumulate in his other line of work. Urn recently released the latest Syphilis Sauna tape, a reminder that even the veterans of the underground experimental scene can surprise us by challenging themselves.
Elk Grove, California's the Speed of Sound in Seawater formed in 2009. The outfit's delicate, math-rock sensibilities are reminiscent of early Deathcab For Cutie, except that the sonic details seem even more finely textured and playing even more precise. But the vibe, the sense of melancholic reflection and the sheltering of tender emotions from the depredations of vulgarians, has a sound like snowbound winter mornings spend in isolation, shearing away all the inessential pieces of song to create pristine compositions, while maintaining an honest clarity of emotion. Although clearly the product of musical ability, this band's songs convey a compelling simplicity.
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