The best concerts in Denver this weekend
SAT & SUN | RIOT FEST at MAY FARMS, BYERS | 9/21-9/22 When your band can be said to be a direct and obvious influence on the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and countless punk bands since, it's fair to say you've made an impact on punk rock. But the Stooges didn't look too far into the future in making its music, it just articulated an unaffected desperation and intensity of emotion born of incredible sensitivity. But this isn't the only band playing this festival, which is brimming with some of the greatest punk bands from the '60s onward, including the Replacements, Naked Raygun, Flag, Rocket From the Crypt, Against Me! and Bad Religion. Riot Fest isn't one of those tours that travels to every major music market in the country, so we're pretty fortunate to be having such a density of great bands in one place at one time.
See also: Riot Fest Denver full schedule
THURS-SUN | FURTHUR at RED ROCKS | 9/19-9/21 The circus comes to town this week as a pair of Grateful Dead greats, guitarist Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh, who take the stage for four nights at Red Rocks with their consistently touring band, Furthur. Named after the wildly painted bus that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters drove around the country in the '60s, Furthur covers mostly Grateful Dead tunes, interspersed with Weir and Lesh originals and occasional covers such as Ryan Adams's "Let It Ride." The outfit puts its own soulful, slowed-down spin on things but maintains the loose spirit and improvisational style that Weir and Lesh cultivated for decades with the Dead. With an extremely talented backing band, which includes lead guitarist John Kadlecik channeling Jerry Garcia with confidence and heart, Furthur continues to mix up its set lists and keep things interesting, offering plenty of pleasant surprises along the way.
FRI | THE WEEKND at 1STBANK CENTER | 9/20/13 In 2010, Abel Tesfaye, a Canadian songwriter who makes music under the name the Weeknd, met producer Jeremy Rose and recorded a handful of tracks. Later that year, Tesfaye uploaded the tunes to YouTube and ended up attracting a famous champion in Drake, a fellow musician from the Great White North. In 2012, exactly three mixtapes and a guest spot at Drake's second annual OVO Fest later, the Weeknd played Coachella and various other festivals around the world. "Wicked Games," the Weeknd's most well-known track, is a kind of downtempo R&B song that, while overtly (and perhaps crassly) sexual in theme, suggests that Tesfaye may be having one over on the kind of listener that takes things at face value. If so, the Weeknd's output is essentially an artistic cousin to Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine's darkly evocative film.
SAT | LUKE BRYAN at FIDDLER'S GREEN | 9/21/13 Luke Bryan is the kind of earnest everyman upon which modern country's fortunes are currently resting. With a toothy grin and an impeccably manscaped five o'clock shadow, clad in a denim button-up over a v-neck T-shirt and pre-stressed designer jeans, Bryan puts forth a seamlessly crafted image. Rather than coming across as an authentically rugged guy who spends all day toiling, getting dirt underneath his nails, Bryan seems more like a guy capturing, reflecting and romanticizing the struggles, regrets and conquests of that other guy. Nonetheless, his songs seem to resonate, and the mere mention of his name makes countless ladies swoon. The country heartthrob got his start writing songs for guys like Travis Tritt and Billy Currington, acts he's long since lapped. Riding the success of "Crash My Party," the hit single and title track from his latest album, Bryan's due at Fiddler's with Thompson Square and Florida Georgia Line, two outfits that seem poised to headline tours of their own in the not-too-distant future.
FRI | COVENHOVEN (CD RELEASE) at WALNUT ROOM | 9/20/13 As a teenager in the 1990s, Joel Van Horne was a member of the punk band Petrol Apathy. As he got older, Van Horne decided he wanted to write music with more emotional and tonal range. He formed Carbon Choir in 2007 with two of his ex-bandmates and ended up writing some of the most affecting and visceral music of his career. By the time that band broke up, in early 2013, Van Horne had already started Covenhoven (due at the Walnut Room on Friday, September 20) and had moved his songwriting firmly outside the realm of rock. He named his new project after a place in southern Wyoming where his grandfather took refuge from everyday life. The moniker also suits the lushly pastoral, introspective mood of Covenhoven's self-titled debut.
SAT | METHOD MAN & REDMAN at OGDEN THEATRE | 9/21/13 How High is not necessarily one of the best movies featuring rappers, unless you're in the right... ahem... mind state. Nevertheless, it's a carefree, fun back to school romp that extols the virtues of every rapper's favorite plant. The stars, Method Man and Redman, while not the most refined actors in the classical sense, manage to enchant the screen with their sophomoric magnetism. As an added bonus, Cypress Hill makes an appearance to DJ a college house party that the two Wu-students throw. "Study high, take the test high, get high scores" -- this is the logic that permeates How High.
FRI | SAVAGES at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 9/20/13 Fronted by Jehnny Beth from France, this London-based band plays music that has a post-punk foundation but is also clearly informed by noise and soundscaping in a way that seems far removed from its more conventionally post-punk compositions. This aspect of the band puts it more in the camp of what Wire was doing at the end of the '70s, making emotion and instinct the guide for how the music should sound rather than relying strictly on straightforward songwriting.
SAT | KASKADE at SKYLAB, DENVER COLISEUM | 9/21/13 Kaskade has crafted his own signature sound out of an unusual blend of disco-kissed deep house and big-room trance. Somehow the Utah-born DJ manages to balance these two disparate genres into a unified whole, leaning heavily on female vocals and sexy bass lines to tie it all together. In the studio, he's crafted a series of artist albums and a slew of hot remixes, and he's also dropped a number of fine mix discs and played clubs and festivals all over the world. Catch Kaskade this Saturday, September 21, at Skylab with Dillon Francis, Morgan Page and many more.
FRI | QUEERS at MARQUIS THEATER | 9/20/13 The Queers have been around forever -- or so it seems. Any snot-nosed kid who's ever dipped into the punk scene, even if it was only for a summer, has probably elbowed a few faces in the pit at a Queers show, or at least bought an album from the act's lengthy discography. The Queers don't go away; instead, they get passed on year after year to younger generations.
FRI | WAYNE ESCOFFERY QUINTET at DAZZLE | 9/20/13 When Wayne Escoffery performed at Dazzle as part of the Tom Harrell Quintet last December, it was more than evident that the tenor man had some serious chops -- he's equally at home traversing through some powerful solos as he has laying back on ballads. Thirty-eight-year-old Escoffery, who studied with the great Jackie McLean, is in excellent form on his latest effort, last year's Only Son of One, which showcases his robust tone as well as his compositional skills.