The best concerts in Denver this weekend
FRI-SUN | MURDER BY DEATH at STANLEY HOTEL | 1/17-1/19 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.
SUN | PINK at PEPSI CENTER | 1/19/14 Pink has spent the last decade and a half mastering the persona of an outspoken pop star, setting her brand of punky feminism to an accessible, danceable beat. Originally presented as more of an R&B crooner on her 2000 debut, Can't Take Me Home, Pink has since stretched her stylistic scope, expanding into the realms of club bangers and rock standards. This evolution has also allowed her to visually reinvent herself, her blonde-bombshell and rosy-faux-hawk looks becoming as iconic as her voice. Pink's most recent release, 2012's The Truth About Love, plays on her strengths as a balladeer -- the killer "Just Give Me a Reason" smartly pairs her with Fun.'s Nate Ruess -- and she remains candid on the lyrics front, never holding back the fearless commentary on her relationships. Pink may be known for her polished pop tracks, but a deeper look reveals a vocalist who's been bringing intelligence and emotion to the Billboard charts for a long time.
FRI & SAT | JOHN DOE at LION'S LAIR | 1/17-1/18 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.
FRI & SAT | RAILROAD EARTH at FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | 1/17-1/18 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."
FRI | PALE SUN at HI-DIVE | 1/17/14 Guitarist Jeff Suthers has a long history of making sonically rich music. In the mid-'90s, he formed Volplane with Todd Ayers, Shannon Stein and Dicky Jett. And when that space-rock act split near the end of the decade, Suthers and Stein focused their attention on Pter-anodon, in which they explored their mutual interest in ambient, experimental rock bands like Stars of the Lid and Flying Saucer Attack. The project that earned Suthers the greatest acclaim, however, was Bright Channel, which specialized in slow-roiling, electrifyingly tow-ering songs that recalled the work of My Bloody Valentine, Bailter Space and even Big Black. When Bright Channel folded in 2007, Suthers and Stein continued in the more pop-oriented Moonspeed; Suthers also pursued solo soundscaping as Orbiteer. Pale Sun (due with Blue Rider and Emerald Siam) marks a return to dreamlike psychedelia for Suthers, who's joined by former Space Team Electra drummer Kit Peltzel, Tjutjuna guitarist Brian Marcus, and bassist Eddie Corcoran.
FRI | CHICK COREA & BELA FLECK at MACKY AUDITORIUM | 1/17/14 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.
SAT | STANLEY JORDAN at SOILED DOVE | 1/18/14 Though now better known for his jazz-fusion guitar compositions, Stanley Jordan was a bit of a child prodigy, starting out on piano at age six before switching to guitar five years later; he won accolades at the 1976 Reno Jazz Festival while still in high school. Jordan attended Princeton University, where he studied composition with electronic-music pioneers Milton Babbit and Paul Lansky. But it was his genius for jazz guitar that brought him to the attention of Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, both of whom he's performed with. In addition to being a prolific songwriter in his own right, Jordan has also been a star in the jam-band world, where his blend of technique, intelligence and taste has been most welcome.
SUN | BILL FRISELL (SOLO) at DAZZLE | 1/19/14 While Bill Frisell has no problem filling up large venues like the Boulder Theater, the former Denver resident has also performed at few times at more intimate spots like Dazzle over the last couple of years with players like Ron Miles and Brian Blade, as well as with his former instructor, Longmont-based guitarist Dale Bruning. This time around, Frisell is playing a rare solo show.
FRI | ORGANIC COLLECTIVE at DAZZLE | 1/17/14 After graduating from the Berklee College of Music in the late '90s, the 21-year-old Pat Bianchi moved to Denver to start a residency four nights a week as the house pianist at El Chapultepec, which was followed by five-year stint at Herb's, where he played jazz organ on a weekly basis. For the past five years, Bianchi has been based in New York where he's worked with legendary jazz players like Lou Donaldson, George Coleman and Houston Person. As part of the Organic Collective, Bianchi teams up with guitar ace Mark Whitfield and drummer Byron Landham, who both play on Bianchi's excellent 2006 release, East Coast Roots.
FRI | SYPHILIS SAUNA at DEER PILE | 1/17/14 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.
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