The best concerts in Denver this weekend
FRI | ICELANTIC'S WINTER ON THE ROCKS at RED ROCKS | 1/31/14 More than misogyny or materialism, intelligence and verbal skill are championed by Jurassic 5; the vocabulary is impressive and the verbal acrobatics the guys perform are outstanding. J5 carries the energy and excitement of a newer era group but bring the flavor of an old hip-hop act (the crew strongly echoes the legendary Cold Crush Brothers), and it follows musical cues that are classic in the truest sense. (Ghostland Observatory and DJ Sam Spiegel of N.A.S.A. are slated to share the bill.)
FRI | PURE BATHING CULTURE at HI-DIVE | 1/31/14 Pure Bathing Culture started in 2011, when David Hindman and Sarah Verprille moved to Portland from New York following a stint in Vetiver. Capitalizing on their experience creating tonally rich, hushed pop music, the duo wrote hazy-edged songs in the style of late-'70s and early-'80s soft-rockers like Fleetwood Mac (whose "Dreams" the band ably covers). Blending that aesthetic with luminous melodies akin to those of late-era Cocteau Twins, the group has really honed its sound of late, as evidenced by last year's Moon Tides. Though imbued with the warmth, sense of ease and optimism typically associated with adult-contemporary and new-age music, the album contains none of the saccharine aftertaste that renders so much of that stuff stale. Live, this quartet is as soothing as it is moving.
FRI | SHREDDED BEATS at CERVANTES' | 1/31/14 Deltron 3030 isn't so much a group or an album as it is a mode of thought, and there are few hip-hop albums (or albums of any genre, for that matter) with the cinematic quality of this group's self-titled debut. Dan the Automator created deeply textured and darkly evocative soundscapes, aided by Kid Koala's turntablism, as a backdrop for Teren Delvon Jones (aka Del tha Funkee Homosapien, aka Deltron Zero) to tell the tale of how he becomes Galactic Rhyme Federation Champion. Similar to Dan the Automator's earlier work with Kool Keith, Dr. Octagonecologyst, but more coherent and accessible, this album proved that hip-hop could successfully travel to where only geeks had gone before -- silly non sequiturs, outer space fantasy and ridiculous characters all became fair game, and so did the out-crowd that relished them. (Shredded Beats runs three-nights and also features Hopson, Dilated Peoples, Dizzy Wright, DJ Hoppa, Black Pegasus, Rolphy, A Black Day and Wesley Wayne on Saturday, February 1.)
FRI & SAT | RJD2 at BLUEBIRD | 1/31-2/1 Since 2000, RJD2 (aka RJ Krohn) has been creating anthemic hip-hop tracks. Live, the turntablist dominates four decks while seamlessly mixing classic songs in with his own original beats. In the studio, RJD2 is continuously working to progress his sound, from laboring over honing the brass sections to finding just the right drums.
SAT | ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 2/1/14 Rocket From the Crypt formed in 1989 after the split of Pitchfork, an act that featured John Reis, who was also a member of influential noise rock/experimental punk band Drive Like Jehu at the time. Rocket's playful spirit and its sound connected to the roots of rock and roll and early punk, which allowed it to be a more enduring project, thanks to wild stage antics and songs that somehow combined the aspect of a party band and something more confrontational. Rocket parted ways in 2005 following numerous releases and seven full length albums. In recent years, demand for the band, which never parted on acrimonious terms, inspired its members to get back together, and Rocket From the Crypt ended up reconvening in time to play at Riot Fest this past summer.
FRI | NAKED RAYGUN at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 1/31/14 Naked Raygun emerged from Chicago's punk-rock scene circa 1980. The band has roots in both punk and rockabilly, with a decidedly more experimental sensibility born of a desire to stand out from the crowd. As the group developed its songwriting, it waxed more melodic, and by the early '90s, its sound was more of the post-punk variety. But all the while, there was a drive and rawness to the music, thanks to lyrics informed both by politics and by externalized psychological explorations. After a fourteen-year hiatus, Naked Raygun got back together in 2006, and today the act still colors outside the standard punk-rock lines.
SAT | AGENT ORANGE at LARIMER LOUNGE | 2/1/14 Though birthed in the dysfunctional cradle of the Southern California hardcore scene, Agent Orange never stuck to convention. Although the group's debut, Living in Darkness, contained the instant punk-rock classic "Bloodstains," the outfit's influential sound is equal parts hardcore, power pop and surf rock. At heart, though, as evidenced by its ferociously fun live shows, Agent Orange is really nothing less than an outstandingly entertaining rock-and-roll band. The group's influence can be still be heard in many of the punk bands that followed in its wake. Though never as commercially successful as its followers -- like the Offspring -- Agent Orange has nonetheless maintained its underground credibility. Touring consistently since the early '80s, Fullerton's favorite sons make a great case for sticking with what you do best. Never ones to follow contemporary fashion, the members of Agent Orange have found their own musical formula, which is, well, killer.
FRI | DR. RALPH STANLEY at BOULDER THEATER | 1/31/14 Thirteen years ago, the unexpected, runaway popularity of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack propelled Ralph Stanley into the American mainstream, his contribution earning him a Grammy and enough royalties to finally tool around in a shiny black Jaguar. On the downside, the deeply religious 86-year-old bluegrass legend still can't get a whiff from most country radio stations, whose excruciating playlists are more dedicated to redneck women and kickin' Iraqi butt than the high-lonesome, sacred sound of old-time mountain music. Their loss. But for folks who prefer the genuine article, Dr. Stanley (a nickname he earned along with an honorary doctorate in music from Tennessee's Lincoln Memorial University) has an otherworldly voice and a blazing, three-fingered claw-hammer style of banjo-picking that he learned at his mother's knee in the back hills of Virginia, Stanley transforms grief into an art form.
FRI & SAT | KUNG FU at 1UP COLFAX | 1/31-2/1 Taking ideas from contemporary EDM and mashing it together with '70s funk is always a good recipe for an upbeat time, and Kung Fu manages it extremely well. The band has generated a great buzz with a lineup full of seasoned veterans of the festival and jam band circuit. Rob Somerville on tenor sax adds an extra smoothness and oomph to the whole thing, taking it from show to full-on party. (Dopapod is set to open the show.)
SUN | MILE HIGH MAGIC at LARIMER LOUNGE | 2/2/14 While there are a number of Super Bowl parties in the area geared toward diehard football fans, Mile High Magic, hosted by 2012 American Idol contestant Magic Cyclops, might be bent a bit more towards the fun side. Sure, the Broncos and Seahawks showndown will be projected on a ten-foot screen, but there will also be free shots when the Broncos score and free barbeque from Yazoo's. Oh yeah, and Magic Cyclops is hosting karaoke.
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