The best concerts in Denver this weekend
Passion Pit began in as a solo project of lead singer and keyboard player Michael Angelakos in 2007. The project quickly fleshed out into a full band that combined a keen sense for upbeat pop melodies with lyrics that didn't exactly try to sugarcoat the complex emotional life and experiences of adulthood. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based act's debut full-length, 2009's Manners, yielded a handful of songs that garnered exposure on shows like Gossip Girl and Big Love, setting the stage for its follow-up, last year's Gossamer, which gained positive notices and eventually resulted in an invitation for the group to perform on Saturday Night Live.
The members of Speedwolf specialize in brand of no frills metal in the vein of Motörhead and Venom, played with the playful ferocity of a hardcore band. The guys are not necessarily carrying the torch for that older style of heavy music as much as they're embodying what made it so good in the first place. Without trying to fit any particular subscene, Speedwolf can play metal shows and punk shows with equal ease, and that's because the music does not fit a strict stereotype.
Bart McCrorey is probably best known for his skate-punk outfit Frontside Five. Throttlebomb isn't a quantum leap from that, but it's more a synthesis of speed metal and glam. It's a bit like Motörhead, but with more of a focus on melody: A backbone of boogie and blues rock informs the songwriting, which is nonetheless splintery and aggressive. With Low Gravity's Adam Mullins on drums and Jenn Rad, formerly of the Blackouts, on bass, there's a solid groove that gives McCrorey and guitarist Justin Delz a foundation from which to indulge in tasty guitar solos. Throttlebomb will release its debut album at this show, which should recall the glory days of the 15th St. Tavern, where hard rock and punk were always on tap.
The Fox Street All Stars' roots can be traced back to the University of Colorado, where the guys first started jamming together as music students in the early 2000s, and it leads to a house on Fox Street in Denver -- hence the act's name -- approximately five years ago. But if the history of the Fox Street All Stars feels more like a circle than a straight line, so does the band's sound -- a blend of rock, funk, country and vintage R&B resulting as much from the members' combined years of shuffling between groups as from its early years as a cover band (a go-to wedding crew that at one point had dozens and dozens of other artists' songs built into its repertoire). Their hybrid sound also reflects friendships with a slew of musical mentors, including members of Kinetix, the New Mastersounds and the Motet.
Mickey Hart was one of the Grateful Dead's two drummers; along with Bill Kreutzmann, Hart helped weave the unique polyrhythms of the legendary band. Whether as a solo artist, with the Dead or as an activist, Hart always puts his heart and his being into his work, and his active mind has taken him down probably every path that has struck and stirred his imagination. The author of a handful of books and a drummer on more albums than most other percussionists of his time and through to the present, Hart and his accomplishments speak for themselves.
The men of Israel Vibration -- Lascelle "Wiss" Bulgin, Albert "Apple Gabriel" Craig and Cecil "Skelly" Spence -- met as kids at Kingston, Jamaica's Mona Rehabilitation Centre, where they were each being treated for polio. Around 1970, the three formed a group and released their first single, "Why Worry," with funding from Rastafarian religious group the Twelve Tribes. The word spread quickly about the outfit, and the guys went on to share the stage with such icons as Bob Marley and Dennis Brown. About a year after the release of their third full-length, Why You So Craven, the group moved to New York, where they eventually split after struggling to break through in the United States. Five years later, the group re-formed and released a number of albums on the RAS Records imprint. Craig left the band in 1997, and Bulgin and Spence have since kept Israel Vibration alive with the help of Roots Radics.
Greensky Bluegrass takes bluegrass to a new high by weaving psychedelic rock into a roots-oriented go-for-broke approach. While retaining a good dose of backwoods authenticity on genre standards as well as its own earthy creations, Greensky marks live gigs with crowd-pleasing interpretations of the music of Pink Floyd and the Beatles, among other classic artists. The Kalamazoo-originated act turned heads at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2006 and 2007, then barnstormed the country, earning more plaudits and fans. With some of the new-school attitude of Yonder Mountain String Band and the down-home sound of the hills (via Michigan), the group is continuing to carve out its own space in the jamgrass barnyard.
All Macklemore has to do is pose dramatically to induce the same frenzied reaction from an audience that a slightly lesser MC would draw with their signature song. Granted, a very sizable portion of his Ogden audience last December was comprised of easily riled high school girls, but that should truly take nothing away from the fact that the stories he tells are utterly compelling, and his performance at the Ogden was not one iota short of exhilarating. His stories are deeply personal, universally relatable and delivered with such poignancy that it becomes impossible not to be moved.
After Youth Lagoon gained steam online, Trevor Powers landed a record deal at the venerable Fat Possum Records, at which point he dropped out of college and quit his job to pursue music full-time. His album, The Year of Hibernation, captures desolation in its purest sonic form: Many of the songs are about people and days long gone, and even though Powers is only in his early twenties, he sings about being nine and seventeen in two separate songs, focusing on these anecdotes as though he were analyzing key moments in a life that's almost over. Even when he's not being so specific about the past, the reverberations seem to linger in his lyrics, bolstered by his fragile, far-off vocals, a careful, melodic pitter-patter of washed-out synths and unfinished, hollow-sounding production.
Menomena's mixture of reverb-laden piano, woodwinds, crashing drums and pretty much every keyboard voice and stringed instrument in existence has always cohered into a solemn, ornate sound that projects a distinct air of seriousness. But when infighting turned the Portland art-rock trio into a duo after multi-instrumentalist Brent Knopf quit, Menomena responded by making its most personal, weightiest album yet in Moms. The album focuses on drummer Danny Seim's relationship with his mother, who passed away when he was seventeen, and bassist/saxophonist/guitarist Justin Harris' reaction to his father's abandonment of his family. Whereas Moms' otherwise solid predecessor, Mines, felt labored and occasionally overstuffed, Moms is sharp and propulsive. Menomena still piles on overdubs with an arsenal of instruments, but instead of swirling into a beautiful cacophony, each layer works together to push the songs forward.
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