FRI | PENTAGRAM at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 2/28/14 If you've seen Last Days Here, you're familiar with the frustrating tale of Pentagram. Formed in Virginia in the early '70s, the pioneering psychedelic metal band should have, by all accounts, realized massive worldwide fame. Instead, success evaded the outfit, thanks in part to the struggles its frontman (and sole core member) Bobby Liebling has faced over the years. Thankfully, "last days" is merely the title of the film focusing on the band. Pentagram, which has existed for decades in various forms on the fringes of obscurity, beloved by pretty much any metal fan who's come across its music, is still a going concern.
FRI | THE PHARCYDE at CERVANTES' MASTERPIECE BALLROOM | 2/28/14 The Pharcyde is made up of a bunch of weirdos. The act's jokes are off-kilter, the observations are surreal, not to mention Bootie Brown's cartoonishly high rapping voice. At its best, the group has a chemistry that transforms four odd pieces into a cyclone of dynamic whimsey. Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde is and has always been an underappreciated West Coast classic with more replay value than you can shake a stick at, but 1992 was a long time ago. Considering the troubled past of this outfit, it will be interesting to see if they show up to Denver in full force. If so, the show will be one that rap fans do not want to miss.
SAT | RUSSIAN CIRCLES at GOTHIC THEATRE | 3/1/14 The music of Russian Circles goes down like high-quality hard liquor: The filtered precision of the act's progressive instrumental metal floods the sensory system with intensity, making the listener more elated. Russian Circles may appeal more to a metal-music buff than a casual listener, but you don't have to be a genius to understand what these smart rockers are doing. As instrumental metal continues to grow stronger, so will this Chicago trio.
FRI | DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 2/28/14 As one of the top acts from the bustling New Orleans scene, Dirty Dozen Brass Band throws down hard. The act's Dixieland brass-heavy jazz sound is infectiously joyful, with each horn player getting to shine on his own and as part of the collective. Opener Pimps of Joytime are also steeped in New Orleans influences, which gives its funk sound an extra sense of urgency and celebration.
FRI | SCOTT H. BIRAM at 3 KINGS TAVERN | 2/28/14 Scott H. Biram abuses himself at will, running his stomp board through a bass cabinet and his '59 Gibson hollow body through a reverb unit, and screaming into a harmonica pickup to make his vocals good and muddy. With a raw immediacy that recalls Hasil Adkins, Bob Log III or Denver's own Reverend DeadEye, Biram specializes in a twisted hybrid of gutbucket, hillbilly and godless metal. He'll praise the virtues of moonshine and titty bars one minute, then tongue-lash city slickers and hippies the next.
SAT | KEB MO' at BOULDER THEATER | 3/1/14 Keb' Mo', the eclectic blues singer and songwriter formerly known as Kevin Moore, drops the apostrophes and settles gently into romantic crooner mode on his latest effort, The Reflection. Backed by an ultrasmooth combo, Mo' delivers the blues as high craft while assuming such roles as experienced elder, mistreated cuckold, and worldly philosopher.
SAT | THE ENGLISH BEAT at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 3/1/14 Any '80s-era ska-revival fan worth his or her checkered glad rags remembers the English Beat's cheerful way with a politically charged song -- whether it called for peace, love, unity or Margaret Thatcher's head on a plate. Birmingham's premier roughriders even managed to make Andy Williams seem cool, covering his sappy "Can't Get Used to Losing You." But three albums into it, the Beat sadly dispersed: Co-frontmen Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger pursued soul-tinged horizons with General Public, while ace reedsman Saxa, a first-wave alum of Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker, formed International Beat with rocksteady drummer Everett Moreton, and the rest of the lads minced about as Fine Young Cannibals. Hardly reunited, the Beat goes on with lone original member Wakeling now toasting Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a Clown" and that all-knowing "Mirror in the Bathroom." (The English Beat is also due at the Aggie Theatre in Ft. Collins tonight, February 28.)
FRI | STEEP CANYON RANGERS at BOULDER THEATER | 2/28/14 Approximately 73 million bands have formed at colleges over the years, and the vast majority of them fall into the rock or pop categories, with a few hip-hop or jazz outfits thrown in for good measure. That makes the Steep Canyon Rangers an anomaly -- a bluegrass combo formed in the shadow of academia. Banjoist Graham Sharp, bassist Charles Humphrey III, guitarist Woody Platt, fiddler Nicky Sanders and mandolinist Mike Guggino were students at the University of North Carolina when they first got together circa the late '90s, and in a few short years they've become one of the genre's prime hopes for the future.
FRI | HOT BUTTERED RUM at GOTHIC THEATRE | 2/28/14 Having formed during a backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail, San Francisco's Hot Buttered Rum is, on the surface, pretty much the embodiment of what many find so distasteful about the jam-band scene: Rum has worked with former members of the Dead, tours around the country in biodiesel-fueled vehicles and indulges in extended improvisational jams. But who wouldn't want to play music with their personal heroes and not just talk the talk, but live according to their high-minded ideals and have fun with their art? Musically, this band weaves together bluegrass, jazz and folk with a dash of rock for what is essentially upbeat music that is clever in its social critique without ever seeming preachy. If the members of Hot Buttered Rum can be saddled with the term "hippies," at least they aren't phonies.
SAT | NIGHTBRINGER at HI-DIVE | 3/1/14 Though Nightbringer is a legendary black-metal band in some circles, it hasn't played out a whole lot locally, a fact that has helped cultivate the mystique surrounding the outfit's existence and origins. Based in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, Nightbringer has played locally at the invitation-only Gathering of the Shadows festival, and beyond that has performed at a small selection of national and international gigs. The group's songs are informed by occult subjects, but in a more imaginative, believable vein than the cartoonish variety easily dismissed as youthful folly. Its music tends to be dreamlike and contemplative in tone -- like the sort made by Wolves in the Throne Room, Leviathan and Xasthur rather than the haunting, punk-informed aggression of earlier black-metal acts like Mayhem or Darkthrone. Nightbringer's most recent release, 2013's Circumambulations of the Solar Inferno, is a split with Norway's Dødsengel. Don't miss the rare chance to see this band live.