The best concerts in Denver this weekend
A number of bands are returning to a Southern-rock sound these days, but much of the music they're making is too derivative to be interesting. Alabama Shakes, fresh off a date warming up for Neil Young, bucks that trend. The group's members, who met in high school and forged the kind of personal bond that shines through in the music, don't sound like they went back and mined their parents' record collections in an effort to emulate some bygone glory days. Instead, singer and guitarist Brittany Howard sings with an impassioned believability that sounds like she has experienced a fuller life than her young years could hope to contain. Her earthy vocals and the band's solid, vibrant musicianship are both remarkable for their emotional depth. The band's 2012 album, Boys & Girls, captures a taste of its soul-driven rock, but it's best experienced live.
If the idea of standing outside in the cold and snow sounds positively unappealing to you, either you're not from Colorado or you're new here. Whatever the case, don't let any of that dissuade you from heading up to the mountains for the aptly named SnowBall Music Festival in Winter Park. We're pretty sure that the exposure won't faze you amid all the great music you'll be, er, exposed to at the third annual edition of the festival. An avalanche of talent is lined up for the three-day fest: Pretty Lights, STS9, Big Gigantic, Porter Robinson, Kendrick Lamar, Portugal. The Man, Flying Lotus, Poliça, Japandroids, Surfer Blood and much more.
The lineup for this year's edition of the Gathering of the Clouds has been revealed. The three-day festival, kicking off this Thursday, March 7, and running through Saturday, March 9, is being headlined by the Warlocks, Wovenhand, Gliss and the Black Ryder and features a slew of kindred locals like Land Lines, the Morning Clouds and Hindershot. Tickets for the festival, taking place within the much more intimate confines of the Walnut Room, are on sale now and range from $50 for a three-day pass to $17 for single tickets for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
When Tim Bruns and Mike Morter came together with the other members of Churchill -- drummer Joe Richmond, bassist Tyler Rima and pianist/vocalist Bethany Kelly -- their goals were rather humble: They just wanted to play at the hi-dive and then eventually make music for a living. "Right away," says Morter, "when we first started the band, we had six-month and twelve-month goals. It was setting that precedent right away that made us achieve." And achieve they have. Last fall, Churchill secured a major-label recording deal with A&M/Octone Records, an imprint that's home to acts like Maroon 5 and Hollywood Undead, and since then, the outfit has enlisted Brendan O'Brien, landed an opening slot on Pink's upcoming European tour and made its national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live. This week, the outfit makes good on its rescheduled date at the Ogden, on the heels playing back-to-back nights at the Bluebird.
Although the "alternative hip-hop" tag is an utter failure as a marketing tool, it actually fits MURS, a performer who embodies much of what's best about the music and very little of what's worst. This L.A. veteran's style is based on hyper-articulate rhymes that are spring-loaded with surprises. Recently, MURS surprised quite a few folks with his unabashed assault on the effects of homophobia with "Animal Style," complete with a gripping video that got people's attention for all the wrong reasons: a kiss between MURS and another male actor, thus revealing yet again that not everybody is ready for the normalization of homosexuality.
De La Soul exploded onto the scene in 1989 with the release of their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising and their infinitely danceable single "Me, Myself and I." The group is known for their infectious positivity and individualistic, idiosyncratic energy. Though De La has not again found the commercial success that they enjoyed in the 90s, their entire catalog is solid and their legend status in hip-hop is undeniable. First Serve, De La's latest work, is a concept character piece, telling the story of a band trying to make it in the music biz.
Isis, Red Sparowes and Pelican helped to establish and make popular the synthesis of post-rock with metal. Caspian from Beverly, Massachusetts straddles the divide well with soaring guitars grounded by deep and driving rhythms. The band's songs are a scintillating evocation of a time and place and an emotional journey in themselves. Balancing heaviness with an expansive, even triumphant melodicism, Caspian delivers dynamic epics that often go far outside the realm of metal, but fans of Mouth of the Architect's ambitious sonic exercises and Russian Circles' ability to weave a dark yet uplifting musical narrative will appreciate Caspian. Touring in support of its 2012 album, Waking Season, Caspian gives its conventionally beautiful, though certainly not conventionally crafted, music a visceral edge.
With the absence of SnowBall, which moves to its new home in this weekend in another mountain town, you might think that Avon will be lacking for music. And while it may not exactly boast the brimming roster of talent in Winter Park this weekend, what it lacks in quantity it more than compensates for in quality in the form of a Motown music legend. On Saturday night at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, you'll find one Mr. Smokey Robinson, a living icon who needs absolutely no introduction.
For a group that first began bashing around backyard parties and smelly decrepit venues way back in 1987, San Francisco-based punks Swingin' Utters are a success simply because they are still going. And there are still willing ears waiting to hear what they serve up next, included Poorly Formed, released last week on Fat Wreck Chords.
Although the Expendables hail from further up the California coast than most '90s third wave ska bands, the guys carry on the same spirit. The sound leans heavier on Upsetters-style reggae grooves, and lets up on Operation Ivy's punk energy. The group's sound is at once soothing and uplifting -- perfect jams for the beach, or the after-party.
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