The best concerts to see in Denver this week
THURS | JOHN LEGEND at ELLIE CAULKINS OPERA HOUSE | 11/21/13 A child prodigy who's been playing the piano since age five and attended college at sixteen, John Legend played with Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Janet Jackson, among others, before Kanye West noticed his talent and took him under his wing. Legend is touring in support of his fourth album, Love in the Future, which the singer has said is a "celebration and meditation on love." Legend is slated to appear at an official afterparty at Epernay Lounge at 1080 14th Street.
TUES | THUNDERCAT at LARIMER LOUNGE | 11/19/13 Stephen Bruner Jr. is one interesting dude. When he's not doing session work for Snoop Dogg, Eric Benet and Flying Lotus, Bruner plays bass for Suicidal Tendencies. Yeah, that Suicidal Tendencies. When Bruner isn't helping out others in the studio and on the road, he records his own bass-driven, jazz fusion music under the name Thundercat. The music he creates is an overwhelming mixture of bass funk, experimental jazz and electronic-minded rhythms.
WEDS | CULTS at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 11/20/13 There's no more sun in Cults' eyes. The Manhattan-based indie-pop act best known for the cloyingly sweet singles "Go Outside" and "Oh My God" have returned with Static, a departure from what set sights on them in the first place. The only familiar part of their aesthetic is the album cover itself, placing vocalist Madeline Follin and vocalist/guitarist Brian Oblivion's silhouettes at the forefront. Most everything else, however, is different. Oblivion and Follin, once an item and something like the Sonny-and-Cher of the Pitchfork-savvy free world, split up during the making of Static, resulting in a laser focus on their breakup during the press cycle for the record. However, their maturing sound has been well-received, in some part due to their Hiro Murai-directed video for "High Road."
THURS | YELAWOLF & HOPSIN at OGDEN THEATRE | 11/21/13 Both of the artists featured on this bill share the admirable quality of being unafraid to say anything. Through his "Ill Mind of Hopsin" series, Hopsin has been unafraid to touch on a wide range of subjects from industry fakers, to played-out, real-life archetypes and drug addiction. When Hopsin stays away from corny wordplay and triteness, he has demonstrated a firece independence backed up by a solid flow. Yelawolf's career -- since blowing up with Trunk Muzik, an outstandingly good mixtape, and signing to the illustrious Shady Records -- has unexpectedly slowed. However, the mixtape Trunk Muzik Returns shows that Yelawolf still has the capacity to make good music, and the short film "Growin' Up in the Gutter" (which is disturbingly graphic) shows that he still has plenty of artistic ammunition.
FRI | MORBID ANGEL at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 11/22/13 Formed in Tampa -- the home of death metal -- in 1984, Morbid Angel may not have put out the subgenre's founding document (an honor generally bestowed on Possessed's 1985 masterpiece, Seven Churches), but it can rightfully be considered one of its pioneers. The group's own debut album, 1989's nightmarish Altars of Madness, proved very influential; Trey Azagthoth's aggressive, slashing guitar style and technical yet creative leads can be heard in the sonic DNA of countless death-metal and thrash bands that followed in its wake. Morbid Angel enjoyed some breakthrough commercial success with 1993's Covenant, a pummeling storm of an album that will be played in its entirety at this show.
THURS | FEAR FACTORY at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 11/21/13 Fear Factory was a pioneer of the so-called nü-metal genre, before that designation became a bit of an insult. An early proponent of the fusion of industrial and death metal, Fear Factory first realized that sonic alchemy with its influential 1995 album, Demanufacture. Since then, the band has explored a wider range of sounds and more rhythmic strategies than most of its peers. The group's sound, a blend of melodic vocals, gruff and sweeping atmospherics, crunchy, brutal guitar work and relentless percussion, has often been imitated, but it's the small details in the mix that have always set Fear Factory apart. The band's latest record, 2012's The Industrialist, could sit alongside Killing Joke's most recent release in terms of the primal tones, dreaminess and aggression.
WEDS | MISFITS at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 11/20/13 During its first run with original singer Glenn Danzig from 1977-1983, Misfits established one of the most enduring influential bodies of work in the history of punk that made an indelible impact on the development and trajectory of not only punk but also goth rock and even metal. After years and years of legal battles, interpersonal acrimony and now with only bassist Jerry Only remaining from the original band, Misfits continues as a live band. If you're expecting the Danzig thing, don't go, but if you'd like to hear those classic songs done by someone who was there, Misfits still put on an entertaining show.
FRI & SAT | DR NEPTUNE / PUNX NOT DEAD... at 3 KINGS TAVERN | 11/22-23 Dr. Neptune formed in Fort Collins in 1994 and, over the course of the following decade, became one of the most beloved punk bands in Colorado. And while the occasion of a Dr. Neptune reunion is reason enough to come out to 3 Kings Tavern, the good doctor has enlisted some of the best punk acts in town for a weekend-long fiesta dubbed Punx Not Dead...We're All Just Really F'n Old. Catch Dr. Neptune with King Rat, Frontside 5, Potato Pirates, Boldtype, Allout Helter, Dead Ringer, Straight Outta Luck, the Pitch Invasion, Stuntdoubles, the A-OKs, False Colours and Plan B Rejects at 3 Kings starting this Friday, November 22. While the name of this blowout is tongue-in-cheek, the care put into crafting the lineup sure wasn't.
FRI | ANTI-FLAG at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 11/22/13 Formed in 1988 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Anti-Flag has never minced words in its denouncement of war, generally, the imperial ambitions of its home country, specifically, and the usual social ills that are perpetually neglected by the power elite of the United States. But Anti-Flag delivers that message with an upbeat tunefulness that doesn't sugar-coat the message, so much as make it accessible. It could be claimed the band can get polemical and that that undermines its impact, but there's no doubt these guys, by the sheer momentum of their longevity and ability to write good songs to go along with the lyrics, have changed the thinking of at least one section of America's youth, and that has to count for something.
TUES | THOSE DARLINS at HI-DIVE | 11/19 Feminist rockabilly sounds like an oxymoron, but these darlins pull it off with a brash combination of sass, sex appeal, and the unvarnished truth of their experience. On Blur the Line, their self-consciously titled third studio album, they ironically ask whether the subaltern can truly speak, vacillating between telling it like it is on the wistful "Oh God" and having some tongue-in-cheek fun on girl power anthem "Optimist." The video for the latter apes "Blurred Lines," but as a feminist reclamation of Thicke's misogynistic tropes, depicting a series of dancing torsos, cropped at the head, in a satirical and effective attempt at reverse commodification.
TUES | CASS MCCOMBS at WALNUT ROOM | 11/19/13 In 2007, singer-songwriter Cass McCombs told the San Francisco Chronicle that he wants his tombstone to read "Home at Last." McCombs's subtle and sardonic humor, enmeshed with a poetic truth, also informs his songwriting. Although he doesn't really sound like Roy Orbison, his lushly evocative tunes resonate with the same kind of dusky, yesteryear charm as the late singer's. Like a wave of nostalgia that makes you remember the most poignant moments of your life one by one, they're both heartbreaking and heartwarming. But there's also a haziness that makes such memories seem more present yet soft around the edges at the same time. Touring in support of his 2011 release, Humor Risk, McCombs is sure to bring his understated wit and penetrating observations to vibrant life on stage.
FRI | LAST WALTZ REVISITED at BOULDER THEATER | 11/22/13 On Thanksgiving Day in 1976, the Band threw its "farewell concert appearance" at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco; known as the Last Waltz, it went on to become one of the most celebrated gigs in rock history. Reverent crowds were treated to an amazing guest list that included Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters, to name a few. This year marks the ninth anniversary of local band Polytoxic's tribute to the Waltz.
FRI | ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO at SOILED DOVE | 11/22/13 Alejandro Escovedo has made a career out of taking chances. He started in punk with the Nuns, joined cowpunks Rank & File, and formed the country-oriented True Believers with his brothers before going solo. Even after being diagnosed with hepatitis C, Escovedo's rock-and-roll lifestyle helped define his music. That is, until he collapsed on an Arizona stage. Following a year in the hospital, he painfully chronicled the ordeal on The Boxing Mirror. Real Animal, on the other hand, released two years later, was about celebrating life.
FRI | NAUGHTY BY NATURE at CASSELMAN'S | 11/22/13 To even think of labeling Naughty By Nature "pop" seems almost profane, but this New Jersey group found mainstream success rarely seen by a hardcore act. No matter who you are, you've heard at least one of their songs: "O.P.P." Plus, the guys won the Grammy for best rap album in 1996 for Poverty's Paradise, beating out Bone Thugs, ODB, Skee-Lo and 2Pac. Perhaps no song is more emblematic of NBN's absolute appeal than "Feel Me Flow," which is one of the illest, chillest songs you'll ever hear. If ever you wanted to ease a skeptical friend into the world of gansta rap, you couldn't go wrong with Naughty By Nature.
TUES | DIR EN GREY at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 11/19/13 Like a lot of bands from Japan, Dir En Grey is impossible to pigeonhole. This foursome is a weird alloy of disparate yet compatible styles, including industrial rock, nü metal and emo. And its members look the part of the über-commercial Japanese rock stars you'd see on Music Station. Unlike some of its would-be brethren, though, who strive to have some kind of socially acceptable, clean-cut artistic image, the band produces sometimes horrific videos that look like Takashi Miike productions. Dir En Grey puts on a bombastic live show wherever it's performing.
THURS | VANESSA CARLTON at GOTHIC THEATRE | 11/21/13 It's hard to believe that it's been eleven years since the release of Vanessa Carlton's riveting debut, Be Not Nobody, a record that set the bar high for singer-songwriters in the new millennium. Since then, she's continued to float around pop music both as an artist herself and as an influence on the latest crop of female songwriters looking to craft earnest and catchy pop songs with a little extra meat on their bones. Though she hasn't put out a new album since 2011, Carlton is reportedly hard at work on her next endeavor. Until then, prepare yourself for a White Chicks-level sing-along to "A Thousand Miles."
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