The best concerts to see in Denver this week
Polica, which hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota, features former Roma di Luna vocalist Channy Leaneagh, Ryan Olson of Gayngs fame, a pair of drummers, Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson and bassist Chris Bierden. Formed in the summer of 2011, the act came together rather quickly and garnered enormous praise right out of the gate first with its full-length debut Give You the Ghost. With a fiercely seductive electro sound kindred to acts like Purity Ring, JJ and the xx, Polica, and particularly the vocals of Leaneagh, is patently irresistible.
Electronic dance music is charging forward with an unbridled force, and Porter Robinson, who recently signed with the Astralwerks label, is at the front of the pack. Still riding on the monumental success of 2011's Spitfire and the chart-topping single "Language," which was released last year, Robinson is about to put out an album that could usher in the next phase of dance music, offering something that's evolved beyond the status quo. In the past, Robinson has leaned strongly toward the melodic side of dance music and away from the grinding bass, so it's a safe bet that his new sounds will steer the genre in the direction of beautifully composed tracks.
Born in Leeds, England, as Christopher Mercer, Rusko has become one of the most sought-after dubstep producers in recent years. He inherited a love of music from his mother, a folk and country singer who performed in a band called Ventura Highway. She stopped being an active musician when he was still an infant, but being around guitars his entire life left a mark on Rusko, who learned how to play at a young age and who used two small tape recorders to record songs, radio shows and other sounds to fuel his creativity. Rusko later attended the Leeds College of Music, and that's when he focused his efforts on beat-making. Catch Rusko this time around with Roni Size and Dynamite MC.
Black Joe Lewis has earned comparisons to everyone from Howlin' Wolf to Muddy Waters, and the 2011 release Scandalous offers clear ties to roots cues based in traditional Chicago blues, gritty R&B and even vintage gospel. For his part, Lewis shies from such comparisons. The guitarist, who built up his chops playing in dive bars and clubs, insists he only plays what feels natural to him and hesitates to delve into any deep connection to the music of the past. (Read our full Q&A with Black Joe Lewis)
Bill Callahan started releasing music under the moniker Smog in 1990. He was connected to the then-emerging underground network of music that included the indie label Kill Rock Stars, which included his song "37 Pushups." Callahan's emotionally vibrant lyrics serve almost as a counterpoint to his supposedly unemotional vocal delivery. Despite that quality, fans of Callahan have appreciated his distinct voice and its ability to convey emotion without having to engage in overt theatrics. Throughout the '90s, Callahan's sparse, honest songs struck a chord with critics as well as fans over the course of several albums, and the list of Callahan's collaborators is extensive and illustrious.
After reading a book about prostitutes in the Old West and how they basically ran things in places like Colorado, Johnette Napolitano began working on a project a few years ago with a friend from England. That particular collaboration resulted in a gallery show, but the Concrete Blonde frontwoman also wrote a song about it, and one of the characters in it was called the Soiled Dove. It's fitting, then, that she's playing a one-off acoustic show at Denver's Soiled Dove, also named for those pioneering ladies of the night. Napolitano's solo gigs have started to grow in the past year or two. "At this time in my life, I want to incorporate a lot of things," she says. For example, "I've always wanted projections on a stage. We didn't really get around to doing that until last December." During her concerts, she also reads from Rough Mix, a book she released in 2010 that includes lyrics and accompanying stories, as well as short vignettes.
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, an effort that started small at Dulcinea's and Cervantes', then moved to the Ogden, where it continues to entertain packed audiences year after year. Bring nine canned items for the Denver Rescue Mission and receive a free limited-edition poster commemorating the night.
From his recent stint making music backed by the Night Sweats, to the incredibly moving songs he's crafted on his own, to his cinematic work with Born in the Flood, Nathaniel Rateliff is a man who requires absolutely no preamble -- his reputation precedes him. His work with the Night Sweats feels like a fresh and glorious reintroduction to a songwriter we all thought we knew. Rateliff has one of the most silken voices around. On these vintage-flavored, horn-bolstered soul songs, he sings with a fervent abandon that adds an unexpected but completely gratifying layer of depth and expressiveness.
Almost immediately, the spotlight was pointed at Tennis. Tennis's first two seven-inch releases in July 2010 garnered a flurry of write-ups, which led to the band securing a record deal with Fat Possum Records. Since then, the act has recorded two full-length albums, 2011's Cape Dory and last year's Young & Old, both on the Fat Possum imprint. The band's latest release, an EP titled Small Sound, was just released on the Mumford & Sons affiliated imprint, Communion Records.
An odd duality marks Counter Counter Culture, Skyfox's latest effort. There's a common thread of pain that comes through in the lyrics on each of the ten tracks. Whether it's the agony of a romance gone bad -- a theme spelled out in songs like "Drug in Me (Down)" -- or the heartbreak of confronting a deadbeat dad ("So Lost"), this album offers plenty of sadness. But that tone is at odds with the pure vibrancy of the music. Echoing the infectious energy of vocalist and guitarist Johnny Hill, the band offers speedy, distortion-laden rock anthems that are consistently energizing; the title tune fairly pops with frantic guitar lines and tight rhythmic accompaniment. On slower numbers, like "All You Need Is Blood" and "Our Last Breath," Hill's earnest and honest vocals help lighten the grim subject matter. Even as he declares "We are broken, lost and alone," the music remains compelling.
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