The best concerts to see in Denver this week
After what had originally been billed as the band's retirement in 2009, Nine Inch Nails returned from the dead this year to release a new album, Hesitation Marks. The project received a mixed response from fans and critics: Some bemoaned the smoother edges of the act's sound, which has arguably lost some of the drug-fueled, nihilistic industrial aesthetic displayed on earlier records, while some heard new cuts such as "Came Back Haunted" and still clearly recognized the sonic footprint of era-defining musical innovator Trent Reznor. The tour thus far has offered up new material along with updated takes on older tunes, but even purists can't deny that the band's live show remains as powerful as previous incarnations. Added bonus: Explosions In the Sky and Sleeping with Sirens are slated to open this show.
In the late '80s, many young musicians were embracing the myth of the '60s. In 1989, the Black Crowes (also due three nights at the Ogden Theatre on Wednesday, November 13, Friday, November 15, and Saturday, November 16) emerged from that cultural backdrop with a bluesy, '70s-hard-rock edge and jangle-inflected improvisational inclinations, presaging virtually every element of the most recent wave of classic-rock revisionism. Their debut album, 1990's Shake Your Money Maker, was a massive success on the strength of the band's take on the Otis Redding staple "Hard to Handle." Famously tumultuous interband dynamics notwithstanding, the Crowes have persevered -- partly because they grew into a great rock-and-roll band, and partly because there is no denying the charisma and wit of frontman Chris Robinson.
Deltron 3030 isn't so much a group or an album as it is a mode of thought, and there are few hip-hop albums (or albums of any genre, for that matter) with the cinematic quality of this act's self-titled debut. Dan the Automator created deeply textured and darkly evocative soundscapes, aided by Kid Koala's turntablism, as a backdrop for Teren Delvon Jones (aka Del tha Funkee Homosapien, aka Deltron Zero) to tell the tale of how he becomes Galactic Rhyme Federation Champion. Similar to Dan the Automator's earlier work with Kool Keith, Dr. Octagonecologyst, but more coherent and accessible, this album proved that hip-hop could successfully travel to a place that only geeks had gone before: Silly non sequiturs, outer space fantasy and ridiculous characters all became fair game, and so did the out-crowd that relished them. Deltron 3030 returns to Denver with a new album, Event 2, as part of the Boom Festival, which is being headlined by Excision and features Funtcase, Cookie Monsta and more.
As founder of the now-famous DimMak record label, Steve Aoki has built his dance party into an empire. Pulling nearly every hard working act in pop music on board, his tracks all focus around one idea, and that is to make sure your ass is partying. His live show antics range from paddling through the crowd on a raft, tossing cake into the screaming audience, and stage diving right into the heart of the party. Essentially, Aoki helped usher in the hyper party of a concert, but his electro-house music alone can keep you sweating well into the night.
Though he is a legend in most every rap fan's book, Nas suffers an inescapable qualifier of his own making: the inability to escape the shadow of his legendary debut. This had even led some to label Nas overrated, saying the rest of his work is only weak in comparison to his greatest. It's clear that no rapper could have adequately followed Illmatic because the album remains, to this day, hip-hop's greatest, most perfect treasure. And even if he hasn't made another classic album, per se, Nas has earned plenty of other accolades that would make a lesser rapper's career.
British soul has a new leading lady: Jessie Ware. Her deep-rooted love for '90s R&B has played a major part in shaping her elegant sound, while a strong appreciation for British bass music has enabled her to put a different spin on things. Ware's debut, Devotion, entered the U.K. album chart at a highly respectable number five. In the run-up to the January release of her special edition EP, If You're Never Gonna Move, the soulstress is headlining a few gigs around the country, including this date at the Larimer.
Chance the Rapper is one of the hottest up-and-coming rappers out right now, and he has yet to release an official album. As such, he's emblematic of the new model for gaining popularity through mixtapes. Last year's 10 Day put him on the radar of hip-hop heads across the country, but he's absolutely blown up after this year's Acid Rap. Chance's mixtape game is so strong, a bootlegged version of it landed at 63 on Billboard's Hip-hop/R&B chart after selling 1,000 copies on iTunes and Amazon in a week.
Clutch has dodged being saddled with a label, primarily because of the illusion of reinvention it's projected with each album. But the truth is that it's just an illusion. Clutch is set in its ways, yet all of its music sounds like bold experimentation -- even on albums like 2007's From Beale Street to Oblivion, in which the act shed the metal leanings that colored earlier efforts in favor of a more refined bluesy swagger, which was really a continuation of 2005's Robot Hive/Exodus.
Songs like "Fletcher," a rambling, electric guitar-infused ballad from Blitzen Trapper's 2011 album, American Goldwing, like much of the act's music, feels like it's part of a larger narrative. Written by the quiet and mysterious frontman Eric Earley, that song like others from the album strike a chord that's almost Odyssean: From the heartbreak to the wild times to the self-reflection feelings, it's as if they're part of a continuous life journey in which a man is trying to make his way home.
Although the two records that Butch Walker made with the Black Widows were collaborative efforts, from songwriting to production, Walker opted for a more personal approach on his new five-song EP, Peachtree Battle. The album is about his father, who passed away in August at the age of 72 and was featured in the new documentary Butch Walker: Out of Focus. Walker is a revered songwriter that seems to write incisive reflective songs as easily as a pens hits, having worked with Pink, Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy and Train.
In November 2003, Matt and Allison LeBarge took over the space at 7 South Broadway (formerly occupied by Quixote's True Blue) and rechristened it the hi-dive. Since then, the small club has hosted a slew of lauded local and national acts, including Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Yeasayer and more. Last year, Matty Clark and Josh Terry bought the place with some investment help from their friends, a group of scene veterans that includes Desoto, Devon Rogers, Xandy Whitesel, Holland Rock-Garden and Curt Wallach. Building on the club's established renown, the new owners have continued to book the same caliber of shows. This weekend, the Hi-Dive's One and Ten Year Anniversary will be marked by a weekend-long celebration that includes reunion performances by Monofog, Red Cloud and Machine Gun Blues, as well as contributions from Zebroids, the Photo Atlas, Empty Palace (former MGB), Warhawk, the Royal, Ark Life and Joe Sampson.
THURS | THOMAS DOLBY at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 11/14/13
After more than two decades of living in the United States, synthpop pioneer Thomas Dolby returned to the area where he grew up on the coast in Suffolk, England. Since moving there about seven years ago, Dolby built his studio called Nutmeg of Consolation in a 1930s lifeboat where he recorded his latest effort, Map Of The Floating City . When he found out a that a lighthouse, which flashed its light on his bedroom wall as a child, was being closed he started making a film about it called The Invisible Lighthouse, which he's showing on his current tour while narrating it live with a musical score linking songs from various stages of his career.
Since forming in Tulsa nearly two decades ago, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has changed its line-up nearly as many times as the band's chameleonic approach to music has changed over the course of 21 albums. While the act has delved in a multitude of styles, including rock, funk and electronica, there has always been a communal ear bent toward jazz, especially in the extended improvisations. JFJO's latest effort, 2011's Race Riot Suite, a long-form conceptual piece that tells the story of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, is an ambitious piece that's a bit more rooted in jazz than more recent efforts.
For the better part of the past fifteen years, this band from Kalamazoo, Michigan, has toured like it was a life mission. True to its name, its roots are in bluegrass -- but there's also an improvisational side to the music that recalls the more interesting guitar work of Jerry Garcia. On the strength of hundreds of shows, not to mention a mastery of the art form, Greensky Bluegrass won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2006. Combining covers of traditional songs with excellent original material, the group is at its best in the live setting, as the All Access series of live albums attest. Greensky's extended improvisations, like some of the best music from the Allman Brothers and the Dead, are more inspired reinterpretation than indulgence.
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