The best concerts to see in Denver this week
The country is awash in Americana fever as scores of rock-radio favorites dabble in the sounds of yore. Though it might be cute, many of the current banjo-picking types fail to elevate their style beyond gimmick. A huge exception is the Avett Brothers, a North Carolina act helmed by, yes, brothers Scott and Seth. Sure, they're nominally folk-influenced, with their relatively stripped-down, deeply earnest sound and penchant for things like harmonicas. But what sets the Avetts apart is a serious, genre-defying talent for songwriting. Their melodies soar and stick, regardless of the folksy window dressing.
If you dug the sloe-eyed undie-rap science Aesop Rock dropped over Kimya Dawson's hyperactive folk plaints on the latter's Thunder Thighs, the Uncluded is right up your alley. What the pair fosters, for better or worse, is the experience of two strong creative minds brainstorming simultaneously, out loud, often in confusing contradiction. It's thrilling sometimes, exhausting at others.
Michael Franti is known for his social activism through his music. He started off as a rapper, spitting aware (and angry) rhymes in his early years, before moving into what he calls "rebel rock," a sort of fusion of folk, pop, hip-hop and whatever else is influencing him at the time. As his popularity has grown, he's been drawing larger crowds.
In his mid-forties, John Popper is an alternative-rock harmonica god who has spent the better part of his life writing infectious tunes and performing in front of sold-out crowds with his band Blues Traveler. For Popper, his current state is not one he thought much about a quarter of a century ago. "Everybody likes 'Hook' and 'Run-Around,' especially 'Hook,'" he told the Youngstown Vindicator last year, adding that, "I wrote it in the highest note I could sing to show off how high I could sing, not realizing I would be doing that for the next 25 years. I would like to go back in time and beat the shit out of myself." Popper may not have the exact same pipes that he did when he was twenty, but he's still got the energy of a young man on a mission to deliver a stellar performance night in and night out.
From a New Orleans tradition as old as the bordellos of Storyville, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band continues to reinvent Dixieland jazz with ace musicianship, dynamic interplay and horns aplenty: two trumpets, two saxophones and a sousaphone that fattens the bottom end like a wedge of mud pie. Rounding out the fabled "second-line sound" with a snare drummer, a bass drummer and a guitarist, the Crescent City's most relentless touring act has postponed Ash Wednesday for over a quarter of a century and counting. New Orleans Southern rock/Americana act Honey Island Swamp, who have a new album later this month, opens the show.
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