The best concerts to see in Denver this weekend
Cat Power is the sometimes solo, sometimes full-band, project of Chan Marshall. Although born in Atlanta, Marshall made her way to New York City in the early 1990s and became involved in the underground music scene in the Big Apple. In 1993, Marshall earned an opening slot on Liz Phair's tour, where she gained some great exposure. By 1996, Marshall joined Matador Records, and since then, her ups and downs and occasionally erratic behavior has been well-documented. But to put to much focus on that would be to overlook the fact that Marshall's music resonates with a great many people, and she has a gifted ability to write about the complexities of living an authentic life in way that's genuine. Last year, Marshall released Sun, arguably her best album yet.
Lupe Fiasco's career has had some ups and downs, or, more specifically, a lot of ups and then a lot of downs, but at any and every moment, he is a dynamic ball of talent; he put together arguably the greatest, most epic story hip-hop has ever told across at least two albums, the tale of Michael Young History. Recently, Lupe Fiasco hasn't been able to catch a break; he was too mainstream with Lasers, and too preachy with Food and Liquor II. But you have to admire the heart, and when he finds a compelling delivery device -- like MYH or skate culture like he has before -- he's on top of his game.
Freddie Ross began performing in his home town of New Orleans in 1999 as a backup dancer and singer for Katey Red, a local drag queen who performed bounce music. Nicknamed "Freedia" by a friend, Ross created a stage persona appropriately dramatic and super-hero-esque -- not unlike Bootsy Collins, who crafted his own inimitable performance style. Big Freedia is a powerfully compelling and visceral live act, and one of the most charismatic gender-bending figures in music since David Bowie. A bit of a cult figure in the more adventurous dance and hip-hop circles, in 2010 he started performing with funk/jam band Galactic and came to the attention of a national audience. A tour with the Postal Service only helped Freedia's upward trajectory in the public consciousness. Do believe the hype.
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.
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.
In the Whale has the kind of live show that can literally turn the head of a rock star. No, really -- not speaking figuratively here. Ask Slash. The Guns N' Roses guitar god hand-picked the band to open for him after seeing footage of Eric Riley and playing a house party. The video in question was shot by James F. Clark at the Inca House. The no-frills, four-minute-long clip simply features the band playing in front of a house full of people. That's it. No story line, no added effects, no special camera angles. Sometimes it's best to just let the music speak for itself, as the duo soon learned. The raucous rock act began life as a solo acoustic project when Nate Valdez was still living in Greeley, and has become an electrifying live act that's visceral and aggressive, sounding a bit like a hard-rocking blues band that subsisted on a daily dose of the Melvins.
FRI & SAT | DR NEPTUNE / PUNX NOT DEAD... at 3 KINGS | 11/22-11/23
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.
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.
The Devil Wear's Prada first came together in 2005. Formed in Dayton, Ohio, by members who came up in the local hardcore scene, the act is a Christian band, but it has never traded on that aspect of the band with any overt, ham-fisted musical content. This year, the band released its most sonically adventurous album yet, 8:18, which is considerably darker.
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.
In a just world, John Brannon would be as hallowed a punk icon as anyone out of early '80s and D.C. Hardcore. As the frontman for the Detroit-based Negative Approach, Brannon was involved in making some of the most confrontational and pointed music of the era. Negative Approach's music captured post-industrial Midwest alienation and hopelessness with stark accuracy and shot it through with a befittingly dark and seething emotional intensity. Though the band broke up in 1984, and Brannon went on to other truly noteworthy projects, like Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action, Negative Approach got back together in 2006 and has been touring ever since. Seeing the commanding Brannon in any band is something unforgettable, but this show, which also features MDC, the Casualties and the Swellers, should be fantastic.
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 first 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 gangsta rap, you couldn't go wrong with Naughty By Nature.
Though R.A. the Rugged Man has been in the rap game for roughly a decade, his recently released Legends Never Die is only his second official release. He is perhaps best known for one incredible verse -- one of the best you'll ever hear -- on the Jedi Mind Tricks track "Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story." That's not a bad thing to be known for, but it is also perhaps a little unfair, because the Rugged Man has much more personality than is revealed in that one song; it's a shocking, unapologetic one that is not afraid to throw the kitchen sink at an industry that has, in some ways, rejected him. Live, the Rugged Man should be nothing short of a spectacle.
These guys from Broomfield are probably too young to have experienced the glory days of illegal warehouse raves and events out in the middle of private land, as hinted at in films like Go, not to mention the times when Giorgio Moroder actually toured. But their recorded output and production sounds like they are at least well-versed in both trance and the moody yet breezy atmospherics of Moroder's best work. Thunder Bass and Sine refer to themselves as "budding" artists, but if any of its singles are any indication, the early promise could easily become a going concern once these guys iron the kinks out of their work.
A drum and bass instrumental duo (not in the EDM sense, of course), TripLip can't be said to fit into any particular musical subgenre. Reminiscent only of a a band these two guys have probably never heard of -- Denver's The Hellmen, because of its perfect fusion of jazz, punk, noise rock and surf with flourishes of improvisational funk -- it can safely be said that TripLip isn't following any trends, local or otherwise, because there's nothing trendy about what the act is doing. The outfit's solid musicianship and sonic creativity is refreshingly out of time and place, and it's always interesting.
BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.