The best concerts to see in Denver this weekend
STRING CHEESE INCIDENT at 1STBANK CENTER | 12/28-12/29, 12/31 String Cheese Incident will be presenting its twentieth-anniversary celebration with various openers during its New Year's run at 1STBANK Center. The group has Bootsy Collins joining forces on Saturday, December 28, confetti rockers Flaming Lips on Sunday, December 29, and the Del McCoury Band on Tuesday, December 31 (Tiny Universe Horns featuring Karl Denson and Chris Littlefield are also due Saturday and Sunday). Past SCI New Year's shows have been real spectacles, so don't be surprised if the place is a circus, perhaps with aerialists and all. Mixing many genres from psychedelia, bluegrass, latin, jazz and more, the band attracts a colorful array of fans bearing light-up toys and butterfly wings. This one's sure to be a memorable run.
SAT & SUN | UMPHEY'S MCGEE at FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | 12/28-29 These guys have steadily climbed up the jam-band ladder over the years, wowing crowds across the country and consistently packing Red Rocks. Lighting director Jefferson Waful is considered to be one the best lighting designers out there right now, and his work is definitely something that should be seen at least once. The musical changes on stage are quickly followed by stunning light cues. Umphrey's is also slated to ring in the New Year at the Fillmore on Tuesday, December 31.
YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND at BOULDER THEATER | 12/27/13 Yonder Mountain String Band is a fast-paced act that manages to blow your mind with its excellent technicality while toying with your emotions with heartfelt lyrics. Together the four members work in musical harmony, with animated lead singer and mandolin player Jeff Austin always delighting the crowd. While the Flood Benefit show the band is hosting on Monday, December 30, is sold out, you can still get tickets to see these exciting string-shedders on the remaining four dates (Saturday, December 28, through Tuesday, December 31).
FRI | TROMBONE SHORTY at OGDEN THEATRE | 12/27 A year before Trombone Shorty (aka Troy Andrews) scored a number jazz album with his major-label debut, he was already sparring with lions. Just check out the eight-minute YouTube clip of the young Shorty trading trumpet licks with Wynton Marsalis at the House of Blues in New Orleans. At the considerably young age of 27, Andrews understands and appreciates the heritage Marsalis represents. His grandfather, Jessie Hill, scored a hit with the Allen Toussaint-produced "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," and his older brother, James, a trumpet player, made sure he sat in with some of the Crescent City's greatest musicians. But Trombone Shorty is just as likely to be opening up for rock artists like Jeff Beck and the Dave Matthews Band as he is playing at a jazz or blues festival. And he's toured and recorded with Lenny Kravitz.
SAT | LEFTOVER CRACK at GOTHIC THEATRE | 12/28/13 After the breakup of Choking Victim in the late '90s, Scott Sturgeon focused on Leftöver Crack, which was initially a bit of a solo project but became a full band by the time it released its 2001 debut. That album was to have been titled Shoot The Kids At School, but the label refused to release an album with that name and instead issued Mediocre Generica. The band's next album, 2004's Fuck World Trade, was released by Alternative Tentacles. An unabashed screed against the political climate at the time, the record's cover art was banned in many commercial music chains across the country because of its depiction of American and U.K. leaders causing 9-11. Not long after the release of the album, Leftöver Crack went on an effective hiatus, with Sturgeon (aka Stza) performing solo shows and in other projects, but in the last couple of years, the band has been back to touring.
FRI & SAT | AIR DUBAI at HI-DIVE | 12/27-12/28 Back before Air Dubai was headlining large venues as a Warped Tour staple and had a record deal, it was another ambitious local act making its way playing smaller club shows. This weekend, the outfit returns to its roots with a pair of special back-to-back shows at the hi-dive with Dinosaurus Rex and Total Ghost. Definitely a run of shows not to miss.
ARK LIFE HOLIDAY MIXER at MERCURY CAFE | 12/27-12/28 Ark Life, an outfit led by Jesse Elliott of These United States, is hosting its holiday mixer at the Mercury Cafe, a two-night affair with a stacked lineup that includes Ark Life playing an electric set, with You Me & Apollo, Abe Abraham & the Pink Sky and DJ Jordan Wyatt on the first night, and Ark Life playing an acoustic set, with The Pirate Signal, Miss America by Wheary and Soulfax DJ Rey Rogé.
MELVIN SEALS & JGB at QUIXOTE'S TRUE BLUE | 12/27-12/29 Many may call them a nostalgia act, but when your history is as storied and amazing as that of Melvin Seals, let them talk. Seals and company have been continuously touring ever since Jerry's death as an homage to the man who began it all, and Seals commands a lot of stage presence in his own right, with his Hammond B3 organ blaring loud and proud, demanding that everyone listen. Seals keeps the flame alive with the Jerry Garcia Band, playing reverent covers as well as tossing in new material.
PARTICLE at THE DONKEY O.T. | 12/27/13 Formed in L.A., Particle blends elements of funk, electronica and rock to create a sound called livetronica, a subset of the jam-band world that uses electronic tools to go along with the live instrumentation during live shows and improvisation. The group toured in a side project in 2005 called Hydra, with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, giving the act some older head cred points -- as well as some really cool stories as they tour endlessly for their dedicated fan base, Particle People.
FRI & SAT | BRAD LEALI at DAZZLE | 12/28-12/29 Brad Leali grew up in Denver, studied with the local legend Neil Bridge and went on to be lead alto saxophonist for the Harry Connick, Jr. Orchestra, as well serving as its musical director for four years. Now based in New York, Leali has played with jazz heavies Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Joe Williams and Jimmy Cobb. If seeing Leali's deft playing, which recalls Cannonball Adderley, isn't already reason enough to come check out him out, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, who's also a hell of an improviser, is also on board for these four sets over two nights.