The best DIY Shows in Denver in November
Huge Caro Olvera
Retox's Justin Pearson has been in a handful of the most respected punk and experimental bands for more than twenty years. He helped found hardcore band Struggle when he was fifteen. By 1994, that project was through, and Pearson was involved with the more noisy Swing Kids, while also starting his own record label, Three One G, and a power-violence outfit called the Locust. The latter continues to this day and has blurred the lines between death metal, power-violence, hardcore and noise rock. In 2011, Pearson teamed up with some friends, including the Locust's drummer Gabe Serbian to write and perform music in a more frenzied hardcore vein as Retox. One thing's for sure, Pearson and company aren't phoning it in. They're not revisiting a more glorious previous age so much as trying to create one here and now.
Transient got off the ground in Portland, Oregon, in 2008. Fronted by Krysta Martinez, the band's particular strain of grindcore comes forth in urgent slabs of sound, like Martinez and her bandmates are carving off pieces of outrage out of a collective psyche and casting it out in an informal emotional exorcism. Clearly influenced by Napalm Death, but with a more obvious sense of humor, Transient hits hard but never with cruelty. In the summer of 2011, Transient was on tour with Clinging To The Trees of a Forest Fire when, like Clinging, it ran into trouble when a car jumped a highway median near Savannah, George, and collided with the band's vehicle, critically injuring Martinez. The band has since bounced back and is now touring ahead of the release of its debut full-length album.
A bracing amalgamation of post-rock, progressive metal and a penchant for creating vast sonic landscapes, Ghosts of Glaciers came together when three young veterans of the punk and metal scenes in Denver aligned to form a band devoted to their diverging musical interests. Immediate comparisons of the band's sound could be drawn to the likes of Isis, Red Sparrowes and Jesu, but there's an unexpected jazz sensibility to Ghosts' flowing structures, suggestive of the subtleties of the movements of its namesake. Dreamy but heavy, stark in its beauty, Ghosts of Glaciers is the kind of band that bridges the gap between ambient and rock with the visceral impact of its songwriting and performances.
Abiku, the experimental, outsider pop band from Baltimore, has yielded two noteworthy successor projects with the heavy electronica outfit CURSE! and the more aggressive and dark techno-oriented Forest Kingdom, now based out of Philadelphia. Far more menacing than Abiku, Forest Kingdom isn't industrial, it isn't gothic, it isn't "witch house," but it is just very visceral electronic music, like a punk band that dispensed with guitar in favor of a synthesizer, but without ditching a certain EBM melodic sensibility. The group's 2012 album Eldritch is a good document of the truly unique blend of sounds showcase how this band is aiming for originality without shouldering a desperate burden of doing so.
This three piece from Chicago calls itself "indie/emo" and that's fair enough. But the sound here is more earnest and sincere than a lot of the music embracing those terms have been of late. Think more Midwest 90s emo like Braid and Mineral, with some of the looseness of Guided By Voices and the gritty, shimmer jangle of Jawbox. Its latest record is the perhaps ironically titled I Don't Even Care Anymore. Its lead single "Get Weird" has spareness of songwriting and a willingness to display enough vulnerability to connect with anyone that has felt uncomfortable in his or her own skin and alienated by those things we're told we're supposed to think and feel. Anthemic and tender, Dowsing reconciles seemingly disparate impulses.
Baltimore's Endless Bummer threads together buoyant pop punk melodies and rhythms with the wicked, biting darkness and aggression of black metal and grindcore -- picture the Descendents and early NOFX alongside Venom. Endless Bummer's sound belies its name as this is an animated live band that seems to play with an sense of joy and exuberance, rather than a downcast vibe. Although these guys call themselves a political punk band, their debut album, Bummed Out, which was released in 2012, has enough irreverent humor to be worthy of the outfit's moniker and proving that some of the best social critique is done with a chuckle.
It's a rarity to see unabashed pop music at a DIY venue, but Laura Leighe, while grounded in the sort of larger-than-life, glittery pop songwriting of artists like Katy Perry, Adele and Amy Winehouse, has largely been touring that circuit, as well as venues like the Viper Room and the Whiskey A-Go-Go. What sets Leighe and her collaborator Zach Dumbleton apart, though, is that it's not just junior league pop aspiring to stardom -- the songs are already there, and Leighe is wisely courting a crowd and playing in venues that are essentially outside the reach of established Top 40 pop artists -- and potentially truly weirding out the regulars.
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.
Shannon Webber and David Samuelson used to perform under the unfortunate moniker of Sew Buttons On Ice Cream. But maybe that surrealistic name was more fitting than Church Fire, a name recalling a Norwegian black metal underground purging the homeland of the edifices of Christian occupation. Whatever the handle, the duo has written some of the most interesting experimental electronic music, disguised as trashy eurotechno, of recent years. That, coupled with Webber's theatrical dancing, and Samuelson's Death In June-esque visual stoicism as counterpoints, always makes for a great show, one that looks like it could have happened in an abandoned 1980s disco, but sounds like it couldn't have happened before the advent of electroclash.
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