The best DIY shows in Denver in October
Dustin Wong first gained notice as a member of Baltimore's passionately exuberant post-punk band Ponytail. In that outfit, Wong's guitar work gave the band a wiry sonic detail that made its songs even more exciting. When Ponytail split in 2011, Wong moved out of Baltimore and embarked on a solo career of largely instrumental guitar music. What's made Wong's solo work remarkable since then is that while its drawn immediate comparisons to the music of Hella and perhaps Marnie Stern, there is a compellingly narrative quality in his use of sound and melody, rather than just merely serving as a display of his considerable technical prowess. Wong is currently touring with Takako Minekawa in support of their collaborative album Toropical Circle.
Esmerelda Strange has been a bit of a gypsy during the course of her musical career. Having been based in San Francisco and Seattle, Strange now resides in Denver. As a solo artist, Strange has put together an act that draws on the Vaudeville tradition, and her performances are almost as much performance art as musical. Singing in both Spanish and English, Strange brings the irreverent spirit and energy of punk to her songs, which are also infused with elements of cumbia, Norteno and, yes, gypsy overtones.
Jane Vincent was once a member of the Baltimore-based band Abiku, and in that group, she helped to create disorienting, noisy, yet tuneful, visceral and jittery pop music using drum machines, 8-bit sounds and various other instrumentation. With Logan Terkelsen, formerly of Pfister, Vincent formed CURSE!, a duo that moves beyond what both Vincent and Terkelsen had done in each of their previous projects. There's a certain densely physical quality to the music that's darker and kindred to the sound of fellow travelers of unconventionally psychedelic music, Indian Jewelry. CURSE! is touring in support of its latest release, the confrontationally hypnotic and riveting Between The Wardrobe & The Wall.
Horse Lords is a quartet from Baltimore, Maryland that has transmuted the classical background that exists within the band, whether traditional classical or modern classical, and channels those skills through the influence of American avant-garde composers like La Monte Young and James Tenney. The result is a music that has technical prowess to burn but which is playful in its use of alternate tunings, eccentric rhythms and its use of multi-media elements in the shows. Sonically, Horse Lords have more in common with modern experimental guitar bands like Hella and Skeletons than with any particular tradition, which makes the group not just an interesting live band but one that is energetic and compelling.
Pepper Griswald is not the name of the grandmother that was tied to the roof of the station wagon in the National Lampoon's Vacation, but rather it is a band from Albuquerque, New Mexico, with an offbeat and irreverent sense of humor. Witness song titles like "Cuz Bklyn, Ya Know?," which appears on a release called Ancient Herd, whose cover bears a blue whale swimming on the surface of a sea of sand through cacti. Musically these guys are partly instrumental, psychedelic rock with a paradoxical heavy edge coursing through the center -- it's as though the band realized it liked doom or drone metal but didn't want to be like every other band mining that musical territory, so it brought in melody and very unconventional dynamics.
This Chicago band and its sprawling membership has, in some ways, the kind of commune/cult vibe that San Francisco's Sleepy Sun had early on. Inspired by both Neil Young and Jandek, Names Divine has an informal, countrified flavor to its bluesy psychedelia, and though it may look like some hippies have taken over the venue for the length of the band's set, there is a moody heaviness to some of the act's material that should dispel such notions. The group's eclectic flavor clearly comes from a deep well of constantly evolving creativity, just as its moniker suggests.
Alex Pelissero started Jack's Smirking Revenge -- the moniker a reference to Fight Club -- as a solo project. His politically charged folk-punk anthems and songs about personal frustrations and triumphs are delivered with a charming, nervy energy and unaffected wit that elevates the music. In recent months, the solo project has become more of a band, and as a three piece, Jack's Smirking Revenge has allowed Pelissero to stretch out even more as a vocalist and performer, as opposed to being solely responsible for keeping the rhythm, which has made the music even more dynamic and impactful.
This Seattle two-piece met in 2009 when the two members were helping a friend move a stereo. Though in more than one sense a garage rock band, Pony Time definitely bucks convention. Luke Beetham plays bass and baritone guitar, giving the group's energizing sound a rich, melodic low end, while Stacy Peck's drumming is on the brighter more spiky end of the sonic spectrum, lending the music its irresistible momentum. Yes, there's a bit of that Great Northwest sound in the band's music, but the songs are also rooted in the primal beats of riot grrrl punk and the cathartic release of Thee Milkshakes.
This marks the 20th edition of the now long-running showcase/residency of experimental electronic music often held at Rhinoceropolis or some other off-the-beaten path venue. Think of it as being like a '90s rave without the volume of people and even more underground. Featuring breakcore artists like the U.K.'s Microphyst and the Parliamentalist, alongside Spanish breakcore collage artists Santisima Virgen Maria and techno-breakcore wunderkind, the Portland-based FoxDye, Grave Ravers #20 promises to be a night of aggressive, beautifully disorienting music.
Based on what this Denver-based band says about itself, it has taken the path of excess to the palace of wisdom where the Electric Wizard Sleeps in that Cathedral. But really, this outfit's music sounds like it tried to find the heaviest, most crushing, sludgy sound imaginable in crafting its songs. Maybe they're playing in drop C, or using a heavier gauge strings -- whatever the actual formula, Whilt's metal is osmium compared to most other bands' aluminum. And it's not a joke, all humorous references aside. This band's oceanic compositions definitely take you on an emotional/psychological journey through a cosmic realm of supernatural peril.
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