The best punk in Denver in September
When your band can be said to be a direct and obvious influence on the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and countless punk bands since, it's fair to say you've made an impact on punk rock. But the Stooges didn't look too far into the future in making its music, it just articulated an unaffected desperation and intensity of emotion born of incredible sensitivity. But this isn't the only band playing this festival, which is brimming with some of the greatest punk bands from the '60s onward, including the Replacements, Naked Raygun, Flag, Rocket From the Crypt, Against Me! and Bad Religion. Riot Fest isn't one of those tours that travels to every major music market in the country, so we're pretty fortunate to be having such a density of great bands in one place at one time.
When Aaron Saye took over the building that once housed Blast-O-Mat at 7th and Federal, there was no guarantee it would be running to this day. But Saye assembled a crew of volunteers, bolstered by his own native drive and enthusiasm, not to mention a kind of open door booking policy that has made it a place where you can see all varieties of punk from crust, to hardcore, folk, straight ahead punk, queercore and whatever else. More than two hundred shows later, 7th Circle Music Collective celebrates its first year of existence with a show featuring Titan Arum, Angelic Desolation, Centuries, Pray Teeth and Valensorrow.
Denver's Of Feather and Bone has been threading together elements of crust and grind and hardcore to make music that has a bristling flow of brutal sounds, with precisely played chunky chords and off-kilter rhythms. It's not doom, not drone, but there is nevertheless a core of atmosphere to the band's sound, even as it hits with the force of a fast-flowing, caustic fluid -- all of which is driven by creative blast beats. The band's 2012 album, False Healer, is a relentless icepick into the frozen monolith of mainstream society.
Arizona's Destruction Unit plays with a frenetic intensity that reveals that one of the roots of its sound is punk. But like Butthole Surfers, the mutant post-punk psychedelicists in Chrome and the sonic adventurers in Cabaret Voltaire, these guys take those roots and plug them into dark atmospherics and add tonal gyrations and punishing rhythms designed to take the people playing the music and the listener to a different place. Whereas many punk musicians essentially made just great, straight ahead rock and roll straight from the more primitive end of that music, other bands took punk to its logical conclusion by exploring and embracing the inner weirdo and expressing that alongside the outburst of frustration. The band's recently released Deep Trip on Sacred Bones Records is more than just a clever name as the music embodies that concept.
Hailing from the outer edges of Los Angeles, these guys have learned a thing or two from Southern California hardcore. Going more the route of bands like Suicidal Tendencies -- a clear sonic inspiration for this band's music and general aesthetic -- Trap Her Keep Her has thrash very much at the core of its guitar work, with vocals straight out of hardcore, barking the words with a visceral conviction. The outfit's 2012 album, Fake Record, has no song titles, which is obviously related to the statement on the group's Band Camp site in relation to the album. The text of that statement spells out how the current cultural climate in America is one of censorship because of the social consequences of saying things that might ruffle feathers, no matter how true.
Kansas City's Vomit Assault sounds like it listened to a lot of Earth but didn't quite stretch out the sounds into long, doomy passages before moving them on into the realm of the psychedelic. Referring to itself as "melodic crust," this four-piece writes music that seems inspired by downbeat days in dead end towns, expressing that existential angst and purging it with music dense and conveys a desperate urgency. The songs are short and to the point while being seemingly epic in conception and execution. The band's 2012 album, Raised for the Slaughter...Until They Kill Us All, which takes its name from putting the two song titles together, is a manifesto for raging against and breaking out of a mundane existence.
It's pretty much impossible to say exactly what Andrew WK is, but one thing is certain: The guy is motivated, prolific and he recognizes no boundaries, even those people would like to impose on him in describing his music. Nothing could be more punk than performing full tilt and not accepting the standard limitations on what music can or "should" be. Andrew WK performs like he went to a lot of punk shows as a kid and absorbed that sort of energy and expression, but he also plays like he layers that with the bombast of heavy metal and dance pop.
Screaming Queens named itself after Susan Stryker's 2005 documentary about the first documented transgender riot. Coming out of Vancouver, British Columbia's rich punk and experimental music scene in 2010, the band sounds like a noisy punk outfit that also learned a thing or two from no wave, especially acts like the SWANS, industrial weirdos Skinny Puppy and pioneering guitar noise/ambient legends Yellow Swans. There is an undeniable visceral quality to the group's music that is every bit as punk as anything that dares to embrace the name. A true fusion of punk and the avant-garde then and now, the outfit recognizes no strict genre boundaries, as evidenced by its debut album, S/T - Psychedelia.
Formed in 2005 in Glen Rock, New Jersey, Titus Andronicus bridges the gap between indie rock and punk with a blistering live show and music that lets you know the band not only embraces its rawness and imperfections but makes a virtue out of it -- like a more sonically aggressive Bright Eyes. You hear the recorded music and you expect a certain level of edge but none of that could prepare you for the over-the-top recklessness this band pours into its shows. But that is a large part of the band's appeal -- these guys play like there is no filter beyond the premeditation of writing solidly catchy songs with an anthemic quality.
Fronted by Jehnny Beth from France, this London-based band plays music that has a post-punk foundation but is also clearly informed by noise and soundscaping in a way that seems far removed from its more conventionally post-punk compositions. This aspect of the band puts it more in the camp of what Wire was doing at the end of the '70s, making emotion and instinct the guide for how the music should sound rather than relying strictly on straightforward songwriting.
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