The best shows in Denver this weekend
Last summer the Lumineers played Red Rocks for the first time, opening for Cake. And that was just a few months after playing the Bluebird Theater for the first time. What a difference a year makes. Thanks to the inescapable single "Ho Hey," the band's fortunes have changed dramatically. Now instead of a pair of sold-out, back-to-back shows at the Bluebird, the Denver outfit returns to Red Rocks to headline two sold out shows, the first being Channel 93.3's Big Gig and the second a tour send off.
If you've seen Last Days Here, you're familiar with the frustrating tale of Pentagram. Formed in Virginia in the early '70s, the pioneering psychedelic metal band should have, by all accounts, realized massive worldwide fame. Instead, success evaded the outfit, thanks in part to the struggles its frontman (and sole core member) Bobby Liebling has faced over the years. Thankfully, "last days" is merely the title of the film focusing on the band. Pentagram, which has existed for decades in various forms on the fringes of obscurity, beloved by pretty much any metal fan who's come across its music, is still a going concern. Catch Pentagram with Havok, Kadavar and a slew of other acts at the first annual Snowboard on the Block festival.
ZZ Ward released her debut album, Til The Casket Drops, in 2012. Growing up, she honed a talent for writing bluesy R&B songs. Her knack for that can be heard prominently on that disc, and well as her proclivity for hip-hop, which is even more prevalent on her Criminal EP and her Eleven Roses mixtape. Ward has an upbeat, soulful voice that is best experienced live, whether she's performing her own material or working wonders on a handful of covers.
Tech is an incredibly gifted rapper technically and a good lyricist, but the most impressive thing about his rise from obscurity to being a household name has been that he's done it by himself, without the help of a major label. He's always traveling, which you've probably noticed, as Denver is one of his favorite places to come, and by all accounts, he puts on an incredible live show -- so incredible that he was famously said to be lip synching by the L.A. Times, an accusation he didn't take kindly to. To say that Tech is one of the hardest working rappers is an understatement. He's one of the hardest working musicians, period. Tech N9ne also performs tonight at the Aggie in Fort Collins.
Before the "indie folk" thing became a going concern, this band from Bloomington, Indiana, perfected that sound and made its name touring the American underground music circuit of DIY spaces and punk houses from early on. The group didn't really gain exposure outside of that world until close to the middle part of the last decade with the release of its 2006 album, In Bocca al Lupo, produced by J. Robbins. While the world caught up to its sound a bit, Murder By Death is one of the few bands that its earlier punk audience still seems to think of fondly, a sure sign it's still on the right track.
Founded in Salem, Oregon, in 2005, Typhoon started out as a recording project but quickly evolved into a sprawling live affair with over ten members. Two years into its time together, the act essentially went on hiatus before being coaxed back into activity by the people at the Portland imprint Tender Loving Empire. Typhoon's songs are a fascinating example of economic songwriting. Despite having a wide array of sounds at its disposal, the band doesn't use them gratuitously, only to contribute to the overall mood of a song in expressing layers of meaning. Singer Kyle Morton's literary approach to his lyrics shines through, enhanced and fully realized by the orchestral beauty of the band.
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.
"'Razor Blades & Sunshine' is the name of a song I wrote in 2009," says Marie Litton about the title track of the new Lil Thunder album. "I was having a really rough time. I felt like it was one of those songs that was like, 'Fuck my life. I hate everything.' I always think of young girls -- or maybe me as a teenager -- cutting themselves. A lot of troubled teens do this, me being one of them. (Continue on to read full Lil Thunder profile)
Every band is, to some degree, essentially a mask of theatrics in which they play a character that is not really themselves. But for Denver's Euro-trash, synth-dance duo, Total Ghost, the act is one hundred percent comedic lies. Chön and Biktor, a pair of rude, vain, indulgent citizens of Berlin (or sometimes the moon), make up the hilarious team of Total Ghost. If you took the German kidnappers from The Big Lebowski, wrapped them inside the aesthetic of Tim and Eric and smothered with the supernatural arrogance of Metalocalypse, you'd have Total Ghost.
Most people these days probably know Nathaniel Rateliff best as an acclaimed singer-songwriter with an album out on Rounder Records who's toured and shared bills locally with Mumford & Sons. Before he embarked on a successful solo career, though, he used to front a band called Born in the Flood, one of the most heralded and popular local acts of the previous decade. The band's anthemic, stirring music was often compared to that of Coldplay or Radiohead, without ever really sounding like either -- although Born in the Flood's expansive rock sound did explore similar emotional terrain. The band put out a small number of strong releases before taking a hiatus, while Rateliff focused on his then-solo project, the Wheel, which later evolved into his full-time endeavor.
On the cover of her latest album, Neko Case wielded a sword in her right hand while looking straight ahead and crouching down on the hood of a late-'60s Cougar. In a way, the image sort of evoked Zoe Belle hanging on the hood of that Challenger in Death Proof, which seems kind of fitting. Case, whose presence is commanding, seems like the kind of gal who would do her own stunts. Cyclone garnered two Grammy nominations, in addition to being the best-reviewed and fastest-selling album of her career. Cyclone's follow-up, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, released just a few weeks ago, is poised to follow suit.
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