The best shows in Denver this weekend
Artopia is always a blast, and this year's lineup includes a cornucopia of producers and bands handpicked from the local scene, including Shady Elders, Confluence, FaceMan, Colfax Speed Queen, the Outfit, the Royal, Pruitt, Mikey Thunder, Decadon, Lotus Drops, Pan Astral and much more. It's basically, a showcase of local talent that is making big moves. Oh, and did we mention there is a ton of food and art? You don't want to miss this.
Superhumanoids formed in Los Angeles in 2009, when friends and multi-instrumentalists Cameron Parkins, Sarah Chernoff and Max St. John came together over a mutual interest in R&B and '80s pop music. Though much has been made of the group's connection to the first wave of synth-pop, the music it makes is actually based in R&B and soul, using modern production sensibilities and techniques more often associated with hip-hop.
The Lawrence Arms started in 1999 when former members of the Broadways, Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan, decided to do a more melodic punk band focused on often startlingly detailed and personal but emotionally vibrant music that didn't wax into the melodramatic mode of turn of the century emo. The band's earliest releases came out on respected indie label Asian Man Records, but it was 2002's Apathy and Exhaustion that propelled the group into a higher echelon of the public consciousness. Famously kicked off the Warped Tour in 2004 for making remarks critical of the festival from stage, the Lawrence Arms continued to make poignant, melodic punk records informed by a sharp sense of humor.
Blues lead man JJ Grey headlines an all-star night at the Fillmore, and it's sure to be a bluesy, rocking showdown. With a southern-tinged flavor that adds extra authenticity, JJ Grey commands attention with his big voice singing songs about cheating hearts with the usual blues fare. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers bring their own brand of soul-filled blues to the stage, as looping singer/songwriter Keller Williams rounds out the bill.
Los Angeles post-rock duo El Ten Eleven isn't your run-of-the-mill indie-rock two-piece. For starters, their live sound isn't stripped down like fellow duos Matt & Kim or the White Stripes, and they don't have to rely on drum machines or pre-recorded backing tracks to faithfully reproduce their recordings, like the Kills and Sleigh Bells. Instead, guitarist/bassist Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty rely on an array of effects pedals and a looping machine to create intricate atmospheric works that actually do sound as big live as they do on record. What's more, El Ten Eleven's danceable melodies pack enough of a punch so that audiences forget they're watching a dreaded instrumental band.
Karl Denson is hard to pin down. The saxophonist and bandleader may have strong roots in the traditional jazz of giants like John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, but that hasn't stopped him from exploring funk, R&B, hip-hop and myriad other genres in his two-decade-plus career. Starting as a member of Lenny Kravitz's original ensemble in the late '80s, Denson went on to push the creative envelope, exploring different textures and styles with the Greyboy Allstars and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe. Tonight, Denson presents "A Ray Charles Boogaloo Dance Party."
Hot Tuna is aging gracefully and still in top notch performance shape. Delighting crowds since 1969 with its highly proficient musical prowess and country blues tunes, the legendary band, propelled by the ridiculously fast finger-picking from guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and sweet touches of gospel, brings its Acoustic Hot Tuna tour to Denver after finishing a string of dates with Leon Russell.
Dorner vs. Tookie serves as a sampler of LA-based underground hip-hop label Hellfyre Club's heavyweight roster. A group of MCs who nonetheless possess an anti-crew mentality, Nocando, Open Mike Eagle, Busdriver, and others deliver rhymes featuring both brains and brawn, over eccentric and electronic-leaning beats. Political, self-aware and comedic.
It was evident early on in his life that New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton had some tremendous trumpet chops. After a stint with legendary drummer Elvin Jones, Payton inked a deal with Verve when he was twenty years old, and he went on to release seven discs for the imprint, as well some other albums on other labels. While the trumpeter is clearly at home in the jazz idiom, he's spent the last decade digging into electric jazz-funk sounds of the '60s and '70s, which is evidenced with his XXX trio that includes drummer Joe Dyson and bassist Vicente Archer. Payton also sings and plays the Fender Rhodes and sometimes plays trumpet and keys simultaneously, as well.
While Dave Brubeck, who passed away in 2012, was one of jazz's greatest pianists, five of his six children are also accomplished musicians. At Dazzle, two of the Brubeck brothers (composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris and drummer Dan), pay tribute to their father and are joined by guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb. The quartet's latest effort, 2012's Lifelines, includes some fine renderings of Dave Brubeck's songs as well as Paul Desmond's "Take Five."
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