The eight best shows in Denver this week
Mac DeMarco plays tonight at the Gothic Theatre
It's a particularly good week at Red Rocks, with something like half of our recommended shows taking place at the World's Sexiest Natural Ampitheatre. There is a particularly appealing collection of Colorado talent taking that stage on Thursday, when DeVotchKa joins the symphony orchestra for what is becoming an annual joint show. As always, the rest of our picks follow.
Amen Dunes Lost Lake Lounge : July 14 Amen Dunes's Damon McMahon could have turned out like so many writers whose brilliant work was found and published posthumously. Fortunately for him, some friends shared his home recordings with people connected to Locust Music while he was in China for a few years, and 2009's D.I.A. became a bit of an underground sensation before he returned to America. His lo-fi psych pop recalled early Elephant 6 music, if more of that collective's bands had embraced Nick Drake, Van Morrison or Fairport Convention rather than the Beatles and the Beach Boys. McMahon's latest effort, 2014's Love, puts some fine lines around the fuzzy edges of melody that worked on earlier efforts. But still intact is an air of spaciousness and nostalgia, as though he were crafting a sense memory of walks on foggy mornings while the sun rises. It's warmly reflective, expansive music, infused with a sense of wonder.
Carolina Chocolate Drops Chautauqua Auditorium : 8:00 p.m. July 14 Carolina Chocolate Drops famously met at an all-black banjo convention in Boone, North Carolina, in 2006. If that sounds improbable, consider that they also man-aged to make Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'em Up Style (Oops!)" sound decent in a 2010 cover. This is a band that doesn't fit into boxes too well, and that's a good thing. Their strength is in their modern twists on traditional Southern sounds; they often dig up dusty sheet music to resurrect long-forgotten tunes. As of last year, lead singer Rhiannon Giddens was the sole original member remaining in the group; this tour is his first with a new lineup. New members include a cellist and a multi-instrumentalist, which should keep the music as innovative as ever. At their Red Rocks gig, the band will be joined by fellow old-time outfit Old Crow Medicine Show.
Mac DeMarco Gothic Theatre : 7:00 p.m. July 14 Canadian warbler Mac DeMarco seems to have come out of nowhere -- plucked from obscurity, shoved into the festival circuit, and now headlining a tour of his own. The singer-songwriter has released three albums in as many years; the latest, 2014's well-received Salad Days, is a showcase for his goofball honesty. And he has a number of self-released efforts from prior years, as well, both solo and with his band, Makeout Videotape. But it was the intentionally cruddy, VHS-quality video for 2012's "Ode to Viceroy" that really introduced the singer to the larger world, through an aesthetically defining clip about his signature cigarettes. At barely 24 years old, DeMarco sounds like a pro, echoing the smarminess of Donovan while fitting into a survey of contemporaries like DIIV and Real Estate. He has a unique style of guitar playing that almost comes off as lazy and intentionally out of tune at times, but it only adds another layer to his mysterious charm. Known for quippy stage banter and plenty of belching (see 2013's Live & Acoustic Vol. 1 for multiple examples), DeMarco possesses everything needed to create an intricate, Beck-like legacy.
Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 5:45 p.m. July 14 When Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival announced its lineup last April there was some controversy about the truncated roster for the July 14 show at Red Rocks. Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Asking Alexandria, Trivium and Body Count (Ice-T's metal band) were announced for Denver, but those are the only bands playing that date, a divergence from Mayhem Fest's tradition as a day-long show with multiple stages.
Guantanamo Baywatch hi-dive : 8:00 p.m. July 15 Portland, Oregon's Guantanamo Baywatch formed in early 2009 and mulched the aesthetics of early surf rock with punk and the early psychobilly of artists like Hasil Adkins and The Cramps in threading together its core sound. The result is music that sounds like it could be from the '60s but is just ineffably weirder than most of that stuff. Stylistically, this group's music has more in common with modern outfits like Shannon & The Clams and Hunx & His Punx than with something from fifty years ago.
Goo Goo Dolls and Daughtry Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 6:45 p.m. July 15 The music industry has changed in fundamental ways since bassist Robby Takac started the Goo Goo Dolls with guitarist and songwriter John Rzeznik in the late 1980s. In their more than two decades of existence, the band has tapped into major mainstream success with their marriage of pop balladry and straight-ahead rock. They've also had to change with the times, acclimating to the transformation wrought by the rise of digital music.
Old Crow Medicine Show Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 7:30 p.m. July 16 The Old Crow boys seem to be the cooler Americana gateway drug of choice for younger listeners. A sort of anti-Mumfords you can rep without looking like a radio-rock tool, the pickers don't bash you over the head with dear melodies, just gritty stories and Doc Watson-approved bluegrass chicanery. The six or seven-piece group, depending on the touring cycle, has even been produced by the wooly Don Was of Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Todd Snider fame.
DeVotchKa & the Colorado Symphony Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 7:30 p.m. July 17 As any rock historian could tell you, teaming up with an orchestra can sometimes be a thin attempt to disguise a creative lag. But in the case of DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony, the pairing has produced an inspired, brilliantly structured melding of two aesthetics that relies less on contrast than it does on similarities. With DeVotchKa's sentimental landscapes and the Symphony's climactic rises and powerful, sweeping descents, performances make for a kind of epic storytelling, supplanted with enough heart to afford the grand housing of so many instruments without sounding bombastic.
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