It's an excellent weekend for live music in Denver -- Houston rap firebrand Snow Tha Product plays Cerventes', our Open Media Sessions continue with Sorcha Richardson and Miss America by Wheary and there are plenty more. Our picks follow.Bluetech Fox Theatre : 8:30 p.m. December 4
Like many producers, Bluetech (aka Evan Bartholomew) is a classically trained pianist who's also adept at dealing with all the software available for producing tunes these days. Bluetech's music is probably best described as downtempo, though he ventures into the mid-tempo range; his sound is improvisational, ambient, warm and sweeping, mixing in vocals and instrumentation and pulling from dub and psychedelic trance to weave a tapestry.
Formed in 2008 around music already written by bandleader Michael Fitzpatrick, Fitz & the Tantrums came together within a week, just in time to play their first show. The chemistry was perfect, and the group's brand of rhythm and blues with a shiny modern radio style was cemented. While there's an undeniable revivalist spirit in its soul-on-wax sound, the Los Angeles sextet incorporates a personal take on what Motown made famous: Fitzpatrick's voice stands out with an almost '80s-pop twist, but it's pulled back to its roots by a pristine rhythm section, plus horns, organs and the complementary backing of Noelle Scaggs's vocals. Having shared the stage with the likes of Maroon 5, Hepcat and Flogging Molly, Fitz & the Tantrums are a band with mass appeal, one that will no doubt follow the path of soul's rebirth set by contemporaries Raphael Saadiq, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Adele.Mean Jeans Hi-dive : 9:30 p.m. December 4
By now, there are generations of Ramones spin-offs; the band was a prototype for many greasy-haired garage-rockers and outsider kids who found solace in emulating its bangy, three-chord, glue-sniffer jams. But Portland's Mean Jeans has been able to capture something that no other band has yet accomplished: Joey Ramone's ability to sing in a geographically untethered accent. Mean Jeans vocalists Billy Jeans and Jeans Wilder have voices that melt together into a strange and category-eluding warble, and while it definitely harks back to another era, the Jeans have been able to craft their own kind of music for long-hairs. After releasing a handful of recordings over five years, Mean Jeans found a wider audience with 2012's Life on Mars. The album is a wild but perfect encapsulation of the act's pool-hoppin', drug-doin', sing-along anthems. With songs like "Come Toobin'," "Total Yo-Yo" and "Hangin' Tuff," Mean Jeans proves that, whether you're from New York or the Pacific Northwest, those who party hard speak a universal language.Technicolor Tone Factory Bluebird Theater : 9:00 p.m. December 4
Bringing a fusion of funk and rock to the table, Technicolor Tone Factory gets you dancing while keeping you entertained by the antics of the charismatic musicians on stage.Channel 93.3 Not So Silent Night 1STBANK Center : 6:00 p.m. December 5
Formed in 2008 around music already written by bandleader Michael Fitzpatrick, Fitz & the Tantrums came together within a week, just in time to play their first show. The chemistry was perfect, and the group's brand of rhythm and blues with a shiny modern radio style was cemented. While there's an undeniable revivalist spirit in its soul-on-wax sound, the Los Angeles sextet incorporates a personal take on what Motown made famous: Fitzpatrick's voice stands out with an almost '80s-pop twist, but it's pulled back to its roots by a pristine rhythm section, plus horns, organs and the complementary backing of Noelle Scaggs's vocals. Having shared the stage with the likes of Maroon 5, Hepcat and Flogging Molly, Fitz & the Tantrums are a band with mass appeal, one that will no doubt follow the path of soul's rebirth set by contemporaries Raphael Saadiq, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Adele. Tonight, they're performing alongside Cage the Elephant, Vance Joy, Half Moon Run and Modern Suspects as part of Channel 93.3 Not So Silent Night.Del & Dawg Oriental Theater : 8:00 p.m. December 5
Del McCoury has been a bluegrass frontman since 1967, but despite recording a slew of long-players for roots labels like Arhoolie and Grassound, he was forced by fiscal realities to keep day jobs in logging or construction during much of his first two decades as a bandleader. Things didn't truly begin to pick up until the early '90s, when McCoury formed an ensemble with sons Ronnie and Rob that combined the undying appeal of traditional bluegrass with a vibrancy that attracted audiences ranging from disgruntled country aficionados to jam-band boosters. Tonight, McCoury performs with mandolinist David Grisman has spent more than four decades playing what he calls "dawg" music, which is essentially a mix swing, bluegrass, Latin, jazz and gypsy.Independent Voices Celebration Denver Open Media Studios : 7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. December 5
Open Media Foundation is a nonprofit that offers media production equipment and training to members of the Denver community. Its annual Independent Voices Celebration is a fundraising event that features a silent auction and more. This year, it will also include an installment of Open Music Sessions, a concert and video series that aims to introduce up-and-coming bands by giving them a chance to discuss their songs during the performance. (Westword, along with local label Greater Than Collective, helps OMF produce the series.) This month's installment will feature New York songwriter Sorcha Richardson and Denver supergroup Miss America by Wheary, a project spearheaded by Joseph Pope III and featuring similarly prominent local musicians Julie Davis, James Han, Patrick Meese and Nathaniel Rateliff. Comedian Andrew Orvedahl will also perform.Snow Tha Product Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom : 9:00 p.m. December 5
It may at first seem easy to dismiss Snow Tha Product as another Iggy Azalea or Kreayshawn-level gimmick because of her gender and unconventional appearance, but it gets harder and harder the more you listen to her. Make no mistake, Snow can ride a beat and she can rhyme, and she can rhyme fast, and, frankly, she's more intimidating than a lot of these so-called hard rappers nowadays.2 Chainz Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom : December 6
Chances are, if you've picked up a major hip-hop album released in the past few years -- Drake, Kanye West, Pusha T -- you're familiar with 2 Chainz's hazy, hooky, anthemic brand of Southern rap. And chances are pretty good that you've picked up B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time, his 2013 Def Jam release, a follow-up to (and improvement upon) 2012's earworm-y Based on a T.R.U. Story. With all those guest spots under his belt -- and with his own LPs being so guest-heavy -- it's fair to wonder what a 2 Chainz-centric show is going to be like. By all reports, 2 Chainz is an admirably magnetic frontman, spitting rabble-rousing party tracks and turn-your-brain-off-and-just-move tunes like "Birthday Song." His languid delivery and sharp flow should translate nicely to the big stage, and his range -- "Feds Watching" is sufficiently jagged, a nice counterbalance to his party tracks -- will surprise listeners who haven't dug deep into his discography.Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa Lost Lake Lounge : December 6
Dustin Wong was a member of Baltimore-based high-energy noise-pop band Ponytail, where his impassioned and imaginative guitar work stood out in a group of standout performers. Even before Ponytail split up in 2011, Wong had embarked on a solo career, and his guitar loops and finely textured soundscaping seemed informed by an unlikely combination of surf rock and avant-garde folk. Lately, Wong has been living in Japan, where he grew up, and in 2013, he collaborated on an album with Takako Minekawa titled Toropical Circle. In the 1990s, Minekawa was a successful artist working in the Shibuya-kei style, which mixes jazz and synth pop, but by 2013, she had effectively been retired from music for more than a decade. Her pairing with Wong, however, has proven fruitful: The duo's latest offering, 2014's Savage Imagination, is both otherworldly and inviting, sounding like an alternative soundtrack to Fantastic Planet.Kyle Hollingsworth's Hoppy Holidays Fillmore Auditorium : 5:00 p.m. December 6
While the monstrously successful String Cheese Incident was on hiatus a few years ago, keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth confidently grew into his new solo career. Following up on his debut solo release, Hollingsworth released his sophomore long player, Then There's Now, to nationwide acclaim. The album blends honey smooth vocals with Hollingsworth's trademark funky keyboard lines, mixed with futuristic electronic synth textures, resulting in a few playful SCI-esque tracks such as "All I Need" and "Phat Cat." He followed that disc up with this year's equally compellingSpeed of Life
. Tonight, Hollingworth, who's also a beer aficionado, performs at his annual "Hoppy Holidays" beer festival and concert that also features The Infamous Stringdusters and Eufórquestra.
A Benefit for Jef Kopp Marquis Theater : 7:00 p.m. December 6 Formed in 2003 by Zac Joe of Cephalic Carnage, To Be Eaten was a band that seemed to bridge the gap between the worlds of so called extreme metal and indie rock. Fronted by guitarist Ben Pitts, To Be Eaten wrote some of the most brutal yet accessible music around. Pitts's animalistic wail didn't obscure the words coming out of his mouth, making the political content of the lyrics hit even harder. With Eric Fuller's wiry yet crushing bass lines and drummers who made blast beats and death metal timekeeping incredibly dynamic, To Be Eaten earned admirers from circles well beyond fans of extreme metal. Though the band never broke up, it has been almost completely inactive for several years. To Be Eaten will come out of semi-retirement this Saturday, December 6, for a special show at the Marquis to benefit artist Jef Kopp in his struggle with protein-losing enteropathy.Opeth and In Flames Ogden Theatre : 7:00 p.m. December 6
Sweden's Opeth started out as a fairly straightahead death-metal band, but in 1992, after drastic lineup changes, the band, led by singer and guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt, slowly developed the sound it would bring to its 1995 debut, Orchid. Sonically, Opeth recalls '70s art-rock bands like Jethro Tull mixed with late-'80s progressive metal like that of Fates Warning, with the occasional death-metal growl employed for emphasis between Åkerfeldt's resonantly melodic vocals. There's a disarmingly quiet grace to Opeth's best material; with a blend of acoustic rock and heavier sensibilities, it sounds like what you might get if neo-folk were to come out of Judas Priest and Slayer.Krampus Nacht Denver Oriental Theater : 8:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m. December 6
Santa Claus knows if you've been bad or good, and that means that most of us are screwed. Forget that fat, judgmental elf, and revel in your badness at Krampus Nacht Denver, a holiday festival for those who find it too damn hard to be good.
"The legend of Krampus is hundreds of years old," explains organizer Dana Cain. "He travels with Santa Claus, and when Santa gave out toys to the good [kids], Krampus punished the bad kids. He would beat them, or even take them back to his lair and eat them. It's just so cool that Christmas has a creepy side."
Celebrate that creepy side with a musical set from the Mark Putt Holiday Explosion, body painting by Mythica, a pageant in three acts by performance-art troupe Bohemia, and lots more. Dress as a sexy Mrs. Claus or Krampus himself to win a $100 cash prize, or just go to enjoy the naughtiness.
"It's not just a party, it's not just a concert, it's not just theater," Cain says. "It's sort of a combination of all of the above and more. "It's just going to be a fun celebration of being bad."Voodoo Glow Skulls / Mustard Plug Gothic Theatre : 8:00 p.m. December 6
Since Voodoo Glow Skulls' late-Eighties inception in Riverside, California, Frank, Eddie and Jorge Casillas have been driving tight, noisy, pit-slamming sentiments headlong into some kind of strange, brass-accompanied, hyperventilating beast.Winter Wonder Jam 1STBANK Center : 7:30 p.m. December 6
When the Sugarhill Gang released "Rapper's Delight" in 1979, the song helped push hip-hop into the musical forefront not only in America, but around the world, grabbing number-one spots in the Netherlands and Canada and a number-three slot in the U.K. The song, which was built around the bass line and rhythm-guitar part of Chic's "Good Times," helped cement the legendary status of the trio, whose members included Michael "Wonder Mike" Wright, Guy "Master Gee" O'Brien, and Henry "Big Bank Hank" Jackson, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 58. The group's remaining members will play in Denver along with other old-school acts from the '70s and '80s as part of Jammin' 101.5's Winter Wonder Jam.Alex Clare Bluebird Theater : 9:00 p.m. December 7
For many listeners, their first introduction to Alex Clare came courtesy of "Too Close," the catchy tune played during the recent Internet Explorer commercials. There's more to Clare's music than that, though. Melding intimate vocals with drum-heavy tracks, Clare showcases his range as an instrumentalist and vocalist on Lateness of the Hour, his debut release. While his peers continue to dance around in the realm of heavy bass drops, Clare conveys a spectrum of emotions through the sheer expressiveness of his voice and the overall dynamics of his instrumentation.97.3 KBCO Holiday Series Concert Fox Theatre : 8:30 p.m. December 7
Every Spoon album has been a gem, serving up the band's unique blend of pop and indie rock. Spoon's first brush with widespread acclaim came in 2005 with Gimme Fiction; ten years later, Britt Daniel's signature vocals and staccato piano playing are as entrancing as ever, delivering tangled lyrics and complex melodies. Daniel and his bandmates write the kind of songs that are sure to get stuck in your head and make you bob around, but they're also full of depth and emotion. The members of Spoon bring a similar commitment to their live shows, where you might see Daniel dancing one second and smashing his piano the next.
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS •
- 50 Photos That Prove Red Rocks Is the Most Beautiful Venue on the Planet
- Photos: Musicians Buying (Legal) Weed in Denver
- The Ten Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
- 50 Ways to Support Your DIY Music Community
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!