The fifty best concerts of the spring
Oh, man! What a spring concert season you have in store. We originally set out to assemble a list of the 25 best concerts this spring, and we found there were so many great shows, we had to expand it to the fifty best shows, from hot buzz bands like Poliça and Purity Ring to elder statesmen like Yo La Tengo and Built to Spill to metal legends like Exodus and Soulfly to hotly anticipated acts like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Rodriguez and Prince. Continue on for the fifty best concerts of the spring.
Like his father, Woody, before him, Arlo Guthrie has never been about the range or perfection of his singing voice or technical ability as a guitar player. Heck, it really isn't even about his songwriting, though he writes good ones. Arlo's primary offering is his ability to entertain while making meaningful statements. As part of his solo tour, Here Comes the Kid, Guthrie pays tribute to his father, whose 100th birthday is in July.
Kawabata Makoto, the founder of Acid Mothers Temple, started his career in music in the late 1970s. Whether he experienced Flower Travellin' Band's motes of resonating distortion or the dark, haunted droning of Les Rallizes Dénudés firsthand is anyone's guess. But since founding Acid Mothers in 1995, Kawabata has forged a path into inner and outer space with his most high-profile project. The alchemical combination of Stockhausen-esque, avant-garde electronica and transcendent, incendiary, prog-warped blues defies convenient categorization. In fact, Kawabata eschews the term "psychedelic" in favor of "trip music" because he wants the music to take the audience on a trip into an altered state of consciousness, where the mundane dissolves in a wave of mind-expanding sound.
Who knows why some albums are a success and others go unsung? Las Vegas band Imagine Dragons hit one of those pockets of luck with its latest album, Night Visions. While the new album may seem like a breakthrough, the group has been working hard for years -- touring extensively, writing constantly -- to garner the acclaim it's currently enjoying. The bandmembers rented a house together in their formative years, playing covers in bars to near-empty rooms to pay the rent; before that, frontman Dan Reynolds reportedly drew inspiration from seeing live shows of bands like Arcade Fire and Jack White. Clearly, all that hard work has paid off.
Since Speakerboxxx/The Love Below showcased Outkast's individual talents, André 3000 has generally been regarded as the auteur of the duo. And while that might be true, there's something to be said for consistency, as the latter proved on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, his 2010 solo debut in which the rapper (aka Antwan Patton) dabbles heavily in funk rhythms and liberally employs his trademark bursts of rapid-fire delivery for a sound that recalls the building blocks of old-school hip-hop. Just the same, Big Boi's sound is frenetic and quirky enough not to confused with merely being a throwback. Still appreciably more pragmatic than his counterpart, he splits the difference between André 3000's hyperactive peculiarities and the group's more traditional early work nicely.
The Drive-By Truckers have always been considered by many to be the torch-bearers for the alt-country genre, but with The Big To-Do, the outfit's most hard-rocking album since 2001's Southern Rock Opera, the Truckers surpassed most bands in that watered-down category with memorable stories, characters and songs, telling tales of four-day drinking binges, courtroom miseries and bar-room brawls. And just as quickly as they returned to the bombast of rock, they muffled it again with the release of 2011's, Go-Go Boots. Replacing the shimmer of a ride cymbal with the hush of a shaker, Go-Go Boots pays homage to early soul greats like Eddie Hinton. The new approach introduces a new cast of characters sitting morosely in the same bar they brawled in last night, wondering what the hell happened and, like the band itself, what they will do next. (The Truckers are also slated to perform at the Boulder Theater on Saturday, April 13.)
It's hard to take Wavves seriously, but really, that's kind of the point. Everything about the project, the work of California "Weed/Beach Demon" Nathan Williams, comes across as tossed off: The scuzzy, no-fidelity sound of the records, the "So Bored" lyrical stance, the misspelling of the band name. It all feels disposable, but fun, reminding us some of the best rock and roll doesn't really mean anything. While Williams apes the sounds of cerebral bands like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and Wire, he seems intent on boiling things down to the most primal level, crafting art rock for stoners, heshers and art school dropouts. Wavves comes to town on the heels of a new album, Afraid of Heights, which hits shelves today.
Nothing about this Syracuse-based band is particularly riotous; in fact, it uses classical instrumentation in its songwriting. What's more, those instruments never seem like a fashionable affectation. When you hear Ra Ra Riot's winsome, gently affecting pop songs, you get the feeling that everyone in the band was in on the act of creation and that they spent time learning to play and write together and developed their style as a group instead of being in a hurry to impress anyone else. Like most enduring projects, the sextet has paid its dues plenty. This is one present-day Riot that won't involve rubber bullets.
Originally named after an early Brian Eno and Robert Fripp song called "Swastika Girls," this band wisely settled on the more congenial moniker of Parenthetical Girls. Along with a shifting membership that includes Jherek Bischoff and Sam Mickens of the Dead Science, the Girls' core consists of Jeremy Cooper and Slender Means Society label head Zac Pennington. Fans of Xiu Xiu's electro-noise pop experimentalism and Devendra Banhart's frayed and fragile take on folk will find much to like about Parenthetical Girls. The band's delicate male-female vocal harmonies lend its music a certain grace, and the combination of ambient electronic sounds and acoustic instruments create a mood of nostalgia, evoking that point in your life when it seemed you had all the time in the world to indulge your whimsy. These tasteful collages of noisy, richly textured tunes and yesteryear pop sensibility would make Wall of Sound producer Phil Spector proud.
In the typically background-work world of hip-hop production, AraabMuzik has become a front-and-center presence in a way that's surprised people who knew him only as a name in the liner notes of Dipset albums. Those tracks are notable, but his solo spotlight work is what's gotten exclamation points spilling all over the place. Electronic Dream was an audacious stab at transforming arena-sized Euro-house anthems into instrumental club-rap bangers, and it did so in ways that preserved its source material's euphoric highs while still giving them a hard-hitting pulse a bit ahead of the trance-infatuated Top 40 curve. And as a live act, he's miles above anyone in finding ways to turn MPC manipulation into a virtuosic performance showcase. He's not so much an introverted knob-twiddler as he is a hip-hop John Bonham, laying down propulsive breaks and jaw-dropping solos with equal flash.
Lamb of God started in 1990 as an instrumental metal band called Burn the Priest. But it wasn't until 1995, after recording a few demos and playing countless house parties, that the band recruited singer Randy Blythe and started developing into the band you would recognize today as Lamb of God. With the release of 2000's New American Gospel, the band's first album with that moniker, the group began reaching wider and wider audiences with its evolving amalgam of groove-laden thrash, death metal and hardcore. The 2006 album Sacrament was Lamb of God's breakthrough offering in terms of both artistic and commercial success.
Exodus was founded in 1980 by a group of high school friends that included a pre-Metallica Kirk Hammett. Bonded By Blood is a landmark thrash record and was the first of many excellent subsequent offerings from Exodus. Like many of their peers, the guys in this band got into both hardcore punk and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal around the same time in the early '80s and produced thrash, a synthesis of the two that became and remains influential to this day. Thrash's Big Four -- Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer -- are rightfully credited as having the biggest impact on the genre, but it has often been said that should that Big Four could be expanded to the Big Five or Big Six, with the addition of Testament and Exodus. After multiple line-up changes over a career spanning more than three decades, Exodus still puts out relevant metal, especially now that that form of music has experienced a bit of a renaissance. (Anthrax, High On Fire, Municipal Waste and Holy Grail are sharing the bill on this Metal Alliance Tour stop.)
Max Cavalera formed Soulfly after leaving influential Brazilian thrash band Sepultura in 1996 and moving to Phoenix. The then new project wasn't initially dramatically different from Cavalera's previous band, but as the band came together and he wrote music for subsequent records, Soulfly incorporated bits of musical styles not common in heavy music. This was especially true on 2004's Prophecy, where Cavalera injected bits of Serbian Gypsy instruments, the traditional music of indigenous Brazilians and sonic ideas from the Medieval era. With every album, Cavalera has pushed himself as an artist, and Soulfly's 2012 album, Enslaved, sounds more like an industrial grindcore album than what we've become used to. This should prove to be an interesting live version of the band now that Cavalera's son Zyon is the touring drummer.
Akron/Family started in 2002 as what some might call a "freak folk" band. But the group quickly headed in its own idiosyncratic direction. In 2004, the Family became involved with the Young God label and served as Michael Gira's band on that year's Angels of Light tour. It would be difficult to say what a typical song by this band sounds like because, from album to album, its sonic palette is as varied as its expansive dynamics. Albums like S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT showcases Akron/Family's interest in non-Western percussion by re-contextualizing it into the realm of jubilant, experimental pop songs.
As Band of Horses has evolved, its sound has become more grandiose and cosmic, like gauzy, gently trippy clouds floating over Ben Bridwell's naked-soul lyrics. It's the kind of introspective but dreamily textured and expansive stuff that seems tailor-made for soundtracks and cameo appearances. And indeed, the band's tracks have appeared regularly in emotional montages on high-profile TV shows, including Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill and 90210, as well as films such as Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Zombieland. Despite the ever-encroaching threat of a Death Cab-style mainstreaming, Bridwell and company come across as earnest rather than opportunistic. Meanwhile, they seem to boast an endless supply of lovely chords and hopelessly romantic lyrics.
There's no denying just how derivative and calculating the music of the Airborne Toxic Event is. But tapping into zeitgeists both sonic and emotional, the band works equally well for music fans who grew up on the Cure and Smashing Pumpkins as those who cut their teeth on Arcade Fire and Interpol. And the group's success has only underscored just how much some people still crave literate, well-made, cathartic pop.
In recent years, the Black Angels have deservedly been a prominent band in the psychedelic rock world. Though the act had the rare distinction of being the backing band for one of the pioneers of psychedelic rock, Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators, the music created by the Austin-based act is also rooted in hip-hop rhythms and the shimmering flow of shoegaze bands of the '90s. This, in combination with its own, distinct, dark flavor, has a thrilling sense of menace hovering in the background.
Devendra Banhart, whose first name translates from Hindi to "King of Gods," was christened by Prem Rawat, a controversial Indian mystic his parents followed. Born in Houston, the musician was raised in Caracas, Venezuela, by his grandmother and later uprooted to Malibu's Encinal Canyon. After a stint at the San Francisco Art Institute, Banhart lived the life of a wandering minstrel in New York and Paris, flirting with homelessness, sometimes calling friends long-distance to leave tunes on their answering machines. After a crudely rendered batch of Banhart's songs fell into the hands of Michael Gira, frontman for Swans and owner of Young God Records, the artist-friendly label issued several of his early recordings, including his 2002 debut, which garnered rave reviews. The hiss-saturated recordings captured Banhart's stream-of-consciousness in full stride, presenting surreal tales of magical animals, pumpkin seeds and marigolds.
From her landmark debut Baduizm, which she'll perform in its entirety at the Fillmore, to the more recent electronic and hip-hop inspired material created with producers Madlib, 9th Wonder and Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu has had many styles over her sixteen-year career. But if one thing has remained consistent, it's that her approach to songwriting is always different from everyone else in R&B.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was well on its way to quietly becoming a legacy artist for Virgin Records until 2004, when the trio was dropped, bounced over to RCA for one album and eventually started its own imprint, Abstract Dragon (distributed by Vagrant Records). That label released the band's last album, Beat the Devil's Tattoo, a diverse collection of tunes that fell somewhere between the roaring psychedelic noise-rock of 2007's Baby 81 and the bluesy Americana of 2005's acoustic effort Howl. BRMC returns to Colorado with a brand new album, Specter at the Feast.
After the Smiths imploded in 1987, Johnny Marr kept his head down as a sideman for over a dozen high-profile acts -- among them the Pretenders, The The, Talking Heads, Pet Shop Boys, even Beck -- while releasing three albums with New Order's Bernard Sumner under the name Electronic. He's also produced and collaborated with everyone from Neil Finn to Beth Orton to Marion and had stints as a member of Modest Mouse and the Cribs. Marr's virtuosity has always been subtle, an airy layering of Byrds, Roxy Music and T. Rex that made all his thick chords and dense overdubs feel somehow gossamer. Not that the Smiths didn't rock -- there's no denying the glam swagger of "Sheila Take a Bow" or the punk rumble of "London." It's just that they rarely rocked like Marr has on his own. Marr returns to Colorado with a brand new solo album, The Messenger.
In thirty years, rock historians will look at the three decades prior to this moment and -- if they don't laugh at the idea of an encompassing term like "indie rock" -- identify Yo La Tengo not only as one of the genre's foundational acts, but also one that consistently challenged itself to make eclectic and interesting songs from the start of its career onward, with stunning live shows to match. Pulling together strands of influence from the Velvet Underground, Mission of Burma and Half-Japanese, Yo La Tengo has created a vibrant body of work informed by tenderness, emotional catharsis, intellect, sincerity and ironic humor.
Led by Idaho-based singer-songwriter/guitarist Doug Martsch, Built to Spill is one of the most acclaimed indie-rock outfits of the past two decades (despite its presence for most of that time on the roster of still-hefty Warner Bros), making consistently brilliant albums. But instead of treating each track like a glass figurine that might shatter if not handled with care, Martsch and company boldly elaborate on their original designs without getting hung up on perfection.
In the first half of the '90s, Ishmael Butler went by the moniker "Butterfly" as part of the rap trio Digable Planets. After the outfit's 1995 split, the group performed one-off shows here and there, but since 2009, Butler has released music with Tendai Maraire under the name Shabazz Palaces. Instead of completely ditching the jazz proclivities of the Planets, Butler and Maraire have combined that style with a broad sonic palette that includes samples, traditional African rhythms, dub and electronic melodies and textures. It doesn't hurt that Maraire is the son of Dumisani Maraire, best known for bringing the music of Zimbabwe to North America. In fusing exotic sounds and inventive collage composition, Shabazz Palaces has created an electro-organic dance music steeped in an alchemy of the traditional and the postmodern.
A band with a number hit song called "Chicken Fried" couldn't be anything but country, perhaps. But even after a string of chart-topping singles and two Grammys, Atlanta's Zac Brown Band plays a more eclectic -- even exotic -- strain than Nashville's usual me-and-my-pickup-truck odes. The six-piece group's musical DNA is made up of as much Dave Matthews Band as Alabama, and the band even won a CMT Award for its reworking of "Margaritaville" with author Jimmy Buffett. Live, the band is fond of covering alt-country godfathers the Band and roots-rock enfant terrible Ryan Adams and are as at home among the hippies and hipsters of Bonnaroo as they are performing at a rodeo. (Zac Brown Band is also slated to perform on Thursday, May 9 and Friday, May 10.)
In contrast to the deafening blog-shouting that accompanied the Cold War Kids' 2006 debut, 2011's release of their third LP, Mine Is Yours, prompted little more than a squeak. Once largely dismissed as simpering riders of a long-since-crashed wave of toothless indie pop, the Kids got older and slipped into a larger mainstream; the disc was a studio-polished radio-pop album. For the most part, they've abandoned what little menace they held to begin with, which doesn't sound like much of an endorsement -- but this seems like the place they belonged all along. Whereas before his voice sounded thin and skittish, Nathan Willett actually sounds at home among these arching melodies and sailing guitars. The Kids are slated to release Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, their fourth studio album, the same day they play the Gothic.
Way back in 2006, patchy duo Crystal Castles began a rise to high-art infamy based mostly on the negative hype of its supposed 8-bit plagiarism. Along with getting slammed for stealing artist Trevor Brown's "Bruised Madonna" imagery for unauthorized merchandise (not to mention unsanctioned use of the Chanel logo), the Toronto natives were easy to dismiss as Internet copies of copies. But vocalist Alice Glass's terrifying yelp processed through Ethan Kath's instrumentation and production sounded too delightful to ignore. The act's low beats are a continuing blend of Glass Candy arrogance and the cultish darkness of the Knife/Fever Ray. The 8-bit community may not want to have anything to do with Glass and Kath, but proper credit is due for making the electronic subgenre accessible to the Girl Talk-loving masses.
Born in Leeds, England as Christopher Mercer, Rusko has become one of the most sought-after dubstep producers in recent years. He inherited a love of music from his mother, a folk and country singer who performed in a band called Ventura Highway. She stopped being an active musician when he was still an infant, but being around guitars his entire life left a mark on Rusko, who learned how to play at a young age and who used two small tape recorders to record songs, radio shows and other sounds to fuel his creativity. Rusko later attended the Leeds College of Music, and that's when he focused his efforts on beat-making.
The members of Iceage, from Copenhagen, Denmark are all in their early twenties, but in their relatively short time together, the band has garnered a buzz for the sonic savagery of its live shows and the harrowingly resonant emotional tenor of its music. The group's debut album, New Brigade, recalls the haunted desperation and urgency of early Joy Division and the nervier end of Wire, with none of the rough edges sanded off. With clear connections to the experimental-music scene in Copenhagen, Iceage straddles the worlds of noise and punk rock in a way that is similar to, but sonically very different, from the bands that came out of the Fort Thunder scene in Providence, Rhode Island, in the '90s -- the kinds of bands you're likely to find on the 31G imprint.
"When I first got going," recalls Lorin Ashton, "I was into fuckin' brutal, satanic death metal." Even with all of his hair, it's hard to imagine that Ashton, better known in dance circles as Bassnectar, was once enthralled with extreme metal. After all, dubstep, the subgenre he's essentially helped pioneer, is known more for its resonating bass beats than for shredding guitars, blast beats and guttural vocals. Over the past few years, thanks in large part to the rising popularity of fellow low-end-loving acts like Skrillex, dubstep has steadily been making mainstream inroads, which has put Ashton in an enviable position. But to him it's about more than just punishing bass lines. (Keep reading: Bassnectar brings power to the people. Also, Bassnectar is slated to Saturday, June 1.)
KMFDM (originally Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid) started as a performance-art one-off in 1984 that evolved into an ongoing endeavor. Founding member Sascha Konietzko was joined by drummer and vocalist En Esch, who formed the core of the band until its temporary split in 1999. With various collaborators, KMFDM developed its signature melding of electronic industrial music and hard rock, which has often been imitated but seldom equaled. The peak of the band's commercial popularity came following the release of Nihil in 1995, which spawned the soundtrack-friendly hit single "Juke Joint Jezebel." What has kept the group interesting is its visceral live shows and its songs, which feature tongue-in-cheek, genuinely clever lyrics that take aim at sociopolitical ills in the world -- that and KMFDM's willingness to poke fun at itself.
Although Ghostface Killah is not short on braggadocio or mad crazy, provocative, stoopid wizardry, the rapper's vulnerability has always set him apart from the Clan's Iron Flag. Who else but Ghost could weep, "What the fuck is going on?/I can't go to sleep/Feds jumping out their jeeps/I can't go to sleep/Babies with flies on their cheeks/It's hard to go to sleep," then lyrically smoke someone before howling for an ambulance? Expect rugged soul-baring mashed with Wu guerrilla anthems when Ghost hits the stage.
Perhaps taking a cue from his pal Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, who's written and produced songs for an array of top shelf pop acts, Fray guitarist Joe King has been steadily making a name for himself on his own as a burgeoning songwriter in his own right. Prior to working on solo material, King co-wrote a track for American Idol winner Kris Allen and collaborated with Timbaland and Esthero on a tune from the former's album, Shock Value II. On the heels of releasing his debut single, "Need a Woman by Friday," featuring Trombone Shorty, which dropped earlier this month on iTunes, King is playing a string of solo shows, the first of which is slated for Thursday, April 25, at the Bluebird Theater, followed by shows on Friday, April 26, at the Aggie in Fort Collins, Saturday, April 27, at the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs, and the Fox Theatre on Sunday, April 28.
How High is not necessarily one of the best movies featuring rappers, unless you're in the right... ahem... mind state. Nevertheless, it's a carefree, fun back to school romp that extols the virtues of every rapper's favorite plant. The stars, Method Man and Redman, while not the most refined actors in the classical sense, manage to enchant the screen with their sophomoric magnetism. As an added bonus, Cypress Hill makes an appearance to DJ a college house party that the two Wu-students throw. "Study high, take the test high, get high scores" -- this is the logic that permeates How High. Given their proclivity for one of our state's favorite plants, Method and Red are about the perfect tandem to help Colorado celebrate one of its favorite holidaze.
Slightly Stoopid was discovered by Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell in 1996. The band's association with the bong-hitting legend explains a lot about the band's sound and song topics. Titles like "Collie Man," "Rasta Dub," and the straightforward "I'm Stoned" should make the act's priorities clear. Over time, Slightly Stoopid has moved from faster, harder, stick-it-to-the-man rhythms to relaxing, bass-heavy, strung-out melodies about peace and being mellow. That in mind, it's hard to think of another act, aside from perhaps Cypress Hill -- who once lit up a monumental bong on-stage and what looked like the joint from Pineapple Express at Mile High Music Festival a few years ago, two and a half years before it was even legal in this state -- who shares this bill, to headline a 4/20 show at Red Rocks celebrating the almighty herb.
Poliça, which hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota, features former Roma di Luna vocalist Channy Leaneagh, Ryan Olson of Gayngs fame, a pair of drummers, Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson, and bassist Chris Bierdan. Formed in the summer of 2011, the act came together rather quickly and garnered enormous praise right out of the gate first with their full-length debut Give You the Ghost. With a fiercely seductive electro sound kindred to acts like Purity Ring, JJ and the xx, Poliça, and particularly the vocals of Leaneagh, is patently irresistible.
It's been more than three years since Vampire Weekend last released a record and almost that long since the act was last at Red Rocks. That's a long time between releases for any band, but it's a couple lifetimes in the blogosphere. A parade of subsequent buzz bands (groups like Haim, one of the acts opening this show) has warmed themselves since then in the limelight once occupied by Ezra Koenig and company. The band returns to Red Rocks less than a week after its new album, Modern Vampires In the City, hits stores. It will be interesting to see if the outfit regains its stride. Either way, playing Red Rocks is a hell of a coming out party.
Formed in 2007, North Wales's Joy Formidable could just as easily have come together ten years earlier. The trio's sound is, at times, reminiscent of a Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness-era Smashing Pumpkins, carried by guitarist Ritzy Bryan's anthemic vocals. But its sonic trickery goes beyond genre; with a basic guitar-bass-drums instrumentation, Joy Formidable pulls off a total audible illusion, creating the kind of massive sound made famous by Arcade Fire. The simplicity goes a long way and allows for Bryan's voice -- sometimes ethereal but always weighty -- to give the group its discernible punch. Bassist Rhydian Dafydd slides into the frontman position from time to time, but it is Bryan's beautiful and diverse voice that makes Joy Formidable memorable. From bedroom to studio recordings, the trio consistently stays big.
Sweden's Opeth started out as a fairly straight ahead 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. (Opeth is also playing another show on Tuesday, May 21.)
Too mathy and precise for a lot of hardcore fans and too weird and noisy for a lot of metalheads, the Dillinger Escape Plan has nonetheless carved a niche for itself in both realms. Starting in Morris Plains, New Jersey, the Plan quickly made a name for itself with frenetically intense live shows, which ultimately caught the attention of Mike Patton, who invited the band to open for a late-era Mr. Bungle tour. Despite what appears to be a string of momentum-breaking injuries to group members since its inception, the Plan has endured, and it has consistently pushed itself to newer heights of experimentation with its sound on every new release.
This year's edition of the Boulder-based DIY festival, CMKY, now in its sixth year, has a stacked lineup featuring some of the biggest names in electronic music, including Nicolas Jaar, Valentin Stip, Demon John, Mountains, Safety Scissors, Derek Plaslaiko, Andrew Weathers and Spoolius Mélange. You can also expect performances from Redshape, Masaki Batoh, Slow Magic, Nordic Soul, Public Address and more at eight venues spread across Boulder.
Purity Ring came together when Megan James and Corin Roddick started writing electronic songs together after having served as touring members of experimental pop band Born Gold. Rather than rushing to put out material, this duo has spent the last couple of years meticulously crafting R&B-inflected, electro pop songs with layers of rhythm and atmosphere. After periodic releases of singles and a string of live performances, Purity Ring released its debut album, Shrines, last fall on the 4AD imprint. The band's live shows have an air of the ritualistic due to its unique lighting rig and ethereal sound anchored by masterfully-composed low end and percussion.
Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson at Red Rocks. Sweet Jesus! How this totally obvious and sure-to-be-awesome pairing has not happened before now is anybody's guess. The music world's O.G. shock rocker and his direct artistic descendent are slated to share a bill at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Brace yourself for the apocalypse.
The xx is an electronic pop group from London, England, whose music is informed by soul and post-punk as well as hip-hop and modern electronica. The act's critically acclaimed, self-titled debut album from 2009 garnered the outfit widespread popularity. And while a lot of bands would have stopped developing there and stuck to a successful formula, the xx enhanced its use of electronics to create a more fully realized fusion of its stylistic influences on the recently released followup, Coexist. Along the way, Jamie Smith, the band's producer and electronics guru, has done high-profile remixes for Adele, Florence and the Machine and Radiohead.
Jason Pierce formed Spiritualized following the split of his former band, the influential and fuzzily psychedelic Spacemen 3. With this project, Pierce largely shed the jagged, cutting guitar tones of his old band and went much further into dreamy, sonic atmospherics. The act's full-length debut, 1992's Lazer Guided Melodies, was filled with bright melodies that served as a template for much of the space rock in the decades that followed. The 1997 offering, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, pointed to the R&B leanings that helped shape the core of Pierce's sensibilities, along with the influence of the Velvet Underground's proto-drone masterpiece White Light White Heat and the 13th Floor Elevators. Live, Spiritualized is able to create a paradoxically intimate and otherworldly experience.
The Sugarcubes and Björk gained tremendous exposure for Iceland as a source of significant and innovative pop music, but it was this band that gave the island nation's music a bit of mystique. It is too simplistic to call the band's music post-rock because it is also ambient, symphonic and accessibly avant-garde. The band's 1999 breakthrough album Ágætis byrjun quickly established the outfit internationally as creators of the kind of music that both stirs and soothes the spirit. The moody yet uplifting layers of sound and ocean wave-like rhythms Sigur Rós creates lends the songs a kind of larger than life expansiveness that many bands aim for but never quite achieve.
The decade-old phenomenon that was the Postal Service is back. In the ten years since the team of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) made music together as the Postal Service, we got Garden State, we got Owl City, we got an onslaught of music blogs, and the "indietastic" conversations that used to happen in record stores are now bouncing around Twitter. Not to say that the Postal Service is directly responsible for any of it -- Adam Young did say he was writing "the next chapter," though -- but they've proven emblematic for a synthesized turn in the tide. Now Denver can find out if an act assembled through the mail, that many heard for the first time long after they had disbanded a not very real band, can reconstruct themselves in a new era when the Postal Service returns to Colorado.
A number of bands are returning to a Southern-rock sound these days, but much of the music they're making is too derivative to be interesting. Alabama Shakes, fresh off a date warming up for Neil Young, bucks that trend. The group's members, who met in high school and forged the kind of personal bond that shines through in the music, don't sound like they went back and mined their parents' record collections in an effort to emulate some bygone glory days. Instead, singer and guitarist Brittany Howard sings with an impassioned believability that sounds like she has experienced a fuller life than her young years could hope to contain. Her earthy vocals and the band's solid, vibrant musicianship are both remarkable for their emotional depth. The band's 2012 album, Boys & Girls, captures a taste of its soul-driven rock, but it's best experienced live.
Nick Cave may be one of the more disciplined songwriters in the business (he usually spends six days a week working in his office), but he's been especially prolific in recent years, finding time to pen the remarkable two-disc Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus set, score a few films with fellow Bad Seeds violinist Warren Ellis and write two albums worth of material for the Bad Seeds side project Grinderman, which he pulled the plug on last year. Cave and the Bad Seeds return to the Ogden in support of Push the Sky Away, the band's first album without founding member Mick Harvey, who left the band in 2009.
If you're familiar with the name Sixto Rodriguez (aka Rodriguez), it's likely due to his story, which is told in the award-winning film Searching for Sugar Man. A singer-songwriter from Detroit of fleeting renown, Rodriguez was a mostly an unknown quantity in his home country. After releasing a pair of critically acclaimed albums in the early '70s, Rodriguez essentially drifted off into obscurity where he remained for the better part of two decades. Elsewhere, however, in places like South Africa and Australia, Rodriguez's music formed the soundtrack for a generation -- who wrongly assumed he was passed. Sugar Man shines the light on a talent that has been criminally and woefully overlooked for years.
Prince is a living legend who requires absolutely no introduction, explanation or contextualization, and the chance to see him perform at a venue the size of the Ogden Theatre is simply a once-in-a-lifetime affair. Tickets for this extremely rare two-night stand are going for $250, and while that price has caused some people to blanch or even bristle, we'd argue that even in this tight economy, that price seems like the kind of bargain worth forgoing food and fuel for the next six months to see. Okay, that's probably getting a little carried away, but seriously, if you can afford it, you don't want to miss one of the two shows on this night, or one of the two on Monday, May 13.
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