The five best concerts in Colorado this week
Railroad Earth at the Ogden Theatre is one of the week's five best concerts.
Hi. Uh, erm, happy Monday? Yes, we know: A certain sports team let everybody down (grumble, grumble, f*@king Broncos! grumble). Not to mention it's overcast and bitterly cold. So what's happy about it, right?! Music. That's what. Nothing picks up spirits like, well, spirits and music. And since you live in Denver, there's plenty of good stuff where that's concerned, including shows from Quicksand, Railroad Earth and more. And luckily at virtually all of these shows, we hear they serve beer (yay booze!). So in the very least, you can drink your troubles away. From all the shows listed in our concert calendar, we've picked the five best concerts in Denver (and Boulder) this week. Keep reading to see what's, uh, on tap.
For nearly three decades, legendary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti used his highly energetic music -- essentially a fusion of African rhythms and American funk and jazz -- as a weapon for political change in Africa. Fela's son Femi honed his musical chops in his father's band and then formed his own band, Positive Force, in the mid-'80s. The younger Kuti continues to carry on his father's tradition with equally infectious grooves and socially conscious lyrics.
There's a notable '60s influence in Ash Reiter's laid-back California style and sunny, well-crafted pop songs. And while that sort of thing has been trendy lately, Reiter and her band also play music that has a social conscience -- music that delves into a refreshingly open exploration of anxiety while exhibiting a willingness to cast aside despair in favor of working things out. Beyond all that, the most immediately striking aspect of Reiter's output is the sheer excellence of the musicianship and the way the band weaves its layers of sound in with her Rickie Lee Jones-esque clarity of tone.
There's surely some sort of official story behind the origin of the Used's name, but it might as well describe the elements that make up the band's music. The threads of pop punk, metal and even good old-fashioned rock and roll that are woven into the screamo-tinged tunes are well traveled and well known, passed down from each generation of angry young dudes to the next with nary a twist to be found. Each of the group's five studio albums, including last year's Vulnerable, shows an increasing command of songcraft and sound, even if things don't ever change too much. That said, teenage angst doesn't change much, either, so this stuff never really goes bad, and the bandmembers manage to fashion some appealing numbers from the familiar material. (We Came As Romans, Crown the Empire and Mindflow share tonight's Take Action Tour bill.)
The music of Railroad Earth isn't easy to classify, although most people will be happy to label it "jam band" and move on. Still reading? Good, because while there's definitely some "jamming" going on in the live show, this is not some guitar-noodling Phish knock-off. Bluegrass lies at the heart of Railroad Earth, but it's a wide-ranging, omnivorous strain of bluegrass that isn't afraid to ditch tradition and have some fun. As a result, you get all the banjo, fiddle and mandolin you'd expect fused with electric guitars and drums and prone to weird tangents that might touch on anything from Celtic to jazz. It's a frequently surprising and relentlessly upbeat sound that's at its very best live, regardless of what you call it. (Railroad kicks off its three-night stand at the Ogden this Friday, January 18)
Quicksand formed in New York City in 1990, when Walter Schreifels's band Moondog broke up. Schreifels, however, may be better known for his part in the hardcore bands Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits. Quicksand was a different type of entity altogether: The band's dynamic flow wasn't made up of rapid, angular, controlled ruptures; rather, it was a bursting flow of wildly gyrating twists that let the sound hang before re-engaging in a direct sonic path. The outfit even dabbled in tranquil, melodic atmospherics mid-song in a way that was later imitated by heavier acts with mixed results. For Quicksand, those interludes built an escalating tension worthy of its hardcore roots. In melding that tension with the more complex emotions implied by the internal dichotomy of its sounds, Quicksand produced metallic rock with surprising depth and compositional sophistication.
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