The fourteen best shows in Denver this weekend
Esme Patterson plays at Twist and Shout at 6 p.m. tonight.
Well, hopefully the hail and tornadoes are over. Certainly this is no weekend to be stuck at home, not with a Monday off and a shocking array of great shows. Esme Patterson will finally play that in-store performance at Twist & Shout to celebrate her excellent Woman to Woman. Country royalty past (Charlie Daniels Band) and present (Randy Rogers Band) play Saturday and Sunday at the big outdoor venues. There's plenty more, including a solid hardcore double-bill with Judge and Cro-Mags at Summit Music Hall. The rest of our picks follow.
Afterhours Anonymous at NORAD: Friday, May 23 Even though he hails from Cologne rather than the electronic-music mecca of Berlin, Michael Mayer was instrumental in putting Germany on the genre's map. He was one of the first artists to experiment with electronica in the late 1980s, and in the decades since he began sharpening his needles, Mayer has brought a rare level of commitment and versatility to the scene. His love for music has kept both his sound and his abilities fresh; he founded the still-illustrious Kompakt label in the late '90s, and today he spends his weekends jet-setting around the world to play major dance floors. Just this spring, he put together a promotional mix for Fabric in London that starts out gorgeously groovy before swooping into a deeper track and then seamlessly elevating the mood once again. On Friday, May 23, Mayer will headline the final Afterhours Anonymous production at NORAD.
Esmé Patterson at Twist & Shout: Friday, May 23 When Esme Patterson was learning to play Townes Van Zandt's song "Loretta," she says she started singing the words and got angry. "I started thinking about how one-sided and subjective a lot of 'love songs' are, and how a lot of women immortalized in songs might tell a different side of the story if anyone ever asked." Fueled by this epiphany, Patterson started writing songs for Woman to Woman, an album of response songs to Dolly Parton's "Jolene," Elvis Costello's "Alison," Van Zandt's "Loretta," the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No," The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," the Band's "Evangeline" and Leadbelly's "Irene."
Hoodie Allen at the Bluebird Theater: Friday, May 23 Hoodie Allen raps with a certain perpetual coming-of-age naivete that has solidified him a niche in the pop-rap market. Last time Allen came to Denver, he was energy on top of energy, which made for an outstanding live show. Since then, he's been working on his acoustic game, releasing Americoustic , which works surprisingly well for him. He's got the soft voice and boyish charm to win the hearts and/or admiration of the teenage audience as a singer and a rapper. It will be interesting to see if Allen can mature as a songwriter beyond worn-out hashtags and boasts into something more raw and unique.
The Meatmen at the Marquis Theater: Friday, May 23 In the late 1970s, Tesco Vee was an elementary-school teacher in Michigan who led something of a secret life, first as a fan of punk rock and then as the frontman of one of the most notorious and hilarious bands of that era: the Meatmen. At roughly the same time he started the band, Vee and his friend Dave Stimson started one of the most influential music zines of all time with Touch and Go . The pages of Touch and Go were filled with the kind of opinionated rhetoric and willingness to take it all in that should inform most music journalism but often doesn't. The zine ultimately ended, but the record label it spawned became one of the most respected of independent labels of its time, releasing some of the most important albums of the '80s, '90s and '00s.
Pharoahe Monch at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom: Friday, May 23 Erstwhile Organized Konfusion member Pharoahe Monch has spent the last decade and a half wandering the earth recording great hip-hop -- everything from legendary room-destroying bangers like "Simon Says" to the casual, bouncing song-rap "Love," for J Dilla's The Shining. And although Monch might never achieve household-name status, he's one of a select few living legends who have managed longevity in hip-hop without getting stale. Among his unparalleled feats of verbal athleticism is dropping the word "triskaidekaphobia" (fear of the number thirteen) in verses more than once (originally on "Mayor," in 1999, and again, eight years later, on "Free"). He's currently on tour supporting a new record, PTSD, which follows in the footsteps of 2011's W.A.R., with tight verses, incisive social commentary and banging beats.
Poi Dog Pondering at Larimer Lounge: Friday, May 23 While "eclectic" is a lousy way to describe band, it seems to work for Poi Dog Pondering. In this case, the word refers to a band with a wily fluctuating roster (only vocalist/guitarist Frank Orrell, vocalist/violinist Susan Voelz and multi-instrumentalist Dave Crawford have been with the band since its inception in 1986) and an even more wild selection of instruments (you name it, they've played it). Really, though, PDP isn't all that eclectic. There are plenty of things you won't get at a Poi Dog Pondering show: gangsta rap, Mötörhead covers, mosh pits. On the other hand, you're pretty much guaranteed upbeat melodies, nonthreatening pop and lots of Caucasian-friendly dance numbers.
Winger at Grizzly Rose: Friday, May 23 Before Winger was the butt of many jokes, the Denver-bred Bon Jovi doppelgänger and his bandmates undoubtedly had busloads of Betties on standby in every zip code and were printing their own money, thanks to two consecutive albums that went platinum (a feat nearly unheard of in today's digital age). Little did they know then, however, that they were headed for heartbreak, as Nirvana soon staged a hostile takeover of the Hessian empire and branded Winger and its shaggy-maned counterparts as Nevermattered. A few years later, the act was further rendered laughably irrelevant to anyone but hard-core fans (no doubt the same minority who purchased the singer's three subsequent solo albums) when Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge introduced a haplessly dorky character named Stewart, who was perpetually clad in a Winger T-shirt. More than a decade later, the band came back with the original lineup and a new album that rivaled its 1988 debut, but clearly still stinging from the association as it tours strip-mall bars across the country -- which, when you used to play arenas, has gotta, like, um, suck or something.
Denver Day of Rock on the 16th Street Mall: Saturday, May 24 Five years ago, the first Denver Day of Rock was launched with two stages of music. The next year the festival, which was started to bring more awareness to Concerts For Kids organization, was four stages with 20 bands and drew 100,000 people. Since then, Denver Day of Rock has grown exponentially and this year's event will have more vendors, interactive booths and food trucks than ever before. Over the course of two days, more than 25 national and local are slated to play including the Wallflowers, Plain White T's, the Hold Steady, Black Joe Lewis, the Whigs, Monophonics, the Kin and Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.
Kishi Bashi at the Gothic Theatre: Saturday, May 24 Pop isn't limited to the tired lyrical nonsense and overwrought production that characterize Top 40 radio. Weirdos like Kishi Bashi deliver the same kind of irresistible hooks and sugarcoated melodies that make the genre so addictive, but they do it in a way that defies expectations as much as it delivers aural delights. In particular, Bashi's loopy music builds intriguing songs on a foundation of synthesizers, violin and voice. On both his debut, 151a, and the brand-new Lighght , that approach breathes life into track after track of unique ideas and iconoclastic influences -- incorporating elements of everything from ELO to Animal Collective.
Wheelchair Sports Camp at the Walnut Room: Saturday, May 24 It would be easy for a group like Wheelchair Sports Camp to rely on any number of potential gimmicks, but there's plenty to say about the music itself. Kalyn Heffernan raps with equal parts humor and sharpness about the state of society and more profane subjects. The rest of the band -- saxophonist/singer Abi Miller, trumpeter Joshua Trinidad, drummer Gregg Ziemba and bassist Mike Brown -- display real jazz chops, giving the music depth and subverting simplistic expectations. DJ Everai and beatmaker Qknox add yet another layer to a group that's more in the tradition of Digable Planets, the Roots and A Tribe Called Quest than the typical DJ/MC combio. See the crew in its current state of evolution on Saturday, May 24, at the Walnut Room.
Volunteer Jam at Fiddler's Green Ampitheatre: Saturday, May 24 Three decades ago the Charlies Daniels Band held its first Volunteer Jam at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. While the event has happened numerous times Nashville, it's also happened at various venues around the country. This year, marks its first time at the newly-remodeled Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre. The Outlaws, BlackHawk and Craig Campbell are also on the bill. While members of the military, Red Cross volunteers and first responders can get free tickets for Volunteer Jam, there are a limited number of lawn and reserved tickets are available for purchase to the public.
Judge at Summit Music Hall: Sunday, May 25 Judge's short history doesn't entirely comprise excessive straightedge proselytizing and outrageous violence. The band also cranked out some amazing records and, in a bizarre twist, managed to record and release the same LP twice. 1989's Chung King Can Suck It LP (named after Chung King Studios, where the aborted sessions occurred) was released in an edition of only 110 copies and has attained legendary status among hardcore record collectors
Paul Oakenfold at Beta: Sunday, May 25 One of the first true superstar DJs, Paul Oakenfold has done more to popularize electronic dance music in the United States and in his native Britain than any constituent of the current EDM explosion. Long before Skrillex and Deadmau5 brought styles like dubstep and electro into the mainstream consciousness, Oakenfold played a pioneering role in the establishment of contemporary nightlife.
Randy Rogers Band at Red Rocks: Sunday, May 25 In the past decade, the Randy Rogers Band has rocketed from the smallest stages in Texas to headlining the biggest festivals and causing the biggest lines at Will Call than pretty much any other band currently performing under the massive Texas Country umbrella. Sure, Rogers' superb songwriting and signature rasp have proven to be one of the great allures of the band, but make no mistake, the entertainingly feverish fiddle playing of Brady Black has proven to be a trademark the band has benefited from greatly as well. Often bobbing and weaving near the lip of the stage next to Rogers, Black has been the fiddler-model many have tried to follow since.
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