The ten best concerts in Denver this week
Update: The Ghostface Killah show at the Summit was canceled. Top ten has been updated with the addition of Black Thought at Club 64 with Immortal Technique.
The Dear Hunter was a side project launched in 2005 while Casey Crescenzo was touring with his now-former band, the Receiving End of Sirens. He had been writing songs on his laptop and recording them in his spare time. Crescenzo eventually devoted full-time attention to his solo efforts. Stunningly prolific, Crescenzo has cultivated quite a catalog, with three concept albums providing a fictional account of the Dear Hunter's evolution (Act I, Act II and Act III), followed by nine conceptual EPs -- filled with songs penned to match specific hues, the best of which appear on an album titled The Color Spectrum -- and the latest, Migrant, which was just released and is, surprisingly, not a concept record.
Better known for his work with the Roots, Black Thought is the complete package as an MC by himself. In a genre that sometimes seems like a competition to see who can rhyme "hater" and "paper" best -- a competition that Black Thought might take anyway -- he consistently manages to unearth rhymes that had yet to be discovered. With the soul of a poet, the heart of revolutionary and the tongue of a dragon, plus the backup of maybe the greatest DJ in hip-hop, Black Thought is sure to put on a great show at Legalized It Sunset 420 Bash with Immortal Technique and more. And if you're lucky, he might even kick some freestyle off the dome, a lost art which he has mastered more completely than many made MCs have rhyming simply.
Fear Factory was a pioneer of the so-called nü-metal genre before that designation became a bit of an insult. An early proponent of the fusion of industrial and death metal, Fear Factory first realized that sonic alchemy with its influential 1995 album, Demanufacture. Since then, the band has explored a wider range of sounds and more rhythmic strategies than most of its peers. The group's sound, a blend of melodic vocals, gruff and sweeping atmospherics, crunchy, brutal guitar work and relentless percussion, has often been imitated, but it's the small details in the mix that have always set Fear Factory apart.
Founded in 1983 by Chuck Schuldiner, Death helped to codify the aesthetic of death metal. The sonic brutality of the first two Death albums was remarkable for the period when only grindcore matched it for the sheer violence of the sound. In 2001, Schuldiner lost his two year battle with cancer, ending a brilliant musical career. Schuldiner's imaginative use of sound and the surprising diversity of his songwriting in the context of extreme music has proven to be an enduring influence that has continued to grow. In 2012, the first Death to All tour, celebrating the life and legacy of Schuldiner, came together, and the response from fans was so overwhelming, another two tours were organized for this year with the first, DTA1, focusing on the first four Death albums, and the follow-up, DTA2, focused on the final three.
Heiroglyphics is a hip-hop collective based in Oakland that was founded by Del tha Funkee Homosapien, having recruited several members from Souls of Mischief. Chances are, even if you've never seen or heard them, you've seen their third eye logo which seems to invariably appear at least once at every hip-hop show. This underground group struck gold -- figuratively speaking -- with their 1998 West Coast classic 3rd Eye Vision, whose songs "You Never Knew" and "At the Helm" cracked the mainstream, if only for a little bit -- tiny fragments of their free-associative style and laid-back vibe are likely still implanted somewhere in your brain. Even on wax, the crew sounds like a real life cypher. They're even better live. The only problem is that you never know who is going to show up.
Before Green Jellÿ retold the story of the Three Little Pigs so humorously, GWAR was amusing and horrifying audiences for nearly a decade. Formed in 1984 when Dave Brockie, the band's sole original member, folded his weirdo punk band Death Piggy in with the creativity of a handful of friends to create the most ridiculous band they could imagine, GWAR was all that and more. Known for outlandish costumes and personas, this band is also known for shooting heated KY into the audience and doing irreverent covers. Though written off as a jokey, performance-oriented group, which it is, GWAR was always meant as a high-concept, absurdist joke the rest of us are in on.
Ghost B.C. is the Swedish band previously known as Ghost. The outfit changed its name for operating in the U.S. (as did acts like Comsat Angels, the Chameleons and the Charlatans). But it doesn't mean the borderline, disturbing, tongue-in-cheek aspect of the band isn't still in place. Live, the members dress up as undead priests and frontman Papa Emeritus is made up to look like the anti-Pope. All gimmicks aside -- including band members giving interviews under the name the Ghoul With No Name -- Ghost B.C. has written some of the better prog-symphonic metal of late.
When evaluating an artist like Sage Francis, the question inevitably arises: Should a musician be cherished for the values they hold and their loyalty to said values or their ability to make enjoyable and listenable music? If it's the former, then Sage Francis is a top-tier MC. His political appetite is insatiable, and you get the feeling that his lyrical crusade will not stop until he finds the change he seeks or his hand can no longer grip the microphone. If it's the latter, on the other hand, then Sage Francis is only okay. He's almost more of a spoken word poet than a true rapper, and he has a firm command of the words he uses, though the energy of his songs occasionally escapes him. (With Prolyphic and Wheelchair Sports Camp.)
Glenn Danzig and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein were once in the Misfits together before Danzig went on to front Samhain and then later his quasi-solo project, Danzig. After Samhain, Danzig's musical direction was clearly more in line with the bluesy heavy metal of the time, but his signature Elvis-esque vocals remained the same. Performing under his own name, Danzig experienced success with his debut, self-titled album. Danzig didn't exactly rest on his laurels, and his subsequent albums have revealed a songwriter with no perverse loyalty to keeping things the same. For this show, Danzig and Doyle will also be performing Misfits songs together, and that alone would be worth the price of admission.
Outside of perhaps the Hold Steady -- which shares a proclivity for Bruce Springsteen -- nobody plays straight-up rock these days as convincingly as Lucero. Led by Ben Nichols's gravelly croak, Lucero borrows liberally from the Boss and Lynyrd Skynyrd on songs with swaggering piano lines and organ flourishes that have just enough sunburned Southern-rock licks on the outfit's ditties to remind us that they're indeed from Dixie, the land of Skynyrd, and not Jersey.
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