The ten best concerts in Denver this week
Adam Ant, the charismatic post-punk British pop star responsible for a generation of pirate shirts, returns to the U.S. after a long absence. Now 58, he's picked up more tattoos and a smoking habit since we saw him last. Despite being battle scarred from years in the music business and recent bouts with bipolar disorder, he has kept his cool. The current Ant persona, a black-clad, wisely edited version of his MTV teen idol past, shows Ant (aka Mr. Stuart Goddard) to be a darker, grittier performer. His flamboyantly-titled, guitar-driven new album Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter, came out on his own label last October.
Just because a star was bred in Hollywood doesn't necessarily mean he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Just take Mickey Avalon, the unlikely king of Los Angeles's swanky clubs. He came from beginnings far beyond dubious and well into deranged, a fact he's celebrated in his music. His unique glam-punk take on hip-hop features lyrics forged of the most brutal honesty you've ever been bludgeoned with.
Casey Veggies first appeared as a part of the polarizing new-school hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. He has since distanced himself amicably from the group for artistic reasons. Though he has yet to release a studio album, he has gained significant buzz through a number of solid mixtapes and performances with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T. and Mac Miller. Travi$ Scott, on the other hand, has been most successful as a producer, with a credit on Yeezus, though he has recently forayed into the rhyming side of the business. Scott's debut, Owl Pharoah, was released under the guidance of T.I. and Kanye West, among others, and it shows in its sound.
The Under the Influence Tour may be technically Wiz Khalifa's tour, but it's hardly his show. Though he probably still commands the largest and most diverse audience of anyone on the tour, Wiz's 2012 mixtape, Taylor Allderdice, was his last worthwhile project, while A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$ and Trinidad James, who share the bill, are strictly on the rise. Also performing are B.o.B. and Joey Bada$$'s crew Pro-Era, but no matter who you're most excited to see, you're gonna have a good time.
As a founding member of Cannibal Corpse, Chris Barnes helped establish the death-metal aesthetic with his growling, sepulchral vocals and vivid, ultra-violent lyrics. In 1995, he parted ways with the Corpse and focused on Six Feet Under, a side project he'd started in 1993 with Allen West of Obituary and former Death bassist Terry Butler. Possessing more of a groove than a lot of other death-metal bands, the outfit nevertheless pens horrific lyrics with cynical commentary on the human condition. In recent years, that capacity for dissecting and revealing the dark side of human existence has often been directed at the trespasses of a crypto-fascist government. The band's latest album, Unborn, finds the group expertly honing the precision of its sonic savagery.
The Juan MacLean came into dance music via the punk scene, and after a tour with Cut Copy, John MacLean found himself fully immersed in the EDM scene. With an electronica-meets-funk sound, MacLean's proven himself highly adept at seamlessly fusing genres.
David La Melza's Tropicool project is a beautifully executed brand serving up feel-good, breezy disco-house tunes that also happen to be irresistibly catchy. Everything about the project, from the name to the pop-infused female vocals, is designed to remind you of dancing sweaty and barefoot on hot summer nights in some beach club on an island far away from your everyday life. And the sound is so energetically fun and upbeat that you can't help grooving out with an infectious grin on your face.
Futurebirds came to life in 2008 in Athens, Georgia, a city long known as a haven for inventive, even adventurous pop music. With breezy songs that could have come out of the Laurel Canyon scene of the early '70s, Futurebirds color the outer edges of its melodies with more than a hint of psychedelia. This is especially true on the group's latest offering, Baba Yaga. And while the phrase "country rock" gets thrown around freely with this band, think Gram Parsons more than the Eagles. Baba Yaga took the band some seven months to deliver, but the effort was worth it, as the album's finely crafted tunes crackle with the fire for which Futurebirds has become known.
"It's been assumed I'm soft or irrelevant/'Cause I refuse to downplay my intelligence." So raps Dessa on "Bullpen," from her debut album, A Badly Broken Code, released in 2010 on the Doomtree imprint. Although her inherent "hardness" has yet to be tested, it's clear that Dessa is an intelligent MC who clearly has something to say. Hailing from Minneapolis, the home of a vibrant underground hip-hop scene, Dessa brashly raps about the struggles she faces being a female rapper, a businesswoman and a published author. (Dessa is also playing Thursday, July 25, at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins.)
Talent in and of itself isn't a ticket to stardom, but if it's mixed with a healthy dose of persistence, it can fuel a long and admirable career, as Robert Earl Keen's experience demonstrates. When record companies proved unwilling to back his first album, 1984's No Kinda Dancer, he picked up the tab himself and attracted the attention of folks at the Sugar Hill imprint with his impressive tunesmithing. Thirteen years and half a dozen smart and satisfying discs later, Arista Records inked him to a big-league contract. Keen responded by putting out a couple of typically idiosyncratic platters -- a strategy as creatively rewarding as it was commercially disastrous. Unsurprisingly, he and Arista subsequently parted company, and since then, he's put out a number of strong songs on various imprints that no one else could have written.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.