The ten best concerts in Denver this week
Electric Six has been bringing the party to the unwary for a decade. The group's songs combine '80s rock, disco and New Wave into a cranked-up, ultra-catchy sound all its own, with lyrics that mix a David Lee Roth-esque bravado with surreal barrages of imagery revolving around fire, sex, dancing...and air travel. Frontman Dick Valentine comes across like a smarmy cross between Mike Patton and a Baptist preacher, but underneath he's a funny, thoughtful and down-to-earth guy just looking to rock the crowd.
Over the past seven years, the Devil Wears Prada has risen above one of the more unfortunate (and possibly copyright-infringing) names in heavy music to become one of the most popular and even respected acts on the metalcore scene. Despite early Christian leanings, the Dayton, Ohio-based sextet has been winning fans over with uncompromising riffage and relatively prolific output. The outfit has released four proper full-lengths since 2005, with heavy touring behind each, making its members look like elder statesmen of a subgenre scene less than a decade old.
Whether by himself or with his Dirty Laboratory cohorts as a member of Optik Fusion Embrace, Extra Kool has proven a knack for offering up penetrating insights into the human condition with every line that passes his lips. Even a casual listen to his songs makes it immediately obvious that this guy is coming from a different world than most of his contemporaries. While many rappers extol the virtues of decadence, Kool's lean, dark vision of human existence is refreshingly devoid of sexism or celebration of self-destructive urges. Live, Extra Kool challenges his audiences with an unwavering stare and a direct and hauntingly intense vocal delivery. Part modern-day Dadaist, part hip-hop art terrorist, Extra Kool is the essence of truth in advertising.
For more than two decades, Guttermouth has been putting out a consistent brand of relentlessly taunting and taut SoCal pop punk. From a band with a name like Guttermouth, you get exactly what you expect: a tenable testament to truth in advertising in the form of lowbrow tunes, a seemingly exhaustive and endless catalog of songs with titles like "Pee In the Shower" and "Surfs Up Asshole," taken from nearly a dozen albums, including three live albums, issued on at least three prominent punk imprints (Nitro, Epitaph and Volcom). Oh, and lest you worry, age hasn't made these dudes any less cantankerous.
Break out the tie-dye hoodie and slip a pair of socks on with those Birkenstocks: Furthur is coming back to town. Like bottles of wine, guitarist Bob Weir and bass master Phil Lesh seem to get better and better with age. Since the end of the Grateful Dead proper in 1995, the two have kept the band's music going strong through various musical projects, and Furthur is the best of the bunch. (Furthur is also due at the Ogden Theatre on Thursday, February 21.)
Karl Denson is hard to pin down. The saxophonist and bandleader may have strong roots in the traditional jazz of giants like John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, but that hasn't stopped him from exploring funk, R&B, hip-hop and myriad other genres in his two-decade-plus career. Starting as a member of Lenny Kravitz's original ensemble in the late '80s, Denson went on to push the creative envelope, exploring different textures and styles with the Greyboy Allstars and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe.
Formed in 1980, Youth Brigade played shows with hardcore bands, but its music didn't focus on speed or brutality. Instead, the Stern brothers wrote songs that addressed the concerns of conscious young men of the day, like existential angst and criticizing a power-mad government vastly streamlining society in favor of the wealthy. The Sterns also put their ideals into establishing the Better Youth Organization in an attempt to combat the image of punk-rockers as violent, nihilistic, aimless rebels. With a national BYO tour, documented in the film Another State of Mind, the Brigade didn't exactly change the world, but it did inspire a generation of punk-rockers afterward. With the current decade feeling like déjà vu for anyone who lived through the '80s as a teenager, Youth Brigade seems somehow as relevant as ever.
Cam'ron first came into the rap scene as a part of the Children of the Corn crew with Big L and Ma$e as Killa Cam. Upon their breakup in 1997, he helped found Dipset with Jim Jones and later Juelz Santana. Cam reached his commercial peak in 2002 with Come Home With Me, which included the singles "Oh Boy" and "Hey Ma," but his best album, Purple Haze, came two years later.
The Ruby Suns are one of those bands with a pitch-perfect name. The Auckland, New Zealand-rooted trio's worldly indie pop exudes both an exotic magnetism (like their preferred gemstone) and a soothing warmth (like the sort generated by a giant floating fireball). At the group's center is Ryan McPhun, a sonic architect whose appetite for ambition is what makes the Suns' sounds so rich. The act's 2008 platter, Sea Lion, was inspired by McPhun carrying a Dictaphone around on treks through Africa, Thailand and his native country, culminating in a goulash that contained calypso, surf pop and Hawaiian music among its far-flung ingredients. The band's 2010 album, Fight Softly, meanwhile, housed sugary psych-electro, tribal chants, pop and R&B influenced by Prince and Phil Collins. Christopher, the Ruby Suns' January release and fourth record, continues Fight Softly's '80s pop tendencies with fewer experimental elements, but, knowing McPhun, it's only a matter of time before he's scouting strange, fresh terrain again.
Before making a name for himself on his own, Kaoru Ishibashi released a couple of albums with Jupiter One, the Brooklyn-based synth pop act he co-founded with keyboardist Zac Colwell in the early part of the last decade. And before that, he spent some time on the road with Of Montreal and Regina Spektor. These days, however, the thirty something violinist, who's better known these days as Kishi Bashi, the mashed-up moniker he assumed when struck out on his own, continues to turn heads with his violin playing and majestic vocals on 151a, the splendid, sweeping, symphonic album he funded through Kickstarter and released last year. If you have a thing for acts like Sufjan Stevens, Antony and the Johnsons and Andrew Bird, you'll fall in love instantly with Kishi Bashi.
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