The ten best concerts in Denver this weekend
Alicia J. Rose
Leftover Salmon has graced the the bluegrass scene with their talents for 23 years and counting. With the passing of Mark Vann in 2001, the band hasn't produced an album in eight years. The addition of Andy Thorn, carried over from Emmitt-Nershi Band, sparked a new interest in touring and inspiration is in a steady flow among the members, and the band went on to release Aquatic Hitchhikers last May.
As we're nearing the end of the latest edition of the Best of the West showcase, the stakes are high and the competition is fierce. This weekend's semi-final round features Gang Forward, SF1, Places, Joe Fornothin and Robert Harrison and the Outsiders, all competing for a chance to advance. The winner from this show will compete against the winner James and the Devil for a chance at the title.
Magic Cyclops has been inciting head-scratching and booty-bumping ever since he began mixing on-stage aerobics with cheesy '80s music over a decade ago. And just as the mythological Cyclops had to make do with just one eye, so does Magic Cyclops. Sporting oversized shades, an iridescent track suit and a Hulk Hogan headband, he blazes through his sets fueled on cans of Hamm's beer. Magic, indeed. (Mr Pacman and Charly Fasano are also on this bill.)
To even think of labeling Naughty By Nature "pop" seems almost profane, but this New Jersey group found mainstream success rarely seen by a hardcore act. No matter who you are, you've heard at least one of their songs: "O.P.P." Plus, the guys won the Grammy for best rap album in 1996 for Poverty's Paradise, beating out Bone Thugs, ODB, Skee-Lo and 2Pac. Perhaps no song is more emblematic of NBN's absolute appeal than "Feel Me Flow," which is one of the illest, chillest songs you'll ever hear. If ever you wanted to ease a skeptical friend into the world of gansta rap, you couldn't go wrong with Naughty By Nature.
Reno Divorce began in the middle '90s when frontman and guitarist Brent Loveday founded the outfit while still living in Orlando, Florida. Some early, glowing press came the way of the band's 7-inch. But it wasn't until Loveday relocated to Denver and discovered a place he felt like he could live that things began rolling. Since then, the guys have been on a handful of tours and shared the stage with many of their heroes. The band's surprisingly earnest, but never pretentious, combination of melodic punk and roots rock, peppered with something a little more aggressive, has resonated with fans across a relatively broad spectrum of musical taste. (MF RUCKUS, Monaco, Two Fisted Tango and Torked are also on this bill.)
After a bit of hiatus, Matt Morris is back and making his first appearance in nearly two years. Since his last performance, Morris has kept plenty busy. In the interim, he's been cultivating a voice blogging about spirituality as Teo Bishop, and musically, he's parted ways with Tennman Records, collaborated with the Fray's Joe King on songs for his debut solo album, King, and written songs for and with Cher and Sarah McLachlan. Here you catch him playing completely stripped down versions of his songs in the intimate confines of Swallow Hill.
At first listen, Cave Singers doesn't sound like a band that came out of the ashes of Pretty Girls Make Graves, Hint Hint or Cobra High. But considering that it features Derek Fudesco, who made a name for himself in the whiskey-swigging garage-rock band Murder City Devils before doing time in PGMG, the sound makes perfect sense. There's still plenty of down-and-out wordplay here, and lead singer Pete Quirk's voice resembles that of a chain-smoking, nasally Bruce Springsteen. It's all a bit slower than you might expect from a group with such a pedigree, but the rustic nature of the act as a whole has more in common with Murder City Devils than is initially apparent. The recently released No Witch marks the band's move from Matador to its new home at Jagjaguwar, a perfect fit for this dark and booze-soaked folk music.
Since its inception in 1993, Low has created a body of work characterized by a fragile intensity. Although often lumped in under the banner of "slowcore" with a group of bands of similar sonic leanings, like Red House Painters, Galaxie 500, Tarnation and Codeine, the Duluth, Minnesota-based act doesn't fit neatly into that sub-genre. For starters, much of Low's material is anything but slow. For the last decade, Low has branched out from the focused introspection of its early releases, and by the time of its 2005 album, The Great Destroyer, the band had proven it could write a song in whatever tempo it liked with whatever sonic character it preferred.
From her landmark debut Baduizm, which she'll perform in its entirety at the Fillmore, to the more recent electronic and hip-hop inspired material created with producers Madlib, 9th Wonder and Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu has had many styles over her sixteen-year career. But if one thing has remained consistent, it's that her approach to songwriting is always different from everyone else in R&B.
Formed in 2007, North Wales's Joy Formidable could just as easily have come together ten years earlier. The trio's sound is, at times, reminiscent of a Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness-era Smashing Pumpkins, carried by guitarist Ritzy Bryan's anthemic vocals. But its sonic trickery goes beyond genre; with a basic guitar-bass-drums instrumentation, Joy Formidable pulls off a total audible illusion, creating the kind of massive sound made famous by Arcade Fire. The simplicity goes a long way and allows for Bryan's voice -- sometimes ethereal but always weighty -- to give the group its discernible punch. Bassist Rhydian Dafydd slides into the frontman position from time to time, but it is Bryan's beautiful and diverse voice that makes Joy Formidable memorable. From bedroom to studio recordings, the trio consistently stays big.
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