The ten best concerts in Denver this weekend
David Byrne and Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) initially met at an AIDS/HIV benefit in 2009. But after they ran into each other at a collaborative performance between Björk and Dirty Projectors, it was suggested to Byrne that he should try his hand at something similar. The result was a set of songs that Byrne and Clark wrote while alternately working together in person and exchanging ideas and lyrics via e-mail.
Calling the collected compositions Love This Giant, Byrne and Clark created music that perfectly threaded together the unique visions of each songwriter. The brass is played the way Clark generally writes -- angular, upbeat, flowing guitar riffs -- and the vocals are inflected with Byrne's nearly impressionistic cadence. Musically, the whole thing comes off like a funk marching band. This performance will include a Denver band backing the duo. To find out who, you're just going to have to go.
Brandi Carlile has come a long way since she started singing backup for an Elvis impersonator at the age of sixteen. Starting with her self-titled debut in 2008, Carlile has gradually turned her pop and country roots into something more profound. That much is clear by the roster of musical legends who have signed up to work with her (2007's The Story was produced by T-Bone Burnett, and Rick Rubin produced 2009's Give Up the Ghost). A lot of that has to do with Carlile's voice, which features a delicate balance between sheer vocal power and subtle expressiveness. That combination has driven her output as a folk singer, as a chanteuse fronting symphony orchestras and as a vocal collaborator integrating the powerfully eerie harmonies of twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth (who co-produced 2012's Bear Creek).
This weekend, the 2013 Ride Festival kicks off in the mountain village of Telluride with performances from Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, David Byrne and St. Vincent, Cake, Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt and more big names on the main stage throughout Saturday and Sunday.
The music of Railroad Earth isn't easy to classify, although most people are happy to label it "jam band" and move on. Still reading? Good, because while there's definitely some "jamming" going on in the live show, this is not some guitar-noodling Phish knock-off. Bluegrass lies at the heart of Railroad Earth, but it's a wide-ranging, omnivorous strain that isn't afraid to ditch tradition and have some fun. As a result, you get all the banjo, fiddle and mandolin you'd expect, but it's fused with electric guitars and drums, and prone to weird tangents that might touch on anything from Celtic to jazz. It's a frequently surprising and relentlessly upbeat sound that's at its very best live, regardless of what you call it. (Railroad Earth is also appearing tomorrow night at the Boulder Theater.)
The idea of artists overcoming adversity is a modern theme du jour, with dreary storylines custom-made for television documentaries. Yet it's hard to imagine any comeback more unlikely than Steve Earle's. After busting out of the stale Nashville scene of the late '80s with ballsy, rocking albums like Guitar Town and Copperhead Road, Earle served time for heroin possession. He emerged clean and sober and expelled the sour air of prison life like poison gas on 1995's Train a Comin'. Offering a finely honed blend of blues, country and rock, Earle has released a slew of other albums, including his latest, The Low Highway.
After a decade together, Lucero's starting to mix things up a bit with the addition of a horn section on 2009's 1372 Overton Park. That album -- the Memphis band's only with Universal -- sparked the tired debate amongst followers about what happens when a group signs a major-label deal and perhaps grows a bit tired of the same stylistic structure that has dominated its past albums. On the band's 2012 album, Women & Work, Lucero takes more of a country-soul route a la Gram Parsons and Sticky Fingers-era Rolling Stones. Last April, the band released the four-track EP Texas & Tennessee. (Lucero also plays at the Aggie on Friday, July 12, and at the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs on Sunday, July 14.)
One the hardest-working rockabilly bands of the past few decades, the Paladins were formed by guitarist Dave Gonzalez and Thomas Yearsley at the height of the rockabilly movement in the early '80s. Over the next two decades, the trio toured with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Los Lobos and the Blasters and released nine studio albums. In 2004, the Paladins went on hiatus; Gonzalez subsequently started the Hacienda Brothers with Chris Gaffney and played with the country-soul Stoney River Boys. In 2010, Gonzalez reunited with the Paladins for some European dates, and the following year, the trio regrouped for its first American shows in seven years. Touring with drummer Brian Fahey, the band is playing a few rare reunion dates around the States, including this one at La Rumba, and there's even talk of the Paladins getting back in the studio to record new tracks.
When Del tha Funkee Homosapien burst onto the scene in 1991 with his debut album, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, he was considered a weird, eclectic MC. Since he was Ice Cube's cousin, however, hip-hop heads gave him the benefit of the doubt. Long before Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams even thought to embrace the Thrasher nation, Del catered to the skater crowd. Shortly after issuing George, he formed the Hieroglyphics crew, which introduced Souls of Mischief and Casual to the hip-hop world. The MC amassed a loyal following, releasing several underground albums through his own Hiero imprint, in addition to embarking on several successful collaborations with the likes of Dan the Automator (Deltron 3030) and the Gorillaz. (Del is slated to appear this weekend at the 710 Cup at Wright Group Event Center at 4800 Colorado Boulevard with Sunsquabi, Bukue One and a ton of other acts.)
"Colorado With Me" employs a raucous, distorted low-end paired with a minimal drum line along with a brilliantly reworked Lil Wayne vocal sample from "Roger That" to create a sound that not only hails the country's greatest state, but one that's legitimately fun to listen to. SP Double's rhymes follow the familiar pattern of a hometown tribute in the shout outs to sports teams, landmarks and neighborhoods, a tried and true method for gaining local support because "Hey! I know that spot!," but SP Double also has moments where he really steps up and shines as a lyricist on lines like, "King of the town, and my crown's made of the city skyline" and "I love my city; blizzard to sunshine in one day." The Colorado MC is swagged to the max on this one, and it shows.
Kottonmouth Kings has been ruling its own corner of the musical stoner universe since 1994, carrying with it a fan base equally obsessed with weed culture. Coming up in the post-Sublime mid-'90s, the Cali dudes easily found a niche market for their dirty smoke raps. Since issuing Royal Highness, their 1998 debut, the Kings have pretty much dropped an album a year. From the looks of it, Kottonmouth Kings could keep on for decades, as long as fans are around to pass it from the left-hand side.
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