The ten best concerts in Denver this weekend
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib: Saturday at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom
It's a good weekend for live music in Denver. Let's start at the end, with Paul Simon's Graceland collaborator Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Boulder Theater. The day before that, pop clinician Dr. Dog stops by on the same night as the collaboration between knotty rappers Madlib and Freddie Gibbs. There are more of these things -- seven more, in fact.
Mandolinist David Grisman has spent more than three decades playing what he calls "dawg" music, which is essentially a mix swing, bluegrass, Latin, jazz and gypsy. While the line-up of his band has changed over the years, Grisman's always had a knack for recruiting skilled players, such as Tony Rice and Mark O'Connor, both of whom went on to lead their own bands, and guitarist Frank Vignola, the latest addition to the group, who honed his chops listening to Django Reinhardt and Joe Pass. For tonight's performance at the Boulder Theater, Grisman is with his Folk Jazz Trio, which features his son Samson Grisman on bass and guitarist Jim Hurst.
Since forming in 1998, Washington, D.C.'s Dead Meadow has toured the globe relentlessly, doling out doses of dreamy, distortion-heavy psych rock in the key of Black Sabbath spiked with acid-infused Beatles. If Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda had ditched Easy Rider and taken over 2001: A Space Odyssey from Stanley Kubrick, Dead Meadow would have made the perfect soundtrack.
Electric Six formed in Detroit in 1996. Not content to strictly follow any particular style of rock, the band has forged its own strange and surprisingly original path. Its greatest commercial and popular success came in 2003 with its debut, Fire, which contained the hit single "Gay Bar." Rather than milk the success of that album, however, Electric Six has continued to evolve into different directions with each of its nine successive releases, including 2013's Mustang.
While Reverend Peyton is a big dude with a booming voice, his band really isn't that big in numbers. There's the Rev himself, who plays a mean slide on his resonator guitar; his wife, Washboard Breezy, who scrapes the hell out of a washboard; and Ben Bussell chugging away on a stripped-down drum kit. You get these three together, though, and they make some big damn music. Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band rips through backwoods Mississippi Delta blues with the fervor and the fury of the Ramones, getting crowds stomping and hollering all over the world.
Dr. Dog has been compared to hipster faves like Pavement and Guided by Voices (which does no justice to the Dog's genuinely adorable '70s AM soul), but the late Rick Danko himself would've loved Philadelphia's current indie darlings: lo-fi keyboards, bass and thick drums make a bed for sentimental, earnest "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" guitar-led melodies and quirky vocals that recall the most playful moments of Dylan's legendary Basement Tapes.
Portland, Oregon's Guantanamo Baywatch formed in early 2009 and mulched the aesthetics of early surf rock with punk and the early psychobilly of artists like Hasil Adkins and The Cramps in threading together its core sound. The result is music that sounds like it could be from the '60s but is just ineffably weirder than most of that stuff. Stylistically, this group's music has more in common with modern outfits like Shannon & The Clams and Hunx & His Punx than with something from fifty years ago.
As co-founders of Denver-based Night Supply Records, Matt Friedman and Ross Kiser are making quite a name for themselves as house duo Need & Necessity, going from playing house parties at CU Boulder, where they went to school, to curating shows alongside the Hundred founder Brennen Bryarly. In their world of production, though, the East Coast natives are creating sounds similar to those coming out of the U.K., namely house music and derivatives of the genre. With roots in hip-hop and funk, Need & Necessity is part of the latest wave of house-music producers helping to make Colorado the go-to spot for the best dance music in the world. (with Kevin Saunderson and Dantiez Saunderson)
Madlib is accomplished both as a producer and a rapper. He produced for DOOM on Madvillainy, one of the most creative rap albums in recent memory, and his debut rap album The Unseen under the pseudonym Quasimoto is an underground gem. Freddie Gibbs, on the other hand, is all rapper. Although he has been releasing mixtapes since 2004, his studio debut, ESGN, came last year. Gibbs is a talented rapper with an old-school mentality.
Though it got started in Manitoba in 1986, Propagandhi didn't release a proper album until after it played a show with NOFX in 1992. The band impressed the latter's Fat Mike, who offered to release an album on his label, Fat Wreck Chords. The result, 1993's How to Clean Everything, was informed by the same irreverent humor that was evident in the titles of Propagandhi's demo releases (e.g., Martial Law With a Cherry on Top). The act's name was a major hint as to its political orientation, but it also suggested that these guys weren't a bunch of dour leftists spouting platitudes about veganism, racism and homophobia. Instead, Propagandhi has written songs on those subjects with a consistently high degree of intelligence and thoughtfulness alongside its signature wiseacre humor.
The name is the first mystery, but it's really very simple. Ladysmith refers to a South African township, black symbolizes the black ox, thought to be the strongest kind, and mambazo is an ax. Put that all together and you've got Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a fine-tuned Durban-based a cappella choir led by the emphatic Joseph Shabalala. The nine-man group has been around since the Sixties, when they won every musical competition South Africa had to offer; they later gained world recognition when they recorded with Paul Simon on his Graceland album.
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