The ten best concerts in Denver this weekend
Conspirator is an apt name for this supergroup of sorts, which comprises members of several well-known acts. Exploring the ethereal realms of EDM, the quartet -- Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein of the Disco Biscuits, KJ Sawka of Pendulum and Chris Michetti of RAQ -- incorporates numerous genres into its sound. Each player brings a necessary component to the music, implementing his own take on a specialized blend of dance and rock, from explosive keyboard solos and melodic guitar riffs to thundering bass lines and drumbeats that would make the most earnest drum-and-bass enthusiast salivate.
A prominent figure in the late-'40s and early-'50s cool-jazz movement, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz performed on Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool and performed with Lennie Tristano and Warne Marsh around that same time. While a number of players were copping Charlie Parker's sound, Konitz took a different approach, opting for more individual phrasing and tone. The now-85-year-old saxophonist went on to release dozens of albums on various labels under his own name, including some outstanding recent efforts -- Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Live at Birdland and last year's Enfants Terribles: Live at the Blue Note, which also features Bill Frisell, Gary Peacock and Joey Baron. Konitz is an innovative and masterful improviser whose lyrical phrasing is about as gorgeous as it comes.
Donavon Frankenreiter first gained recognition as a surfer. After signing a sponsorship deal with Billabong, he often traveled to Hawaii, where he rented a room from Jack Johnson's parents. Frankenreiter formed the band Sunchild in the late '90s, and by the early part of the next decade, he decided to pursue a solo career and ended up signing with Johnson's Brushfire Records. He released a record and toured extensively in Australia, where he was already popular due to his surfing career. In 2006, he left Brushfire for Lost Highway Records and had a song featured on the campy film Snakes on a Plane. The singer has since created his own label, Liquid Tambourine Records, to issue his brand of beachy rock and roll.
Tech N9Ne is here so often, you'd be excused for thinking he does live here. He's doesn't of course. His mail is delivered to Kansas City. But that's just where he hails from, really. He lives on the road. And that's precisely how he's risen up through the ranks to command the same level of attention as his much higher profile counterparts. You can be sure that any acclaim he has garnered, he's earned the old fashion way.
Although JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound received a good amount of exposure with the soul-soaked cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," the Chicago-based band also digs into a fair amount of heavy groove of its own. The act's latest effort, Want More, is not as quite as hard-hittingly funky as albums from like-minded contemporary soul acts like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings or Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, but the band has honed its self-described post-punk soul sound and has become known for its energetic live shows.
Peelander-Z describe themselves as aliens from the planet Peelander who want to eat your smiles. In reality, they're a do-anything, three-piece Japanese garage band who sound like Melt-Banana as voiced by the Ramones, clad in neon jumpsuits they claim are their actual skin. Their exuberant live show is notorious: Steel yourselves for limbo dancing, karaoke contests and "human bowling," where the members of the band are hurled at oversized pins set up in the audience. If that's not enough, the anime intensity of songs such as "Tacos Tacos Tacos" and "Let's Go! Karaoke Party!" appeal to those who always wanted the Power Rangers to join a punk band.
Tireless culture-clashers Balkan Beat Box can shout "dance, motherfucker, dance" in twenty different languages. The act's third album, Blue Eyed Black Boy, is a sweat-soaked all-night smash-up of dancehall rhythms, sputtering electro textures and hip-hop swagger, all imbued with the snaky melodic lines of klezmer, Balkan brass, Greek guitars and whatever else shuffles into their iPods. Don't get this confused with flightly, downtempo "global groove," since BBB's head-knocking rhythms speak in all-caps.
Who knows why some albums are a success and others go unsung? Las Vegas band Imagine Dragons hit one of those pockets of luck with its latest album, Night Visions. While the new album may seem like a breakthrough, the group has been working hard for years -- touring extensively, writing constantly -- to garner the acclaim it's currently enjoying. The bandmembers rented a house together in their formative years, playing covers in bars to near-empty rooms to pay the rent; before that, frontman Dan Reynolds reportedly drew inspiration from seeing live shows of bands like Arcade Fire and Jack White. Clearly, all that hard work has paid off.
Billy Bragg formed the rock band Riff Raff in 1977, during the height of punk rock in England. Four years later, when making music didn't turn out quite like he thought it would, Bragg did a brief stint in the military. Fortunately, he later returned to songwriting, but instead of pub rock, he began penning some of the most incisive, compelling and socially conscious songs of his or any generation. Clearly inspired by the likes of Phil Ochs and Earl Robinson, Bragg developed his solo material around the same time as like-minded artists New Model Army and Poison Girls, acts that also didn't turn up their noses at the radical folk tradition. This month, Bragg will release his latest record, Tooth & Nail, which, while at once more traditional and more plugged in than previous efforts, is no less pointed.
Since 1992, Cephalic Carnage has carved out a unique place for itself in the milieu of metal by being an early purveyor of deathgrind. But for anyone who's seen the band live, or listened closely to its albums, it's obvious the guys writing the music are well familiar with jazz. This became very apparent on the group's 2000 album, Exploiting Dysfunction. What also became obvious is the sharp sense of humor with song titles like "Dying Will Be the Death of Me." As the band has become more experimental, the music evokes a far more metalized Naked City. If merely seeing Cephalic isn't metal enough, this bill also features fellow titans of Colorado metal Havok, Speedwolf and Silencer.
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