The ten best concerts in Denver this weekend
Twenty years ago, things were considerably different in the local scene. Denver had yet to produce any massive breakout artists on the level of the Lumineers or the Fray. Back then, Big Head Todd and the Monsters were the biggest fish in the pond, and Sister Sweetly, the band's third album, its first on a major label, spawned three singles (the title track, the iconic "Broken Hearted Savior," and "Bittersweet") that gave us all a certain amount of pride hearing them on the radio. Tomorrow night, to celebrate its twentieth anniversary, the outfit will be performing Sister Sweetly front to back in its entirety.
In terms of bands that traffic in long-form compositions, there are prog bands and there are jam bands, the former being characterized by linear compositions with rigid structures, the latter for its loose, well, jamming. Umphrey's McGee splits the difference between the two quite nicely. And if you haven't seen them live, the guys can play. Cramming changes by the bucketful into every song for a hyperactive sound not unlike that of Frank Zappa (if a little less insistently weird), the band tends to expand sections to allow for plenty of solos, proving its musicianship is just as accomplished on stage as it is in the studio.
The KS 107.5 Summer Jam features a star-studded lineup of some of rap's hottest artists, including Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, whose song "Thrift Shop" has absolutely ransacked airwaves across America, 2 Chainz, whose studio debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story, has already gone gold, and Future, who has revived auto-tune with his infectious, spaced-out style. The bill is rounded out by J. Cole, Wale, Trey Songz and B. Smyth.
While Summer Jam is deservedly attracting the attention of local rap fans this weekend, there's another dope lineup this weekend that you should know about. It's the Zumiez Couch Tour, and it's going down at Flatirons Crossing Mall in Broomfield. I know what you're thinking -- at the mall?! Hold on. Check the lineup. The gig features the Baby Face Killa himself, Freddie Gibbs, and the Spitta, Curren$y. Along with performances from those two, there's also going to be pro skateboard demos and bunch of other stuff.
They Might Be Giants has been making nerdiness seem cool for more than three decades now. Since 1982, the Brooklyn-based duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell have carved out a cottage industry of making precise and demanding music that includes no small amount of unabashed geekiness. From seminal 1990s alt-rock albums Flood and Apollo 18 to more recent output that extols the fun of science and the fascinating history of ancient cultures, the group has never been shy about showing off its brain power. The Giants' latest album, Nanobots, is a record that follows the pattern of complex musical structures, heady lyrics and a fiercely independent production process.
Ritzy Bryan and Rhydian Dafydd grew up together in North Wales and formed their first band, Tricky Nixon, while living in Manchester. When that outfit split up in 2006, the two wasted little time in putting together what would become the Joy Formidable when they moved back to Wales. Over the next five years, the three-piece created a bright sound comprising broad vistas and sweeping dynamics, pushed along by a notable urgency and exuberance. Immediate comparisons could be drawn to the shimmering electricity of Split-era Lush and the wiry guitar experimentation of Medicine, but this act seems to hurl itself into the music with a startling forcefulness worthy of its name.
Wampire is a five-piece whose music doesn't seem fixed to a particular musical period, especially the current era. If anything, the band's gently swirling, swaying melodies are buoyed almost imperceptibly by a distinct if informal structure that keeps the music from wandering completely where it will. It's almost like psychedelic rock if it was also inspired in part by mid-'80s Kiwi rock and the lurid yet organic moods of Rolling Stones records from the late '70s.
The Psychedelic Furs, who crawled out of England's punk scene, leavened their roiling, tempestuous rock with touches of pop, with Richard Butler's blustery lead vocals practically bleeding irony. The act's song "Pretty in Pink" became an enduring standard through its ties to the John Hughes brat-pack film it inspired. Although there haven't been any new Furs recordings since a 2001 single, the band has toured increasingly in recent years to positive reviews. The current lineup sports originals Butler and brother Tim on bass, longtime associate Mars Williams on sax, drummer Paul Garisto, keyboardist Amanda Kramer and guitarist Rich Good.
Guitarist Charlie Hunter and drummer Scott Amendola teamed up in the mid-'90s as part of T.J. Kirk, an outfit that played the music of Thelonious Monk, James Brown and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Amendola, who also appears on a few of Hunter's mid-'90s Blue Note recordings, has worked with a number of musicians since then, including the Nels Cline Singers. Last year, he reunited with Hunter again to record the duo album Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead. Hunter, who plays seven and eight-string guitars, handles both bass and guitar parts simultaneously, while Amendola is a master behind the kit. Needless to say, you can expect some fiery improvisations, as well as some deep grooves at this show. Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola also perform at Dazzle tomorrow night, Saturday, June 8.
Granted, if Twista had never come up with his rapid-fire delivery, he most likely wouldn't have made as much noise. But it's not only his fast tongue and incredible breath control that make him notable, it's his originality and deep understanding of individual phonemes and how they flow together. You can't just say anything fast and have it sound good; you have to write the verse to be fast-adaptable, and that's a skill that Twista has mastered.
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