The ten best concerts this week: 10/29-11/2
Skrillex vs Knife Party at 1STBANK is one of the ten best concerts this week.
Happy Monday, amigos. Hope you didn't go too hard this past weekend -- though, judging from the pics from Rockbar's last call, some of you apparently did -- because there's at least four truckloads of shows (including Ryan Adams acoustic set at Boulder Theater tonight) going down this week, which means plenty more chances to wear your Where's Waldo costume (seriously, what's up with all the Waldos -- did we miss a memo or something?). We have all of the shows listed in our comprehensive concert calendar if you're feeling enterprising. If you'd rather save your brain cells, we've put together a list of the ten best concerts this week. Keep reading to see which ones we picked.
There is some irony in the fact that three of the four current members of a band named Cattle Decapitation are staunch vegetarians -- but there is also awesomeness here. The same goes for the longtime death-metal act's songs, a rowdy and riveting back catalogue that decries animal abuse, genocide and the slow but violent destruction of the environment. Mixed in with unsightly imagery, epic guitar ramblings and slightly unsubtle apocalyptica is the efficiency of fifteen years spent traveling in support of five albums, countless causes and a sound as intoxicating as it is damning. If the guys' edges are hard, so are their lyrics, establishing them as one of a handful of modern bands whose message and music have yet to soften or slacken.
Karl Denson is hard to pin down. The saxophonist and bandleader may have strong roots in the traditional jazz of giants like John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, but that hasn't stopped him from exploring funk, R&B, hip-hop and myriad other genres in his two-decade-plus career. Starting as a member of Lenny Kravitz's original ensemble in the late '80s, Denson went on to push the creative envelope, exploring different textures and styles with the Greyboy Allstars and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe. Nearly three years after the release of Brother's Keeper, his last album with the Tiny Universe, Denson returns once again to the Mile High City on the heels of his Beastie Boys tribute with Slightly Stoopid at this past summer's Westword Music Showcase.
Dan Deacon has amassed quite a reputation for his live shows, which often devolve into fits of reckless abandon, with the cuddly little man going bananas on stage, throwing punches and offering up belly waggles. His antics are surpassed only by his rich, elastic electronic compositions, which are made up of a truly infectious combination of hooks, abstraction and gleefully tweaked vocals.
If Matt and Kim had never made it as a musical duo, they probably could've found success as therapists. The indie-punk band is sickeningly sweet and happy, putting just as much emphasis on their perma-smiles and interaction with fans as on the music they play. Matt and Kim dance on their instruments, throw balloons into the audience, and carry out long conversations on stage. It's obvious that Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino have formed a tight bond since they met years ago as students at New York's Pratt Institute. And it's probably not difficult to be constantly oh-so-happy when you're working with the love of your life (the two are in a romantic relationship).
As a pop band, you could do a lot worse than having your first-ever show be opening for Amy Winehouse and then getting tapped to serve as the opening act for her European summer tour. But that's essentially what happened to the Asteroids Galaxy Tour after Winehouse heard the band's demo in 2009 -- an admirable feat for an act that was largely a studio project led by primary songwriter and producer Lars Iversen and singer Mette Lindberg. The outfit released some singles before getting the urge to form a live band, and the soul and jazz-flavored pop that is the hallmark of its sound proved easily translatable to the stage. The septet is currently traveling in support of its latest album, Out of Frequency, and, thanks to the early endorsement from Winehouse, this Tour is now self-propelled.
San Francisco's the Fresh & Onlys got started ten years ago, before the most recent wave of garage psych. And while that aesthetic certainly informed the group's music early on, there's more to its sound than that. Sweeping through its center is a Smiths-like, incandescent guitar jangle, along with gentle but direct rhythms. You can hear shades of C86-era bands in the music, but there is a bright core to the songwriting that's uplifting rather than just being a transmogrification of melancholic moods. This is most evident on the latest Fresh & Onlys release, Long Slow Dance. An ineffable nostalgia still limns the atmospheres of the band's songs, but it's tempered by fiery guitar work that burns the maudlin from your mind.
Sonny Moore started out as lead vocalist in the California-based hardcore band From First to Last in 2004. But you probably know him better as Skrillex (a handle he adopted a few years back), the masses' highest-profile ambassador of EDM and essentially the mainstream pioneer of American dubstep. Prior to garnering five Grammy nominations and taking home three statues, Skrillex gained a following by hitting the road and making his way to every off-the-grid college town in the country. Those early grassroots efforts paid off: Now he sells out shows all over the world, including the Canadian one he traveled to by train on the Full Flex Express tour with Pretty Lights and Diplo. Whether or not you're a true dubstep aficionado, you'll find Skrillex's hooks catchy, his tracks flawless, and his performance on par with any rock show, right down to the head-banging. This time around, Skrillex and Knife Party are playing two-hour back-to-back sets on a bill that also includes Tommy Trash, Kill the Noise, Zane Lowe and Baauer.
With the pageantry of their presentation and the overwhelming ostentatiousness of their personas, it's easy to forget that the members of Gwar are actual people -- not mere caricatures, but beings made of flesh and blood, with feelings and emotions like the rest of us. And that's kind of the whole point of Gwar: to suspend disbelief, to be bigger than life, to tingle all of your senses at once with volume, spectacle and humor, and to leave you covered in ooze, with a perma-grin on your face for days afterward. Last fall, the curtain was abruptly pulled back on this traveling sideshow by the cruelest of life's inventions, with the untimely passing of Cory Smoot (aka Flattus Maximus), which served as a chilling and painful reminder that we're all just human after all. Like many greats before it, the band called a momentary truce as it worked through its grief, but eventually the members soldiered on by recruiting a new guitarist, Flattus's long-lost cousin, Pustulus Maximus (aka Brent Purgason of Cannibal), and nearly a year later, they're back to doing what they do best, waging Gwar on America.
Originally hailing from Cincinnati, the Afghan Wigs were an early, non-Pacific Northwest signing to Sub Pop. Probably because of their raw sound -- which was akin to that of the early Replacements and had a soulful vibe in line with what the label was cultivating in underground music at the time -- the Whigs fared better long-term than many of their contemporaries. The act's 1993 album, Gentlemen, met with great critical acclaim for its strong, literate songwriting and emotional honesty. Singer Greg Dulli became somewhat notorious for his personal excesses, but in interviews, he has maintained an uncommon grace and openness about his personal demons. Having amicably split in 2001, the Whigs reunited in 2012 for an All Tomorrow's Parties gig curated by Dulli; that show spurred the current tour, which features the group's first new material in over a decade.
Seeing Bob Dylan in 2012, you get the sense that you're witnessing a man who has reconciled with his mortality. In the '60s, when Dylan was more relevant to his own time than anybody, all he cared about was the past. Now, more relevant to the past than anything, he seems concerned only with his future. Yet instead of hiding this fact -- say, airbrushing his flaws with pitch correction and plastic surgery -- Dylan has, as always, embraced that which displaces him from the present. His voice sounds like an alligator gargling whiskey and gravel, his music like it's emanating from a riverboat casino in 1920s Mississippi. He's always been a man of masks, and for the last two decades, his mask has been that of a walking corpse, a ghost, a lost spirit that doesn't belong in its own time and is trying to find its way home.
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