The ten best concerts to see in Denver this week
In the first half of the '90s, Ishmael Butler went by the moniker "Butterfly" as part of the rap trio Digable Planets. After the outfit's 1995 split, the group performed one-off shows here and there, but since 2009, Butler has released music with Tendai Maraire under the name Shabazz Palaces. Instead of completely ditching the jazz proclivities of the Planets, Butler and Maraire have combined that style with a broad sonic palette that includes samples, traditional African rhythms, dub and electronic melodies and textures. It doesn't hurt that Maraire is the son of Dumisani Maraire, best known for bringing the music of Zimbabwe to North America. In fusing exotic sounds and inventive collage composition, Shabazz Palaces has created an electro-organic dance music steeped in an alchemy of the traditional and the postmodern.
Compared to airbrushed, frosted-bang pretty boys like the ones in Rascal Flatts, Atlanta's Zac Brown Band looks like it came straight to Nashville from a bare-knuckled dustup with the Kentucky Headhunters. However, the strand of Southern rock that Brown and company are most steeped in is the free-form Widespread Panic variety; their high harmonies and pickin' skills also make them one of the most bluegrass-sounding acts to make serious Music City inroads since either Alison Krauss or Ricky Skaggs. This is a group of good ol' boys, albeit modern ones.
Since making their first appearance in Denver in the late '90s, the members of the Appleseed Cast have grown immensely. Back then, on stage at the Market Street Lounge (a club that was attached to the Old Chicago in LoDo), they were fresh-faced young men from Lawrence, Kansas, playing a serviceable brand of emo. At the time, that sound had been pretty well trod by bands like Sunny Day Real Estate -- an early inspiration for the act, whose original handle was December's Tragic Drive. Over the course of eight albums, led ably by frontman Christopher Crisci and guitarist Aaron Pillar, the Appleseed Cast has steadily grown into a band of progressive post-rock auteurs. There's a good amount of gray in Crisci's beard these days, but like his group, he's aged quite admirably, as evidenced by Illumination Ritual, the Appleseed Cast's latest release.
This Toronto trio emerged in 2008 and did what more bands in this day and age should: It developed its music and overall aesthetic, then turned the results into songs that the band actually seems excited to play. Sure, the noise-rock roots from the '80s and '90s are there, and you're sure to hear echoes of Scratch Acid, Big Black, maybe even Arab on Radar in the band's distorted, contorted melodies, but there's also a heady drive to Metz's rhythms (it's there in the live setting, as well) that borders on hysteria. The band's 2012 debut on Sub Pop, produced in part by Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck, seethes with an unhinged nervous energy that hasn't been heard nearly enough of late.
Since Speakerboxxx/The Love Below showcased OutKast's individual talents, André 3000 has generally been regarded as the auteur of the duo. And while that might be true, there's something to be said for consistency, as the latter proved on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, his 2010 solo debut in which the rapper (aka Antwan Patton) dabbles heavily in funk rhythms and liberally employs his trademark bursts of rapid-fire delivery for a sound that recalls the building blocks of old-school hip-hop. Just the same, Big Boi's sound is frenetic and quirky enough not to confused with merely being a throwback. Still appreciably more pragmatic than his counterpart, he splits the difference nicely between André 3000's hyperactive peculiarities and the group's more traditional early work.
As much the butt of jokes as an icon -- and deservedly so on both counts -- Yngwie Malmsteen burst into the world of international music in 1984 with Rising Force. At the age of seven, Malmsteen says, he saw a documentary about the death of Jimi Hendrix and was so taken by the guitar god's musical power and prowess that he set about forging an undeniable virtuosity on electric guitar. Although his playing often seems more about mechanical technique than artistry, the guy consistently puts to rest any doubts about his ability to play technically challenging compositions, rock and otherwise, with each album. In 2007, he was awarded a singular honor by having his name attached to a level of achievement in Guitar Hero II, securing his place among a new generation of fans.
Formed in 2004, when its members were still in high school, Paramore has become a rock-radio institution, with several tours down and three albums on the venerable pop-punk imprint Fueled by Ramen under its belt. Hayley Williams's robust and pitch-perfect vocals shoot the band far beyond contemporary acts like Boys Like Girls, the Cab and Hey Monday, erring instead on the side of Heart and No Doubt. Williams also has an obvious affection for Gwen Stefani's fashion sense -- and for the band itself, apparently, as Paramore's videos resemble No Doubt's mid-career work -- but her voice is still the focal point, sending Paramore soaring high above its Twilight-soundtrack companions.
In recent years, the Black Angels have deservedly been a prominent band in the psychedelic rock world. Though the act had the rare distinction of being the backing band for one of the pioneers of psychedelic rock, Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators, the music created by the Austin-based act is also rooted in hip-hop rhythms and the shimmering flow of shoegaze bands of the '90s. This, in combination with its own distinct, dark flavor, makes for a thrilling sense of menace hovering in the background.
Mobb Deep has had an illustrious career that's spanned seven albums and more than a decade, but, really, this pair will forever be remembered for a single, legendary song: "Shook Ones, Pt. II," which took an unlikely Herbie Hancock sample and transformed it into a nihilistic anthem. With tracks like "Survival of the Fittest" and "Quiet Storm," Mobb Deep is far from a one-hit wonder, but at the end of the day, Havoc and Prodigy remain the arbiters of who is and is not shook.
Pulling a page from Peaches' sex-rap playbook, Millionaires is a three-piece made up of Dani Artaud and two campy sisters, Allison and Melissa Marie Green, who aim to simultaneously please and offend. Still paying tribute to the days of MySpace with a big-scene hairstyle, the act's gnarly electro-rap has persevered with fans of the outfit's story-songs about bling, booty and booze.
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