The ten best shows in Denver this week
Riff Raff mysteriously postponed a Denver show earlier this year. It's back, just in time for a Texas-esque week of heat and thunderstorms here in Colorado. The Houston native should feel right at home. He does in most places.
It's a good week for other bands who get people angry on Twitter: HAIM plays Wednesday with Tennis, and Lana Del Rey brings the pout to Red Rocks tonight. The rest of our picks follow.
Lana Del Rey at Red Rocks: Monday, May 19
Remember when Lana Del Rey was controversial? If you're fortunate enough to have missed the back-and-forth that bitterly split the Internet toward the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012, the argument went something like this: Her dour Lolita shtick was phony, her music was caked in retrograde artifice and it was an insult that something so tailor made for Jaguar commercials could ever be marketed toward enlightened music listeners OR all of that was fantastic, and you were just being a stick in the mud. Predictably, not much was learned or achieved from this. But something unexpected happened: Lana continued to release music that people sort of enjoyed (or at least enjoyed talking about), and the blogosphere naturally found plenty of new issues to divide itself over.
Michelle Mandico at Lost Lake Lounge: Tuesday, May 20
You can hardly miss Derrick Bozich if you're going to the good shows around town. With his dark-rimmed glasses and low-key style, he looks like the kind of guy who would be into Pavement, Sonic Youth and Deerhunter. Turns out, his band with Hunter Roberts and Jackson Hillmer, may indeed count one or more of those as musical touchstones. But there's a distinct jangle and soul to this group, which will play Lost Lake Lounge on Tuesday, May 20. Languid guitar tones rolling around sinuous rhythms lend a hypnotic element to Grease Pony's sound -- only to be matched by frantic energy and joyful outbursts of noise from other corners.
Mogwai at the Ogden Theatre: Tuesday, May 20
Mogwai's evocative, largely instrumental rock adventure first gained notice in the mid-'90s with a promising debut album, Young Team. Since then, the Scottish act has produced some of the most breathtakingly cinematic compositions of recent years. The group's textured melodies induce moments of claustrophobic anxiety, transcendent peacefulness and catharsis -- often in the same song. Mogwai's wry humor and appreciation for the absurd finds its greatest expression in song titles seemingly put together without any special regard for meaning.
EELS at the Gothic Theatre: Wednesday, May 21
In one twelve-month span, EELS frontman Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) released three albums as a trilogy: 2009's Hombre Lobo and 2010's End Times and Tomorrow Morning, each of which was about a distinct human emotion -- desire, loss and renewal, respectively. He described the process as painful but cathartic, and the shows for the final part of the trilogy were fun and celebratory. Three years later, Everett followed up with the first album written in collaboration with his bandmates, Wonderful, Glorious, which, despite its title, marked a return to melancholy subject matter. And this year, he's back with The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, a record that finds the singer/multi-instrumentalist in a stripped-down mode. No matter what form his albums take, Everett is capable of penning some awfully poignant songs.
HAIM at the Ogden Theatre: Wednesday, May 21
Even before last September's full-length major-label debut, Days Are Gone, the trio of sisters (Guitarists Danielle and Alana and bassist Este Haim) were on the verge of mainstream success. With this LP, the days of seeing them play at small local venues, as they were doing just a year and half or so ago, are, in fact, long gone. After touring with Phoenix and Vampire Weekend and making key appearances at Coachella, South by Southwest and Glastonbury, Haim now belong to the world. Singles like "The Wire" and "Don't Save Me" fuse '80s synth-pop with '90s R&B harmonies, a bubbly brew that overrides the sometimes-slick production on the strength of catchy hooks.
Riff Raff at the Bluebird Theater: Wednesday, May 21
Even though he covers the same subject matter as played-out rappers around the world, Riff Raff has earned a reputation for being bizarrely different and utterly ridiculous, possibly even borderline creative. Riff first appeared on the MTV reality show From G's to Gents, which focused on turning misguided young men into gentlemen, and was quickly tossed as incurable. Good thing, too, because had he been transformed back into simple Horst Simco (his real name), we would have been deprived of our generation's preeminent Dadaist rapper. But as with that detour into the avant-garde, audiences looking for a sophisticated experience may be sorely disappointed. Those willing to indulge in silly non sequitur, willful anti-rhyme and nonsense, though, might find exactly what they've been missing. Riff signed to Diplo's Mad Decent label, and it shows; "Dolce & Gabbana," the lead single from his most recent album, Neon Icon, is more polished than his previous work. We can only hope he doesn't begin to take himself too seriously. But who are we kidding? This is Riff Raff we're talking about.
Benny Benassi at Beta: Thursday, May 22
The pitch-bender is Benny Benassi's friend. The 46-year-old Italian spinster has perfected -- in collaboration with his cousin Alle, of Larry Pignagnoli's internationally successful Off Limits production company -- an irresistible electro-house-music fusion that would not be the same without pitch-bending technology. "Satisfaction," the stratosphere-worthy single from Benassi's major breakout Hypnotica, is immediately recognizable for its elastic bass drops and bumps, as well as for the sexy, robotic female speech -- most likely provided by the Biz's Violeta -- featured on it.
Jimmy Eat World at the Aggie Theatre: Thursday, May 22
After a band has been together with the same lineup for nearly twenty years, it's understandable (even expected) they'd lose some of the vigor that defined their salad days. But that's not the case with the members of Jimmy Eat World, who have been together since their teens. Ahead of the act's eighth studio album, Damage, which dropped last lear, the Mesa, Arizona, natives returned to the small clubs in the musical outposts of the band's home state, in cities such as Casa Grande, Wickenburg and Flagstaff, to showcase their new material. Not that it was necessary, but playing these rooms that hold no more than a few hundred people reinvigorated the group and gave the guys a greater appreciation for what they've accomplished.
Erik Deutsch & the Jazz Outlaws at Dazzle: Wednesday, May 23 and Thursday
Since studying music at the University of Colorado and moving to Brooklyn after living in the area for a decade, keyboardist Erik Deutsch has gone on to play with Norah Jones, Trevor Dunn, Erin McKeown and Charlie Hunter. Prior to that, while living in Colorado, Deutsch played in Fat Mama, studied with Art Lande and also performed with Ron Miles -- two musicians he lists as major influences.
New Frontiers at KPOF Hall: Thursday, May 22
Space is the place for the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra's interactive season finale, New Frontiers, which will explore the final frontier through a series of intergalactic-themed pieces tonight. The first stop is the fictional planet Krypton, where a violent percussion piece from Michael Daugherty's Man of Steel-themed Metropolis Symphony sonically depicts the demise of Superman's home planet. From there, Alan Hovhaness's ethereal "Celestial Fantasy" offers a more serene string-orchestra feeling of floating through space before the main event: Gustav Holst's The Planets.
In addition, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's Dave Cuomo will take audiences through a video presentation that gives the illusion of flying around each celestial body. "He uses actual imagery taken from various spacecrafts to render the planets," explains conductor Lawrence Golan. "As we play a movement for Mars, the bringer of war, there will be this video simulation of flying over and around the planet."
The last movement of The Planets, "Neptune, the Mystic," features the women of the Colorado Repertory Singers as an otherworldly chorus to portray the planet furthest from the sun. "The women's chorus is actually played backstage so you just hear this faint, distant sound that gives that spacious effect," says Golan. Meanwhile, program notes and interesting facts will be posted on Twitter with a live Q&A through the hashtag #doptweets along with a space-themed selfie corner to document the evening.
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