The ten best shows in Denver this weekend
Five Iron Frenzy began life in 1995 as the side project of a long-forgotten thrash-metal-and-industrial band called Exhumator. Ahead of the ska revival of the mid-'90s, Exhumator's members wanted to play music that was inherently fun, positive and uplifting. Two years later, Five Iron Frenzy landed on the Billboard charts with 1997's Our Newest Album Ever!. The group's self-deprecating humor and infectious energy won over fans locally, nationally and internationally. While technically a Christian act, the band always gave off more of a welcoming vibe than a judgmental one, and the sheer exuberance of its live show has always been undeniably entertaining. Back after nearly a decade, Five Iron has lost none of its Frenzy.
Returning to the Mile High City for his now-annual two-night run at Red Rocks, Pretty Lights maestro Derek Vincent Smith is bringing an album's worth of new music and a talented cast of characters to entertain the hometown crowd. On Friday, Pretty Lights will be illuminated by hip-hop companions Talib Kweli and Blue Sky Black Death, and on Saturday, August 17, a roster of hand-picked artists form the Pretty Lights Music imprint will get their chance to shine. Smith will undoubtedly be playing cuts from his acclaimed new record, A Color Map of the Sun, in addition to digging deep into his back catalogue for a choice blend of groove-driven tracks.
Prior to being discovered by Gabe Roth of Daptone Records, who released his superb 2011 debut, No Time for Dreaming, Charles Bradley spent a good chunk of his time impersonating James Brown in Brooklyn clubs. Bradley delved into some fairly dark themes on Dreaming, including heartbreak and the death of his brother, but the followup, this year's Victim of Love, is all about coming out of that darkness. Bradley is also performing at this weekend's Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.
Cultivate Denver is a free shindig that features a bunch of lauded chefs along with performances by Cold War Kids, Blitzen Trapper, Allen Stone, Air Dubai, Good Old War and Chris Golub. Last year's event was pretty rad. In addition to good tunes, we got some coupons for some free burritos and drank some microbrews. Downside: It was late fall, so it ended up being soggy and kind of cold. Zero chance of the weather dampening things this year; City Park in August is a lot different than City Park in October.
As one of the pioneers of mathcore, The Dillinger Escape Plan's mindboggling debut album Calculating Infinity was the first album to be hailed as the subgenre's new identity, weaving viciously chaotic metal with the boldly experimental and second-to-second instrumental shifts. If you have never come across Dillinger before, just walk past a woodshop class that's right next the heavy metal class in the school of rock.(Cattle Decapitation, Animals As Leaders, Periphery, Norma Jean, the Ocean, Revocation and AEON share this Summer Slaughter bill with the Dillinger Escape Plan.)
Many singer-songwriters count the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan among their favorites, but few writers can brag that Kristofferson and Dylan have said the feeling's mutual. Dylan has called John Prine's songs "pure Proustian existentialism... Midwestern mind trips to the nth degree," and it's said Kristofferson quipped after an early performance, "John Prine is so good, we may have to break his thumbs." Endorsements like those earned Prine an early record deal and countless fans. Catch Prine, plus Charles Bradley, Patty Griffin, Colin Meloy and more at this weekend's Rocky Mountain Folks Fest.
Since 1986, Michael Franti has been making music with a social conscience. From his industrial punk days in the Beatnigs to the hip-hop-leaning Disposable Heroes to his current (and most commercially successful) project, Michael Franti & Spearhead, which has been going strong since 1994, Franti has become renown for his social activism through his music. Whether he's spitting aware (and angry) rhymes or playing his "rebel rock," as he calls it, a sort of fusion of folk, pop, hip-hop and whatever else is influencing him at the time, Franti is consistently compelling. Michael Franti & Spearhead are just one of the many acts performing this weekend at Arise Music Festival. See the full lineup at AriseFestival.com.
At just 26 years old, Cassie Taylor already has a decade of performing and recording experience under her belt, having played bass and sung with her father, the great Boulder-based bluesman Otis Taylor, during that time. On her latest effort, Out of My Mind, Taylor proves that she's got the blues ingrained in her, especially on the poignant "Spare Some Love" and "Gone and Dead," but she's equally at home singing on more soul-drenched tunes. The potent "No No" and "That's My Man," meanwhile, demonstrate exactly how powerful Taylor's voice can get -- and while her robust vocals are clearly the album's centerpiece, she's backed exceptionally well by drummer Larry Thompson and guitarist Steve Mignano, the latter of whom lays down many a tasty solo. Taylor is just one of a slew of acts performing this weekend at Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest in Fort Collins this weekend. Visit BohemianNights.org for the full lineup.
Discovered by Too $hort in the early 90s, Spice 1 was one of the pioneers of West Coast gangsta rap. He rose to prominence with his 1991 self-titled album, which featured the breakthrough single "187 Proof." Though Spice's name doesn't carry the weight it once did, he is a certifiable California legend, and he has reserved a place in the minds of the most hardcore hip-hop heads.
During one its last trips here, Tumbleweed Wanders recently opened up for Tea Leaf Green at the Bluebird Theater, and their sound was similar to that act with sweet, sweet vocals and mad banjo playing skills on songs like "No Longer Waiting," "Roll With the Times" and "So Long Blues." The group's version of Dusty Springfield's "Son of A Preacher Man," meanwhile, was pitch-perfect. Tumbleweed Wanderers have a nice rhythm, and their harmonica makes their songs Bob-Dylan-beautiful.
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