The ten best shows in Denver this weekend
Twenty years ago, the Dave Matthews Band played Red Rocks for the first time, opening for the Tragically Hip and the Samples, and went on to build a loyal following with early shows at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. In the two decades since, the guys have, of course, played dozens of memorable shows here, including headlining dates at the now-defunct Mile High Music Festival and return trips to Red Rocks (most famously, the one that resulted in Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95), amassing a legion of fans along the way. For last year's Away From the World, DMB recruited producer Steve Lillywhite for the first time since 1998 and created a forward-thinking, inward-searching album that earned the group the distinction of having the most albums ranked at number one on Billboard for an American band, an honor it shares with the Eagles.
The America's Most Wanted tour features some of the most talented and successful artists to come out of the South in a long time, including Lil Wayne, whose name speaks for itself and whose March album I Am Not a Human Being II has already gone gold, T.I., the self-described King of the South, who's riding high on the release of Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head and 2 Chainz, whose recent celebrity is only eclipsed by his huge personality -- and arrests (after getting off a weed charge in Maryland earlier this year, 2 Chainz was arrested earlier this week in Oklahoma on a charge of obstruction). G-Eazy, a rising star in his own right, opens the show.
It's taken time and experience for Eric Rachmany to learn how to be comfortable in the spotlight. Rachmany, frontman for the Santa Barbara reggae outfit Rebelution, is soft-spoken and humble, a songwriter who's uncomfortable writing lyrics about his own experiences. Rachmany says he's dealt with the duties of fame in different ways, from writing songs from different perspectives to incorporating a saxophone player in the band's live shows. (Read full profile: Rebelution takes a spin through dubstep and acoustic)
Formed in Denton, Texas, in 1997, the Riverboat Gamblers were influenced in part by the Candy Snatchers, whose on-stage exuberance inspired enthusiastic audience reactions. While the Gamblers' earliest material was intentionally silly, the ridiculous lyrics revealing a keen sense of humor, the band played its shows with a startling vigor that propelled its driving melodies. But while these guys might have started out as smart people pulling a dumb joke with their music, these days they're proving you can have fun and still have something to say, as evidenced by the weighty words found on 2012's The Wolf You Feed.
Sacramento, California-based hip-hop duo Blackalicious has released three full-length records in the two decades it's been in action: 1999's Nia, 2002's Blazing Arrow, and 2005's The Craft. But don't dismiss Gift of Gab (Timothy Parker) and DJ/producer Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley) as slackers. Though they might not appear to be a prolific outfit, Gift of Gab crams more rhymes into his three-or-four minute songs than most rappers manage on half an album. (Wheelchair Sports Camp is also on tonight's bill, which serves as a U.K. send off for the outfit, which is preparing to head across the pond next month for an apparance at Bestival.)
It's been roughly two years since the Outfit last put out an album. During that time, the band's current members -- singer/guitarist Eric Johnston, bassist Mike King, drummer RJ Powers and lead guitarist Mikael Kilates -- have been developing their sound, going from an earlier, highly promising, almost indie pop to something grittier, more focused and powerful; the results can be heard on the act's new EP, Tough Kids. As a lyricist, Johnston has a way of taking everyday situations and turning them into insightful observations on the human condition.
There was a time when pop punk wasn't just a fashion statement, musical or otherwise, despite bands like Green Day and NOFX making the style known to people who couldn't tell you anything about 924 Gilman Street. The Gamits emerged in 1996 as an energetic trio that didn't just play melodic punk rock; the guys could actually sing and harmonize well, too. The Gamits went on to release a string of albums, and they set out on numerous national tours, as well as tours in Europe and Japan, before playing a farewell show at the Bluebird Theater in December, 2004. Chris Fogal and company got back together a few years ago to released another great album, Parts, and the outfit has been going strong ever since.
The music industry sucks, and the Epilogues know it. They're no strangers to being let down by the business. Over the course of the band's nearly six year existence, its members have gone through the label dance enough to know what a downer it is. Waiting in limbo, the band went through some serious songwriting, improving on their signature sound. Though the road has been nothing short of bitter discouragement, the outfit has plowed through each setback with poise and determination. The band's do-it-yourself ethos has kept it going in times of uncertainty, and the outfit's drive and emotion shines through on the act's latest effort, Cinematics, released last November on Greater Than, the imprint driven by Pete Turner of Illegal Pete's and Virgil Dickerson of Suburban Home Records.
A decade ago, Seattle's Baxter Roy Long would have been lumped in with freak folk or something at the breezy, acoustic end of psychedelia. But his music sounds like something between that, collage pop and organic soundscaping, which is fitting in his sharing the bill here with Hunter Dragon whose body of work is so diverse it would be impossible to say exactly what it is that Hunter Adams is doing in his music. From electronic, darkly ambient drones right out of a soundtrack for a dystopian '70s science fiction movie to his ambitiously composed indie pop to his more recent forays into combining experimental electronic music with something more earthbound. This will be the kind of show where you may see some of the weirdest music made into something accessible. (Fantard Magnus and Calliope of the Future also share this bill.)
Victoria Lundy is best known as the theremin player for experimental-rock weirdos the Inactivists. But she's also been a participant in Denver's avant-garde music scene, playing with acts like the Carbon Dioxide Orchestra and Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory. For the Watt? show at Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts on Friday, August 23, Lundy is set to collaborate with Mark Mosher and Darren Kramer. The former is known nationally for his synthesizer music integrated with visuals; the latter has toured internationally with the likes of Tom Jones and Matchbox Twenty, playing trombone and, in recent years, mastering the integration of that instrument with electronic sound manipulation and composition. Running the gauntlet between analog electronics and fully digital electronic instruments, Watt? will demonstrate how the resulting music can be a visual, tactile and aural experience for both performer and audience.
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