The twelve best concerts in Denver this weekend
Outside of perhaps the Hold Steady -- which shares a proclivity for Bruce Springsteen -- nobody plays straight-up rock these days as convincingly as Lucero. Led by Ben Nichols's gravelly croak, Lucero borrows liberally from the Boss and Lynyrd Skynyrd on songs with swaggering piano lines and organ flourishes that have just enough sunburned Southern-rock licks on the outfit's ditties to remind us that they're indeed from Dixie, the land of Skynyrd, and not Jersey.
In the typically background-work world of hip-hop production, AraabMuzik has become a front-and-center presence in a way that's surprised people who knew him only as a name in the liner notes of Dipset albums. Those tracks are notable, but his solo spotlight work is what's gotten exclamation points spilling all over the place. Electronic Dream was an audacious stab at transforming arena-sized Euro-house anthems into instrumental club-rap bangers, and it did so in ways that preserved its source material's euphoric highs while still giving them a hard-hitting pulse a bit ahead of the trance-infatuated Top 40 curve. And as a live act, he's miles above anyone in finding ways to turn MPC manipulation into a virtuosic performance showcase. He's not so much an introverted knob-twiddler as he is a hip-hop John Bonham, laying down propulsive breaks and jaw-dropping solos with equal flash.
Machine Gun Kelly (named after the infamous early 20th Century gangster) is well-known for his rapid-fire delivery, rabid fan base, "Wild Boy" persona and crazy antics (during a performance for a Microsoft Store, he was stomping across tables, destroying several computers before getting shut down by the very company that hired him). MGK asserts that he is also a superior lyricist and anybody who doesn't see it isn't on his level. The rapper's first studio album, Lace Up, has done well, debuting at number four on the Billboard Charts and receiving generally positive reviews. MGK is only 22 years old, and with his career only really beginning, he has plenty of time to convert the nonbelievers.
This Friday, Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan is teaming up with DJ Premier to celebrate 4/20 at the 420 Extravaganja this Friday, April 19, at HoodLab. This show marks the first time Raekwon and DJ Premier share a bill. We spoke with Raekwon about the prospect of performing with one of hip-hop's iconic producers, new projects in the works for the Wu and the importance of storytelling in hip-hop and poetry in general. Read the full interview to see what The Chef has to say.
Heiroglyphics is a hip-hop collective based in Oakland that was founded by Del tha Funkee Homosapien, having recruited several members from Souls of Mischief. Chances are, even if you've never seen or heard them, you've seen their third eye logo which seems to invariably appear at least once at every hip-hop show. This underground group struck gold -- figuratively speaking -- with their 1998 West Coast classic 3rd Eye Vision, whose songs "You Never Knew" and "At the Helm" cracked the mainstream, if only for a little bit -- tiny fragments of their free-associative style and laid-back vibe are likely still implanted somewhere in your brain. Even on wax, the crew sounds like a real life cypher. They're even better live. The only problem is that you never know who is going to show up.
How High is not necessarily one of the best movies featuring rappers, unless you're in the right... ahem... mind state. Nevertheless, it's a carefree, fun back to school romp that extols the virtues of every rapper's favorite plant. The stars, Method Man and Redman, while not the most refined actors in the classical sense, manage to enchant the screen with their sophomoric magnetism. As an added bonus, Cypress Hill makes an appearance to DJ a college house party that the two Wu-students throw. "Study high, take the test high, get high scores" -- this is the logic that permeates How High. Given their proclivity for one of our state's favorite plants, Method and Red are about the perfect tandem to help Colorado celebrate one of its favorite holidaze.
Better known for his work with the Roots, Black Thought is the complete package as an MC by himself. In a genre that sometimes seems like a competition to see who can rhyme "hater" and "paper" best -- a competition that Black Thought might take anyway -- he consistently manages to unearth rhymes that had yet to be discovered. With the soul of a poet, the heart of revolutionary and the tongue of a dragon, plus the backup of maybe the greatest DJ in hip-hop, Black Thought is sure to put on a great show at Legalized It Sunset 420 Bash with Immortal Technique and more. And if you're lucky, he might even kick some freestyle off the dome, a lost art which he has mastered more completely than many made MCs have rhyming simply.
Slightly Stoopid was discovered by Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell in 1996. The band's association with the bong-hitting legend explains a lot about the band's sound and song topics. Titles like "Collie Man," "Rasta Dub," and the straightforward "I'm Stoned" should make the act's priorities clear. Over time, Slightly Stoopid has moved from faster, harder, stick-it-to-the-man rhythms to relaxing, bass-heavy, strung-out melodies about peace and being mellow. That in mind, it's hard to think of another act, aside from perhaps Cypress Hill -- who once lit up a monumental bong on-stage and what looked like the joint from Pineapple Express at Mile High Music Festival a few years ago, two and a half years before it was even legal in this state -- who shares this bill, to headline a 4/20 show at Red Rocks celebrating the almighty herb.
Glenn Danzig and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein were once in the Misfits together before Danzig went on to front Samhain and then later his quasi-solo project, Danzig. After Samhain, Danzig's musical direction was clearly more in line with the bluesy heavy metal of the time, but his signature Elvis-esque vocals remained the same. Performing under his own name, Danzig experienced success with his debut, self-titled album. Danzig didn't exactly rest on his laurels, and his subsequent albums have revealed a songwriter with no perverse loyalty to keeping things the same. For this show, Danzig and Doyle will also be performing Misfits songs together, and that alone would be worth the price of admission.
After the Smiths imploded in 1987, Johnny Marr kept his head down as a sideman for over a dozen high-profile acts -- among them the Pretenders, The The, Talking Heads, Pet Shop Boys, even Beck -- while releasing three albums with New Order's Bernard Sumner under the name Electronic. He's also produced and collaborated with everyone from Neil Finn to Beth Orton to Marion and had stints as a member of Modest Mouse and the Cribs. Marr's virtuosity has always been subtle, an airy layering of Byrds, Roxy Music and T. Rex that made all his thick chords and dense overdubs feel somehow gossamer. Not that the Smiths didn't rock -- there's no denying the glam swagger of "Sheila Take a Bow" or the punk rumble of "London." It's just that they rarely rocked like Marr has on his own. Marr returns to Colorado with a brand new solo album, The Messenger.
As one-third of Hüsker Dü, Bob Mould would have been important solely for having been in one of the most influential bands of the 1980s -- a band that arguably established "alternative" music as commercially viable in the world beyond the American underground. But after the group's breakup, Mould went on to record noteworthy albums on his own, as well as with Sugar, in which he continued to write compellingly catchy pop songs with lyrics of uncommon wit and insight. Briefly experimenting with electronic music and sampling as part of his repertoire for 2002's Modulate, Mould returned to the sort of guitar-centric songwriting for which he is best known on its followup, Body of Song. Touring in support of last year's Silver Age, Mould continues to prove that he's still a master of giving pretty songs plenty of grit.
When Trent Reznor dissolved his high-profile band Nine Inch Nails a few years back, there was instant speculation about what he would do next. In 2010, he scored the soundtrack to The Social Network; that same year, he formed How to Destroy Angels with his wife, former West Indian Girl singer Mariqueen Maandig, and his Social Network collaborator, Atticus Ross. Joined by former NIN graphic designer Rob Sheridan, the band has crafted a sound with a cinematic, atmospheric quality -- not surprising. considering the personnel -- but the songs also have a lush, thick, downtempo sound that fuses Reznor's and Maandig's musical sensibilities. With two EPs under its belt, the band recently released its debut full-length, Welcome Oblivion. Reznor's live shows are always visual extravaganzas, and this tour promises the same.
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