Weekend's best live music bets, 4/20 edition: Levitate, Cypress Hill, Das Racist and more
Cypress Hill celebrates 4/20 tonight at the Ogden Theatre.
Brian Landis Folkins
Happy 4/20! Welcome to the end of another work week. As always, there are plenty of music options to consider this weekend -- and that's whether you're living the Mile High life or not. The second edition of the annual Levitate Festival lives up to its name at 1STBANK Center getting fans high on the music of Rusko, DJ Shadow, organizer Paper Diamond and Pictureplane, playing his penulitmate hometown show. Cypress Hill, meanwhile, observes the holiday this evening at the Ogden Theatre. Oh, and there's Record Store Day tomorrow, plus CD release shows featuring New Ben Franklins, King FOE Rebel Tongue and Lexigram and so much more. Page down for the weekend's best live music bets.
See Also: Rusko Q&A
This year, 4/20 is going to be even doper than usual with the second edition of Levitate Festival taking place tonight with DJ Shadow, Rusko, Paper Diamond and Pictureplane. The venue size is a significant upgrade from last year's version of the festival, which was held at the Boulder Theater, and featured Paper Diamond, Michael Menert, Break Science, Raw Russ and DJ MLE. "When we thought of this last year," recalls Paper Diamond mastermind Alex Botwin, "I liked the name, the idea, the feeling of levitation, and how it all goes with my music." Last year, Levitate Festival sold out, and with the famed 4/20 date falling on Friday this year, it made sense to do it up bigger this year. "This was a goal of mine -- doing it bigger," he notes, "and with the help of my team and AEG Live, we were able to work our ideas."
Back in 1990, Cypress Hill was just another South Central hip-hop group; when the members weren't running with local gangs, they were smoking more weed than the patients at a glaucoma ward. But their songs and their sound -- a potent combination of speedy raps, hard beats and paeans to their one true love, marijuana -- subsequently caught the attention of executives at Philadelphia's Ruffhouse label. The act's self-titled debut was released the following year to little fanfare, but it quickly became an underground sensation spurred by "Hits From the Bong," "Stoned Is the Way of the Walk" and other salutes to sweet smoke. The disc went on to sell 1.5 million copies, and earned for the players the title of official musical spokesmen for NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws). It also inspired virtually every other rap combo to start boasting about their chronic consumption.
At first listen, Cave Singers doesn't sound like a band that came out of the ashes of Pretty Girls Make Graves, Hint Hint or Cobra High. But considering that it features Derek Fudesco, who made a name for himself in the whiskey-swigging garage-rock band Murder City Devils before doing time in PGMG, the sound makes perfect sense. There's still plenty of down-and-out wordplay here, and lead singer Pete Quirk's voice resembles that of a chain-smoking, nasally Bruce Springsteen. It's all a bit slower than you might expect from a group with such a pedigree, but the rustic nature of the act as a whole has more in common with Murder City Devils than is initially apparent. Last year's No Witch marks the band's move from Matador to its new home at Jagjaguwar, a perfect fit for this dark and booze-soaked folk music.
Chances are you can't name many active bands that play original material and have been around for twenty years -- much less one that has regularly evolved and experimented with its sound without always jumping on some musical bandwagon. That's been the path of the New Ben Franklins (due this Friday, April 20, at the hi-dive) since 1992, but they've more fully integrated shimmery atmospherics and psychedelia into their current sound, which you'll hear on their upcoming full-length, [peter gabriel]. It would be easy to peg the outfit as yet another Americana band from Denver, but the group is actually closer to moodier alchemists of that aesthetic, like Luna or Calexico: Rock-and-roll attitude, caustic wit and an exuberant yet melancholic spirit set this quartet apart from many of its peers.
See Also: Q&A with King FOE
When it comes to the subject of drugs, King FOE's new EP, Junkie, is about as viciously honest and descriptive as it gets. The second EP in the BLKHRTS' triology, Junkie is all about the reality of drug use and the ills that go along with using. FOE drew from his own experiences, as well as those of close family members, to get into the frame of mind of someone who is addicted to drugs; he also immersed himself in the William S. Burroughs memoir of the same name. FOE's writing is dark and fearless and is meant to take you into the world of a junkie.
Rebel Tongue is made up of a conscious lyricist, live instrumentation and enough rhythm to make you rock back and forth for days. On Movin On, the act's debut, the players come together under the umbrella of funk and a new-age fusion of hip-hop and neo-soul. They do a great job of blending the warm vocals of Azma Holiday with a tightly produced live-band sound. On the title track, you can feel a jazz influence, as well as a conscious-spoken-word trend in Holiday's verses. Movin On is an easy listen all the way through, gathering elements of jazz and neo-funk in a lovely seven-track effort more than worthy of repeated listens.
See Also: Q&A with Dana Janssen of Akron/Family
Akron/Family started in 2002 as what some might call a "freak folk" band. But the group quickly headed in its own idiosyncratic direction. In 2004, the Family became involved with the Young God label and served as Michael Gira's band on that year's Angels of Light tour. It would be difficult to say what a typical song by this band sounds like, because from album to album, its sonic palette is as varied as its expansive dynamics. S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, the band's 2011 album, showcases Akron/Family's interest in non-Western percussion by recontextualizing it into the realm of jubilant, experimental pop songs.
- Official High Times Festival VIP 420 Party of music, comedy, art and film with Barrington Levy, Reggie Watts, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, The Magic Beans, Astromonix, Guilty Simpson, the Brew, Bob Cantrell, Sapient, the Melodians and more at City Hall
See Also: Goodbye, Yerkish. Hello, Lexigram!
On its self-titled debut as Lexigram, the band formerly known as Yerkish stretches out a bit with more attention given to space within the song, especially on tracks like "Robot Haikus of Despair and Self Loathing," the middle section in particular where Tim Kaminski's voice spirals off into a tasteful sustain, more operatic than indulgent, before the guitars catch the song in his sudden drop off. "Flagellation," meanwhile, starts out with a dense sound and then peels off layers until towards the end when only vocals, textural percussion and impressionistic guitar create a quiet tension. The shifting percussion and pacing of "Zombie Cheer Camp" is reminiscent of The Mars Volta's penchant for polyrhythms within a larger rhythmic strategy. The EP ends with a cover of "Welcome To The Machine" that deftly transmutes the synth sweep into a cutting, prog-jazz guitar lead. Lexigram finds the group upping its use of dynamics and atmosphere.
Whoever says the music industry is dead obviously hasn't observed Record Store Day. While file sharing has certainly dampened CD sales -- removing the casual music listener from the economic equation -- a contingency of hardcore record geeks can still be found thumbing through the bins most weekends at your local sound dispensary. These were the folks that were never too into CDs to begin with, preferring the assuring weight and sonic warmth of vinyl to the disposable plastic jewel cases that cost a nickel to make and a day's wages to buy. Record Store Day is to vinyl collectors what Black Friday is to suburban parents.
Last November, you might recall, Chris "Citrus" Sauthoff (U.S. Pipe, Lord of Word, P-Funk) suffered a minor stroke, and as a result, the gifted guitarist lost some of the feeling in his picking hand. "It was one of the scariest times I've ever had in my life," recalls Sauthoff's wife, Laura McGaughey. He still has mild aphasia, she says, and the sensation in his hand is not completely back ("He describes this like wearing gloves," says McGaughey), but he's continuing to recover. As part of his recovery, Sauthoff's been playing lots of guitar as therapy, and, in addition to teaching himself, has been taking classes with Rene Heredia and learning new styles such as flamenco. Tonight, Sauthoff is slated to make his return to the stage as part of Swallow Hill's Top of the Hill series with some Swallow Hill staffers and some students and friends. He'll be playing a mixture of styles from flamenco and folk to funk and Hindustani, with a little blues and gypsy jazz thrown in for good measure.
Fred Cole was a teenager in Las Vegas in the early '60s when he recorded with his band, the Lords. For the next decade and a half, Cole soldiered on through various projects, forming the Rats with his wife, Toody, in the wake of punk rock. But Cole wasn't following a trend so much as showing how stripped-down rock and roll doesn't lose its luster if done properly and performed with a bit of artistry and conviction. Cole's enduring influence and widespread renown ultimately came with Dead Moon and its emotionally gripping, ragged, blues-inflected repertoire. With the demise of Dead Moon in 2006, the Coles formed Pierced Arrows. Fortunately, they've lost none of their momentum in writing fiery songs with a bludgeoning intensity that embody everything punk rock should be.
See Also: Q&A with Paper Bird's Paul DeHaven
See Also: Review of Carry On
Over the last six years Paper Bird has become a Denver favorite for all ages and backgrounds. Since dropping its debut album, Anything Nameless and Joymaking, in 2007, the bandmembers have been on a ride that has taken them from busking on the streets of Breckenridge to performing at Red Rocks. In 2009 they were featured on NPR's All Things Considered and have since toured the country several times, opening up for acts like Neko Case and DeVotchKa. After collaborating with Ballet Nouveau Colorado on a series of performances in 2011 -- resulting in the act's third full-length album, Carry On -- Paper Bird said goodbye to trombonist Tyler Archuletta and welcomed drummer Mark Anderson, previously of Papa Bear. Adding percussion to delicate female harmonies and whimsical, folky instrumentation has undeniably altered the course of Paper Bird.
Joke rap hinges upon one thing: Whether an artist is laughing at themselves, or if the rest of the world is just laughing at them. Das Racist are clearly laughing at themselves -- best evidenced in the track "Hahahaha JK" where they explain they're not joking, just joking, they are joking, just joking, they're not joking -- and between references to 4Loko, General Hospital and Gruyere cheese, we're laughing, too. The Brooklyn equivalent of Mickey Avalon's Los Angeles sliminess, Das Racist somehow make party jams mixed with lyrics that give a much needed introspective look at rap music of the past thirty years.
After hearing Nick Apollo Forte's "Scungilli Song" on the jukebox of a Bronx bar, Woody Allen considered him for a part in his film Broadway Danny Rose. Forte later got a call from someone at Allen's studio asking if he could send a resume, and he says he took out a piece of yellow scrap paper and wrote, "I play piano, I sing and I fish," and sent it to Allen's people with a copy of a commercial he did in which he's singing one of his songs.
With a career that spans six decades, Apollo Forte knows his way around Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin, but he'll also delve into other material from the 1950s and '60s when he performs at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, 1601 Arapahoe Street, tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22; for reservations and more information, call 303-293-0075 or go to www.lannies.com.
Drawing a wide variety of comparisons to acts like Black Sabbath and Neil Young, Virginia's Pontiak deliver the heavy, fuzzed out psych rock that can sometimes even delves into more experimental territory a la Sunn O))) style amplifier worship. The band is touring in support of its latest Thrill Jockey effort, Echo Ono.
Colorado native Manuel Lopez discovered a fondness for Latin music after he started playing congas in his early teens, and then found his way to the drum kit. Together with pianist Peter Ellingson and bassist Eduardo "Bijoux" Barbosa, Lopez's trio delves into a variety of repertoire from old Cuban standards to more modern arrangements. The trio plays at Dazzle every Sunday evening.
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