When not pulling duty in the veteran local outfit Uphollow, Ian Cooke writes and performs his own music. But instead of going the orthodox acoustic route, the flamboyantly coiffed artist employs electric cello, piano and a wireless microphone headset to sculpt arty, gorgeous pop compositions that are as delicate as they are virtuosic. Combining the pathos of Antony and the Johnsons with the bathos of Freddie Mercury, his shows are buoyant and arresting enough to almost outshine Uphollow's own excellence. Cooke's act may be solo, but there's not a thing missing.

Who would have thought that the 21st century would see a huge resurgence of interest in Guns N' Roses? Too bad Axl Rose is too messed up to capitalize on his own legacy. But picking up his Slash, er, slack is Rocket Queen. Begun as a one-off Guns N' Roses tribute at the popular "Monsters of Mock" concert held every Halloween, the Queen consolidates members of local punk and hardcore bands Shogun, the Gamits, Contender and Signal to Noise. Now, though, the group has become an ongoing affair; with wigs, denim and hip swivels in full effect, Rocket Queen will take you down to Paradise City.

When Chuck French moved to Denver last year to play bass for Planes Mistaken for Stars, he was already playing guitar in a Chicago act called Git Some. Instead of breaking up, the band followed French to Colorado. With handmade demo tapes in hand, the foursome started tearing up bars and basements around town with its chaotic uppercut of groove-gouging post-hardcore. Like a blunt, sloppy mutilation of Deep Purple and Angel Hair, the group rips up a dripping chunk of Midwestern punk vitality and drops it smack in the middle of the Queen City. Git Some? Got it.

It's a rule of thumb: Never include a musical genre in the name of your band. Metal groups with "metal" in their monikers? Bad. Punk outfits called the Punk Rock something-or-others? Even worse. Machine Gun Blues, though, never got the memo. Which sucks, because the quartet's music is a writhing, scorching convulsion of blues rock that sounds about a hundred times more compelling than its handle. Whether MGB christened itself after the Nick Cassavetes movies, the venerable blues standard or the Smashing Pumpkins lyric, the fact remains: Machine Gun Blues, for the love of God and rock and roll, you need a new name.

Best Band Name That Sounds Like a Pee-wee's Playhouse Character

Cowboy Curse

Way before The Matrix, a struggling actor named Laurence Fishburne donned Jheri curls and a ten-gallon hat to play a character called Cowboy Curtis on the Saturday-morning kids' show, Pee-wee's Playhouse. Today we have Cowboy Curse, a trio featuring bassist Tyler Campo, singer/guitarist Ben Bergstrand, and Ben's brother, Josh Bergstrand of the Symptoms, on drums. The band name actually comes from a pitchforkmedia.com article that talks about how touring acts view Denver as a cursed place. But it's much more fun to imagine Cowboy Curtis perched on the band's shoulder like a muse, belting out bucktoothed harmonies and playing air guitar to Cowboy Curse's angelic, Shins-infused indie pop.

Tobias Jupiter was a strong contender for this year's "Best Band With the Worst Name" award, but the quintet dodged that honor by changing its name last month to the FlashBangs. Where Tobias Jupiter stumbled clumsily off the tongue, the group's streamlined new moniker efficiently sums up its sound: a bright, loud burst of indie-powered rock and roll sparkling with cruel hooks and brash female vocals. The band recently finished recording its debut CD with Bryan Feuchtinger of Hot IQs -- and The FlashBangs, thankfully, will be the name emblazoned across its cover.

You say love has no boundaries? Tell it to the judge, fucker. Then back up a thousand feet.

When Rocket Ajax disbanded in early 2003, many scenesters were befuddled. Just a few months earlier, the band had picked up stakes and headed for the West Coast in search of fame and fortune -- or at least a record deal. At the time, Ajax was one of the most promising hard-rock bands around. Shortly after relocating to Los Angeles, though, the outfit inexplicably imploded. Just like that, Ajax was no more. No farewell show. Nada. So when the Rocketmen regrouped for one night in January, it was a chance to mourn what might have been.

For two years, White Dynamite has been leveling stages and logic itself with its off-kilter, hardcore-spawned pandemonium. But the real show is singer/guitarist Luke Fairchild. A veteran of such Denver bands as Why Planes Go Down and Sparkles, Fairchild has at last completely surrendered to whatever demons possess him. He barks. He jerks. He chews at the air. He falls down and goes boom. And somehow, in the midst of all that rabidity, he manages to beat guitar chords into the shapes of hallucinations. Somebody, please: Stick a belt between his teeth.

Back in the day, Brian Hagman was the only real reason to watch local punk act Wretched Refuse. But when Black Lamb (né the Lambs) formed at the dawn of the millennium, the singer finally found a band that could keep up with his intensity. Crooning like some three-headed clone of Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Astbury and Glenn Danzig, Hagman prances through a veritable minefield of thunder-conjuring, sludge-boogie riffs with a derangement that borders on outright bloodlust. Catch the group live, and you'll see: Nothing short of a mushroom cloud could tear your eyes off Hagman's force-of-nature performance.

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