We hope you're enjoying Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We'll be back to our full slate of commentary, news and concert coverage tomorrow -- for now, we've got a few shows to recommend.
This is a great week in Colorado, with bands ranging from notorious metal outfit Mayhem to the pairing of two bluegrass legends in Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. The rest of our picks follow!Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn Vilar Performing Arts Center : 7:30 p.m. January 19
Banjo virtuoso and multiple-Grammy winner Béla Fleck has a long and storied history as a master bluegrass player, but his musical scope reaches much further than that. Over the past few years, Fleck has performed locally in various settings, including with legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea, with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and with the Flecktones, the jazz-fusion act he formed with Victor Wooten in 1988. Tonight, he'll team up with his wife, Abigail Washburn, who's a heck of a banjo player and singer herself.Shiner Soundtrack Series: Wild Style Alamo Drafthouse : 7:30 p.m. January 19
In 1980, fresh filmmaker Charlie Ahearn was approached by graffiti artist Fred Braithwaite to see if he wanted to make a movie about the hip-hop scene in New York City through the music, dance and art that was erupting from every corner of the metropolis. Ahearn jumped at the chance to work with Braithwaite (better known as Fab 5 Freddy), and the result was Wild Style, a chronicle of that historic cultural revolution.
The film was scripted with a loose plot about a graffiti artist named Zoro and his encounters with an uptown journalist covering the scene, but it shines for the real goings-on and spirit that Ahearn captured in the NYC of the '80s, giving the film a half-narrative/half-documentary feel that creates the most authentic portrait of the hip-hop scene ever captured. To avoid pesky rights issues, Ahearn worked with the pioneers of hip-hop, including Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Busy Bee, Lady Pink, the Cold Crush Brothers and many more.Watain & Mayhem Summit Music Hall : January 20
Mayhem's early years are the stuff of legend. The literally gory details are outlined in the excellent 1998 book Lords of Chaos, as well as in the 2008 documentaries Until the Light Takes Us and Pure Fucking Mayhem. While the story is a fascinating one of subculture and youth in conflict with mainstream society and itself, what often gets lost is that Mayhem is simply a great band. Its debut EP, 1987's Deathcrush, is distilled desperation expressed with headlong intensity and a lofi brutality worthy of early death metal and hardcore. Although Mayhem's lineup has evolved, the band has never lost its dark mystique or reputation as an unforgettable live act. Current frontman Attila Csihar is one of the most gifted (and unsettling) vocalists in all of metal. The group's most recent album, 2014's Esoteric Warfare, is also its most musically diverse, but it retains Mayhem's legendary fury.Cold War Kids Ogden Theatre : 8:00 p.m. January 21
Cold War Kids first burst into the music scene nearly a decade ago, delivering the stilliconic bass lines of "Hang Me Out to Dry." Since then, they've consistently made music marked by Nathan Willet's signature yelping voice and full of pounding piano keys; it's an innovative brand of indie rock as complex as it is urgent. The reason for the Cold War Kids' endurance? There's really no other band like them. They spend years in the studio working out the minor sounds of every song, then bring a joyful abandon to their live shows. This one should be no exception.Kaskade Belly Up Aspen : January 21; January 22
Kaskade has crafted his own signature sound out of an unusual blend of disco-kissed deep house and big-room trance. Somehow the Utah-born DJ manages to balance these two disparate genres into a unified whole, leaning heavily on female vocals and sexy bass lines to tie it all together. In the studio, he's crafted a series of artist albums and a slew of hot remixes, and he's also dropped a number of fine mix discs and played clubs and festivals all over the world.Bill Frisell East High School : 7:30 p.m. January 21
The first time Bill Frisell played a jazz tune on guitar in public was at a talent show during his junior year at East High School, in 1967. He wasn't even the featured performer; the school's band director, Vincent Tagliavore, asked him to learn Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin' on Sunset" to accompany some girls who were doing a dance routine to the song. Tagliavore thought it would be a lot cooler if they played live rather than having the girls dance to the record. And so began the career of one of the planet's most well-regarded jazz guitarists. Frisell hadn't even listened to much jazz before that performance. He grew up listening to surf music, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, "and then blues -- and by the time I got there, it was James Brown and the Temptations, all mixed together," he says. "This was before Jimi Hendrix and all that. So ['Bumpin' on Sunset'] was like an atomic explosion in my brain that led me, really, into the world of jazz."Railroad Earth
Ogden Theatre : 9:00 p.m. January 22; 9:00 p.m. January 23; 9:00 p.m. January 24 The music of Railroad Earth isn't easy to classify, although most people are happy to label it "jam band" and move on. Still reading? Good, because while there's definitely some "jamming" going on in the live show, this is not some guitar-noodling Phish knock-off. Bluegrass lies at the heart of Railroad Earth, but it's a wide-ranging, omnivorous strain that isn't afraid to ditch tradition and have some fun. As a result, you get all the banjo, fiddle and mandolin you'd expect, but it's fused with electric guitars and drums, and prone to weird tangents that might touch on anything from Celtic to jazz. It's a frequently surprising and relentlessly upbeat sound that's at its very best live, regardless of what you call it.David Dondero Hi-dive : 8:30 p.m. January 22
David Dondero invented Conor Oberst. Well, that may be a slight overstatement, but it's no big secret that the poignant songwriting and uniquely emotive vocal style of the former were heavily influential on the latter. His work, however, stands up as far more than the jumping-off point for Bright Eyes. Dondero is uncannily adept at the ever-disappearing art of American minstrelsy, as if he were plucked from the Depression-era Dust Bowl, yet his music somehow manages to rise above period or stylistic mimicry. He is, first and foremost, a storyteller. Don't expect a lyrical vacuum that masquerades as gravity; these songs breathe real air. Frequently tied to the many places he's visited in his musical wanderings, his compositions paint a picture not only of who he is and where he's been, but of the American people and the American experience -- all done with a confidence and maturity that allows his songs to be weighty without being leaden.Lee DeWyze The Soiled Dove Underground : 8:00 p.m. January 22
Illinois native Lee DeWyze won the ninth season of American Idol in 2010. With a gravelly voice that lent itself to soulful renditions of U2, Kings of Leon, and older rock tunes, DeWyze beat out Crystal Bowersox, another rough-hewn singer who felt at home performing tunes by Melissa Etheridge and Janis Joplin.The Toasters Marquis Theater : January 22
Rob "Bucket" Hingley has a simple motto: Don't let the bastards grind you down. It's fitting for the longtime champion of ska and leader of the genre's American flagship, the Toasters. Any preconceived notions and prejudices people may harbor against ska, however justified, are thrown out the door the minute the Toasters take the stage. The group distills ska music for neophytes and aficionados who know the difference between the real deal and bouncy MTV pop-punk vomit with horns. The band's pedal-to-the-dance-floor groove, tempered with just the right amount of surly edge, should convince even the most dedicated ska hater.Eldren Syntax Physic Opera : 9:00 p.m. January 22
If writing only one kind of song were a crime, Eldren would be innocent of all charges. By design and inclination, these guys have a broad palette of instrumentation and sounds to use in the songs they write and the shows they play. Yet the outfit does have a sound of its own, as its latest album, the lively Yankee Stargazer, attests. True, Eldren dabbles in upbeat gypsy cabaret prog Americana one moment and indulges an inclination toward bubbly psych pop the next. But it's the voices that run through the music like a thread -- as well as an overall sense of solidarity among the bandmembers -- that tie the whole thing together.
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS •
- 50 Photos That Prove Red Rocks Is the Most Beautiful Venue on the Planet
- Photos: Musicians Buying (Legal) Weed in Denver
- The Ten Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
- 50 Ways to Support Your DIY Music Community
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!