It's officially fall now, according to the calendar -- and, well, the thermometer -- but that doesn't mean things have cooled down here in the Mile High City. While most of the shows have moved indoors, there's still plenty to choose from, including Rise Against at the Fillmore tonight and tomorrow night and SWANS at the Gothic to AWOLNATION at the Summit and Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Pepsi Center later this week. Keep reading for a full rundown of the ten best concerts this week.
10. FIREWATER @ LARIMER LOUNGE | MON, 9/24/12 Disgusted with the re-election of George W. Bush in 2005, Firewater ringleader Tod A left New York -- where he'd lived for the previous two decades and where he'd fronted Cop Shoot Cop -- and headed out of the country on a three-year journey that took him to the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Along the way, he wrote songs for Firewater's sixth album, 2008's The Golden Hour, and two years ago, he moved to Istanbul. He recorded Firewater's new album, International Orange, there during the Arab Spring, while bombs were going off around the city, as well in Tel Aviv, where the record was mixed. Tod A says that some of that energy of change seeped into the record; he also harnesses a bit of fiery punk vigor and injects the songs with worldly flavors, from bhangra to Turkish rhythms to ska, dub and mambo.
9. THE OFFSPRING @ FILLMORE | THUR, 9/27/12 The Offspring is even more venerable than most fairweather fans realize. In 1994, when Dexter Holland, Greg K. and Noodles experienced their first mainstream success thanks to "Self-Esteem" and "Come Out and Play" (which continue to earn airplay, because they still hold up), they'd already been performing under their current moniker for almost two decades. Fortunately, they still retain their pop-punky enthusiasm. But they wouldn't have survived this long without being professionals, and that quality dominates albums like Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. "Half-Truism," "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid" and "Rise and Fall" stick with the outfit's well-established style -- and why not? While countless combos have come and gone since the mid-'80s, the members of the Offspring are still around. And they don't plan on going anywhere.
8. LECRAE @ OGDEN THEATRE | THUR, 9/27/12 Holy hip-hop star Lecrae resides in Atlanta now, but the MC spent his early teens in Denver, so this is still a hometown show. The Dove Award winner and Grammy nominee has put in years of persistent grinding, which has helped him become one of the few gospel rappers to achieve meaningful mainstream crossover appeal. He made a noteworthy appearance in a cypher at the 2011 BET Awards, and Don Cannon hosted his last mixtape, Church Clothes, which was downloaded 100,000 times in its first 48 hours. On his highly anticipated new record, Gravity, Lecrae dissects the hollow pursuit of wealth, warns of society's ills and counts his blessings with deft lyricism. Demonstrating his ability to bridge the secular and the sacred, the record has cameos from acts like Big K.R.I.T. as well as the gospel-oriented Mali Music, among others.
7. MONO @ LARIMER LOUNGE | THURS, 9/27 Within two years of forming in 1999, Mono came to the attention of noted American avant-garde musician John Zorn, who released the band's debut on his Tzadik label as part of the New Japan series that included Merzbow, Melt Banana and Ruins. Under the Pipal Tree (a reference to the place where Buddha attained enlightenment after 49 days of meditation) was an apt title for an album that combined trance-inducing atmospheres and rhythms with passages of exhilarating urgency. Rather than take the usual post-rock route of building tension and releasing it in a predictable dynamic, Mono, like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, offers instrumental rock full of vivid emotional experiences. Mono's latest, For My Parents, is a further exploration of the band's modern classical influences.
6. AWOLNATION @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | THURS & FRI, 9/27-9/28 Awolnation singer/songwriter Aaron Bruno cobbles together modern-rock tunes that are candy pop, hard as nails and cathedral-huge. Aggro refrains choke on wafting choruses and kitchen-sink post-Beck song suites, but somehow it still all feels right. At once wading-pool shallow and mercilessly affecting, the quintet caulks the fault line separating a guilty pleasure from a cultivated muso obsession. Last year's Megalithic Symphony suggested that the band could do anything, so expect them to keep break-dancing atop your notions of what popular music should be able to accomplish.
5. ARIEL PINK'S HAUNTED GRAFFITI @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | MON, 9/24/12 Los Angeles' supreme weirdo Ariel Pink brings his band/concept Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti through Denver tonight, in support of his latest release, Mature Themes. With a discography that challenges Frank Zappa's sheer strangeness and prolific nature, Pink and company build unique sets from the dozens of recordings he's made -- both at home and in the studio -- over the last decade and a half. Having shared bills with Vivian Girls, Cryptacize and most recently The Flaming Lips, Pink's been slowly infiltrating the world with his Serge Gainsborg-like creepy vocal attractiveness and a bedroom acid-pop sound that has lead him a headlining tour.
4. ESPERANZA SPALDING @ BOULDER/OGDEN THEATRE | TUES, 9/25 & WEDS, 9/26 Although Esperanza Spalding released her debut, Junjo, in 2006, the bassist and singer has become something of a household name in 2011 after winning a Grammy for Best New Artist. Just 27 years old, she has already released four albums under her name, including this year's neo-soul-tinged Radio Music Society, as well as performing and touring with jazz heavies like Joe Lovano, Michel Camilo and Regina Carter. The diminutive, wispy-voiced Spalding is no doubt a double force, equally gifted as a bassist and as a singer.
3. RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS @ PEPSI CENTER | THURS, 9/27 Nobody in their right mind could refute the fact that Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the hardest-working, hardest-rocking bands in the world. The recent Hall of Fame inductees are currently touring in support of their tenth studio album, I'm With You, which, while released in 2011, has produced enough radio-friendly singles to push the band into and then across this year. (At this rate, the Peppers have produced so many memorable hits that the number is now larger than the number of people who have been in the band. Which says a lot.) Expect experience, antics, and the caliber of stage presence honed through years of giving it to your mama.
2. SWANS @ GOTHIC THEATRE | MON, 9/24/12 "SWANS ARE NOT DEAD." That was the post on Michael Gira's MySpace page in 2010, stating plainly the guitarist/singer/songwriter's intent to resurrect his old group, which emerged in the early 1980s from the same New York no-wave scene that spawned kindred noise-rock spirits Sonic Youth before disbanding in 1997. Since re-forming, Swans (with a lineup that includes longtime guitarist Norman Westberg, but, notably, not mainstay keyboardist/vocalist Jarboe) have released three records, all to critical praise: 2010's My Father Will Guide Us Up a Rope to the Sky; this year's live album, We Rose From Your Bed With the Sun in Our Head; and the sprawling two-disc set The Seer, an album Gira claims was thirty years in the making -- and one that plays like the culmination of his lifelong obsessions with sex, violence, anger and depravity, as well as relentless musical experimentation.
1. RISE AGAINST @ FILLMORE | MON & TUES, 9/24-9/25 These guys didn't invent melodic hardcore; they spent their early years releasing albums on Fat Wreck Chords. This included 2003's Revolutions Per Minute, recorded at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins -- where the band has recorded most of its subsequent albums, like its 2011 offering, Endgame. The foursome's anthemic, infectious hooks probably make it seem like just another pop-punk band. And yet, even though Rise Against has become one of the most commercially successful of its peers, its songs are informed by a vibrant social consciousness that goes beyond the usual punk-rock tropes. Without resorting to hackneyed conceits, Rise Against seems to find a way to humanize serious issues facing people on an individual and global scale -- thus proving that punk rock done big doesn't have to dumbed down.
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