As the winter chill finally thaws (work with us here -- we know it's still below freezing right now) and gives way to the hopefulness and fertility of spring, the upcoming concert season is likewise bursting with promise. Coming off one of the best years for live music in recent memory, the lineup is likewise suitably appreciable -- and we're barely into the first month -- so much so, that we had very little difficulty rounding up more than two dozen shows to look forward to. While all of the shows for the next few months are listed in our concert calendar, these are the dates worth being circled on your calendar. Keep reading for the 25 best concerts of winter/spring 2013 (including a tie for the top spot).
25. PARTICLE @ QUIXOTE'S TRUE BLUE | FRI, 1/18/13 No one's particularly fond of playing the desultory "sounds like" game when it comes to music, but whatever. In Particle's case, an A-meets-B-meets-C type of comparison is warranted. This middle-aged California-based quartet really does resemble a sonic collage comprising the Grateful Dead, Roy Davis Jr. and the Chemical Brothers as it whips crowds into a frenzy with blends of mellow grooves, psychedelic freakouts and long improvisations.
24. CRYSTAL CASTLES @ GOTHIC THEATRE | THURS, 5/2/13 Way back in 2006, patchy duo Crystal Castles began a rise to high-art infamy based mostly on the negative hype of its supposed 8-bit plagiarism. Along with getting slammed for stealing artist Trevor Brown's "Bruised Madonna" imagery for unauthorized merchandise (not to mention unsanctioned use of the Chanel logo), the Toronto natives were easy to dismiss as Internet copies of copies. But vocalist Alice Glass's terrifying yelp processed through Ethan Kath's instrumentation and production sounded too delightful to ignore. The act's low beats are a continuing blend of Glass Candy arrogance and the cultish darkness of the Knife/Fever Ray. The 8-bit community may not want to have anything to do with Glass and Kath, but proper credit is due for making the electronic subgenre accessible to the Girl Talk-loving masses.
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23. MIKE COOLEY @ LARIMER LOUNGE | SAT, 2/23/13 The thing the Drive-By Truckers is probably best known for -- aside from its spirited live sets -- is the sheer quality of its material and the overall excellence of its songcraft, from the compelling narratives to the colorful characters that populate the stories. While most bands are fortunate to have one tunesmith among its ranks, the Truckers have had three solid songwriters, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell. Isbell of course left the band, while Hood tried his hand solo and now it's Cooley's turn with A Fool on Every Corner, his solo debut, a live recording that features bare versions of some Truckers tunes along with a new cut and a cover.
22. THE DARKNESS @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | FRI, 2/1/13 In the music video for the Darkness's greatest hit, 2003's "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," the band's alternately naked and jumpsuited lead singer, Justin Hawkins, is repeatedly groped by a motley crew of space aliens. He appears, for all intents and purposes, to be into it. His band's mock-rock aesthetic is heavy on falsetto, generous with mayhem and short on seriousness, and the Suffolk group has followed that same wacky formula, albeit with extensive breaks, in the near-decade since. But aside from a handful of strangely named side projects (see: Hot Leg) and one consistently ridiculous mega-jam, the Darkness has little to show for its time off. Cue the age of reunions: In 2012, the guys returned to fun and funky territory for a third album and a tour that restores their original lineup. The real question is: Do you believe in a thing called second chances?
21. WHITECHAPEL @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | SUN, 1/27/13 Tennessee's Whitechapel crafts its malevolent deathcore with three guitarists. The down-tuned doom of this act is marked by finger-widdling flurries and false harmonic squeals, Phil Bozeman's disturbingly possessed post-Pantera vocals and a rhythm section that attacks with a cornered, Gaddafi-esque cruelty. Albums like A New Era of Corruption is both a triumph of actual songs over pure riffs and, in the wake of the tragic death of Bozeman's mother, a monument to pessimism ("The Darkest Day of Man" and "Single File to Dehumanization"). Technically excellent yet utterly heartfelt, Whitechapel is a soundtrack for cynical teens moving out of their parents' shadow and into the world -- and that's no small achievement.
20. ANTHRAX @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | TUES, 4/2/13 Considered one of the "big four" of the thrash metal era, Anthrax put New York on the map with its inventive take on infusing metal with a punk rock spirit. When singer Joey Belladonna joined in time to record 1985's Spreading the Disease, the band had its classic and arguably most fruitful line-up. Over the course of the next seven years, Anthrax pioneered a true fusion of rap and metal as well as expanded the idea of what metal could be by injecting a healthy dose of silly, and sometimes biting, humor along with warping the sometimes rigid lines of heavy metal's aesthetics. Playful yet heavy, Anthrax made what could be unrelentingly intense music seem fun. (Anthrax comes to Denver on the Metal Alliance Tour with Exodus, High On Fire, Municipal Waste and Holy Grail.)
19. THE WALKMEN @ OGDEN THEATRE | MON, 1/21/13 The Walkmen's first album, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, came out ten years and two months before its latest -- and perhaps loveliest -- Heaven. For the greatest symbol of the band's change in perspective over the last decade, look no further than its promotional art, in which the New York/D.C./Philly guys showcase their roles as fathers, not rock stars. While their debut heralded youth and experimentation in New York, a sort of dudes-in-a-dorm mentality, their latest has grown with the guys to become an introspective look at life after moving, marrying, giving birth and, eventually, growing up.
18. PINBACK @ GOTHIC THEATRE | SUN, 1/27/13 Like a gnarled old cottonwood that you remember as a kid that now is all shaggy and stately, Pinback has aged well. From early efforts like 2001's Blue Screen Life -- an understated masterpiece that fell somewhere between early Police and stonerfied math rock -- on through the albums that followed, Rob Crow and Zach Smith have made profoundly affecting music that's more likely to stoke the intellect than to incite riots.
17. DOWN @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | SAT, 1/26/13 Down got together in 1991 when Pantera's Phil Anselmo teamed up with Corrosion of Conformity's Pepper Keenan, Crowbar's Kirk Windstein and Todd Strange and Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod. United by a mutual love of doom and sludge metal, Down has to be considered one of the early pioneers of that sound with a little more groove to it. Strange has since left the band, and his role on bass now being taken up with Pat Bruders also of Crowbar. If you go, you'll get to see some metal veterans revealing their individual roots in hardcore and fusing it fully with the heavier music for which each has become known.
16. IN FLAMES @ BOULDER THEATER | THURS, 2/10/13 Originally formed as a side project of Ceremonial Oath, In Flames quickly became a full-time endeavor. While retaining some of the sharp edges of its founders' death-metal leanings, the band successfully joined melodic hooks, vocal and otherwise, with nervy aggressiveness and sharp dynamic shifts. In 1995, the core members recruited Anders Fridén as lead vocalist in time to write and record the classic 1996 album The Jester Race. In subsequent years, In Flames went through several lineup changes, including the departure of its founders, and it's since become one of the most popular and critically acclaimed metal bands around. Touring in support of its latest album, 2011's Sounds of a Playground Fading, In Flames still proves itself on stage every night, even after two decades.
15. CYPRESS HILL @ RED ROCKS | SAT, 4/20/13 Colorado is a pretty progressive state when it comes to smoking marijuana. There are hundreds of dispensaries centers that will sell the kush to anyone with the appropriate credentials. Still, it was pretty audacious for the members of Cypress Hill to light 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. So it's only fitting (and obvious) that Cypress Hill was one of the acts tapped to perform at the inaugural 420 on the Rocks concert with fellow aficionados Slightly Stoopid.
14. FURTHUR @ 1STBANK CENTER | FRI-SUN, 2/22-2/24 Break out the tie-dye hoodie and slip a pair of socks on with those Birkenstocks: Furthur is coming back to town. Like bottles of wine, guitarist Bob Weir and bass master Phil Lesh seem to get better and better with age. Since the end of the Grateful Dead proper in 1995, the two have kept the band's music going strong through various musical projects, and Furthur is the best of the bunch. (Furthur is also due at the Ogden Theatre on Thursday, February 21.)
13. RUSKO @ OGDEN THEATRE | FRI, 4/12/13 Born in Leeds, England as Christopher Mercer, Rusko has become one of the most sought-after dubstep producers in recent years. He inherited a love of music from his mother, a folk and country singer who performed in a band called Ventura Highway. She stopped being an active musician when he was still an infant, but being around guitars his entire life left a mark on Rusko, who learned how to play at a young age and who used two small tape recorders to record songs, radio shows and other sounds to fuel his creativity. Rusko later attended the University of Leeds in the college of music, and that's when he focused his efforts on beat-making.
12. RAILROAD EARTH @ OGDEN THEATRE | FRI-SUN, 1/18-1/20 The music of Railroad Earth isn't easy to classify, although most people will be 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 of bluegrass 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, 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. (Railroad kicks off its three-night stand at the Ogden this Friday, January 18)
11. DISCO BISCUITS @ 1STBANK CENTER | SAT, 1/26/13 Fresh off their Mayan Holidaze run in Mexico, the Disco Biscuits brings their Winter Inferno to Colorado for three nights of laserific goodness (the outfit is also due at the Boulder Theater on Thursday, January 24, and at the Ogden Theatre on Friday, January 26). Nearing its second decade of existence, the Philadelphia-based act has finally settled in the role as one of the most sought after jam bands still touring. When the quintet, who is known for improvised renditions of their own complex songs, steps on stage, you never know if the journey is going to find the group exploring the depths of its creativity or wandering its seemingly endless catalog of studio gems. Adding Colorado's GRiZ and Michal Menert to the culminating third night of Winter Inferno, the Biscuits are set to kick 2013 off right with the most rabid fan base the group has ever seen.
10. CAT POWER @ OGDEN THEATRE | THURS, 1/24/13 Erratic behavior on stage, substance abuse, mental breakdowns and health problems on and off, the singer known as Cat Power has been making matchless records and equally searing gossip column fodder since the early '90s. But like all of the best stories rock and roll has created, the tumultuous ones often lend to the best catalogs -- and through her public drama, Marshall's voice remains the talking point. Soulful, scalding and resilient, she embraces blues, punkish minimalism and Dylan all the same. Marshall's latest record, Sun, is an experiment in arrangement, vocal layering and the utilization of autotune as a method of genius manipulation, rather than a bandage. Cat Power's stop in Denver is just one of five dates she'll be performing stateside on her recently revamped tour -- one she postponed late last year due to impending bankruptcy and illness. But luckily for Cat Power fans, with dramatic showmanship comes a voice worth waiting for.
9. ELLIE GOULDING @ OGDEN THEATRE | FRI, 2/1/13 For almost three years now, Ellie Goulding has been steadily taking over the airwaves. Whether it be vocal features on the hottest new EDM tracks, dominating on her own with singles from one of her two platinum albums or appearing on remixed tracks from the world's biggest producers, the Brit-pop starlet from the English countryside is continuing to make inroads and gain momentum.
8. TORO Y MOI @ BLUEBIRD THEATER | SAT, 2/23/13 Under the name Toro Y Moi, South Carolina's Chazwick Bundick creates music to chill to. Yes, his work often gets thrown under the obvious "chillwave" bus, but deep layers of vocals, guitar and drum-machine beats sound too smart for the flat genre, production-wise. This might be the secret to Bundick's sound; he's more producer than musician, and his 2010 debut full-length, Causers of This, rides like a dreamy throwback to the Phil Spector part of the '60s. Low and syrupy melodies are highlighted by Bundick's subtle R&B vocal sensibility, at times coming off like a synthesized sibling of chopped and screwed. Bundick is also the single man behind Les Sins, an Italo-disco alter ego project offering a glittery flipside to Toro Y Moi.
7. DANNY BROWN @ CERVANTES' | SAT, 2/2/13 One of hip-hop's most distinctive (read: shrill) voices, Danny Brown ascended to the upper echelon of indie hip-hop following the success of his 2011 release, XXX. With a strong dose of humor and a stronger dose of psychedelics, the record got love from critics and fans alike for its absolute freshness. XXX might share unambiguous drug references with more mainstream hustler raps, but that's where the similarity ends. Far from being a new face in the game, the Detroit native had paid dues with mixtapes and albums, including collaborations with Black Milk and G-Unit's Tony Yayo, since 2007.
SnowBall Music Festival returns for a third year, and with a new location and a stacked lineup that will appeal to you whether you gravitate towards EDM (Pretty Lights, STS9, Porter Robinson, Big Gigantic, Datsik), indie rock (Surfer Blood, Japandroids, Polica) or hip-hop (Kendrick Lamar, Zion I), this one is shaping up to be the best yet. In the past, some have cheekily referred to this burgeoning mountain fest as "Snowchella," and that designation is not too far off.
5. MACKLEMORE/WINTER ON THE ROCKS @ RED ROCKS | FRI, 2/1/13 Winter on the Rocks is slated to return to Red Rocks for its second year. While the inaugural edition of the frozen fiesta featured Atmosphere, Common, Grieves + Budo, the next Winter on the Rocks features Westword Music Showcase 2012 alums Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (with Major Lazer, the Grouch & Eligh). All Macklemore has to do is pose dramatically to induce the same frenzied reaction from an audience that a slightly lesser MC would draw with their signature song. Granted, a very sizable portion of the audience at his last show at the Ogden comprised easily riled high school girls, but that should truly take nothing away from the fact that the stories he tells are utterly compelling, and his performance was not one iota short of exhilarating. His stories are deeply personal, universally relatable and delivered with such poignancy that it becomes impossible not to be moved.
4. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE @ OGDEN THEATRE | FRI, 3/22/13 The "collective" part of Animal Collective's name is meant literally. Although the group is built around a core quartet -- Avey Tare, Geologist, Deakin and Panda Bear -- the musicians play and record in assorted configurations; some tracks feature just one of them, while others include all four. From crafting rambling quasi-drone songs that pit intricate guitar arpeggios against feverish singing/shrieking to warped alien lullabies, the outfit has beguiled many a critic with its Collective insanity.
3. ALABAMA SHAKES @ OGDEN THEATRE | SAT, 3/9/13 A number of bands are returning to a Southern-rock sound these days, but much of the music they're making is too derivative to be interesting. Alabama Shakes, fresh off a date warming up for Neil Young, bucks that trend. The group's members, who met in high school and forged the kind of personal bond that shines through in the music, don't sound like they went back and mined their parents' record collections in an effort to emulate some bygone glory days. Instead, singer and guitarist Brittany Howard sings with an impassioned believability that sounds like she has experienced a fuller life than her young years could hope to contain. Her earthy vocals and the band's solid, vibrant musicianship are both remarkable for their emotional depth. The band's 2012 album, Boys & Girls, captures a taste of its soul-driven rock, but it's best experienced live.
2. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS @ OGDEN THEATRE | WEDS, 4/3/13 Nick Cave may be one of the more disciplined songwriters in the business (he usually spends six days a week working in his office), but he's been especially prolific in recent years, finding time to pen the remarkable two-disc Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus set, score a few films with fellow Bad Seeds violinist Warren Ellis and write two albums worth of material for the Bad Seeds side project Grinderman, which he pulled the plug on last year. Cave and the Bad Seeds return to the Ogden in support of Push the Sky Away, the band's first album without founding member Mick Harvey, who left the band in 2009.
1.RODRIGUEZ @ OGDEN THEATRE | TUES, 4/30/13 If you're familiar with the name Sixto Rodriguez (aka Rodriguez), it's likely due to his story, which is told in the award-winning film Searching for Sugar Man. A singer-songwriter from Detroit of fleeting renown, Rodriguez was a mostly an unknown quantity in his home country. After releasing a pair of critically acclaimed albums in the early '70s, Rodriguez essentially drifted off into obscurity where he remained for the better part of two decades. Elsewhere, however, in places like South Africa and Australia, Rodriguez's music formed the soundtrack for a generation -- who wrongly assumed he was passed. Sugar Man shines the light on a talent that has been criminally and woefully overlooked for years.
1. MORRISSEY @ TEMPLE BUELL | THURS, 2/21/13 Morrissey continues to be just as cynical, urgent and dandytastic today as he was at any point in his career. In fact, his voice has only gained a salt-and-pepper-grey aged wisdom in the decades since his years with The Smiths -- and the fact that he's gained a bit of a spare-tire-around-the-waist and chicken-waddle about the neck only makes his songs about rejection and self-loathing all the more believable. And his toying with our heart-strings by scheduling and canceling dates like a teenage-tease (this February appearance is a reschedule from last November) only makes us long for him all the more.
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