Sam Smith 1STBANK Center : 7:30 p.m. January 26 Sam Smith is a 22-year old British soul singer whose music throbs with pain and longing far beyond his tender years. Some of the chart-baiting of debut In The Lonely Hour lies in the depth-charging sincerity suffusing his voice as he begs a would-be paramour to ditch the lover or admits, forthrightly, that he totally isn't in love with someone he nonetheless doesn't want to let go of. It's dramatic and complicated - a kind of performative meta-puzzle fledgling careers are built upon.
Eric Church Pepsi Center : 7:00 p.m. January 27 Nashville eats mavericks for breakfast, spitting them out compromised or undigested. Eric Church has never played by Nashville's rules, yet he appears poised on the brink of country mega-stardom. The clever iconoclast's edgy debut single, "Two Pink Lines" (off his 2006 debut, Sinners Like Me), waited out a teen pregnancy scare; later that year, Church got booted from a Rascal Flatts tour for playing too long and/or loud. The down-home rural North Carolina native was blackballed from the country touring circuit for a minute, but the rock clubs he played instead toughened his sound. This is apparent on 2009's rebellious Carolina, where Church claims that country's still got a "Lotta Boot Left to Fill" and scored a surprise hit with pot ode "Smoke a Little Smoke." 2011's chart-topping Chief built on that with more witty phrasing and a tight, rugged sound built to conquer country's suddenly guitar-obsessed capital. Country veteran Dwight Yoakam is also this bill.
King Tuff Larimer Lounge : January 27 "I play the guitar like a demon from hell," howls Kyle Thomas, aka King Tuff, on his new album, Black Moon Spell. And that might be the best description for this Vermont garage rocker. He tends to act like he's insane, and he definitely plays with a certain insanity, but he's also one of the smartest musicians out there. Mixing punk riffs, poppy hooks and simple, truthful lyrics, King Tuff has managed to make his brand of loud-as-hell garage rock as accessible and addicting as any pop hit. You just want to revel in his mayhem and destruction. He's the punk next door: One second he's lighting random objects on fire, and the next he's shouting out the deepest truths about love. He'll be bringing stacks of amps, ridiculous guitar skills and all his punk antics and pop charm to Denver this week, and you'd be crazier than he is to miss it.
Mark Farina's Mushroom Jazz Cervantes' Other Side : January 28 That love of house music accompanied Mark Farina from his high-school dance-club days in Chicago to the now-legendary Mushroom Jazz club night in San Francisco, manifested itself on seven Mushroom Jazz albums and countless world tours, and ushered him onto a new label, Mushroom Jazz Recordings, which he launched in 2011. He became exposed to house while listening to industrial and new-wave music at an under-eighteen club in Chicago, his tastes moving from industrial to Detroit techno to house. He would listen to house mixes on the radio, record the ones he liked on cassettes, then take them to a record store to see if the staff could identify the mix.