Atmosphere Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 7:00 p.m. August 29 Minneapolis-bred Atmosphere aptly fits into that "old-school" indie rap category. Since 1989, the group has released six studio albums and ten extended plays, touched base on some deep societal issues, and has kept a fanbase while consistently evolving; difficult to do during a time like the '90s when musical consistency was everything.
Denver Broncos UK The Walnut Room : August 29 For Denver Broncos UK, it's all about being less than. The band -- made up of four members of local revivalist alt-country outfit Slim Cessna's Auto Club -- was formed around the notion of stripping away some of the sonic accoutrements that have made the Auto Club what it is. But that's not to say that DB UK is just a trimmed-down version of its popular forefather. The quartet has its own haunting presence, with vocalist Jay Munly and cellist Rebecca Vera taking center stage over minimal accompaniment. The idea for the group was a long time in the making, but it wasn't until 2006 that the members actually came together and started writing music. Since then, they've released a vinyl single and contributions to various compilations, but DB UK is really best experienced live. For hard-core Cessna fans, the quartet's existence offers an opportunity to see a new version of their favorite musicians in more intimate settings, as DB UK typically plays rooftops, DIY venues and dive bars.
JAS Aspen Snowmass Experience Snowmass Town Park : 3:00 p.m. August 29, 30 and 31 Chris Thile and siblings Sean and Sara Watkins, collectively known as Nickel Creek, which will headline JAS Aspen Snowmass on Sunday, have been widely embraced by the bluegrass and acoustic-music communities, even though their music makes a habit of stretching or ignoring genre boundaries. How have they gotten away with such apostasy? "Talent" is probably too facile an answer, but it's the best one available.
Keith Urban Fiddler's Green Amphitheater : 6:30 p.m. August 29 It's honestly astonishing that Keith Urban has never achieved the whole Twain/Swift mainstream crossover thing. He's well into his forties now, so don't hold your breath for that, but he's one of the best pop songwriters operating outside actual pop music, enlivening string-laden and seemingly by-the-numbers love songs with clever metaphors, engrossing narratives and unexpected slant rhymes. And if you still get bored by all of that, that's when he'll start shredding.
Kurt Rosenwinkel's New Quartet Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge : 9:00 p.m. August 29 Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel is a damn fine improviser, and his attack on the notes is strong; he makes each note ring through. Whether he's running through fluid Allan Holdsworth-inspired legato lines or laying down his own unique riffs, Rosenwinkel has a tone that's as distinctive as his phrasing. He also has a unique approach in which he uses a lapel mike to ghost notes with his voice, which he says gives a human quality to the sound, not just the guitar. His latest two-disc effort, Star of Jupiter, is possibly his most daring recording of his two-decade long career.
Raven & the Writing Desk (CD release) Syntax Physic Opera : August 29 Singer/keyboardist Julia LiBassi and guitarist Scott Conroy moved to Denver in the summer of 2009 from the East Coast and formed The Raven and the Writing Desk within months of settling in. LiBassi's expressive, melodic voice and vividly imaginative lyrics alongside Conroy's keen ability to play to the song made the band immediately memorable. The group's 2010 debut album, Recidivist, revealed an ability to take threads of jazz, Americana and moody experimental rock and weave them into songs that are paradoxically both haunting and soothing. Live, the outfit conveys a sense of the whimsical blended with an emotional intensity that more than hints at the serious content of the songwriting. In 2013, the Writing Desk offered us Scavenger, whose elaborate artwork included paper folded into a raven. The band plays Friday, August 29, at the newly opened Syntax Physic Opera.
Phish Dick's Sporting Goods Park : 7:30 p.m. August 29, 30 and 31 If you're sitting on the periphery wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to Phish, let's just say that this band didn't inherit a legion of fans simply by being kindred to the Dead. Rather, the prodigious players built up their fanatical following by offering riveting live shows and taking care to ensure that each one is unique, by doing such things as playing entire themed sets keyed to a certain letter of the alphabet. If you have a chance to see these guys, take it. Whether you like the tunes or not, it's a show worth experiencing at least once if you're a true fan of music.
Bob Log III Larimer Lounge : 9:00 p.m. August 30 Go to a Bob Log III show, and he'll most likely be wearing a motorcycle helmet with a telephone attached to the tinted visor and a black Elvis-inspired studded jumpsuit. He might come out and say, "I'd like to introduce the band: my left foot on cymbal, my right foot on bass drum, and my hands on guitar." Log, who was half of the Tucson-based duo Doo Rag, doesn't need anyone else with him on stage: The dude can kick up a storm with some dirty-ass lo-fi blues all by himself. He introduces songs with bizarre wit: "This is a song about dancing under a big rock," "Here's a song about going into other people's rock-filled canyons and getting into trouble," or "This one's about my little friend who sticks out sometimes, and sometimes he doesn't. I'm talking about my finger."
KS 107.5 All Star Jam Fiddler's Green Amphitheater : 5:30 p.m. August 30 Whether you hate him or love him for it, T-Pain is the man most responsible for popularizing the use of AutoTune. Using the pitch-correction filters to further melodize his lyrics, the Tallahassee native emerged onto the scene with hits like "I'm Sprung," "I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)," and later joints like "Bartender," which helped him quickly become one of the most popular figures in modern hip-hop. Having perfected the art of both the single and the summer anthem, T-Pain is the king of the ring tone. He's also a welcome guest, making appearances on both Jamie Foxx's "Blame It," and Kanye West's "Good Life." T-Pain knows how to use what he's got to get what he wants, and that's undoubtedly worked in his favor so far. T-Pain joins T.I., Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, DJ Quik, Ja Rule, Twista and Lil' Rob for KS 107.5's All Star Jam.
Ramblin' Jack Elliott The Soiled Dove Underground : 8:00 p.m. August 30 Few artists from the American folk-music scene have been more important than Ramblin' Jack Elliott. For more than five decades, the singer, storyteller and guitar picker has influenced artists and musicians from Jack Kerouac and Jerry Garcia to Beck and The Rolling Stones. (Supposedly, Mick Jagger bought his first guitar after hearing Elliott busking on a London train platform.) But Elliott is typically remembered for influencing a young Bob Dylan, who in his early Greenwich Village days was often introduced as the "son of Jack Elliott." A talented balladeer, Elliott is often billed as a singer-songwriter, but Elliott has denied the label in the past, saying that he's only written four songs in 40 years. The stories, however, are all his.
Lynxapalooza Auraria Campus : 7:00 p.m. August 30 We don't mean to hang this on them, but Matt and Kim are partially responsible for your mom using the word "hipster" to mean anybody with a mustache; "Yea Yeah," their first single, pioneered the musically and aesthetically spartan pop sound that dismantled a lot of first-wave hipster clichés about standing against a cinderblock wall and whispering into your microphone. They've accepted their role as trailblazers with aplomb; by 2011, they'd collaborated with Andrew W.K. and Soulja Boy, with whom they really share more similarities than differences. But the point isn't that their willfully simple, screamy pop made it safe to sweat through your dumb sweater; it's how much fun you'll have once you put on your dumb tank top and dance.
The Oh Hellos Boulder Theater : 8:30 p.m. August 30 In late 2012, the Oh Hellos released their first full-length, Through the Deep, Dark Valley. And while that album's got some solid tunes like "The Valley" and "I Was Wrong," it's "Hello My Old Heart," a track from their self-titled debut that perked up everybody's ears and landed them in regular rotation on KTCL, a admirable feat for an unsigned and then unknown band from Texas. The response to the song has been overwhelming, as evidenced by back-to-back sold out shows last summer at the Bluebird Theater, a decent way to mark the band's first trip to Denver. Tonight, the band is at much bigger digs at the Boulder.
The Mavericks Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities : 7:30 p.m. August 30 For a time in the mid '90s, the Mavericks were on top of the neo-traditional country world. The Miami band featuring the amazing talents of singer Raul Malo scored a hit in 1996 with "All You Ever Want to Do is Bring Me Down" and even won a Grammy Award. Sadly, Malo went solo in 2004 and the Mavericks called it a day. Thankfully, the Mavericks reunited in 2011 and released the album In Time two years later. The album received rave reviews and the band has been touring the world ever since.
Shooter Jennings & Waymore's Outlaws The Buffalo Rose : August 31 Since the 2005 release of his modern outlaw coming-out party, Put the "O" Back In Country, Shooter Jennings has proudly waved the banner his mother and father, Jesse Colter and Waylon Jennings, had helped design decades ago. After the surprising release of his 2010 concept album, Black Ribbons, Jennings collected a talented group of musicians in his new home of New York to craft Family Man, which will bring back those scared away by his ambitious version of space rock. Combining country and fist-pumping Southern rock, Jennings' most personal collection of tunes was easily one of the best country albums of 2012. While recording songs for Family Man, Jennings left off some of the more darker material for the album's follow-up, last year's The Other Life.