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.