There's an insanely eclectic array of shows this weekend. Swallow Hill is celebrating its 35th Anniversary at the Paramount Theatre with Josh Ritter, Brett Dennen and Elle King. Nas performs his classic album, Illmatic at the Paramount. There's also the New Pornographers, Felice Brothers, the Hot Sardines, War on Drugs and more. The rest of our pics follow.
Great American Techno Festival Venue to be announced, October 9-11
Now in its fourth year, the Great American Techno Festival continues to bring top-of-the-line techno artists to Denver, and one of the stand-out selections in the 2014 lineup is Pittsburgh Track Authority. Comprising three DJs born in Pittsburgh -- Preslav Lefterov, Thomas Cox and Adam Ratana -- Pittsburgh Track Authority might blend loose, jazzy disco with the tight drum lines you'd typically find in hard industrial music. The result is unpredictable, drawing from a vast scope of American music, and the group's live show is particularly exciting. Pittsburgh Track Authority is a perfect selection for one of this year's several GATF headliners; catch them on Friday, October 10, at a to-be-announced location where they'll play a passholder-only party with Blondes, Avalon Emerson and Alala.One. Visit gatf.us to learn more and to buy tickets.
The Felice Brothers Bluebird Theater, 9 p.m., October 10
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You wouldn't know, listening to the Felice Brothers' latest LP, Favorite Waitress, that the record marks the first time they've recorded in a proper studio, abandoning the chicken coops and high-school auditoriums of their previous albums. Characteristically unhinged and scruffy without ever feeling unprofessional, the record has the warmth and approachability that scores of other "roots rockers" struggle to project. When Ian Felice's voice breaks into the slightest laugh as he sings, "In this violent world that spins, I've been so afraid to live by the lights of comets," there's something unfakeable that elevates the song beyond the efforts of his peers.
The Hot Sardines Newman Center, 7:30 p.m., October 10
With an affinity for Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt and Fats Waller, New York's the Hot Sardines clearly know their way around hot jazz and Dixieland. Fronted by pianist-bandleader Evan "Bibs" Palazzo and Paris-born singer Miz Elizabeth, the Hot Sardines serve up some energetic foot-stomping jazz while also laying back on some gorgeous ballads on the octet's brand new self-titled debut on Decca.
The War on Drugs Ogden Theatre, 9 p.m., October 10
The brainchild of guitarist and vocalist Adam Granduciel, The War On Drugs came to be more than a decade ago and has seen its share of line-up changes -- Kurt Vile was a longtime member -- but has consistently created a sort of Americana-meets-Sonic-Youth sound.
Keys N Krates Aggie Theatre, 8 p.m., October 10
Trap music started as a subgenre of hip-hop, named after the slang term "trap," a place where one would go to buy drugs. Atlanta rappers seemed to pioneer what would become called "trap" -- guys like Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy. As the trap sound became popular in hip-hop, electronic music producers began appropriating the sounds into their songs, increasing the mainstream exposure of the music. In that context, meet Keys N Krates, the world's first "trap band." The Toronto trio formed in 2008 and features a drummer, a synth player, and a DJ, all coming together to produce sounds that seem to have no business coming from an instrumental trio. The band somewhat reluctantly accepts the "trap band" label, saying its influences range from house music to mainstream hip-hop, but the results are aggressive and make for a surprisingly engaging listen. Plus, how can you not be intrigued by a band who makes a music video playing their songs to skeptical Mennonites?
R.A. the Rugged Man The Black Sheep, 7 p.m., October 10
Though R.A. the Rugged Man has been in the rap game for roughly a decade, 2013's Legends Never Die is only his second official release. He is perhaps best known for one incredible verse -- one of the best you'll ever hear -- on the Jedi Mind Tricks track "Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story." That's not a bad thing to be known for, but it is also perhaps a little unfair, because the Rugged Man has much more personality than is revealed in that one song; it's a shocking, unapologetic one that is not afraid to throw the kitchen sink at an industry that has, in some ways, rejected him. Live, the Rugged Man should be nothing short of a spectacle.
Swallow Hill's 35th Anniversary Celebration Paramount Theatre, 7:30 p.m., October 11
Josh Ritter is a gifted songwriter who has earned a bit of an international following for his imaginatively literate lyrics and simple yet sophisticated observational wisdom. In 2001, Ritter got a big break when he met Glen Hansard of the Irish band the Frames while playing an open mike down the street from where Hansard had a gig. Subsequently, Ritter was invited to play a month of shows in Ireland, where, instead of one or two songs at open mikes, he was playing half-hour sets every night. This helped him hone his craft as both a songwriter and a performer. Several albums and EPs later, Ritter has become one of today's most beloved and respected songwriters. Brett Dennen and Elle King are also on the bill tonight.
The New Pornographers Gothic Theatre, 9 p.m., October 11
It's no longer news when the New Pornographers put out a record full of captivating pop music. They've been doing that for fifteen years, with a consistency that borders on alarming. Still, the group's latest album, Brill Bruisers, is great. Most of the songs were written by leader A.C. Newman, but as usual, Dan Bejar (of Destroyer) contributes a couple. Overall, the new stuff is little lighter on guitars and heavier on keyboards, and it may be the Pornos' most versatile work yet. It sounds equally at home through headphones and on the highway. But presumably it will be even better in the beautiful Gothic Theatre, with these titans of indie rock right there in the flesh.
Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom Dazzle, 7 p.m., 9 p.m., October 11, 6 p.m., 8 p.m., October 12 In addition to performing with singer-songwriters like Ani DiFranco and Natalie Merchant as well as touring with Brandi Carlile for the last few years, the in-demand and innovative drummer Allison Miller, who's been at wielding sticks since she was 10 years old, has also played with jazz heavies such as Marty Ehrlich and Dr. Lonnie Smith. With her group Boom Tic Boom, New York-based Miller is a damn fine improviser and exhibits a range that is far reaching, from light handed cymbal work to deep grooves. For these two shows at Dazzle, she's joined by forward-thinking pianist Myra Melford and bassist Chris Lightcap, as well as trumpeters Ron Miles and Kirk Knuffke.
Nas Paramount Theatre, 8 p.m., October 12
One rhyme in particular crystallizes the genius of Nas' 1994 classic, Illmatic. It comes in the song "One Love," which takes the form of a letter to a friend in prison: "Congratulations, you know you got a son," Nas raps. "I heard he looks like ya, why don't your lady write ya?" Did you get that? In 19 words, Nas swings from the perspective-upending pride of fatherhood -- a new human who is part you! -- to the heartache of separation, loneliness, disloyalty. He whispers the knife of betrayal into our gut with a simple question: "Why don't your lady write ya?" Nas paints not just a man in prison, yearning for the outside, but a whole web of relationships decaying in his absence. Lyrical feats like these helped Illmatic win a perfect five-mic score from The Source in '94 and a perfect ten from Pitchfork when it was reissued last year, making it one of the most acclaimed of all hip-hop albums. (It does have a few flaws.) But Illmatic's towering reputation challenges anyone seeking to comment on it further: After 20 years, plus the 2001 sequel (Stillmatic), the reissue of the original, the 33⅓ book, and the countless essays, hagiographic and otherwise, what could possibly be left to say? Tonight, the documentary Nas: Time Is Illmatic will be shown along with a performance of Illmatic in its entirety.
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