Weekend's best live bets: the Fray, the Lumineers, Leftover Salmon, Drake and more

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Welcome to the weekend! The sun's hiding this morning and rain's in the forecast for the next few days, but even that can't dampen spirits today. The Nuggets destroyed the Lakers last night, and you've got another full slate of local goodness on tap this weekend: Tonight the Fray kicks off a two-night stand at Red Rocks with Churchill in tow, the Lumineers pull into the Bluebird for a pair of shows, and Leftover Salmon rounds out the weekend by taking over a stretch of Sante Fe on Sunday. In between, Flashbulb Fires and Instant Empire celebrate the release of their new records, School Knights are in session at the hi-dive, Otis Taylor puts Boulder in a trance at the Outlook and Black Star sets it off at Cervantes' and Drake gets his groove on at Comfort Dental. Page down for a full rundown of the weekend's best bets.



See Also: Isaac Slade and Joe King give a track-by-track breakdown of Scars & Stories, explaining the story behind the songs.

Almost a year exactly since its last local show -- a quaint gig opening for U2 at Invesco Field -- the Fray returns home for a pair of shows at Red Rocks, the band's first there since August 2007. This weekend will be the first time many get to see the songs from Scars & Stories, its third full-length, performed live. Produced by Brendan O'Brien, Scars marks a bit of a departure for the group. On past albums, the Fray's stock-in-trade has been crafting earnest, piano-based tunes that successfully capture and articulate the simple yet complex interpersonal issues that life brings. Tracing both the exhilaration and despondency of love, these portraits also tended to expose the vulnerabilities, uncertainties and insecurities we all face. Drained of this pathos, the Fray's music probably would not have resonated on the massive scale that it did. Scars is sort of the opposite: The music is at the forefront, while the lyrics tend to rely more on subtlety. While a few of the songs tread familiar ground, for the most part they draw from a much bolder and more dynamic palette.


See Also: The Lumineers shed light on life in Denver and their evolving sound

Wesley Schultz has never been to the Bluebird Theater. Not for a show, anyway. And he's never been to Red Rocks, either. Since moving to Denver from New York, he's purposely avoided both. "I think it's superstitious or something," he explains. "If I really want to play somewhere, I probably won't go see a show there. I'm beginning to understand my own psychology." Must be some powerful psychology. This weekend, Schultz's band, the Lumineers, are not only appearing at the Bluebird, they're playing two nights, both sold out. And later this summer, Schultz and company are due to perform at Red Rocks with Cake. Pretty impressive for a band that was playing at the Meadowlark, one of the city's most intimate rooms, not so long ago. Denver's been good to the Lumineers, a far sight better than New York, where Schultz lived before moving to Denver (continue reading full profile).

BLACKSTAR @ CERVANTES' MASTERPIECE BALLROOM Mos Def and Talib Kweli, two whirlwind rhyme-slingers in their own right, first came together as Black Star in 1998. Their first album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, was propelled by Mos Def's poetic lyrics and Kweli's poignant delivery, and it instantly had heads clamoring for more material from this act, which took its name from a shipping line founded by Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. Now, more than a decade later, the duo is back, releasing singles for Black Star Aretha, a tribute album to Aretha Franklin that's the talk of the rap world even without a release date. While individually the two are imposing forces to be reckoned with, together they always bring the ruckus.


See Also: Q&A with Michael Stein of School Knights

Since its earliest days as an appealing garage-surf two-piece, School Knights has doubled its membership. Founded by former Weed Diamond guitarist Michael Stein and drummer Zack Roif, the band added Ben Donehower on bass and Morris Kolontyrsky on guitar to help fill out the sound and give the music a greater degree of dynamism, bolstering its already visceral and frantically energetic sound. The result is a band that combines the kinetic energy of the best garage punk with an introspective sheen that lends the songwriting a rare depth not often displayed by the group's peers. At this show, the Knights will debut the video for "Powerslut," a song that humorously addresses the double standards and hypocrisies inherent in modern sexual politics and generational differences. These are clearly not your average garage-rockers.


See Also: Otis Taylor profile

Otis Taylor calls his music "trance blues," and that sounds about right. Taylor sounds a lot like the next link in a chain that started with John Lee Hooker, who employed similar techniques -- particularly, riffing on droning, one-chord melodies. But where Hooker's blues were fluid to the point that backing musicians had a hard time following him, Taylor's are more arranged and beat-driven, and he's not afraid, in spite of his old-school platform, to work with contemporary effects. The heavy reverb he often uses adds an ethereal, cinematic touch, and his overdriven guitar tone could be brothers in arms with Dire Straits. And when Taylor sings lines like "Somebody woke me up from a deep, deep sleep," it comes off like a dream within a dream: You may be conscious, but you're mesmerized.


See Also: Q&A with John Baizley of Baroness

Baroness is a band from Savannah, Georgia, known for making a true alloy of psychedelic metal, the precision of prog, and punk attitude. In that way, they're musical kin to bands like Kylesa and Mastodon. With the release of its debut full-length, 2007's Red Album, Baroness established a style of music that became its signature sound and the aesthetic for singer/guitarist John Baizley's artwork for the band. Baizley's work, which is resonant with mythological themes, has since become iconic -- and not just in the realm of metal artists, but for bands as diverse as Daughters, Gilliam Welch and Flight of the Conchords. We spoke with the candid, self-deprecating and insightful Baizley about his work as a painter, his songwriting, his appreciation for Scott Walker and Baroness's new record, Yellow & Green, due out this summer. Read full Q&A. (Meshugga and Decapitated are also on tonight's bill.)

Check out our newly revamped concert calendar for a complete listing of all of tonight's shows. Page down for rundown of tomorrow night's best bets.



See Also: Q&A with Micheal James

Flashbulb Fires has endured some changes and been rather active in the past year. Now a trio -- the act parted ways with its bassist last summer and opted not to replace him -- the act split its time between touring and recording a new album, Gasconader. We recently spoke with the guys -- Patrick McGuire, Michael James and Chris Sturniolo -- about the new album and adjusting to being a three-piece.

INSTANT EMPIRE (CD RELEASE) @ THE WALNUT ROOM Instant Empire returns with a brand new platter, Heavy Hollow, the follow-up to its self-titled EP. While the act's debut showed plenty of promise, this latest effort sounds even better rounded with tight arrangements, assured melodies and a palpaple sense of earnestness and conviction, particularly on standout tracks like "Crooked (and Broken)," like a less frantic sounding Conor Oberst fronting Desparecidos. Stream the new album in its entirety, and then pick up a copy tonight at the hi-dive.


See Also: Dubskin 2010 profile

Since forming in 2006, Fort Collins-based Dubskin has established itself as one of the area's leading reggae acts, having shared the stage with legends like the Barrington Levy, the Itals and Mad Professor. On Release From Fear, its third LP, Dubskin sticks to its roots-reggae foundation for the most part, but mixes it up on a few cuts, such as "Warrior Stomp," which has a groove that borrows from Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved," and "Final Call," which features some rapping from vocalist Jamal Skinner. With John Brown's Body sound engineer Jason "Jocko" Randall, who mixed Dubskin's previous effort, No End in Time, back at the controls, Release From Fear's production sounds every bit as good as the songs themselves, doing absolute justice to these well-written compositions.

Also tonight: The Fray closes out its two-night stand at Red Rocks, as do the Lumineers at the Bluebird.

Check out our newly revamped concert calendar for a complete listing of all of tonight's shows. Page down for rundown of tomorrow night's best bets.



See Also: Q&A with Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon (due this Sunday in the middle of 7th and 8th street on Sante Fe between 1 and 6 p.m) has graced the the bluegrass scene with their talents for 22 years and counting. With the passing of Mark Vann, the band hasn't produced an album in eight years. The new addition of Andy Thron, carried over from Emmitt-Nershi Band, sparked a new interest in touring and inspiration is in a steady flow among the members. The group's new album, Aquatic Hitchhikers, drops May 22, but the band couldn't resist to take over the streets for a little while to show Denver that its still got it.

DRAKE @ COMFORT DENTAL AMPHITHEATER The ladies love Drake -- and it's not hard to see why. The Frank Sinatra of hip-hop, as he's been called, Drake is classy, elegant and can rap his face off to almost any melody. The Toronto native took the hip-hop scene by storm with his catchy lyrics, emotive production and high-profile features when he came onto the scene with his first project, So Far Gone. Since then, he's amassed quite a repertoire of hits, settling in with Lil Wayne's Young Money camp. His latest effort, Take Care, is chock-full of summer anthems and has been hailed as one of the year's best albums. Simply put, he's the man to watch.

Check out our newly revamped concert calendar for a complete listing of all of tonight's shows.

Compiled by Nick Callaio

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