Happy 4/20! Welcome to the end of another work week. As always, there are plenty of music options to consider this weekend -- and that's whether you're living the Mile High life or not. The second edition of the annual Levitate Festival lives up to its name at 1STBANK Center getting fans high on the music of Rusko, DJ Shadow, organizer Paper Diamond and Pictureplane, playing his penulitmate hometown show. Cypress Hill, meanwhile, observes the holiday this evening at the Ogden Theatre. Oh, and there's Record Store Day tomorrow, plus CD release shows featuring New Ben Franklins, King FOE Rebel Tongue and Lexigram and so much more. Page down for the weekend's best live music bets.
See Also: Rusko Q&A
This year, 4/20 is going to be even doper than usual with the second edition of Levitate Festival taking place tonight with DJ Shadow, Rusko, Paper Diamond and Pictureplane. The venue size is a significant upgrade from last year's version of the festival, which was held at the Boulder Theater, and featured Paper Diamond, Michael Menert, Break Science, Raw Russ and DJ MLE. "When we thought of this last year," recalls Paper Diamond mastermind Alex Botwin, "I liked the name, the idea, the feeling of levitation, and how it all goes with my music." Last year, Levitate Festival sold out, and with the famed 4/20 date falling on Friday this year, it made sense to do it up bigger this year. "This was a goal of mine -- doing it bigger," he notes, "and with the help of my team and AEG Live, we were able to work our ideas."
Back in 1990, Cypress Hill was just another South Central hip-hop group; when the members weren't running with local gangs, they were smoking more weed than the patients at a glaucoma ward. But their songs and their sound -- a potent combination of speedy raps, hard beats and paeans to their one true love, marijuana -- subsequently caught the attention of executives at Philadelphia's Ruffhouse label. The act's self-titled debut was released the following year to little fanfare, but it quickly became an underground sensation spurred by "Hits From the Bong," "Stoned Is the Way of the Walk" and other salutes to sweet smoke. The disc went on to sell 1.5 million copies, and earned for the players the title of official musical spokesmen for NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws). It also inspired virtually every other rap combo to start boasting about their chronic consumption.
THE CAVE SINGERS @ LARIMER LOUNGE At first listen, Cave Singers doesn't sound like a band that came out of the ashes of Pretty Girls Make Graves, Hint Hint or Cobra High. But considering that it features Derek Fudesco, who made a name for himself in the whiskey-swigging garage-rock band Murder City Devils before doing time in PGMG, the sound makes perfect sense. There's still plenty of down-and-out wordplay here, and lead singer Pete Quirk's voice resembles that of a chain-smoking, nasally Bruce Springsteen. It's all a bit slower than you might expect from a group with such a pedigree, but the rustic nature of the act as a whole has more in common with Murder City Devils than is initially apparent. Last year's No Witch marks the band's move from Matador to its new home at Jagjaguwar, a perfect fit for this dark and booze-soaked folk music.
THE NEW BEN FRANKLINS (CD RELEASE) @ HI DIVE Chances are you can't name many active bands that play original material and have been around for twenty years -- much less one that has regularly evolved and experimented with its sound without always jumping on some musical bandwagon. That's been the path of the New Ben Franklins (due this Friday, April 20, at the hi-dive) since 1992, but they've more fully integrated shimmery atmospherics and psychedelia into their current sound, which you'll hear on their upcoming full-length, [peter gabriel]. It would be easy to peg the outfit as yet another Americana band from Denver, but the group is actually closer to moodier alchemists of that aesthetic, like Luna or Calexico: Rock-and-roll attitude, caustic wit and an exuberant yet melancholic spirit set this quartet apart from many of its peers.
See Also: Q&A with King FOE
When it comes to the subject of drugs, King FOE's new EP, Junkie, is about as viciously honest and descriptive as it gets. The second EP in the BLKHRTS' triology, Junkie is all about the reality of drug use and the ills that go along with using. FOE drew from his own experiences, as well as those of close family members, to get into the frame of mind of someone who is addicted to drugs; he also immersed himself in the William S. Burroughs memoir of the same name. FOE's writing is dark and fearless and is meant to take you into the world of a junkie.
REBEL TONGUE @ STONEY'S BAR & GRILLE Rebel Tongue is made up of a conscious lyricist, live instrumentation and enough rhythm to make you rock back and forth for days. On Movin On, the act's debut, the players come together under the umbrella of funk and a new-age fusion of hip-hop and neo-soul. They do a great job of blending the warm vocals of Azma Holiday with a tightly produced live-band sound. On the title track, you can feel a jazz influence, as well as a conscious-spoken-word trend in Holiday's verses. Movin On is an easy listen all the way through, gathering elements of jazz and neo-funk in a lovely seven-track effort more than worthy of repeated listens.
See Also: Q&A with Dana Janssen of Akron/Family
Akron/Family started in 2002 as what some might call a "freak folk" band. But the group quickly headed in its own idiosyncratic direction. In 2004, the Family became involved with the Young God label and served as Michael Gira's band on that year's Angels of Light tour. It would be difficult to say what a typical song by this band sounds like, because from album to album, its sonic palette is as varied as its expansive dynamics. S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, the band's 2011 album, showcases Akron/Family's interest in non-Western percussion by recontextualizing it into the realm of jubilant, experimental pop songs.
- Official High Times Festival VIP 420 Party of music, comedy, art and film with Barrington Levy, Reggie Watts, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, The Magic Beans, Astromonix, Guilty Simpson, the Brew, Bob Cantrell, Sapient, the Melodians and more at City Hall