Author Archives: Amy McGrath

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Jesus and Mary Chain Dark, Hypnotic at Summit Music Hall

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Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Molly McGrath

The iconic Scottish post-punk band, The Jesus and Mary Chain, played to a reverent audience last Friday night at the Summit Music Hall. Touring in support of their new album “Damage and Joy,” the band brought out a diverse range of fans, from rockers who have been around since the beginning, to goth teenagers (like myself). They played songs from throughout their discography, including songs from their debut album Psychocandy. The band put on a great show, but their choice to play almost completely in the dark makes it hard to make a strong connection with the audience.

Opening for the Jesus and Mary Chain was the darkwave group  Cold Cave. Active since 2007, the band has become a favorite of the American Goth scene. Their set provided a complex juxtaposition between goth-pop of the 80’s and the goth-pop of today. Singer Wesley Eisold played in almost complete darkness, with the exception of soft strobe lights. His performance conjured that of Ian Curtis; a close caress of the mic stand matched with extremely vexing movements.


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Together Pangea Turns Larimer Lounge into Party Garage

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Photos by Michael McGrath, story by Molly McGrath

Instead of doing something scary Friday the Thirteenth, I found myself being pushed up against the stage at the Larimer Lounge, singing along to my favorite surf-pop anthems by Southern California garage rockers Together Pangea. On tour with their new album “Bulls and Roosters,” the band played a variety of songs from their catalogue. Not even ten seconds into the first song, a wild pit had already started. The audience loved it, and everyone danced and moshed till the walls of the Larimer were dripping with sweat.

On tour with Together Pangea was Tall Juan, a VERY TALL Argentinian singer-songwriter. His music: cumbia punk mixed with good ol’ garage rock. In the first few minutes of his set he played solo before inviting an audience member up to drum with him. During the middle of his set, a band joined him on stage where they played louder punk songs. At one point in his set, Juan dropped the microphone onto the stage. When I picked it up for him, he put it directly into his mouth (like the whole mic head, all the damn way into his mouth.) He finished his high energy set with two covers, Territorial Pissings and I Wanna be Your Dog, both crowd favorites.

Also on tour with them was Daddy Issues, an all girl garage rock band. They attracted the attention of many young women on the Denver Scene, some of those who I talked to saying that they just came out to see them. “It’s the future of Riot Grrrl!!” one woman declared.


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Ty Segall Rocks the Summit Music Hall, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Watching my 13-year-old Mosh

Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath

Ty Segall and his band put on a great show last Saturday at the Summit- brash, cheerful, noisy rock and roll that shook me out of my usual Trump-era funk. I’ve seen Ty before- watching his rise from gangly young indie phenom to the road-tested but still cheeky rocker he is today. I knew that I wanted to be close, but not too close, so I found myself a safe, middle-aged rock mom hideout at the side of the stage. It’s a great place to watch shows at the Summit- you can see everything, you get to share the stage sound but are protected from the intense volume of the mains, and you are immune from the inevitable mosh pit.

As a life-long rock and roller with a penchant for edgy guitar rock- I’ve been avoiding the mosh pit for many decades. I don’t like being pushed around, period. Also, growing up around the Denver punk scene of the late 80’s- mosh pits were often dominated by scary and aggressive skinheads who seemed to be trying to hurt people, or dipshit boys who paid no attention to anyone but themselves. I loved the energy but I’ve never been so in love with a band that I wanted to risk being trampled or ending up with a broken nose.

So Saturday night as I hung in my stage-side safety zone, checking out Ty Segall’s jubilantly noisy set, I had the perfect view of both of my teenaged kids- the girl, a seasoned rock show veteran at 16, pressed up against the stage gate, throwing elbows and pushing back hard against anyone vying for her prime location.

And then, behind her, I caught a fleeting glance of the boy. My baby-faced, curly-haired boy, dressed in tie dye, all hopped up on Coca-Cola and puberty. He was being bounced around forcibly by a throng of drunk people much older and larger than he, and my first reaction was- I had get him out of there, fast. I also wanted to scold anyone involved in pushing my kid around. He would bob in an out of my line of sight- mostly I caught glimpses of his mop of curls, relieved that if I could see the top of his head, he was not being crushed underfoot by the seething mob. I lost focus on the music and became ensnared in the drama of watching my child at the mercy of the wildly undulating horde.

Ty’s classic “Finger” was a high-point of the set, and for just a minute, the mass of mosh parted in just a way that I caught a full view of my son: sweaty, flushed, ecstatic. He was grinning from ear to ear and bobbing around like a pinball. The music and the mosh pit combined to create a perfect moment: a testosterone and adrenaline-fueled obliteration of the wicked adolescent ego. A safe but not too safe outlet for pent up aggression. A powerful collective experience. Joy.


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Cat Power Shares Intimate, Resonant Set at Marquis Theater

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Photo by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath

Cat Power’s music has been the perfect soundtrack to many stressed days, sad days, super happy sunshine days. Camping music, bath-time music, driving music- the times when you really need the music to be…sacred.  Her songs, her voice, her vulnerability, raw emotionality and instability- all of that vibrates on my frequency.

Saturday August 19th, Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) offered a powerfully intimate, emotionally candid set of music for an enrapt audience of fans, many of who seemed to feel much the same as I do about this uncompromising, brilliant artist. The tiny, gritty Marquis theater provided the perfect space for the kind of ritualistic soul baring that Cat Power offered her audience.

Opening with the hauntingly sparse “Werewolf” the artist appeared solo with acoustic guitar, entirely unadorned by backing musicians or pretense. She moved methodically through a set of music that leaned heavily on the essential 2003 album “You Are Free,” material well-suited to the solitary performance setting that she has chosen.

Cat Power is known to be a mercurial and sometimes unstable live presence. The melancholy that saturates her music clearly reflects an artist of vast sensitivity, which has, at times in her career, manifested itself in uneven and difficult performances. The Marquis Show had its moments of emotional tension but in this case, they added to the overall experience of the show.

At one point in the show, she stopped singing to ask someone in the front row why they had paid money to stand in the front of a concert and carry on a conversation during the performance. “When I go to shows,” she said “I’m totally locked in on what’s happening on stage, I want to understand all of it, and you have to pay attention. I go to shows to get away from conversations.” After suffering through years of  shows where the drunks will simply not shut up, I deeply appreciated her brash honesty and the way she turned an uncomfortable moment into a teachable one.

Midway through the set, Cat Power transitioned from acoustic guitar to solo piano and laid bare a collection of laudanum-paced, deeply felt songs- highlighted by the haunting grace of “Names” and a powerfully mournful rendition of Bette Midler’s ode to tortured love, “The Rose.”

“Thank you for not making me feel like a crazy person as I’m trying to do this thing- to be who I am. I hope you get to do this in your lives too,” she imparted as a farewell to the blissed-out fans. As I floated out into the warm, bright night of Larimer Street, I felt a powerful gratitude for getting to share a space with an artist who feels so deeply and keeps having the courage to share her music and her truth.


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Herbie Hancock makes magic at Denver Botanic Gardens

Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath

It had already been one of the weirdest days of my life when I plopped down on my own little postage stamp of Denver Botanic Gardens territory to enjoy what I had hoped would be a funky and fun night of music with Herbie Hancock. And while the show was, at times, both funky and fun- what I got in the end was a complete “rearrangement” of both my ears and my brain.

After making their way to the DBG stage, Herbie and his band shushed the appreciative DBG crowd in a long moment of silence. There was no assignment, no ask of the crowd, other than to feel the power of quiet amongst thousands of DBG’s collection of music fans and white wine drinkers. For me, the silence begged consideration of the events that had transpired in the days before: hostile white torch-bearing men, bigotry and hatred rending our country apart at the seams.

Then, quietly, the magic of Herbie Hancock and his band of amazing musicians crept into the silence, in the form of the opening “Overture,” moving from the exquisite quiet to a fully psychedelic funk cacophony. Hancock wove a spell of sound over the audience that held throughout the 2-hour set.

His diverse and excellent musicians, grounded on the drums by the incomparable Vinnie Colaiuta (of Frank Zappa fame), buoyed the 77-year old master through a diverse set of music that included some of his most well-known material like “Canteloupe Island” and the encore “Chameleon” that had the DBG crowd off their blankets and shaking their booties.

Herbie Hancock’s Denver Botanic Garden’s show dramatically elevated my mood, blew the cobwebs out of my brain, and left me with a huge grin and the deep gratitude of witnessing a grand master share his powers.


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KOLARS Shines, Surprises at Larimer Lounge

Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath

I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff go down onstage at the Larimer Lounge, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen something on any rock stage that is truly surprising. Friday night with KOLARS changed that.

Musically, the band is a tight two-piece that alternately evokes The Kills and Bruce Springsteen. But KOLARS has a legit shtick: rather than sitting behind a kit, drummer Lauren Brown stands. On top of a bass drum. And tap dances. “She’s a badass!” crowed the North Carolinian truck driver next to me who had randomly chosen the Larimer as his music fix for the evening.

On top of the mesmerizing tap dancing drummer, KOLARS sparkles- visually and sonically. Singer Rob Kolars has a smoky-eyed sexiness that nicely suits his front man persona. And his powerfully kinetic, gorgeous drummer Lauren- is also his wife, bedecked in a mirror covered dress and equally dazzling smile.

KOLARS set featured infectious, driving rock songs that veered between a post-Goth Echo & The Bunnymen vibe of “Turn out the Lights” to the infectious disco groove of “Dizzy.” And just when I thought I had them figured out, KOLARS surprised again with the chugging train of “One More Thrill,” reminiscent of Springsteen’s “Working on the Highway.”

It’s hard not to cheer for a sexy, married creative partnership like Rob and Lauren’s- especially when the music is as inventive and fun as what KOLARS is making.


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Japan’s Guitar Wolf turns Denver’s Moon Room into Den of Fun

Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Molly McGrath

There’s no better way to transition out of the strange patriotism and embarrassment  Fourth of July entails than immersing yourself in a wild punk show, and when Seiji of the Japanese rock band Guitar Wolf came out on stage in a Godzilla mask and immediately wrapped both hands around my neck in a mock choking, I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical wild punk show.

Guitar Wolf played the 5th of July to a rowdy crowd at the Moon Room inside the Summit Music Hall. Japan’s greatest “Jet” rock band took the stage wearing dinosaur masks, as they are on the “T-Rex From A Tiny Space Yojouhan” tour. Frontman Seiji immediately chugged a PBR through the mask (hard to say how much actually went into his mouth) as the crowd went wild. They played a set filled with upbeat, fast tempo punk songs as the audience danced and moshed. Guitar Wolf engages the crowd in countless ways including pulling an unsuspecting audience member named Bill onstage to play guitar in the place of Seiji, while he crowd surfed. The Guitar Wolf set ended with an entire band and audience drenched in sweat, everyone having the time of their life.

Guitar Wolf plays the Moon Room Denver, 7/5/17. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com

Before Guitar Wolf blew the audience away with their chaotic punk set, a polarly different band took the stage. Four piece band Isaac Rother & the Phantoms have the look of the Munster Family, but play a balanced mix of psychobilly, blues and surf- kind of like if the Cramps had a baby with Dr. John. The Phantoms setlist featured lots of old-school horror themed songs, complemented by the mystical, spooky and surfy dance moves of back up singer Tatiana Sandate. Isaac Rother & the Phantoms are one of the most perfectly danceable bands I have ever seen live, and served as a great juxtaposition to the blast of punk noise that followed in Guitar Wolf’s set.

But before either touring bands hit the stage, locals Poison Rites warmed the Moon Room with big sound and enthusiasm]. “Were from down the street”, explained frontman Reed Wolf , ahead of a set of heavy punk songs and hype for the Guitar Wolf set that would follow. The band played a quick but impressive set, and even shared stories about all the work they did to get on the bill for that show. Overall, Guitar Wolf at the Moon Room was a high energy show, filled with jarring and joyous surprises.


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Le Butcherettes light up Fillmore ahead of At the Drive-In

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Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath

I’m supposed to write a review of last week’s At The Drive-In show at the Fillmore, but I’m not going to do that, because, Le Butcherettes.

Because the raw, dramatic power of Le Butcherettes woke me up like a sparkplug to the brain. Because the minute that Teri Gender Bender, daughter of Denver and Mexico, hit the stage- I was entirely transfixed by the howling, growling and hair flinging. Because Le Butcherettes channel a raw rock and roll rage a la Iggy and the Stooges- tinged with the feminist art edginess of warrior women like Yoko Ono, PJ Harvey, and Nina Hagen. 

Le Butcherettes opens for At the Drive-In, the Fillmore, Denver, 6/15/17. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com

Le Butcherettes surprised me and made me pay attention. Musically- Gender Bender, on vocals, guitars and keys, and her bandmates, drummer Alejandra Robles Luna and bassist Riko Rodríguez-López- venture across a wide and challenging territory ranging from punk to pop, with a dash of indie/art rock sensibility.

As her chosen name suggests, Teri Gender Bender is actively challenging norms: her performance is suffused with both a howling feminist power and a frank, in-your-face sexiness. She tears away her military jumpsuit to reveal a clingy red dress and heels. She dares you to find her sexy and then tears at her hair and red-streaked face, howling like a banshee.

Le Butcherettes’ brief, challenging, and intense opening set was a revelation to me- and a fascinating feminist counterpoint to the hyper-masculine, slightly unhinged, aggressively physical post-hardcore roar of At the Drive-In. Can’t wait to see Le Butcherettes back in Denver, owning their own stage.


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Brian Setzer keeps his Rockabilly cool at Arvada Center

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Photo by Michael McGrath, story by Amy McGrath

To listen to “Stray Cat Strut” is to climb into a personal time machine. There I am, an early 1980’s middle school version of myself, laying on my bed, chewing gum and gazing at a centerfold poster ripped from the pages of Tiger Beat magazine. The cuffed t-shirt, the tattoos, the sneer, that perfect pompadour…. Brian Setzer was my first in a long line of bad boy crushes. It was an enduring pubescent fantasy of mine that Brian would roll up to the front of my middle school, Triumph engine roaring, sweep me onto the back of his bike and rescue me from the many indignities and down-right uncoolness of middle school.

Here I am, the arguably wiser middle-aged mom version of myself, enjoying a lovely early summer evening in Arvada, gazing again at this more refined, and yes- older version of the very same man. Brian has transitioned nicely from bad boy heart-throb to elegant statesman of rockabilly. At the core of this transition, as much as his enduring cool, is his undeniable showmanship and hard-won guitar prowess.

Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot rolled into the Arvada Center Monday with all the trimmings: classic guitars and warm sounding vintage amps, archetypal tattoo imagery, well-coiffed women in their best pin-up finery. The show marked a down-sized but cranked-up return to rockabilly for Setzer, whose career over the last few decades has been connected with a swing/big-band revival in front of the The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Setzer’s set featured both the greatest hits of the Stray Cats along with a smattering of other rockabilly standards. Fan favorites “Rumble in Brighton” and “Rock this Town” had the Arvada Center crowd on its feet singing every word. Setzer’s capable backing band also shined during more subtle moments, like the gorgeous instrumental “Blue Moon” interlude, showcasing his outstanding, Les Paul-influenced guitar work.

Setzer’s 40+ years in the music business is a testament to the his ability to successfully navigate the transition from teen idol to rock icon. And even though his tattoos were hidden under a tailored pin-striped suit, and his punk rock sneer has faded into a more savvy showmanship, “Stray Cat Strut” still gave me the same flutters in my belly that I first experienced as a rebel boy obsessed pre-teen.

Editor’s note: Michael took lots of great photos of Brian Setzer at the Arvada Center. The one you see here was the only one approved for publication by his management. We’re not sure why…. we thought he looked great!!


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Black Marble moody and magical at Lost Lake

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Black Marble plays Lost Lake on 5/27/17. Photo by Molly McGrath, denverthread.com

Story and Photos by Molly McGrath

Moody electronica band Black Marble packed the sold-out Lost Lake on Saturday, May 27th. The synth and bass duo from New York had Denver followers waiting long and hard, as it was their first time playing in Denver. Touring in support of their new album It’s Immaterial, the band attracted goths and hipsters alike, as the melancholy yet danceable songs provided an deeply pleasant listening experience.

Voight plays Lost Lake on 5/27/17. Photo by Molly McGrath, denverthread.com

Denver’s two piece darkwave/ noise band Voight kicked off the night. They filled the room with a thick smoke, complete with fluorescent back lighting. Their music contained elements of Psych Rock, Electronica, and Darkwave and was reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers. Voight’s set was extremely eerie, and gave the audience a sense of total mystery about what the rest of the show had to offer. However, Draa, four young men from Phoenix (on tour with Black Marble) differed greatly from this, providing a perfect transition to the headliner. Draa’s sound had lots of Psych Rock influences, and was for the most part, extremely joyous. Imagine you are the star in a Sundance film, driving in a yellow convertible down the coast of Oregon, everything is green and there are little flowers in the tall grass. It makes sense that Draa is playing on the radio, because it is such happy and tranquil music.

Draa plays Lost Lake on 5/27/17. Photo by Molly McGrath, denverthread.com

Finally the long awaited Black Marble appeared and played songs from both of their studio albums. The band’s synthy nature had the full crowd dancing throughout the night. The man next to me even cried several times. They encored with Iron Lung, a single from their recent release, It’s Immaterial. Overall, Black Marble brought a juxtaposing (extremely melancholy, yet soothing) energy to the Lost Lake.


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Denver rap phenom Trev Rich brings the noise to Greeley’s Moxi Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Recent Cash Money signee Trev Rich and his Denver crew led an all-out takeover of Greeley’s Moxi Theater on Saturday, June 3rd.


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Beer beats weed at Denver’s Project Pabst

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Photos by Michael McGrath, story by Amy McGrath

What happens when a big music festival is sponsored by a major beer manufacturer in a city that’s become one of the international hubs of legal marijuana? In the case of Denver’s Project Pabst, beer culture wins.

The security screening for this festival was the most stringent of any in recent memory. If security is on the hunt for guns and weapons to protect festival-goers, that’s certainly appreciated. But I stood near the entrance on Saturday and watched countless patrons be turned back at the gates for having marijuana in their bags. Later, during Twin Peaks stoney and super-fun set, the band encouraged the audience to light up in their honor…. but few seemed to have weed to light, and if they did light up, security pounced quickly, even deep into the crowd. At least when Project Pabst is in town, it appears that beer culture still beats weed culture.

Ice Cube plays at Project Pabst Denver, 2017. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com.

Project Pabst brought a strong lineup to its Larimer Street/RiNo street party for the second year in a row, including festival headliner Ice-Cube. Twin Peaks, Phantogram, Danny Brown and Kurt Vile all contributed strong sets to the diverse lineup. We were looking forward to catching a mid-afternoon main stage set from Chicago hip-hop poet No Name but were disappointed to find out she had pulled out of the lineup shortly before the festival, replaced by Denver math-rock outfit Montoneros.

Though the main stage lineup was strong (especially Vile’s dreamy sunset vibes), our favorite sets of the day were found in more intimate environs, on the lovely, sun and art drenched Meadowlark patio, and inside the dark, beer drenched Larimer Lounge. Young Denver trumpet/funk master Wesley Watkins led his project Other Black through a beaming, effervescent set of funked up soul to a joyous crowd at the mid-afternoon Meadowlark.

Kurt Ottaway, longtime powerhouse on the Denver music scene (Overcasters, Tarmints, Twice Wilted) prowled the tiny Larimer Lounge stage out front the excellent Emerald Siam in their pumped-up set of darkly sonic pysch-rock. And providing an interesting sonic counterpoint to the Ice Cube mainstage festival set happening just outside, Denver’s Flaural lit up the Larimer with their substantial but sunny psychedelia.

Other Black plays at Project Pabst Denver, 2017. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com.

The diverse lineup and inside/outside offerings meant even older Denver music fans, aghast at how the once gritty side of Larimer street has become a highly decorated, homogenous hipster playground, could find something to love at Denver’s Project Pabst- even if they still couldn’t find the weed.

Emerald Siam plays at Project Pabst Denver, 2017. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com.


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