Category Archives: In Denver Live

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Bob Mould Lights Up the Oriental Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Billy Thieme

After decades of almost no stage banter or commentary, Bob Mould had some things to say to a near-packed house at the Oriental last Saturday night, both in and in-between songs. The ‘80s/’90s influential punk rocker cut a slim, professional figure, alone on that large stage save for his guitar, amp stacks, and a mic stand, as he belted out a litany of songs from his history – more Hüsker Dü songs than I expected (a great thing), plenty of Sugar pieces, and many from his solo records.

Mould has always made an unforgettable – and unmistakable – use of his unique voice, nasal and powerful, threading often indiscernible lyrics through impossibly fast and razor-sharp power chords, and Saturday’s show was no different. Starting the show with “Hoover Dam,” “Your Favorite Thing,” and a searing “I Apologize,” he quickly riled up an already excited audience. Despite the rows of chairs set up in the pit area, most down at the stage chose to stand once the tunes kicked off – understandably.

The rocking continued through “See A Little Light,” “The End of Things,” “You Say You,” and a few others, as Mould thrashed his Fender, stalking from one side of the stage to the other, clearly in a music-borne ecstasy. He slowed things down a bit with “Lonely Afternoon” and “Sinners and Their Repentances,” from Workbook – one of his earlier solo records – almost crooning over the complex chord progressions.

He closed out the set after nearly 90 minutes with a set of Sugar and Hüsker Dü favorites: “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” the beautifully maudlin “Hardly Getting Over It,” “Flip Your Wig,” and the masterpiece, “Celebrated Summer.” By this time the majority of the audience were on their feet, screaming for more. And Bob delivered with a three-song encore including “In A Free Land,” “Daddy’s Favorite,” and “Black Confetti.”

Saturday night’s show was the first of a solo US tour for Mould that wraps up at the end of April. Judging by that performance, each show will be an unforgettable experience.

Denver trio Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart opened the show with a set of moving, dark country gothic that recalled local ghoul Munley. Thomas played acoustic guitar alongside fellow member of The Knew, Tyler Breuer, on steel guitar and Jen GaNun on harpsichord. His guttural yet smooth voice let out ballads about heartbreak, landscapes,  devils, and lovers, well-matched by the folky constructions.


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A Garden of Surprising Delights at the Marquis Theater

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Photos by Sandisz Thieme, Story by Molly McGrath

Something about the energy of the Garden as they played the Marquis last Tuesday was shocking and innovative, chaos in its best form. The Marquis lineup was one of the strangest, most innovative lineups I’ve ever seen; The Garden, Fat Tony and Loretta Kill all highlighted each other in a strange, puzzle-esque way.

The Garden, two androgynous model twin brothers (Fletcher and Wyatt Shears) from Orange County, California are the founders of what they call the “Vada Vada,”  genre (as well as a state of being) the defies all set binaries and puts a twist on traditional punk and electronica. Over the years, their music has transformed from minute long punk ballads about simple and everyday things, to complex beat driven songs following narratives of their life in “the Vadaverse.”

The Garden opened the show with the title track of their new album “U Want The Scoop?” and as soon as the band began to play, the audience began dancing, moshing, and singing along. From somersaults to strange hand gestures, the comical side of the Garden’s music is brought to life on stage, including their personal interactions with the audience- shaking the hands of every person in the front row and allowing audience members to sing the catchy choruses into the microphone.

The Garden’s performance however, greatly contrasted that of Fat Tony’s. Although high levels of energy remained throughout the night, Fat Tony brought a very different vibe to the room. The Nigerian-American rapper from Houston had many members of the audience dancing as he sung, rapped, and occasionally screamed the lyrics to his songs.

But even before Fat Tony took the stage with his  R&B influenced hip-hop vibes, locals Loretta Kill took the stage. Their music, loud, punky and danceable, had the members of the teenage audience bobbing their head along. Some members of the audience, like myself, danced vigorously through their full set. Eli Lancaster of Loretta Kill described the night as the strangest lineup he has ever seen, yet the most fun he’s ever had playing a show, and I totally agree with him.


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Tinariwen Come in From the Desert to Play The Oriental Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Taureg guitar band Tinariwen delighted a near-packed Oriental Theater with their unique blend of blues, psychedelic guitars, and rhythms often reminiscent of a slow, majestic plodding across hot dunes, camels in tow as night falls. The band was promoting its eighth international release, Elwan (Elephants), the latest product of 20 years of global popularity. Touring the US, Tinariwen were far from their remarkably dangerous home in northern Mali – and the music on the new album reflects that harsh environment. They usually sang in their native language – so I’m hard-pressed to identify any songs – but they were all beautifully sad, or jubilant, or sweepingly poetic, and all were drenched in a beautiful combination of Middle Eastern folk and (I swear) Grateful Dead-influenced guitar meandering.

Dressed in traditional desert clothing – beautifully ornate and covering nearly 100% of their bodies, the band members made me feel stuffy and hot – but they played on brilliantly for more than an hour, as the semi-packed pit danced and clapped in rhythm. These nomads definitely have established their American fanbase, and they’re passionately committed to the band, as much as the band is committed to them – which was obvious throughout the night.

Dengue Fever opened the evening with their unique blend of Cambodian rock, surf, Afro grooves, and psychedelic jazz, bringing the level of the theater up in short order.

 

 


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Foxygen breathes new air into Gothic Theatre

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Foxygen brought its big, high-energy show to the Gothic Theatre on Tuesday in support of their 2017 release, Hang. 


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With a New Record, Japandroids Brings their Ecstatic Rock to The Gothic March 7th

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If you’re familiar with Japandroids, you don’t need any encouragement to get to the Gothic Theatre next Tuesday night to catch their infectious, ecstatic music. You already know that this duo sounds like an orchestra, exploding from speakers & stage with huge drum and guitar sounds, channeling as much Bruce Springsteen at his prime as The Alarm, The Gun Club, and epic obscurities like Squirrel Bait.

So much more than your typical garage-rock duo, guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse wield an anthemic onslaught that could fill stadiums, let alone smaller venues like The Gothic, and they pack each one with an abandon that explodes with passion like no other offering in Rock. Since they busted out of Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2006, the duo have developed an inimitable style, sharing passionately howling vocals, singing about the ecstasy of youth, partying, happiness, and the full-on beauty of life. Unbound, each song raises your blood pressure and optimism at the same time, while forcing you to thrust a fist in the air in triumph – regardless of the day you’re having.

Their latest release, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, dropped in late January, and is destined only to add more to their prowess – and their live performance promises to be unforgettable. Don’t miss their show at The Gothic on Tuesday, March 7 – doors at 8:00 p.m., show begins at 9:00 with openers Craig Finn and the Uptown Controllers (a spinoff of Finn’s The Hold Steady–also a great bet). In the meantime, check out the title track from Japandroids’ latest, below.


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Mykki Blanco & Cakes da Killa at Lost Lake

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Photos: Sandisz Thieme, Sanjana Stein

While Lost Lake has seen its share of excellent rock, rap, soul, and other acts, I kinda doubt the still-fresh venue has seen anything quite like the recent Stunt Queen Tour, featuring Mykki Blanco and Cakes da Killa. In front of a packed 16+ house, Blanco filled the night with her own brand of hardcore-styled, fluid-gender rap/performance art, after Cakes da Killa kept the crowd warmed up and hyped.

Blanco played a set a little heavy with material from her latest, “Mykki,” but didn’t fail to play earlier material from “Gay Dog Food” as well. The all-ages crowd ate it all up, constantly and sweatily pogo-ing, jerking, and slamming in front of the low stage, while Blanco furiously spat out tomes about our fucked-up world in punk influenced raps. At one point she belted out some acapella musings that almost sounded more like poetry slam than rap.

The audience was there for two reasons: the music and Blanco’s strong, beautiful personality – and they got what they came for. She ensured the younger crowd that they were in for it because it’s not every day that they’d get to see art explode into life like this, right in front of them. Too often lumped into the  NYC gay rap “bucket,” Blanco actually has more in common with Andy Warhol’s Factory and the Riot Grrrl movements, and she excels at standing out. Not just because she’s often in drag – she wore an impressive long black wig for most of the performance, and a leopard-skin-textured mini skirt as well – but because her attitude is constantly in-your-face, aggressive, provocative, and extremely intelligent.

Unwilling to be confined to the small, constantly red-it stage, Blanco migrated at one point through the crowd to take a spot on top of the bar on the other side of the lounge, drawing half the crowd into the much smaller room along with her. The fact that most of the crowd was under 21 was a sign, too – music has no age limit or preference, and Blanco is fully on board with all-ages shows. Two visits ago, in fact, Blanco played at Rhinoceropolis – the legendary all-ages DIY venue – and loved it.


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Edison Plays Our Hearts Out at The Bluebird

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All Photos: Sandisz Thieme for DenverThread

Above all, it was Sara Slaton’s voice, softly, confidently thundering over Dustin Morris and Maxwell Hughes’ strings, sticks, horns, and skins that left an indelible mark on the Bluebird audience Sunday night.  It’s undoubtedly this layered canyon wall of sound that’s leaving that same mark on Denver’s continually exploding scene.

Particularly poignant was their version of “Open Road,” an upbeat, traveling tune that  Slaton called “… a love song for our van.” Maybe among the most of the folky tunes of the night. this one recalled a sort of Edward Sharpe vibe, just bigger and less hippy. When Edison broke out on the Denver scene, Slaton’s vocals and Morris’s multi-instrumentalism more than hinted at a huge thing – equally echoing the intimate bedroom of Bon Iver or Iron & Wine. The addition of Maxwell Hughes’ (formerly part of Denver’s Lumineers) strong symphonic skills and brilliant guitar work pushes Edison near the often heady and atmospheric realms of shoegaze, and grounds their folk sound with just a soupcon of The Head and the Heart as they easily – and masterfully – grasp a noisier Fleetwood Mac.

The highlight of their set was definitely the war cry “Civil War,” showing Slaton’s fierce passionate voice and the bombastic rhythms of her bandmates, attempting to grasp her from the maelstrom of a changing relationship, in the midst of a changing life. The audience screamed the chorus along with Slaton again, and again, and again – adding to the spiritual fracas.

While it’s certainly no surprise to see yet another strong trio come out of Denver’s collaborative scene, Edison promises to be one of the biggest in a little while, it seems. And with bands like Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats in that pedigree, that’s saying no small thing. Edison’s sound is huge, new, exciting – folky, yet concrete; whimsical, yet eons deep (mostly due to Slater’s haunting and full vocals). Ready to add another notch to Denver’s musical belt?


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Everybody Can Pussy Riot

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A night with Maria Alyokhina and Alexandra Bogino of Pussy Riot

By Isobel Thieme

“Don’t you know that a wall has two sides and nobody is free?” – Pussy Riot in their EP xxx

Members of Pussy Riot spoke on a panel at the Oriental Theater, moderated by local journalists Bree Davies and Ru Johnson.

Pussy is a word I’ve seen and heard quite a lot lately, how it is “grabbed” and how it “grabs back,” for example. And now, Pussy Riots.

While I walked around the block-long line of people on Tennyson on my way into the Pussy Riot panel held at the Oriental Theater recently, I was happy to see so many women lining up – I don’t know about you, but I could use some girl power these days.

Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time.

The inside of The Oriental seemed to ring with a certain sense of desperation–but not the kind we feel when we’re simply waiting in the crowd for the lights to dim, the band to come on stage, and the music to start. It was heavier, characterized by a need, a cry for help. The last few weeks in the US have opened up the floodgates for so many questions and uncertainties about our country’s government–in my case, anyway–and here we were presented with the chance to hear from two women who have helped to start a vital conversation around the government in their own country of Russia. Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time. What could we learn from these women who have dedicated their lives to activism? To changing an outdated patriarchal, corrupt system – through music, nonetheless? I, and I think many others, took Masha and Sasha’s visit as an opportunity to listen and learn how best to move forward in our own situation.

Feminist Punk Rock Protest – and more

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

The female warriors who are Pussy Riot are often armed with bright neon dresses, tights, and balaclavas, their loud musical instruments, and their refusal to be quiet. Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow, known for their intentionally disruptive performances in public spaces. Specifically, they broke through US media for their performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for which two original members were arrested for “hooliganism” and imprisoned for two years afterward.

In every way, Pussy Riot demands to be recognized.

As a band, Pussy Riot is inspired by other punk, thought-provoking, music makers, like Angelic Upstarts and Bikini Kill. But, in truth, there is no band out there quite like Pussy Riot. Their creation stems from an oppressive and patriarchal dictatorship which violently condemns any form of political resistance. Sasha told us that those who live in Russia can easily be put into prison for political opinions they might post on Facebook (imagine how many more new babies, kittens, and reports of bagel-eating we would see if that was the case in the US).

As we know, social media is an incredible platform for activism and social justice, albeit an easy, incomplete platform – as one can be an ‘activist’ anywhere from an airplane to their own toilet. But Pussy Riot saw the dormancy of social media for social justice. Beyond that, Sasha talked to us about the fact that the authorities in Russia don’t see sanctioned rallies as a threat to their power, so they simply ignore them. Any voices that come out of those kinds of rallies or protests go more or less unheard by the government. So, the rallies and performances which are not sanctioned are an essential piece to the Pussy Riot movement.

They’re disruptive, unsolicited, and absolutely demand attention

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

Pussy Riot knows how to be heard by the audiences they are targeting, simply because they don’t have any other choice but to be loud. The kind of performance art they participate in is intrinsically disruptive, it’s unsolicited, and it absolutely demands attention. Not only that, but it’s provocative. The name of their movement was inspired by wanting to make those who heard, spoke, or wrote about them feel uncomfortable, just by having to use the word “pussy.” These warriors are fearless – they are constantly pushing beyond the boundaries which are built around them with feminism, activism, and progression in mind.

It was amazing to hear these women talk about how they have actively participated in developing a cultural shift in their country that could allow for sexual equality, the proper treatment of LGBTQ+ people and women in Russia, how they have redefined protest for themselves, how they have learned about the power of community. Pussy Riot is a special example of not just talking the talk but walking the walk. They don’t simply talk or argue about the ways in which they are oppressed by their culture and government, but they are actually doing something about it. Something real and something tangible.

“Every person has a choice, every choice is important, and if you choose to stay aside, you’re giving away an opportunity for action. So ACT.” – Maria Alyokhina

It’s easy to sit aside and watch, to scroll, like, comment, share, and retweet in this electronic bubble we’ve blown for ourselves, that is a given (like I said, you can be an activist from the comfort of your own toilet), but what choice are we really making when we do only that? Masha and Sasha both encourage the use of protest and street riots because “you see the eyes of people who are with you,” which can only work to fuel the fires of progression when and where we feel it is needed.

Truly, We all should Pussy Riot

As a young woman, it felt inspiring and rejuvenating for me to watch the way these women have taken control of their country’s situation in their own way—how they have harnessed the power inside themselves and from their community to call for change. Masha and Sasha’s story–and their presence–offered us incredible advice while we take our turn to call for our own change. We ought to refuse to be quiet about the things we believe in, we all ought to Pussy Riot.


Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.


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Pussy Riot–A Wake Up Call for American Women

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By Molly McGrath

Let me start off by saying that American women just can’t relate to Pussy Riot.

Most American women have never served time in brutal Russian prisons or Serbian workcamps. Most American women don’t have to worry about the police coming into their house and quite literally stealing their belongings. Most American women are not being denied their rights by both the head of their country and the leader of their nation’s supposed religion.

What do we really know about Russian women?

I usually try not to jump to conclusions but would say that most of the women lined up to see original member Maria Alyokhina and more recent member (and journalist) Alexandra Bogino of the Russian punk rock protest group were not members of the Orthodox Church. Chances are, they were probably not even Russian. Ever since the cold war, Russia and America have been extremely disconnected. Before Pusssy Riot, American women were hardly aware of the situation for women in Russia. Knowing this is extremely important, because these activist women opened up a new window, allowing people all over the world to see what’s really happening to women in Russia.

My best friend, a 16-year-old daughter of a Russian Immigrant, has been raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and we’ve discussed thoughts about Russian protest art several times. A huge fan of Pussy Riot, she says that the act is more influential in America than in Russia and that it actually created fear for many people in the Orthodox community. Russia has undergone two major revolutions in the last century (the Bolshevik Revolution at the beginning, and the falling of the Soviet Union towards the end) and the idea of another revolution is terrifying.

“Think about if you, a white woman, entered a Mosque and disrupted someone’s worship–that would make you a bad person,” she once said to me. Although that is true, I, as a white woman, am not forced into a Mosque the same way that Women in Russia are forced in the church. I am also not directly affected by the actions of Islam, whereas in Russia the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is petitioning to ban all forms of abortion throughout the entire country.

The 2016 American Election

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

In the provocative panel discussion, held at the Oriental Theater and moderated by Denver-based journalists Ru Johnson and Bree Davies, there was plenty of talk about the recent American election. Many American women are in fear after Donald Trump was elected, a man with bigoted ideals and allegations of sexual assault piling up in the double digits. One of the members of Pussy Riot even apologized for the results of our election. They also pointed out that the difference between Russia and America, however, is that Americans are still protected under the constitution and its checks and balances, a document which allows people to take serious political action, and cause serious political change. 

When asked for tips to deal with a bigot for a president, both women stated how important it is to exercise all of your constitutional rights. They added that if you are not exercising those rights–if you stay silent and sulk or don’t vote–you are ruining the country for the rest of the people who are ready to take action.

Pussy Riot held court and schooled us all

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Pussy Riot has essentially shocked some American women into a deeper understanding of their own privilege–thankfully. After the show, I spoke panel moderator Bree Davies, and she told me that, as a journalist, her pay over the past several years had been cut nearly in half. She added that her struggle–as a woman in America working a job she loves for a low wage–is comparatively nothing when held next to the struggle of women in Russia. So many of them aren’t able to work jobs they love at all, and are often paid far less than their counterparts in America.

What all of the American women present that night (hopefully) learned is how important it is to take action when you have the ability. And how important it is to stand up for people who enjoy less rights than themselves. Hopefully they all learned how important it is that–across the globe–people continue to fight for their civil rights, no matter the costs.

If Pussy Riot members can serve in Serbian work camps as a sacrifice for the rights of women in Russia, what is stopping American women from rioting and creating political art hers, daily? There is a lot that American women can learn from Pussy Riot–the big thing is to take action.


Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.


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Aldous Harding – from New Zealand – Righteously Steals The Gothic

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On first listen, alt-folk whirlwind Aldous Harding‘s style seems run-of-the-mill, in the style of Sandy Denny, Joan Baez, or Joanna Newsome, or pastoral Nick Drake, with lilting vocals, strumming acoustic, and little else but an occasional bowing saw, or flute. Witnessed in person, the music becomes sinister–yet inviting, hauntingly painful, and smoldering.

Recently introduced to the wide world from New Zealand, the diminutive Harding sang with the lilt of a giant – or a squadron of them – at The Gothic Theatre last Tuesday night. Filling one of two warm-up slots for Atlanta indie perennials Deerhunter, she and her accompanying pianist (and life partner) Marlon Williams  promptly stole any extra energy from the venue before the Deerhunter even began a final soundcheck.

First Intro to US Audiences

The Harding the US is seeing onstage for the first time this year is anything but pedestrian, and even calling her music alt-folk is an undersell. Musically, her folk approaches centuries-old parochial ballads that might be heard at today Scottish festivals, or in between bloody Game of Thrones vignettes. But they come from an even more sinister, deeply dramatic origin – one that feels proto-gothic. Harding’s stage presence enhances the terror, the passion, the psychosis that one might imagine could be behind such perfect gems – especially if that listener were raised on slasher movies, true crime novels and serial killer bios.

At her most tame, Harding held the intensity of PJ Harvey onstage – minimalist, yet explosive – but these were only a few seconds at a time. Most of the time, she glared at the audience – or some threatening alter-audience only she saw beneath the glare of the stage lights – with facial gesticulations that ranged from mild distaste to abject pain. She would traverse emotions from frustrated boredom to legitimate disdain, and then to outright disgust, seemingly from a terrified, abused foundation. The glares contrasted beautifully with her voice – at once sultry and smokey, and wholesome and throaty, in the style of Victoria LeGrande, or Nico.

Circulating beneath that warbling croon was a constant nervousness, a level of fear that seemed to make Harding mouth disparate consonants and vowels with the same vitriol and discomfort as she revealed difficult feelings and experiences, or nightmares. Her irascible stare, wide mouth, and huge expressive eyes also recalled a young Patti Smith, albeit on an interesting mixture of barbiturates and speed.

A Masterpiece Cover of “Crying”

The duo’s second-to-last song was a cover of Roy Orbison‘s legendary “Crying,” and no better-fitting juxtapositional anthem could ever have been picked. This staged version encompassed and magnified every ounce of Rebekah Del Rio‘s nightmarish version–“Llorando”–from the Hispanic theater in David Lynch‘s “Mulholland Drive.” Dripping with every level of psychotic longing, every ounce of abject fear of total loss of control that Del Rio imbued into the masterpiece, Harding’s version also embraced all of the overdriven, suicidal heartbreak implicit in Orbison’s masterpiece. Harding belted out the tearful lament in a huge, infinitely ominous way that belied her slight frame, and absolutely killed the audience.

She finished with “Horizon,” a beautiful, anthemic curse of a song. Harding’s best of the night enveloped the existential anathema of choice at the millisecond one alights on a razor’s edge between existence and oblivion. The angst was anchored by nothing more than Harding’s intense poetry and some fist-heavy chords on the keyboard. As she literally served the audience with the choice between our princess and our horizon, there was almost a sense that she felt the need to check her hands, to make sure the warm, sticky blood of choice had really fallen off. This is how real the angst and joy in Harding’s music is, and  – if “Horizon” is any indication – it’s an intensity that will be enjoyed, influential, and resonating for a while. It’s just starting now.

Consider yourself lucky to have witnessed it, if you have, or make every attempt to get in front of Harding. It’s just starting now.

 


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Dinosaur Jr. Owns/Destroys the Bluebird – and Your Ears

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When the stagehand started walking across the Bluebird stage last Tuesday night carrying a plastic bag and handing out bright orange foam earplugs (at first I thought he was passing out baby carrots – strange) to everyone in the pit, I purposely didn’t take a pair. I’d been in the audience for My Bloody Valentine’s epic (and stupidly loud) “You Made Me Realise,” along with its endless, jet engine noise. I’d been a veteran of the ’90s when The Flaming Lips were known as the “loudest band in the world.” I’d been in many SWANS audiences, perhaps the most violently loud, controlled and painful assault of all. And there had been umpteen hardcore shows throughout the ’80s, from Black Flag to Minor Threat, to Bad Brains, to your buddies’ band that formed in the garage for a week while his parents were out of town – and all of these turned up well past 11. A seasoned atomic volume sound vet, I figured “I don’t need no stinkin’ earplugs!” Besides, this would be my first time seeing my heroes – J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph – together in Dinosaur Jr. – and I didn’t want anything to feel left out.

I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Earplugs!

I don’t regret not taking the earplugs–at all. But I will say I only lasted in the pit for about 3 songs before retreating to the relative sonic safety of the bar in the back. Shows always sound better back there, anyway. And this was one show I really wanted to take in – and I’m glad I did.

For some reason, every opportunity I’ve had to see Dinosaur Jr., in the nearly 30 years I’d been listening to them, always fell apart. If they were paying Lolapalooza, We got there too late for their set. If they played at a local venue, I was working nights. And then there was their multi-year hiatus. I’ve seen most of the other bands that Dinosaur Jr. spawned–Folk Implosion, Sebadoh, etc.– and J Mascis on his own, but never the triumvirate. This was a perfect chance to remedy all that missed music.

The Dream Setlist

And Mascis, Murph, and Barlow definitely delivered. Starting off with an explosive, chaotic version of “Bulbs of Passion,” they had the decibel and adrenaline level bursting through the roof in no time. While it wasn’t a chronological progression, their setlist covered a lot of ground, including “The Lung,” from You’re Living All Over Me; “Freak Scene” and “Just Like Heaven” from Bug (and the related EP); “The Wagon” from Green Mind; “Start Choppin'” from Where You Been; “Feel the Pain” from Without a Sound; “Crumble” from Beyond, “Watch the Corners,” from I Bet on Sky, and more from other releases Farm, and the latest Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. the only thing that could have been better would be to have seen them on the second night at the Bluebird as well.

This Historic Trio

This trio was so seminal to the whole ’90s sound, brilliantly mashing up the best rocking bits of Neil Young with the sound sense and guitar wizardry of Sonic Youth, and wrapping that all around Mascis’s disconnected, a-social characters and missed chances, slacker attitude, and overwhelming exhaustion with the weight of growing up. Seeing them in 2016 – a little grayer, or more bald – brought all that back into a beautiful perspective, one that showed me that even the most odious parts of “adulting” can lead to  your own success and art.

Visually, they didn’t appear to have aged at all since the ’90s: Mascis flung his long (now silver) mane around as he played complex, wicked guitar licks at impossible volumes – never missing a beat, and a casual as if he were standing in your kitchen with a beer can in hand, talking about his latest girl-miasma. Murph was a locomotive, pulling tons of beat and exploding the tracks as he pounded a course through all the distortion. Lou Barlow exploded, again and again, a monster – in the Muppet sense – thrashing on every inch of his bass, and wildly flailing over stage left, never stopping for more than a second between songs, and getting lost beneath his mane of black repeatedly.

I’m not sure if earplugs would have deafened any part of the show – but I’m still glad I didn’t stuff ’em in. Missing even the smallest, molecular part of this show would far outweigh any loss in hearing that I don’t already enjoy.


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TitWrench is Essential to Denver – and Beyond (Review)

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By Isobel Thieme, DenverThread Reporter

Inside the lightly marked door, signed GLOB, I found what definitely presented this awesome DIY culture I’ve been hearing so much about. There was a sparkling and open stage-looking space with a dreamy ambience, full of hanging christmas lights. The small room almost gave me the feeling of being in the womb, with its droopy, soft ceiling mixed with the heat coming in from outside. The stage was on the floor, on the same level as the audience, who were sitting in old car-seats, outdoor furniture, desk chairs, and living room furniture. All of it felt collective –like, though I had nothing to do with the development of the space, it was by and for everyone there  They even provided La Croix for refreshment, a relief from the heat.

Essentially Denver

Titwrench was born in 2009 in Denver’s DIY scene, with the intention of celebrating and empowering women and LGBTQIAP artists who are pushing the boundaries of music and art, and to inspire others to do the same. Throughout my entire experience at Titwrench, I saw endless examples of this kind of inspiration and cultivation of a culture celebrating art. The Titwrench collective believes that music should be accessible to all ages, gender identities, and communities.

While Malkah Duprix, a perfect example,  played her bright blue electric guitar, a small girl no older than three or four danced, giggled, jumped, and listened, using the open space as her own musical, magical playground. Live music is too-often not accessible to such young hearts, and Titwrench made it possible.

A little later inside the tiny house stage – another indoor stage constructed inside a tiny house – Star Canyon played ambient underwater wolf goth, a genre I had never heard of until that day (I would come to learn about many new genres before the day ended for me). I would describe it as Bjork-inspired, organic music with antlers and a pulsing heartbeat. It was a huge sound for such a tiny space, which only made us feel it even more.

Beautiful, Experimental, Essential

The Titwrench vibe thrived in this small and intentional space, continuously opening with words of support and reeking wildly, beautifully of burning sage. All kinds of people walked around, tacos in hand, thirsty for music. The close feeling of intimacy the people and space created made the audience a work of art, too, just by being there.

Much of the music we heard was experimental, proof that Titwrench is not only allowing for it, but intentionally creating a cultural  space for women and LGBTQIA people of all ages to experiment musically, emotionally, physically, and personally. It’s hugely important that more spaces like this one are created and sustained, in Denver (maybe in every city). We desperately need more spaces where art is happening, where it’s supported, heard, seen, living, and where it’s accessible to everyone. The creative arts and the people making it deserve that space, and our young minds and spirits need it   


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