Category Archives: National

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Vintage Trouble Heats Up Colorado Springs’ Black Sheep

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Hollywood’s Vintage Trouble brought their high-energy heat to Colorado Springs on a chilly Tuesday night. Do yourself a favor and see this band whenever you have a chance- you won’t be disappointed!


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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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The Shins Shine as if They Were Still Brand-New at Red Rocks

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The Shins play at Red Rocks, October 5, 2017. (Photo: DenverThread)

The Shins play at Red Rocks, October 5, 2017. (Photo: DenverThread)

James Mercer belied his twenty years as the frontman of New Mexico’s The Shins last Thursday night in Morrison in front of a packed Red Rocks amphitheater, showing off their unique pop vitality to the packed amphitheater as if they’d just perfected it. In fact, the entire band showed off what seemed like limitless happiness and energy throughout their nearly two-hour set. But for some wrinkles and a subtle stiffness from time to time, you’d never know that Mercer’s been constantly active in rock for more than two decades.

Keeping up with an unofficial tour tie-in to David Hasselhoff (they covered the theme to “Baywatch” in Oregon recently), the band came out onstage backed by the theme to the ’80s hit tv series “Knight Rider,” and dived right into “Caring is Creepy,” followed right on by “Australia” and “Name for You,” before Mercer addressed the ecstatic crowd. His choice of sustenance had to be pure happiness, because he never stopped grinning all night, and kept his energy level – and the band’s – high and strong.

As they launched into the brilliant “Kissing the Lipless,” the crowd was moving with the band in earnest, screaming every word at the top of so many lungs. After “Mine’s Not a High Horse” things settled somewhat, but only slightly, as Mercer and the band flowed through hits and new songs like “Cherry Hearts,” “Mildenhall,” “Saint Simon,” and “Painting A Hole.”

As the set began to peak, they launched into a medley of “Girl on the Wing” and “Turn a Square,” bookended by the pieces of a cover of The Outfield’s “Your Love,” which seriously re-activated the crowd yet again. Almost perfectly mimicking Tony Lewis’s high-pitched voice, Mercer belted out the first few lines of “Your Love,” and then the band led into the medley, creating a veritable “rock block” for nearly 15 minutes. They wrapped up the main set with emotional, yet refreshing versions of “Phantom Limb” and “Simple Song.”

Before the audience really even had a chance to catch a breath, The Shins were back onstage for an encore that started with “The Fear,” and the popular “New Slang” – truly a highlight of the night. They ended the show with a long, jammy version of “Sleeping Lessons,” which featured a satisfying snippet of the recently deceased Tom Petty’s “American Girl” – no doubt bringing out a few runaway tears and deep sighs in the stands.

Austin iconoclasts and Television aficionados Spoon filled a satisfying opening slot for The Shins, playing their minimalist punky rock while the crowd continued to assemble in the stands, and the sun set behind them. Through tunes like “Inside Out,” “I Ain’t the One,” “Hot Thoughts,” and “Can I Sit Next to You,” they ushered in the excitement early on, a foundation for the rest of the night.


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Ride Charms Denver with Their Howling, Unique version of ’90s Shoegaze

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Photos by Michael McGrath

After a mere 20-year absence from our bustling cowtown with its burgeoning music scene, Ride returned to Denver last Wednesday to play at Summit Music Hall, in front of what must have been close to a sellout crowd. Needless to say, everyone in the audience was more than pleased to see the elusive but hugely influential, four-piece.

When Ride hit the airwaves with their seminal, explosive, and critically acclaimed debut, Nowhere in 1990, they added a level of beautiful legitimacy to the already waning shoegaze genre in Britain. Mostly due to their superior songsmithing skills and mastery of harmonies and melodies, the mop-headed four-piece quickly outdid their noisy competition. Sadly, their run didn’t last – from 1988 through 1995, they were first together less than ten years – but they’d already left an indelible mark on music. Due to a lack of commercial success – or critical acclaim – for their last two albums in that run, things got tense within the band and led to guitarist/vocalist Mark Gardener leaving the band, soon to be followed by vocalist/guitarist Andy Bell, and the band announced their ultimate demise.

First Denver appearance in more than two decades

Happily, they re-grouped in 2014, to the accolades of fans and critics worldwide, and the four-piece made their way to Denver in two decades, playing a somewhat short but ultimately hugely satisfying and exciting set, covering much of that history. If there was any residue of animosity between the band members, they showed no sign of it through the set and played as if they’d never skipped a practice.

The set featured a brilliant mix of old & new

Most of the set was made up of cuts from the new record – Weather Diaries (their first together in 21 years) – beginning with “Lannoy Point,” a signature piece featuring a droning wall of sound and huge, perfect harmonies. They followed with the beautifully rugged “Lateral Alice,” before launching the first from the seminal first LP, Nowhere, with “Seagull.” The set peaked first

The set peaked with the back to back “Dreams Burn Down,” and “Twisterella,” and then again with their huge hit “Vapour Trail,” followed by the droning “Drive Blind,” before they left the stage.

They encored with beautiful versions of “Leave Them All Behind” and “Chelsea Girl,” before leaving the stage for good. After a twenty-year absence, lthis Denver crowd couldn’t have asked for a better gift from Ride – except maybe another visit with much less time in between.


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The Ageless Rock of X on Point at Summit Music Hall

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Photos by Michael McGrath, story by Molly McGrath

Punk is in its forties now, and everyone is celebrating, including LA’s iconic X. On their 40th anniversary tour, X is showing people that age has changed little, as their live performance remains extremely passionate and exhilarating. This tour included all original members of the band: Exene Cervenka, John Doe, DJ Bonebrake, and Billy Zoom. X rocked the Summit Music Hall last Saturday for an excited, age-diverse crowd.

Ahead of X’s return to the Summit stage, Oklahoma City’s Skating Polly provided a set that represented the post-millennial voice of the punk movement. Fronted by 17-year-old Kelli Mayo, the band brings together the eclectic aesthetics of 90’s girl grunge and the chaotic energy of contemporary teenagehood- picture Veruca Salt and Hole having a baby with Darby Crash, but now it’s a teenager and very angry.

X kicked off the set with “Beyond and Back”, and played a  20+ song set representing a variety of their albums. As they played the audience began to push and mosh, and frontwoman Exene Cervenka suggested they “push backwards” to protect people (especially girls) in the front.

Guitarist Billy Zoom, who has recently beat bladder cancer, put on a spectacular show, constantly smiling and making eye contact with members of his audience. Frontman John Doe is essentially ageless. Despite being a man in his sixties, he has the power to create and expend more energy than almost any other artist I’ve seen.

As someone who has grown up on X and loved their music for years, it was an extremely impactful experience to see them live. Exene Cervenka has been one of my idols as a female artist for years, and her performance was radiant. Their show at the Summit reminded me why X is one of the most important American punk bands. Their music, an eclectic combination of punk, blues, and rockabilly, expanded and changed the punk genre, and the lives of so many. It was an amazing experience, and in general, just an extremely impressive set of music.

X is on a limited tour for the rest of September. Check them out!

9/17/2017 / BUFFALO, NY / THE TOWN BALLROOM

9/19/2017 / PORTLAND, ME / THE PORT CITY MUSIC HALL

9/20/2017 / BOSTON, MA / BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL

9/21/2017  / NEW YORK, NY / STAGE48

9/22/2017  /  PHILADELPHIA, PA / UNDERGROUND ARTS

9/23/2017  /  FALLS CHURCH, VA / THE STATE THEATRE

9/25/2017  /  PITTSBURGH, PA / REX THEATER

9/26/2017  /  KENT, OH / THE KENT STAGE

9/27/2017  /  COLUMBUS, OH / SKULLY’S MUSIC DINER


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Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble Brings Sweet Sounds to Lost Lake

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All photos courtesy of Sandisz Thieme for DenverThread.com

If you’re a fan of Stereolab – the ’90s juggernaut of Euro-pop influenced, jazzy, space-age music – then you know Laetitia Sadier. Most familiar as the deeper voice in Stereolab, Sadier always occupied a dominant space in the band, opposite the late Mary Hansen until 2002. With her new band, Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, she’s continuing the tradition of ’60s-based electro-psychedelic pop, though she seems to have softened a bit on the leftist/Marxist themes in her lyricism. With the Source Ensemble, Sadier seemed concerned not so much justice or revolt as with love and freedom – between couples, between enemies – universally. She sang about worlds that could benefit everyone, based on an “Undying Love for Humanity,” which she called out for in the set’s first song.

The new group played on the low, humble stage at Lost Lake last Saturday night for a little over an hour, to a crowd that looked to have likely been at Stereolab, Pavement, Beck, and Flaming Lips shows throughout the late ’90s & early 2000s, and most ageing quite well – albeit none quite as impressively as Sadier. She crooned in front of them, playing a few different guitars throughout the show, often approaching the throatiness of Nico, but always with a smooth strength.

They played much of their debut album, “Find Me Finding You,” showing an even more melodic, heavily acoustic sound than Stereolab. There was almost a slight Brazilian psychedelia feel much of the time, soothing rhythms and lilting melodies backed by thick, groovy keys and pretty guitars. The ensemble felt more like a backing band for Sadier than a full collaboration – which I think benefitted their sound, and Sadier’s vision. Never giving up, Sadier appears to be well on track to continue creating beautiful noises, sounds, and utopian visions – which is both a good and refreshing thing for humanity.


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The Alarm’s Mike Peters brings the Good Fight to the Soiled Dove

Photos by Michael McGrath

The Alarm’s Mike Peters has been a fighter for decades. That fighting spirit has always infused the anthemic music of The Alarm, from the blaring of “68 Guns” to the powerful charge of “Sold Me Down the River.” It’s a good thing that Mike Peters is a fighter; he’s needed every bit of his warrior’s spirit to overcome the challenges of leukemia that has wreaked periodic chaos on his life over the last twenty years- and most recently, the breast cancer fight of Jules, his wife of over 30 years.

Peters brought his irrepressible spirit of resistance to the stage of the Soiled Dove last Tuesday, August 22nd for a celebratory and inspiring set of music. Peters is not shy about his struggles and shared the stories of his resilience with the eager Soiled Dove crowd, along with generating support and awareness for his cancer foundation, Love Hope and Strength. The foundation has a strong Denver presence and can often be found at local shows, swabbing the cheeks of audience members in hopes of finding people who can offer life-saving bone marrow transplants to cancer patients. For more information about Love Hope and Strength, check out their website: https://www.lovehopestrength.org/


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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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Thievery Corporation Slays Red Rocks, as Usual

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Photos by Sandisz Thieme

Last Saturday, I found myself at Morrison’s very own Red Rocks Amphitheater listening to what I thought was the soundtrack to “Hollywood’s Top Ten Drug-Induced-Orgy Scenes.” Just over a week ago, I had never heard of the band I was there to see, Thievery Corporation (so much for suspense, but you read the title), and wasn’t exactly excited to see them. I liked what music I had heard, I was just worried the concert would be a total snore-fest for your average 19 year old millennial, frequenting punk/rap shows with mosh pits (me) and I couldn’t find a plus one (most of my friends are the same sort of aforementioned millennial).

All of that said, I was pleasantly surprised! After a brief weather delay, Thievery Corporation took the stage to play their drug-induced-orgy-soundtrack-type music, which makes for a damned good soundtrack. They played in a number of different languages, spanning a series of genre from reggae to rap to an acoustic/techno sort of thing.

The venue was taken over by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton’s hecka beats, the beautiful voices of Loulou Ghelichkhani, Natalia Clavier, and Frank ‘Booty Lock’ Mitchell and some remarkably sick raps by Mr.Lif, while Jeff Franca took the drums, Ashish Vyas was on bass, and we were even treated to the occasional sitar solo by Rob Myers, plus a few extras now and again on things like trumpet, saxophone and a second drumset with bongos and a xylophone.

The music made for a great night on the rocks and the entire venue was full of love, a little of that dank-kush, and all that good shit, though there was an unsurprising lack of shoes in the audience, as well as on stage (look for photos of Ashish Vyas).


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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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