Tag Archives: denver

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Why The UMS is the Only Festival That Matters

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vinyl-records-945396_1920It’s a pretty bold statement, to be sure. But I’ll stand by it. The UMS – taking place this week from Thursday, July 28 through Sunday, July 31 in over 15 venues on South Broadway and featuring upwards of 400 bands (the vast majority of which are local Denver acts) – is, in fact, the only festival that matters. And here’s why….

I just had the pleasure of taking a class taught by none other than Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore at Boulder’s Naropa University, a part of their famous and influential Summer Writing Program (SWP). The class itself – titled “Rock ‘n Roll Consciousness” – was a mindblowing, bucket-list-kicking, poetic and musical experience I’ll never forget. It was also largely about influences, roots of some of my favorite bands, originators of punk, post punk, and more.

Some of them were poets – Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, T. S. Eliot, Bill Knott, Allen Ginsberg were all major influences for both Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine from Television, and Patti Smith, the central focuses of our class, really – but some of them were records. Not just any records, but records from that quirky, sometimes magical Holy Grail of both new, vital, world-changing music and supremely crappy pop, country, dance, and other music: the “Vinyl Cutout Bin.”

In this digital age, where so many music lovers are unfamiliar with the concept of “listening to an album,” let alone actually owning one, local music scenes, and local shows are effectively the only thing close to the Cutout Bin.

I remember sitting in the class – I myself a few decades older than most of my classmates (well, except Clark Coolidge – a regular teacher and contributor to the SWP since its inception in 1974) – listening to Moore explain to a group made up largely of millennials what a “Cutout Bin” actually was, and grinning nostalgically.

The Cutout Bin = The Holy Grail

So you know, the Cutout Bin was a place that bloated, greedy (and dying) record companies would dump hundreds, even thousands of records that they couldn’t sell, usually in supermarkets, department stores, even record stores, to allow these outlets to sell them at a deep, deep discount (like, ¢.99). For whatever reason, if a label spent the money to record and produce, say, 150,000 copies of some band’s record, and sales came up short, they’d write off the vinyl copies and deliver them to the retailers.

These retailers would usually cut out a corner, or drill a hole in the label, or slice the upper corner of the record, and dump them all into a bin – sometimes hidden in the back side of the electronics section, but just as often even up in the front of the store. Record collectors – mostly teens with very limited access to very limited funds (like myself) – often found these bins the perfect place to discover new music, and build their record collections.

Moore explained how, in his youth growing up in Connecticut, he would mine the cutout bins and found such treasures as Stooges records – something he (and we) might have never heard if it weren’t for the Cutout Bin.

The UMS is Damned Important

This is why The UMS is so damned important, fun, educational – even magical. There are bands you have the opportunity to see on this explosive weekend that you may never have another opportunity to see (unless you’re already a denizen of Denver’s music scene – in which case, you’re probably in one or three of these bands). Sure – someone may tune you into Spells if they’ve seen one of their explosive, literally-in-your-face punk rock sets, or the over-the-edge psychedelic blowout of Best Creeps, or the alt-psycho roots rock of Gasoline Lollipops – but how many friends do you really have that are that cool?

The UMS is your cool friend and is put together once a year to bring you the best of the best from the local scene, mixed with a whole pile of national underground bands that might have also found themselves represented in the Cutout Bin 40 (or so) years ago. The UMS is your opportunity to catch bands that will be the ones you’ll be introducing  your grandkids to as the originators of the beats they’re torturing you with while they refuse to get off your lawn. These bands are the next Stooges, the next 13th Floor Elevators, maybe even the next Beatles.

And, for your convenience, we at DenverThread will be providing band recommendations for EACH. Hour. Of. Each. Day. Check back in every morning, before you head out into the maelstrom of hundreds of bands, and chek out our expert opinions on who we think you should see every hour. You’re welcome.

See you on South Broadway this Thursday. Or Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday. If you don’t have tickets yet, get on it!

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#UMS2015’s DenverThread Recommends Lineup for Day #4

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We know – we’re a little more than hungover ourselves, trying to remember whether the pounding behind our eyelids is more PBR or Zebroids, or if the taste encrusted on our lips is ketchup or blood. But, hey – it’s #UMS2015 – and that’s what it’s all about. Need to get back on the dog-haired horse and jump right back into the swirling abyss – that’s the only cure….

We can help. Each and every day, DenverThread is publishing recommendations – by the hour – for bands you need to see in this crazy, over-stuffed, incredible lineup. Come back here and catch the day’s recommendations before you head out, and while you’re meandering down South Broadway!

Here’s our by the hour lineup recommendation for Day 4, Sunday, July 26…

12:00 PM – Punch Drunk Munky Funk – Illegal Pete’s

There’s probably nothing better to ease you into Day #4 then some groovy, easy, funky jazz, and Fort Collins’ Punch Drunk Munky Funk has the perfect thing. Cure your hangover with pumping, jazzy basslines, tropical drums, and horns galore – and a breakfast piña colada, of course. Here’s a little ReverbNation and Soundcloud action for you to get  you ready.

1:00 PM – Big Wild Wings – Irish Rover

Salt Lake City’s Big Wild Wings comes close to the feeling of Cocteau Twins, Xymox and the like – with an expansive, light feel. Lyndsi Austin’s well-rounded vocals float above symphonic guitars and synth, playing with the horizon and buzzing in and around your thoughts, while you succumb to a calm satisfaction. Test the noise out for yourself on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

2:00 PM – Professor Fox’s One Man Band – Illegal Petes

We love one-man-bands – maybe because this place so often feels like a one-man-operation, with the same frenetic need-six-hands action all the time. Fort Collins’ Steve Jones (Professor Fox) may appear to be a simple folk/Americana act, but he brings a certain intellectual gravity to his music, as well as some downright shit-hot guitar, foot- and bodywork. Get you some on Soundcloud for a bit.

3:00 PM – 40th Day – 3 Kings Tavern

40th Day started in Denver in the mid ’80s, and spent a decade as one of the area’s strongest acts with a definite post-punk, noisy and alt-gothic feel. The band re-formed a few years back and the’re back for #UMS2015, and still going strong, by all accounts. Recalling acts like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Joy Division and the like, they’ll bring a sinister feel to South Broadway, anchored in bass and strong vocals. This act will be well worth it – and gives us all a chance to step back into the days when Denver’s scene was thick with an atmospheric, full beauty. Catch them on Bandcamp.

4:00 PM – Jux County – 3 Kings Tavern

More from 3 Kings’ hosting of the history of Denver Music, Jux County bring together pieces of country and punk in a way that drives hard and frantic. Recalling the sounds of Mission of Burma, Jux County is a sort of ’80s-’90s Denver supergroup, featuring local heroes Andy Monley, Ron Smith and Chris Pearson, and have never really stopped. Check out their alt-country punk rock on Soundcloud.

5:00 PM – Panther Martin – Irish Rover

Panther Martin envelop their audience with a smoky atmospheric sound full of huge drums, heady guitars and whisping vocals. Drenched in ubiquitous reverb and echo, Panther Martin slink into the room slowly, grab your consciousness and pull you along for a dreamy ride. Check them out on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

6:00 PM – Sparkle Jetts – Hornet Restaurant

Arlo White’s Sparkle Jetts fling around a strong, glam-heavy ’70s based rock with aplomb and shock – and it’s only one of White’s Denver-based projects. And all of them rock the pants off this town every week in one way or another. Star-powered, blues-rock based groove is on deck at the Hornet – don’t miss this. Get ahead on them on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

6:30 PM – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Main Stage at SSFCU

If there’s one reason to see the UMS live and up close, it would be to catch Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. this is a band that not only has defined the Denver music scene for more than two decades, they’ve also got a live set that is impossible to match  – or beat. Slim, Munly, Reverend Dwight Pentacost, Danny Pants, Big Bad Bob Ferbrache (who’s Absinthe Studios has a long history of recording a lot of Denver’s best talent – and more) – all in the frantic milieux of a tent revival. Happy, jumpy, almost overwhelming – Slim Cessna will rock you indelibly. Catch some on Bandcamp.

7:00 PM – The Patient Zeros – Brendan’s Pub


The Patient Zeros bring a soulful, punk spirited blues rock show to you as a two piece drums and guitar combo. Catch them on Bandcamp to start.

8:00 PM – Kinky Fingers – Irish Rover

Power pop at its most explosive, Kinky Fingers represent for Denver. They combine Surf, Psych, Soul and Country into a strong, flammable mess that lives in your brain for weeks. Find them on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

9:00 PM – Montoneros – Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que

Montoneros spin out dreamy, spacious rock, and pull you in with solid pop hooks and rhythms. Mathy, edgy, a tad emo (but not too much) Montoneros will leave calm and whole again. Try them out on Bandcamp.

10:00 PM – The Still Tide – Eslinger Gallery

The Still Tide play a simple, yet sweeping, brand of folk pop, with more than a little coloring of shoegaze in it’s roots. The band just moved to the clean air of Colorado from the bustle of New York, with Aaron Latos and Anna Morsett (once from These United States) in tow, and their music sounds spacious and open, like the mountain country. Catch them on Bandcamp – or, better, at the Eslinger Gallery – to make your own decision.

11:00 PM – Black Lamb – 3 Kings Tavern

Black Lamb have been a part of Denver for so long it seems they’re just part of the black in the streets, constantly under construction, constantly cracking and breaking, but always the same streets. Brian Hagman leads this sludgy metal mess like a more conscious Ozzy Osbourne, circa “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath” (but only slightly more conscious). Hagman, though, brings in a wanton carelessness and passion that’s all too real, slow and unflinchingly heavy guitars and impossibly huge drums and bass back him up. End  your UMS experience with about a trillion slow sledghammer punches to the head at 3 Kings, and go home happy, sated and ready for Monday. Get some sound samples on their Facebook page.

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Twin Peaks Explodes Out of Chicago Garage, and Into the Hi-Dive This Thursday

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Twin Peaks joins the latest episode of the UMS-curated Red Bull Sound Select Series this Thursday, May 14, at the Hi-Dive.

Twin Peaks joins the latest episode of the UMS-curated Red Bull Sound Select Series this Thursday, May 14, at the Hi-Dive.

It’s inspiring, all the bands buzzing around now that are making rock fun again. Bands like Japandroids, No Age, Fucked Up, Thee Oh Sees – all are about having a blast playing with a sound they love, and that lays the audience flat, under a rockpile of noise. Add Twin Peaks to that list. This four piece veteran band of the Chicago DIY scene is making waves with a live show that’s approaching legend. Their showing at this year’s SXSW in Austin has definitely turned heads, for the better, and probably for a long time.

Maybe it comes from overwhelming familiarity, or the actualization of late night sleepover conversation describing their rock & roll dreams – most of Twin Peaks’ members have known each other since grade school. Frontman Cadien Lake James, bassist Jack Dolan, guitarist Clay Frankel and drummer Connor Brodner have been part of the Chicago scene since high school, in one form or another. James cut his rock biz teeth in Teenage Dream, playing shows in front of single-digit audiences. Whatever the reason, this band has hit on a combination of sound and energy that leaves crowds sweating, frenzied, ecstatic.

Sometimes channeling a misty melodic memory of Oasis with a strong shot of New York Dolls, but more often resembling the Big Star that Paul Westerberg‘s Replacements dreamed of being (give a listen to “Ordinary People,” below, to see for yourself), Twin Peaks builds a sonic wall of reverb-drenched chords, interlaced with perfect Pixies noodling and solid drums. On top of that – in most tunes – James layers a full, round baritone that approaches Jim Morrison’s, with a vocal swagger that likely makes Mick Jagger nostalgic.

“Ordinary People” – from Wild Onion (2014)

Even on record, their sound and energy is contagious. It’s almost creepy how quickly some of the tunes on “Wild Onion,” the band’s latest release, become comfortable beneath skin & muscle, and comfortably wrap themselves around your bones. The wilding freedom of “I Found A New Way,” the complex psychedelia of “Strawberry Smoothy” and “Strange World,” the ’70s theme music of “Telephone” and the Cheap Trick of “Flavor” – this record shows many levels of pop sensibility and creation that belies even the combined ages of all four band members. Wild Onion doesn’t sound like a sophomore piece – it’s closer to a picture of a band who have reached their stride. And that’s why the buzz they’re enjoying about now – having outshone most of SXSW alongside other newly big acts like Courtney Barnett.

Denver is lucky to be welcoming Twin Peaks to the Hi-Dive this coming Thursday, one of three bands playing in the latest episode of the UMS-curated Red Bull Sound Select series. In this small venue, this band promises to blow more than doors down – they’ll likely blow your mind as well. Don’t miss this 18+ show – $3 entry if you RSVP – $15 if you don’t. And if you make it in the door – which seems a little unlikely at this point, considering the band’s popularity right now.

Take a look/listen to their video for “Making Breakfast,” below, and see if that doesn’t make you hungry for this brand of garage rock. See you there, Denver.

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Girl Wreck hosts the 2nd Annual Girl Wreck Fest at the Oriental tomorrow, April 6, 2013

Girl Wreck takes over the Oriental tomorrow night for 12 hours of local rock

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Coachella? ATP? Lollapalooza? All of these mega fests are announcing/leaking their mega line ups – but who in Denver needs them? Wanna usher in the Spring and Summer music season in style?

Head up north to the Oriental Theater, where you’ll catch the 2nd Annual Girl Wreck Fest – two stages and 12 solid hours of music, all local, all woman-run (or at least woman-centric) bands – for only $10. How can you beat that? Staying off the street and listening, meeting, drinking with, wrestling with (if that’s your thing) some of Colorado’s newest, most exciting local acts – all brought together by Girl Wreck Presents.

GWP is the brainchild and obsession of Brandy Darling, a promotional company that’s dedicated get some of the coolest music nationwide – worldwide – to stop in Denver and play for you, and Darling is well-connected enough to be making the company a growing, successful operation. Paired with local venues – the Lion’s Lair in the past, and the Oriental now – Girl Wreck has become a force to be reckoned with. And this year’s festival is a perfect celebration of that force.

Featuring more than 20 bands on two stages – including The Blackouts, Throttlebomb, Gata Negra, The Ghost-Towners, Crash, Salt, 9 Volt Fatale, The Front (WY), Buteo Buteo, In The Company Of Serpents, The Cutthroat Drifters, Mike Borgia & the Problems (MO), The Lollygags, Chella Negro & the Charm, The West, Dead Orchids, Fujita Scale, Atomic Americans, Paris By Sea, Tender Krease (NE), Number Station, Brian Parton, and more – this is Denver’s first Spring festival.

Don’t miss it. You’ll regret it for years – I promise.


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Accordion Babes, July 10, 2011, Lion's Lair, Denver

Who’s Playing What Where? Accordion Babes, Mancub and The Tubes (Yes – The Tubes)

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The summer in Denver is starting to snowball.

Besides the fact that the town was almost washed away in an almost biblical downpour (deluge?) on Thursday, and that A-Basin has JUST CLOSED for the season last weekend (and was more crowded than I ever remember seeing it – though the powder was replaced with lumpy mashed potato slush), the live shows are piling up. It’s pretty nonsensical, really – there’s no way you’re going to see even half of what’s happening. Just give it up and take our advice. And this weekend seems pretty typical – at least for the next eight weeks or so (did I mention The UMS is coming?).

If you’re not already married to the sold out Avett Brothers’ weekend – spanning Boulder and Red Rocks, both Friday and Saturday – or planning to swoon with the rest of the more mature set at the Botanic Gardens listening to Chris Isaak’s crooning (also sold out), here are some bitchin’ alternatives. Hell – we’d give up our tickets for the aforementioned shows for these, if the economy didn’t already make us feel like grade-H junkies (when are you gonna get the chance to see The Tubes again, right?)


Accordion Babes, July 10, 2011, Lion's Lair, Denver

Accordion Babes entice you with the sexy sounds of their cherished instruments, Sunday night, July 10, at the Lion's Lair. (Photo: Accordion Babes)

Best Bet – Accordion Babes, Sunday night, July 10, at the Lion’s Lair (2022 E. Colfax, Denver

Accordions used to be the instrument parents forced kids to drag out of their closet to show off to Oma & Opa, much to the kids’ (absolutely justified) chagrin. Used to be. Thanks to Amber Lee Baker and Renée de la Prade – known together on this tour as The Accordion Babes – these once pernicious precursors to the keytar are inching ever closer to private & sultry boudoir serenades than adolescent living room talent shows.

Which, by the way, is not meant to take anything at all away from the incredible art some artists are making with accordions. Just a way to set the Babes apart.

This pair of burlesque-sexy women bring a life to the squeezebox that has always seemed to percolate beneath its awkward visage, inside the simultaneously heady and earthy music of gypsies and street performers. Dressed to the nines, they bring an alpha-gypsy feel to their performance (Like this), and you’ll find yourself uncontrollably spinning and writhing as they lay out their intoxicating tunes. While Baker brings her own brand of polka-meets-cabaret to envelop her seductive balladry, de le Prade adds her unique zydeco/celtic-meets-punk attitude to the menu (Like this). The result of the tag-teaming duet is definitely powerful, and addictive.

And that’s just the performance.

Did we mention these women ooze burlesque? Well – to give you an idea: The duo will not only be selling CDs at the show, they’re also going to be hawking de la Prade’s wildly popular, socially conscious and environmentally friendly Accordion Babes Pin-Up Calendar. Besides Baker and de la Prade, the calendar features many women posing with their favorite accordions in the tradition of the classic pin-up.

From the Calendar website: “The Accordion Babes Album & Pin-Up Calendar is sultry, sexy, sassy, silly, sweet, and impassioned… I was mostly referring to the music, but that’s a good description of the pin-ups too! The women you are about to see are not just models; they’re damn fine musicians, playing one of the world’s greatest instruments.”

Don’t miss the chance to catch this duo live, and introduce (or indulge, or rejuvenate)  yourself and all your friends’ love for one of the world’s misunderstood, and wrongly maligned, instruments.

Sunday night, at Lion’s Lair (2022 E. Colfax, Denver), 8 PM.

Friday – The Tubes, featuring Fee Waybill, Soiled Dove Underground, 7401 E. 1st Ave., Denver

Honestly, after The Tubes’ horrible run of accessibility peaked with “She’s A Beauty,” it was hard to keep paying attention to Fee & the group. We remember the disappointment we felt as “White Punks on Dope” faded further and further into the past.

But – That was the past. Turns out the group is still alive, and like so many other bands of late, have been touring on a reunited bill for the past four years or so. At least reuinited with Waybill (other members never really stopped).

If only to see what may have come from the 20-plus years they’ve put between now and their biggest hit, and the 30 they put between now and their best, we recommend checking this one out.

Friday, July 8, Soiled Dove Underground (7401 E. 1st Ave., Denver), 8 PM.


Denver's Electo-Pop meets Shoegaze band, Mancub (Photo: Mancub)

Denver's Electo-Pop meets Shoegaze band, Mancub (Photo: Mancub)

Saturday – Mancub, Flashlights and Mercuria and the Gemstars  – Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver

Flashlights, one of Denver’s newer, light-up electro-pop numbers, just got signed wicked fast to a record deal, and just released a new EP last month, but they still remember their base. So they’re opening a show for some local scene-mates, Mancub, at the Hi-Dive Saturday night. Mancub is a duo that’s building a reputation for using lo-fi electronics and hands-on passion to make a kind of electro-shoegaze combination. Worth taking in, if only to see their dexterity and sound combo skills. Plus, lights from both bands should make everyone feel a little bit interplanetary.

Flashlights bring the dark, too (Photo: Flashlights)

Flashlights bring the dark, too (Photo: Flashlights)

Get there early to catch what promises to be a great show from local stalwart Mercuria (part of Denver bands like Houses, Widowers, New Denver Orchestra, Mike Marchant and Science Partner – to name a few), and her latest project, Mercuria and the Gemstars. We think the $9 cover will be worth it to hear her songwriting skills alone.

Saturday, July 9, Hi-Dive (7 S. Broadway, Denver), 8 PM.

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Matt Shupe - The Greying Heart

New(ish) Threads – Reviews of new(ish) Matt Shupe, new Thurston Moore, and Il Cattivo

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Starting a new job can suck – especially for your online magazine. That’s the explanation for my long absence on the ‘Thread – and I’m stickin’ with it. Now to get back into the swing, and get you readers some well-deserved regularity…

But on with the news: This week we’re presenting three fantastic albums, starting with one that’s won my mind and heart, even though it’s about a year old, in Matt Shupe’s “The Greying Heart.” Then get a load of the beauty of Thurston Moore’s new solo work, “Demolished Thoughts,” and finally the grandiloquent metal/thrash of Il Cattivo’s “To Bring Low An Empire.”

MP3s too!


Matt Shupe - The Greying Heart

Matt Shupe – The Greying Heart (2010)

Matt Shupe may be Denver’s answer to Syd Barrett. His latest record, The Greying Heart, while it doesn’t necessarily lead you to believe that Shupe’s traveling down a rabbit hole into agoraphobic obscurity, sure leaves a magical taste. The flavor starts with Barrett, but also adds a touch of Neil Young that brings the quiet up to a rock sound the former could never really approach. Take a listen to “Holdout” and its sad lament and try to avoid any thought of Young’s work on the Dead Man soundtrack, or a dip beneath Harvest Moon. The record’s opener, “Hart’s Island Babies,” oozes The Cure (from around Seventeen Seconds) through a filter of Opal at its folky base, and “Reality Song” is a quiet, melancholy breakup story that sits comfortably in the space between Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh. Each of these songs has a hook – some more intimate than others, but all a little infectious. “Holyoke,” easily the record’s highlight, perfectly combines the magic of Shupe’s storytelling with a traditional pop-folk, and recalls the easy psychedelia of Donavan in trio with Simon & Garfunkel in its sway. Listen below for yourself – and try not to feel like you’re on your way to some small hamlet in a wooded clearing, expecting leathered flasks filled with mead-y beer.

Shupe has a long history in Denver, playing for a few of Denver’s most influential bands – like, for instance, the seminal Denver Gentlemen – but seems to remain under known overall – unfairly. He did appear on Deadbubbles’ tribute album, Reclamation Now!, with a pristine cover of “Zoo Kicker and I” that wins the “sounds most like a sober Robert Pollard” award.

I hope Shupe has plans to expand, ‘cause when this record catches a few more ears, it’s sure to take off.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/MAtt_Shupe_Holyoke.mp3″ text=”Matt Shupe – Holyoke”]


Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts

Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts - Sweeping, Beautiful, Autumn.

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts (2011)

Sonic Youth has been a major subconscious aquifer in my life since I first saw them, here in Denver at the German House (behind the Fillmore Auditorium off of Colfax, for all you young’uns) in 1986. For the longest time, noise-freak that I was, I was under the impression that it was Lee Renaldo’s noisy constructions that I always hooked me so deeply. Thurston Moore seemed, to my early-twenties, jaded and anti-pop (anti-construction, anti-song, anti-you-name-it) sensibilities, to be the more traditional of the two. He was the one that brought the pop to songs like “Cool Thing,” “100%” and “Teenage Riot.” Moore was always the Mick Jones to Renaldo’s Joe Strummer. Part of this impression probably came out of the experimental discs I’d found from Renaldo overseas and in NYC.

Then, when 1994’s “Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star” came out, I suspected I was dead wrong. As I located and consumed more of Moore and company’s experimental work – particularly the SYR Series – I knew I was not only wrong, but being just unfair. Moore has always brought an indelible experimentalism to Sonic Youth, but it’s been anything but pop. If anything, it was Moore who used to play chords and tunings that recalled the type I’d play on endless loop as I was playing with noises myself way back then – because they were so addictive, so fuckin’ cool.

Moore’s Catalyzing Continues

And now, “Demolished Thoughts,” Moore’s latest solo effort, has proven beyond any doubt that my early delusions about the two guitarists were dead wrong. Not so much reversed – more that they both had their unique hooks, and both have always had tremendous hold on their musical genius – they’ve just always catalyzed impossibly well. And Moore’s musical catalyzing continues unabated, and reaches another new level on this album, with Beck in the producer (and sometimes participant) position.

“Demolished Thoughts,” to add to the earlier water metaphor, holds a super-clear, purified beauty that Moore’s compositions have always alluded to – and that they have sometimes achieved, underneath and throughout the noise of Sonic Youth. His melodies have always bracketed his simple, yet incredibly powerful imagism. Beck’s involvement may have influenced the more symphonic, almost melancholy air of the record, but it positively seeps with Moore’s creative personality form deep inside every track. These tunes are enveloped beautifully by the beauty from violinist Samara Lubelski and Mary Lattimore’s incredibly sensuous harp. Together, all three make up a sound that comes close to what Moore does with his guitars alone – without mimicking those sounds in the least – and it works perfectly in the acoustic. The occasional addition of the other players – drummer Joey Waronker, guitarist Bill Nace and bassist Bram Inscore, and Beck as well – adds an almost a passing waft of flavor to an already overwhelmingly seasoned mix.

Lyrics like “Sunday lights/Come take my nights/And I’ll bend down/To my knees and die./Illuminate/My soul to take/Illuminine/Your clear cool wine,” from “lluminine” (probably the best song on the album – at least it’s the most indicative) leave a feeling of late Sunday afternoons, either inside from snow or outside in a leaf-strewn gully. Check it out below for yourself.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Thurston_Moore_Illuminine.mp3″ text=”Thurston Moore – Illumine”]


Il Cattivo - To Bring Low An Empire

Il Cattivo - To Bring Low An Empire - The sound for what eats you, and then spits you out, molten.

Il Cattivo – To Bring Low An Empire (2011)

Is it just me, or does it seem that Denver’s scene is crawling with “supergroups” nowadays?
From Fairchildren (made up of Nathaniel Rateliff’s The Wheel (itself one of the guilty), Bela Karoli and The Centennial – plus more multitasking talent), to Houses (with members of Hearts of Palm, Harpoontang, Widowers, Blue Million Miles and others), to last year’s UMS champs Snake Rattle Rattle Snake (with members of members of Bad Luck City, Monofog, Mr. Pacman and Hawks of Paradise), the musical incest seems to have grown rampant. Of course Denver’s scene,  like many another cities’ strong, fervent and highly talented ones, has always swung that way – to a degree. It just seems more infectious now than it has. Denver, it seems, is ready for one of Pete Frame’s famous family trees.

I could be wrong.

But here’s another to add to the list anyway: Il Cattivo. (And, for the record, this one wins. Just plain wins. Period.) Il Cattivo features members of former and current bands including Black Lamb (Brian Hagman), Plains Mistaken For Stars (Matt Bellinger), Ghost Buffalo (Jed Koop), Machine Gun Blues (Holland Rock-Garden) and Taun Taun (Matty Clark). All of these guys are Denver metal/thrash/punk heroes, and all of their associated bands hold various legendary places in the Mile Hi Metal Pantheon (such that it is, or exists, or whatever). But in Il Cattivo, the best of their best has been magnified, intensified, codified and perfectified (as of now a word). The result is something the loose, bluesy thrash bombast side of Denver has been stretching, growing and just missing for far too long.

Il Cattivo’s first effort, To Bring Low An Empire, proves it. From Hagman’s opening wails help to start “Long Gone John” the mood is set – and it’s too late, you’re already drunk. The Rock-Garden and Bellinger guitar assault rides hard and sloppy on Kopp and Clark’s (drums and bass, respectively) thrusting, tank-driven rhythms, all over the road – and sometimes off – until the whole thing comes to a twisting, tumbling halt. This is when you know you’re probably not going to remember where the bruises came from in the morning – between songs – until it starts up again.

Mid-record, “Salt Skinned Girls” fools you with a quickly broken promise of a little accessible respite, until Hagman’s huge voice opens the ground and swallows you up in his signature, mesmerizing howls. The record climaxes with the thick, fast sludge of “Serenity Prayer” (at one time aptly titled “Good Friday, Motherfucker!”) and then gets even louder and faster.

Actually, “Serenity Prayer” isn’t the only climax, but enough spoilers. Listen below to that one, and then go get the record to fill your metal hole.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Il_Cattivo_Good_Friday_Motherfucker.mp3″ text=”Il Cattivo – Serenity Prayer”]


Keep Comin’ back!

Keep your ears and eyes open, and check back to DenverThread about every two weeks for more reviews!

(This time I’ll keep it up! I Promise!)

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Elin Palmer (CD release), Sissy Wish @ the Hi-Dive – Reverb

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Elin Palmer played another brilliant set - possibly her last in Denver as a native - last Saturday night at the Hi-Dive. (Photo: Brian Carney)

Elin Palmer played another brilliant set - possibly her last in Denver as a native - last Saturday night at the Hi-Dive. (Photo: Brian Carney)

Just as Elin Palmer is hitting her stride and taking her first solid steps on her solo career, the longtime Denver scene stalwart has decided to leave. On what promises to be a long, winding journey back to her native Sweden (according to a recent Reverb Interview), Palmer is headed to Nashville, and then Brooklyn. The Denver scene won’t be the same once she’s gone and takes her sparse, gorgeous arrangements with her.

Read the entire review on Denver Post Reverb!

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Yo La Tengo @ the Ogden Theatre, 09/10/09 – Reverb

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Yo La Tengo (L-R): Georgia Hubley, James McNew and Ira Kaplan, played a jammy set at he Ogden last Saturday night. (Photo: MySpace)

Yo La Tengo (L-R): Georgia Hubley, James McNew and Ira Kaplan, played a jammy set at he Ogden last Saturday night. (Photo: MySpace)

Indie music heroes Yo La Tengo played an instrumentally tight, creatively meandering two-hour set at the Ogden Theatre on Saturday, leaving a fully packed house both elated and exhausted. Now in their 25th year together, the Hoboken trio have a cache of music that crosses and re-crosses genres but always remains within their own style. Their show featured Ira Kaplan’s signature reverb and tremolo-drenched guitar and overloud keyboards supporting his often sparse vocals, backed up by wife Georgia Hubley on drums and vocals and James McNew on bass and guitar.

Read the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!

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New Release: Local Shakedown, Vol. 3 – Radio 1190’s brilliant snapshot of the Denver scene

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Come join Radio 1190's Local Shakedown radio show THIS WEEKEND at one of three CD release parties!

Come join Radio 1190's Local Shakedown radio show THIS WEEKEND at one of three CD release parties!

If you’re familiar with Radio 1190 (KVCU Boulder, The University of Colorado at Boulder’s independent station) in general, or the Local Shakedown, their weekly Friday afternoon show dedicated to the local scene in particular, you already have a pretty good idea of the significance of this release. “Local Shakedown, Vol 3,” is the third installment of the radio station’s compilation of the best of the local best, and this year’s promises to be the best so far.

Volumes 1 and 2, released in 2000 and 2004 (respectively) by Smooch Records, have maintained a reputation through the decade as amongst the most legitimate archives of the Front Range music scene at the time, showcasing bands that show promise, or are on their way up and out. Volume 1 featured 45 bands and performers from all around Denver, Boulder and surrounding suburbs, some world-renowned (Dead Kennedy’s ex-frontman Jello Biafra and Blood Axis, for instance) or already longtime scene stalwarts (Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Jux County, Maraca 5-0). Many have gone on to become major national indie bands (Apples In Stereo, Devotchka, Dressy Bessy), and many have since splintered or disintegrated (Space Team Electra, Czars). Thanks to the Local Shakedown compilation, however, there will always be a record of where they were when.

Volume 2 is surprisingly similar in content to Volume 1 (it includes 12 of the artists from the lineup of Volume 1) but is nevertheless a stunning record of bands that made a difference in and around Denver towards the middle of the decade. After 4 years, the scene had grown, but how significantly?

And now, with Volume 3, it’s obvious that the scene has made a major shift. By comparison, this volume contains almost an entirely new band selection over its 41 tracks. If you’ve been following the scene, however,  you’re already aware that many of the players are old scene stalwarts and gadabouts.

Kal Kahoone, for instance, solo on this collection, used to sing for Tarentella, veterans of Vol. 2, and Moonspeed contains members from both Monofog and Bright Channel (and others), also veterans of – you guessed it – Volume 2. New bands, but many of the same faces, and some similar sounds, too!

Volume 3, besides being (of course) the most up to date record of the current scene, comes from it’s best and most staunch supporter, Radio 1190’s Local Shakedown – on the air every Friday afternoon from 4 – 6 PM (webcast at radio1190.org), and from Smooch Records. The whole collection was mastered by Denver’s local recording and producing genius, Bob Ferbrache – of Absinthe Studios, to boot!

And – to get your hands on some copies (only $11.90!!), and celebrate its release, join Radio 1190 and the hipster elite at one (or more) of these three Release Parties this weekend, all with live local bands:

Friday, Oct. 16th
Twist and Shout
2508 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
6:00 PM – The Kissing Party

Saturday, Oct. 17th
Bart’s CD Cellar
1015 Pearl St., Boulder
2:00 PM – Thee Goochi Boiz, otem rellik, Aënka

Sunday, Oct. 18th
Wax Trax
638 E. 13th Ave., Denver
2:00 PM – Bad Weather California, Magic Cyclops, The Fire Drills, The GetDown!

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She Wants Revenge, Kill Hannah @ the Bluebird Theater, 10/4/09 – Reverb

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She Wants Revenge opened up a can of techno dance whoop-ass at The Bluebird Sunday night. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

She Wants Revenge opened up a can of techno dance whoop-ass at The Bluebird Sunday night. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The band’s show at the Bluebird Theater last Sunday night turned out to be a perfect place to show off their emulative prowess, featuring a playlist of songs heavily influenced as much by old school bands like Joy Division, Bauhaus, the Cure and Soft Cell as Interpol and Nine Inch Nails, and with more than a bit of Rick James’ funk.

Read the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!

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Echofest ’09: In this case, it’s the first time that’s charmed – Echo Mountain – 09/26/09

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Dick Chaffin, lead singer of Longmont's Smackfactor. (Photo: DenverThread)

Nielson, lead singer of Longmont's Smackfactor. (Photo: DenverThread)

If this first one is any indication of its future, Echofest has the potential to become  a significant annual event, and quickly. While the new outdoor festival, put on for the first time last Saturday at Echo Mountain, is certainly no Monolith (yet), it was well attended, and went off pretty much without a hitch. Arranged and staged in a cooperative effort between local sponsor JamSpace, local promoter Whisper Fiercely and Echo Mountain, the all-day festival featured a lineup of about 20 local Denver bands (a few bands did end up canceling, something that happens even when the venue is right down the street) on two stages set up smack in the middle of the mountain’s bunny hill nestled against the “magic carpet” lift, and attracted a crowd that at one point looked like it was comprised of more than 100 fans, despite some pretty stiff winds, wild temperature swings, and a general campground atmosphere.

While the new outdoor festival, put on for the first time last Saturday at Echo Mountain, is certainly no Monolith (yet), it was well attended, and went off pretty much without a hitch.

As you can imagine, putting on any live show isn’t a walk in the park. There are so many places where things can go wrong – from bands canceling at the last minute (even if they do actually call and let the promoter know) to equipment problems, to a myriad of other problems, any of which have the potential to bring all the promoter’s and venue’s efforts to naught, which is to say nothing about any return on their investments in both time and money.

Stage One setup at Echofest '09, at Echo Mountain. (Photo: DenverThread)

Stage One setup at Echofest '09, at Echo Mountain. (Photo: DenverThread)

Try and imagine doing it outside, on the side of a mountain, in the middle of a skiing/boarding park, more than 30 minutes from downtown, and more than 12 miles from the nearest significant power grid. Not only are there the usual equipment and sound considerations to contend with, but now you’ve added weather, terrain, transportation and power challenges that no other venue faces, even on their worst day.

So, massive props to Echo Mountain and Whisper Fiercely, for making Echofest ’09 happen, and for pulling it off as smoothly as they did. Just to address some of the challenges I mentioned, and how they were handled:

All power for both stages, and nearly 20 bands’ 30-minute (or more) sets was supplied by a generator provided by Echo Mountain that was parked off to the side of the festival area on a catwalk. And there was only one outage instance (that I saw).

Fans sat on the Magic Carpet between both stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

Fans sat on the Magic Carpet between both stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

While bands had ample room to park their vehicles in Echo’s two parking areas, even the closest parking was a few hundred yards (at least) from the stage, over rough, mountainside terrain. So each band’s equipment was “ferried” by truck from the lot to one of the two stages and unloaded while another band was playing, and then it was all reloaded and taken back after their set, as the next band setup and sound-checked. It sounds like a massive undertaking – and it was – but the Echofest crew members made it seem all in a day’s work.

. . . massive props to Echo Mountain and Whisper Fiercely, for making Echofest ’09 happen, and for pulling it off as smoothly as they did. . .

Of course, there’s not much Echo Mountain or Whisper Fiercely could do about the weather – except continue to pray it didn’t get any worse (it never rained, or snowed for that matter, while I was there – though just a few days before the mountain had over an inch of the white stuff on the ground and it looked more like January than September). Still, as the winds picked up, and temperatures declined, the staff at Echo built up a few bonfires outside the open lodge/bar area, and provided respite inside their two buildings, the Echo Lodge and the Echo Garage, that featured food, drinks, and – most importantly – warmth for the fans and bands in between sets.

All of these efforts came together brilliantly to provide a solid foundation for the festival, which allowed the bands to give their best onstage. Cold, high winds, stiff fingers and red cheeks all ended up being only small matters. These dedicated musicians filled the two stages for a combined total of more than 9 hours of music – all local, and all ecstatic to be a part of it.

Fans got a chance to see their favorite bands perform on the side of Echo Mountain, on one of two stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

Fans got a chance to see their favorite bands perform on the side of Echo Mountain, on one of two stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

Throughout the day the lineup featured nearly as many punk, metal and rock genres as it did bands (there was a distinct lack of alt-country or folk bands, come to think of it, but I don’t think their absence was really noticed). Many of the bands came from Denver’s suburbs like Thornton, Parker, or Longmont, which proves that, while the downtown scene may gobble up much of the focus, the Denver scene is strong all around the Front Range. There was chunky, Mudhoney-style grunge funk from Circle # Dot, followed by edgy and noisy prog-rock from Portamento, while Apex Vibe and Can’t Quite Get Right featured their unique blends of dub-ska rock, and AudioFlux poured on some straight up punk thrash.

And then there was the metal.

As the sun crept further down behind the Rockies, the lineup seemed to focus more on the harder rock, from System of a Down-type angst of thiC and Cypher, to the pure, unadulterated death metal from Smackfactor (who, by the way, feature an impressive merch machine – everyone in the band had matching hoodies, and so did half of the fans). The crowds loved it all, and by that time was larger and seemed even more excited to be there than at any point earlier in the day. In fact, as I left (finally succumbing to the cold and wind) there were still five bands in the lineup left to play, and the fans showed no signs of slowing down.

Check out this slideshow of the event’s progression:


Dick Chaffin, lead singer of Longmont's Smackfactor, lets his hair out, along with a howl, at Echofest '09. (Photo: DenverThread)


Stage One setup at Echofest '09, at Echo Mountain. (Photo: DenverThread)


Smackfactor's Dick Chaffin, givin' y'all what-fer (Photo: DenverThread)


Denver's Circle # Dot played a set of grunge-tinted indie sludge as the Echofest crowd grew over the afternoon.


Fans got a chance to see their favorite bands perform on the side of Echo Mountain, on one of two stages. (Photo: DenverThread)


Fans sat on the Magic Carpet between both stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

The question now is whether Echo Mountain and Whisper Fiercely intend to make this year’s festival just one of many to come. When I spoke to Cindy Dady, Echo Mountain General Manager, and Molly Mueller, Echo Mountain Marketing Director, they both seemed impressed with the results, and hopeful for future events. They also hope that an annual Echofest will build awareness of Echo Mountain as a summer fun destination as well as a winter one.

Circle # Dot onstage at Echofest '09 (Photo: DenverThread)

Circle # Dot onstage at Echofest '09 (Photo: DenverThread)

“We’re looking at adding more regular events both during the season and the summer,” said Mueller. “We want to support Denver’s music scene, and also offer some new entertainment for our skiers and boarders during the season, so we’re looking at ideas.”

“[Echo Mountain hopes] . . .that an annual Echofest will build awareness of Echo Mountain as a summer fun destination as well as a winter one.”

Echo Mountain went over and above in initial support by hosting Echofest ’09. In addition to donating the land, man-hours and dedication required to host the event, the administration also gave each band member a season pass for participating in the festival this year, a pretty sweet deal for a few hours’ work, especially doing something you love. The passes ensure that these locals will be back all season long, too.

Another possibility may be regular events – monthly, maybe even more often – in which Echo would feature live shows with local bands or DJs on the deck at mid-mountain or in either the Lodge or the Garage. Providing live, local entertainment during the afternoon and evening offers skiers and boarders already there for the day a unique “apres-ski” environment, and should also attract local music fans to experience Echo – some undoubtedly for the first time – to see what the mountain has to offer. And, since Echo hosts night skiing nearly every day of the week until 9PM (the mountain is closed on Tuesdays, and shuts down on Sundays at 5), skiers and boarders will have the opportunity to play on the mountain to the tunes of their favorite local bands, live and in person.

Smackfactor's Dick Chaffin, givin' y'all what-fer (Photo: DenverThread)

Smackfactor's Nielson, givin' y'all what-fer (Photo: DenverThread)

Whatever develops out of it, EchoFest ’09 was only the beginning, it seems. Melissa Lycan, President of Whisper Fiercely, pointed out that the production company learned a lot about logistics on the mountain and in the woods, but were “. . . happy to help kick off the first year. . . . upward and onward for the future!”

Another possibility may be regular events – monthly, maybe even more often – in which Echo would feature live shows with local bands or DJs on the deck at mid-mountain or in either the Lodge or the Garage.

Judging by the event’s initial success, that future looks damned promising, for the promoter and the mountain, as well as for Denver’s many local bands.

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Upcoming Show: Pink Mountaintops w/Snake Rattle Rattle Snake – Hi-Dive, 11/21/09

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Stephen McBean of Pink Mountaintops (photo: pinkmountaintops.com)

Stephen McBean of Pink Mountaintops (photo: pinkmountaintops.com)

Pink Mountaintops, perhaps the closest thing to a perfect mashup of shoegaze and freak-folk, have announced a Denver date at Hi-Dive on November 21, 2009, in support of their recently released third record, “Outside Love.” Pink Mountaintops is a project from Vancouver/Victoria punk rock scene veteran Stephen McBean, one-time member of Black Mountain.

Their psychedelic, multi-layered sound winds and grows on “Outside Love” from a quiet, nervous Devendra Banhart style of folk to a crashing cacophony that recalls My Bloody Valentine.

Some lines about “Outside Love” from the Pink Mountaintops website:


Pink Mountaintops, "Outside Love" (Photo: pinkmountaintops.com)

“Outside Love” is ten songs of love and hate that read like a Danielle Steele romance novel but that would probably make for bad television.

The ten songs on “Outside Love” are about or influenced by weddings in Montreal, winter, Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut, Christmas albums, that one Exile song and that one Echo and the Bunnymen song, the Bermuda Triangle, being depressed in the sunshine, people who haven’t made out yet but will in the future, The Everly Brothers, clowns in the ceilings, and bedrooms where skinheads used to live.

Pink Mountaintops . . . will be joined on tour by Black Mountain bandmate Matthew Camirand as well as Sophie Trudeau, Sar Friedman, Chad Ross, and Mike Maxymuik.

Opening for Pink Mountaintops will be Denver local “supergroup” Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. Tickets are $10/$12 DOS, and can be purchased online at Hi-Dive.com.


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