Tag Archives: Gothic Theatre

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Photos by Declan Geise

Thriving Local Band AMZY Rocks the Gothic

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Photos by Declan Giese

Ahh, to be young, fresh-faced, optimistic, and in a kick-ass rock band again…. How many of us wouldn’t sell everything we had to get into that spotlight? Well, local up-and-coming band AMZY hasn’t had to sell anything to land themselves in the great graces of rock ‘n’ roll – and pretty quickly. The seemingly cut-for-video four piece played a packed Gothic Theatre last Friday night, proving that – while young – they’ve got what it takes to stay there.

Fronted by Australian native Brennan Johnson – who belts out vocals like he was born to do it – they started with a heart-wrenching version of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” that stopped the audience in awe. Johnson did Simone justice, while the rest of the band backed him up impressively, and if anyone in the Gothic had any doubts before then, they were sold by the time the opener ended. They followed that emotional setting with a little more than an hour of upbeat, electronic power pop that was almost impossible not to dance to. Centered around Johnson’s strong vocals, Nick Billings’ bass work and Wes Barton’s near-flawless drumming gave their set a solid, skilled foundational rhythm, while Sean Grant’s guitar work defined the addictive, explosive sound. Who knew such a wall of sound could come from a simple Telecaster, anyway?

Their infectious grooves showed influences like The Killers and locals Churchill, and occasionally added a smidgen of Alt-J (especially in parts of “Feet on the Ground”) – but wrapped pretty deeply in a hard rocking maelstrom of vocal harmonies, power chords, keys and rhythm. Their new single “Sorry Not Sorry” was a wrangling anthem to walking away from a relationship that had the whole room jumping, while the smooth “We Don’t Walk We Dance” settled the crowd into a swaying dance. “5 to Midnight,” with it’s catchy singalong chanting and impossibly sticky hooks, had the crowd howling in unison. At one point, Johnson boarded a giant inflatable unicorn boat and navigated deep into the crowd on willing fan’s heads, hands, and shoulders – nearly abandoning ship more than once.

AMZY plays a solid, super-catchy power pop, but with more substance that the average young group. Their latest single “Sorry Not Sorry” is available now, and they plan to release a new EP later this year. Keep your ears open for them – they’re coming to take over Denver, and coming fast.

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Son Volt Relevant and Real at Gothic Theatre

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Story by Amy McGrath, Photos by Michael McGrath

“You’re with me now, will be again…” Drown, Jay Farrar, Son Volt

The music of Son Volt serves as a significant musical place-holder in my memory. Rising from the ashes of early 90’s college radio gods Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt’s first album, 1995’s Trace, was one of the first really important albums of my adulthood. I was newly graduated from college, negotiating the “real world” of career, credit cards, and post collegiate relationships. Trace was brand new but also perfectly embodied the musical influences of my childhood- Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Bob Dylan- and the album was a deep source of comfort, a security blanket for me in an uncertain time.

Fast forward twenty-two years to spring 2017. I have learned there is no “certain” time. I am constantly negotiating and re-negotiating my relationship to the “real world” and searching to find some meaning in this experience we call adulthood. Jay Farrar and Son Volt continue to make relevant, roots-bound rock music that illustrates the stark realities of “Trump’s America”- economic depression, environmental degradation and general hopelessness. Musically, it’s rootsy, country blues/rock remains grounded in familiarity, but lyrically, the work feels especially relevant in its themes of life struggle and the quest for redemption.

Son Volt plays The Gothic Theatre, May 12, 2017. Photo by Michael McGrath for denverthread.com

Friday night at the Gothic Theatre, Son Volt sounded both comforting and fresh as they rolled out the electric blues of their latest release, Notes of Blue. The album is cranked up a notch from Son Volt’s more mellow recent releases, and the energy of the Friday night show followed suit. Opening with the rocker “Lost Souls,” Farrar’s signature nasal cry was well mated to the noisy guitar rock strongly reminiscent of his Uncle Tupelo origins.

Son Volt’s set offered up lots of strong work from their new album, especially the driving, voodoo grit of “Midnight.” But Farrar and company also offered up plenty for those who have been following them from the beginning by featuring several of the standout tracks from the debut album Trace. The mournful slide guitar whine of “Ten Second News” is Son Volt at its sad and beautiful best.

Keeping it balanced in the encore, the band offered  “Windfall,” likely the happiest ever Son Volt tune and contender for best road trip song of all time, and left the entire Gothic crowd in full sing along mode: “Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel, May the wind take your troubles away.” In a final blast of indie rock joy, the band returned for a 2nd encore with a spirited cover of the Velvet Underground classic “What Goes On.” Thanks, Son Volt- for something so direct and real. You’re with me now, and will be again.

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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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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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Guided By Voices at the Gothic Theatre, June 4, 2014 (Reverb Review)

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Guided by Voices played the Gothic last Wednesday night, fueled by just the right cooler-full. (Photo: John Moore - Denver Post Reverb)

Guided by Voices played the Gothic last Wednesday night, fueled by just the right cooler-full. (Photo: John Moore – Denver Post Reverb)

Robert Pollard and his “Classic Lineup” of Guided by Voices played the Gothic Theatre last Wednesday night – with a vengeance. For nearly three hours, and through upwards of 50 tunes and including three set-long encores, Pollard and the boys proved to a modest-but-rabid crowd that age ain’t nothin’ to the true rock ‘n roll heart.

More than that, GBV once again proved that they’re one of rock’s best live acts. Period. They emulated every seminal band from every significant genre of rock from the past 4 decades – Ramones, Stooges, Motorhead, British Invasion, Psychedelia – and they made each genre their own. Check out my full review of the show over at Reverb, and catch the rest of John Moore’s brilliant photos.

At this rate, Pollard will be seeing all of our funerals before slowing down.

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Murder Ranks plays a fantastic fun brand of dancehall and hard dub, welcomes the highly anticipated return of Denver’s beloved Warlock Pinchers

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Daniel Wanush and Murder Ranks take the Oriental Theater for a ride last Saturday (May 15)

Daniel Wanush and Murder Ranks take the Oriental Theater for a ride last Saturday, May 15. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Well, Denver – It seems everything that’s old is new once again! And it’s happening here, too. Case in point: legendary front range provocateurs and pranksters Warlock Pinchers are getting back together for a show in August, and they’re determined to cash in on the nationwide – worldwide – “remake trend.” Of course, unlike much (most? all?) of the other remake grout that’s been piling up in our entertainment culture for lack of bricks, these guys promise to offer premium, relevant and fun entertainment, chock full of their characteristic DIY, punk rock/hip hop/scramble-wave hybrid mayhem.
Odds are they’ll be among the few projects that will deliver – and deliver  over and above. And there will be plenty of merchandise to boot.
UPDATE!! A Second Pinchers’ show has been added, scheduled for Saturday, August 7th, at the Gothic! Tickets available at Wax Trax, or at the Pinchers’ website! Get ’em while they’re going!
The show, scheduled for August 6th at the Gothic Theatre, promises to hold numerous surprises – from airborne meat (likely as not raw) to go-go dancers to cellophane-wrapped band members, in the vein of past extravaganzas. Those legendary shows featured shenanigans like all of the above, as well as various liquids and solids being dumped, sprayed or otherwise unleashed upon their audiences – all in front of pre-recorded (on cassette!) drums and live bass, guitars, screeching, rapping and scratching. In a word, unpredictable. In another word, unmatched – maybe unmatchable. This time, though, all instruments will be live, as the band has taken on Melvins drummer Dale Crover up on a decades-old offer to play with them.
Warlock Pinchers are playing two "reunion" shows at the Gothic Theatre, Friday and Saturday, August 6th & 7th. (Photo: WarlockPinchers.com)

Warlock Pinchers are playing two "reunion" shows at the Gothic Theatre, Friday and Saturday, August 6th & 7th. (Photo: WarlockPinchers.com)

The Pinchers are poised and ready to continue what started as a punk rock band, but soon transmogrified into more of a pop art project, or even a social experiment. Hell-bent on “selling out” as quickly as they could, the group – by the time they actually broke up – had created a veritable brand in itself, with seemingly endless merchandising options. Not just t-shirts, hoodies, posters, cassettes and CDs, but there were lighters, keychains, water bottles, yo-yos and almost any other takeaway – or buy-away – trinket imaginable either for sale or in the works. All, of course, sporting the band’s black & white, Satan’s pirate-meets-Raiders logo.
So this summer’s show – one of the events that will certainly define the season for local music – is a sort of coup de grace for the whole, decades-long gig. According to K.C. K-Sum (AKA Andrew Novick), one of the band’s frontmen, there are intricate and exciting plans for more merchandising, including some limited edition reproductions of early Pinchers’ t-shirts that he plans to make available for order at some point, and other surprises in the mix.
Members of the Pinchers hosted a party last Saturday night, May 15th, at the Oriental Theater to drop a new CD full of rarities and re-takes (sorry – no new material, for those of you panting for freshies) and to sell tickets to the Gothic show. After a well attended party – also a kind of reunion of old Denver/Boulder punks – Daniel Wanush (AKA King Scratchie) led his current dancehall/hard dub project Murder Ranks onstage, along with local deejay Bobby C., for an hour long set of some of the local scene’s newest and most challenging sounds.
Murder Ranks, a four-piece that features Wanush on vocals, Nate Weaver on drums, Ben Williams on that oh-so-important dub bass and Mike Buckley on guitar, have built a solid, fun and unique sound based on the early roots of Jamaican dancehall music and their own punk rock leanings. Wanush led the band with Jamaican-styled dub/rap, layered on “riddims” laid down by the bass and drum rhythm section and accompanied by Buckley’s wickedly reverbed, underwater-punk reggae guitar riffs. The genesis of each of the songs they played that night was provided by Deejay Bobby C.Sound T.V., as he would lay a few tracks to which the rest of the band linked their next composition, forming a smooth trail of hard dub and dancehall excellence.
Murder Ranks offer up a challenging, fun and danceable hard dub mixed with original, honest dancehall, and add in just about the right amount of sexy punk and metal to make it work. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Murder Ranks offer up a challenging, fun and danceable hard dub mixed with original, honest dancehall, and add in just about the right amount of sexy punk and metal to make it work. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

As complex, and for many somewhat unfamiliar, as the style is, the audience was entranced. Wanush – thrusting from the helm as the band’s toaster – spouted out fast, sexy rhymes across the thickly reverbed distortion and sick drumming all night long. The mixture was intoxicating. Between original numbers like the infectious “Broadway” and “Soundboy Why,” Bobby C. Sound T.V. laid track after track in a seamless chain, and enhanced the vibe with great video mixtures behind the Oriental’s huge stage. The dancehall genre is sadly under-represented in American music, and Murder Ranks has done a brilliant job spreading the gospel – albeit a delightfully hard, new distorted and punky one – to many more-than-willing ears.
I spoke with Wanush briefly (over Facebook) about some of the magic behind Murder Ranks’ sound and vision, and what the band are doing with their music. Here’s what he had to say:
“ . . . the Jamaican music scene has way more singers and rappers (known as DJs in Jamaica) than musicians. So whenever a song gets popular, everybody wants to use the exact same instrumental track (known as a “riddim”) to lay down their own vocals/rapping or hybrid style. In some cases, there end up being over 100 different songs using the exact same music.
What Murder Ranks does is take those riddims and arrange them for bass/guitar/drums. We don’t use keyboards or horns, so usually we discard those parts. Sometimes, though, we have the guitar used to play those parts instead. And we usually speed the “riddims” up a little…or, sometimes a lot. We usually re-arrange the “riddims” into a more familiar verse/chorus/verse kind of structure. Sometimes we add our own completely new part, as the case may be, but generally almost all of our songs are based on a particular dancehall “riddim” . . . with all original lyrics, of course.”
Wanush delivers the goods, old-school dancehall dub-style. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Wanush delivers the goods, old-school dancehall dub-style. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

” . . . we usually speed the “riddims” up a little…or, sometimes a lot. We usually re-arrange the “riddims” into a more familiar verse/chorus/verse kind of structure. Sometimes we add our own completely new part, as the case may be, but generally almost all of our songs are based on a particular dancehall “riddim” . . . with all original lyrics, of course.” – Daniel Wanush
Bobby C. Sound T.V. mixed and played two or three songs on a particular “riddim,” and Murder Ranks would come in directly upon those with their own compositions, based on those “riddims.” The mix, at times swathed in just the right amount of distortion and reverb, remained smooth and enticing, and the audience loved it.
Murder Ranks' Nate Weaver creates the base for the band's dancehall sound from the riddims laid down by D.J. Bobby C. Sound T.V. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Murder Ranks' Nate Weaver creates the base for the band's dancehall sound from the riddims laid down by D.J. Bobby C. Sound T.V. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Don’t miss the chance to see this incredibly relevant and fun-as-hell Denver band, along with the legendary Warlock Pinchers, at the Gothic on August 6th. Tickets are available at Wax Trax now, as well as online at the Pinchers’ website. Dressy Bessy and Cap’n Fresh and the Stay Fresh Seals will open the show along with Murder Ranks.
And there will be plenty of merchandise, collectibles and love to go around.


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