Photos by Michael McGrath
Recent Cash Money signee Trev Rich and his Denver crew led an all-out takeover of Greeley’s Moxi Theater on Saturday, June 3rd.
Photos by Michael McGrath
Recent Cash Money signee Trev Rich and his Denver crew led an all-out takeover of Greeley’s Moxi Theater on Saturday, June 3rd.
Photos by Michael McGrath
Five time Grammy winner Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives dazzled the packed house at the Oriental Theater on Saturday, May 13th.
While Lost Lake has seen its share of excellent rock, rap, soul, and other acts, I kinda doubt the still-fresh venue has seen anything quite like the recent Stunt Queen Tour, featuring Mykki Blanco and Cakes da Killa. In front of a packed 16+ house, Blanco filled the night with her own brand of hardcore-styled, fluid-gender rap/performance art, after Cakes da Killa kept the crowd warmed up and hyped.
Blanco played a set a little heavy with material from her latest, “Mykki,” but didn’t fail to play earlier material from “Gay Dog Food” as well. The all-ages crowd ate it all up, constantly and sweatily pogo-ing, jerking, and slamming in front of the low stage, while Blanco furiously spat out tomes about our fucked-up world in punk influenced raps. At one point she belted out some acapella musings that almost sounded more like poetry slam than rap.
The audience was there for two reasons: the music and Blanco’s strong, beautiful personality – and they got what they came for. She ensured the younger crowd that they were in for it because it’s not every day that they’d get to see art explode into life like this, right in front of them. Too often lumped into the NYC gay rap “bucket,” Blanco actually has more in common with Andy Warhol’s Factory and the Riot Grrrl movements, and she excels at standing out. Not just because she’s often in drag – she wore an impressive long black wig for most of the performance, and a leopard-skin-textured mini skirt as well – but because her attitude is constantly in-your-face, aggressive, provocative, and extremely intelligent.
Unwilling to be confined to the small, constantly red-it stage, Blanco migrated at one point through the crowd to take a spot on top of the bar on the other side of the lounge, drawing half the crowd into the much smaller room along with her. The fact that most of the crowd was under 21 was a sign, too – music has no age limit or preference, and Blanco is fully on board with all-ages shows. Two visits ago, in fact, Blanco played at Rhinoceropolis – the legendary all-ages DIY venue – and loved it.
When the stagehand started walking across the Bluebird stage last Tuesday night carrying a plastic bag and handing out bright orange foam earplugs (at first I thought he was passing out baby carrots – strange) to everyone in the pit, I purposely didn’t take a pair. I’d been in the audience for My Bloody Valentine’s epic (and stupidly loud) “You Made Me Realise,” along with its endless, jet engine noise. I’d been a veteran of the ’90s when The Flaming Lips were known as the “loudest band in the world.” I’d been in many SWANS audiences, perhaps the most violently loud, controlled and painful assault of all. And there had been umpteen hardcore shows throughout the ’80s, from Black Flag to Minor Threat, to Bad Brains, to your buddies’ band that formed in the garage for a week while his parents were out of town – and all of these turned up well past 11. A seasoned atomic volume sound vet, I figured “I don’t need no stinkin’ earplugs!” Besides, this would be my first time seeing my heroes – J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph – together in Dinosaur Jr. – and I didn’t want anything to feel left out.
I don’t regret not taking the earplugs–at all. But I will say I only lasted in the pit for about 3 songs before retreating to the relative sonic safety of the bar in the back. Shows always sound better back there, anyway. And this was one show I really wanted to take in – and I’m glad I did.
For some reason, every opportunity I’ve had to see Dinosaur Jr., in the nearly 30 years I’d been listening to them, always fell apart. If they were paying Lolapalooza, We got there too late for their set. If they played at a local venue, I was working nights. And then there was their multi-year hiatus. I’ve seen most of the other bands that Dinosaur Jr. spawned–Folk Implosion, Sebadoh, etc.– and J Mascis on his own, but never the triumvirate. This was a perfect chance to remedy all that missed music.
And Mascis, Murph, and Barlow definitely delivered. Starting off with an explosive, chaotic version of “Bulbs of Passion,” they had the decibel and adrenaline level bursting through the roof in no time. While it wasn’t a chronological progression, their setlist covered a lot of ground, including “The Lung,” from You’re Living All Over Me; “Freak Scene” and “Just Like Heaven” from Bug (and the related EP); “The Wagon” from Green Mind; “Start Choppin'” from Where You Been; “Feel the Pain” from Without a Sound; “Crumble” from Beyond, “Watch the Corners,” from I Bet on Sky, and more from other releases Farm, and the latest Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. the only thing that could have been better would be to have seen them on the second night at the Bluebird as well.
This trio was so seminal to the whole ’90s sound, brilliantly mashing up the best rocking bits of Neil Young with the sound sense and guitar wizardry of Sonic Youth, and wrapping that all around Mascis’s disconnected, a-social characters and missed chances, slacker attitude, and overwhelming exhaustion with the weight of growing up. Seeing them in 2016 – a little grayer, or more bald – brought all that back into a beautiful perspective, one that showed me that even the most odious parts of “adulting” can lead to your own success and art.
Visually, they didn’t appear to have aged at all since the ’90s: Mascis flung his long (now silver) mane around as he played complex, wicked guitar licks at impossible volumes – never missing a beat, and a casual as if he were standing in your kitchen with a beer can in hand, talking about his latest girl-miasma. Murph was a locomotive, pulling tons of beat and exploding the tracks as he pounded a course through all the distortion. Lou Barlow exploded, again and again, a monster – in the Muppet sense – thrashing on every inch of his bass, and wildly flailing over stage left, never stopping for more than a second between songs, and getting lost beneath his mane of black repeatedly.
I’m not sure if earplugs would have deafened any part of the show – but I’m still glad I didn’t stuff ’em in. Missing even the smallest, molecular part of this show would far outweigh any loss in hearing that I don’t already enjoy.
By Isobel Thieme, DenverThread Reporter
Inside the lightly marked door, signed GLOB, I found what definitely presented this awesome DIY culture I’ve been hearing so much about. There was a sparkling and open stage-looking space with a dreamy ambience, full of hanging christmas lights. The small room almost gave me the feeling of being in the womb, with its droopy, soft ceiling mixed with the heat coming in from outside. The stage was on the floor, on the same level as the audience, who were sitting in old car-seats, outdoor furniture, desk chairs, and living room furniture. All of it felt collective –like, though I had nothing to do with the development of the space, it was by and for everyone there They even provided La Croix for refreshment, a relief from the heat.
Titwrench was born in 2009 in Denver’s DIY scene, with the intention of celebrating and empowering women and LGBTQIAP artists who are pushing the boundaries of music and art, and to inspire others to do the same. Throughout my entire experience at Titwrench, I saw endless examples of this kind of inspiration and cultivation of a culture celebrating art. The Titwrench collective believes that music should be accessible to all ages, gender identities, and communities.
While Malkah Duprix, a perfect example, played her bright blue electric guitar, a small girl no older than three or four danced, giggled, jumped, and listened, using the open space as her own musical, magical playground. Live music is too-often not accessible to such young hearts, and Titwrench made it possible.
A little later inside the tiny house stage – another indoor stage constructed inside a tiny house – Star Canyon played ambient underwater wolf goth, a genre I had never heard of until that day (I would come to learn about many new genres before the day ended for me). I would describe it as Bjork-inspired, organic music with antlers and a pulsing heartbeat. It was a huge sound for such a tiny space, which only made us feel it even more.
The Titwrench vibe thrived in this small and intentional space, continuously opening with words of support and reeking wildly, beautifully of burning sage. All kinds of people walked around, tacos in hand, thirsty for music. The close feeling of intimacy the people and space created made the audience a work of art, too, just by being there.
Much of the music we heard was experimental, proof that Titwrench is not only allowing for it, but intentionally creating a cultural space for women and LGBTQIA people of all ages to experiment musically, emotionally, physically, and personally. It’s hugely important that more spaces like this one are created and sustained, in Denver (maybe in every city). We desperately need more spaces where art is happening, where it’s supported, heard, seen, living, and where it’s accessible to everyone. The creative arts and the people making it deserve that space, and our young minds and spirits need it
Riot Fest Denver 2016 is in the books – after a weekend mostly full of spectacular acts, weather that alternated between sweltering heat and sweeping wind, nails pounded into nostrils, and the oh-so-familiar smell of pet foods being cooked right next door. Alongside the historic reunion of legendary rockers The Misfits, the music was non-stop, much of it was excellent, and some of it fell a little flat – all in the midst of a festival that still seems to be trying to find its personality, and maybe its purpose.
Death Cab for Cutie started the evening portion of the first night with some psychedelic, noisy romance from the Roots Stage, while The Descendents exploded with their signature quick-witted, in-your-face hardcore from the Nicole Hoffman Stage inside the rodeo building. While the two overlapped just a bit, most fans didn’t seem to mind (I mean, does a fan of Descendents’ lovely thrash really have time for Ben Gibbard‘s prevalent whining?).
A highly anticipated Jane’s Addiction set closed the night with a relatively staid performance of the classic “Ritual de lo Habitual” that featured about as much burlesque as the record’s seminal ’90s sound. Their otherwise fantastic version of “Classic Girl” featured a near full-on striptease with frontman Perry Farrel’s wife, Etty Lau – an accomplished dancer – that pushed the song a little out of its familiar summery haze and into a less-comfortable faux-erotic space. The brilliant “Of Course” also featured dancing – some perfect marionette ballet – that came across perfectly, but, for the most part, the women seemed more a set of props than an addition to the show, which was unfortunate.
Farrel, looking more pimp than rockstar, belted out his familiar high-pitched vocals from within a markedly suave and mellow personage throughout the set, constantly fiddling with a vocal synthesizer as he sang. Meanwhile, a shirtless Dave Navarro – who from a short distance looked as if he hadn’t aged a day since his stint with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (which must say something about his heroin habits, past or present) – entertained a crowd that was obviously starving for his particular guitar wizardry, as did with Chris Chaney with his inimitable bass. They finished the set with a few selections from “Nothing’s Shocking,” including a brilliant “Mountain Song” that had me fully re-experiencing the excitement of having discovered them in 1988.
Our day began with Courtney Taylor-Taylor and The Dandy Warhols, offering deep psychedelic pop under the blazing, hot midday sun, scheduled in one of the loathed early slots, where most bands seem relegated to proving their worth. Taylor and Peter Holmstrom concocted sweeping sounds with guitars and moans that built on themselves, quietly at first, up to their ecstatic crescendo, while Zia McCabe (keys) and Brent DeBoer (drums) filled in their typical wall of sound. The effect was better than I’d expected, despite the mid-day scheduling and lack of fog-machine antics.
Against Me! took up on the Riot Stage next, with their angst-filled, anthemic rock growing into anarchic fun as the set progressed. Laura Jane Grace easily filled the shoes of one of rock’s most interesting and engaging stories of the past few years as a prominent transgender artist. The set rocked a growing crowd of young people, though competing with the less-than-optimal “prove it” schedule slot, early in the afternoon (and under that unforgiving sun’s brutal heat, no less).
A quick visit inside the rodeo complex to the Nicole Hoffman Stage revealed hood/hipster rapper Danny Brown rocking a huge crowd – especially for a late afternoon. Brown’s innovative, often hilarious lyricism might just be the future of rap, and these millennials knew it. We jumped out from there to catch the waning moments of Yo La Tengo‘s set on the Roots Stage, where Ira Kaplan slayed the crowd with his searing guitar noise, while Georgia Hubley beautifully slammed her trap set around, a great pairing with James McNew to build their own strong groove.
The Hold Steady took over the Roots Stage to play their debut album “Boys & Girls in America,” fulfilling so many Springsteen-meets-fraternity-party band comparisons, while Canadians Billy Talent exploded off the Rock Stage at the opposite end of the festival. Originally known as Pezz in the late ’90s, Billy Talent spewed out a fast, fun, and hard punk rock with a definite Iggy & the Stooges vibe – particularly in singer Ben Kowalewicz’s personality. Kowalewicz regularly contorted behind his mic and stringy hair, screaming dirt-punk lyrics, while guitarist Ian D’sa, drummer Aaron Solowoniuk, and bassist Jon Gallant provided the freight train rhythm and guitar to back him up.
When local heroes DeVotchKa hit the stage, covered in fog-machine mist, the sun was just beginning to dip below the Rockies to the west, bathing the festival with an appropriately soft, orange glow. Sadly, the challenging aromas of tons of cat, dog, and other pet foods also began to infiltrate the area at the same time. Behind frontman Nick Urata’s swooning vocals. Jeanie Schroder’s standup bass and sousaphone, Shawn King’s complex and brilliant drumming, and Tom Hagerman’s accomplished, beautiful violin and accordion, DeVotchKa just didn’t quite fit with the rest of the Riot Fest, really. High-minded, lyrically complex symphonies with a decidedly Eastern European flavor don’t really inspire the supposed punk rock nihilism that the festival seems to claim to portend (nothing against either DeVotchKa or any of the other bands – just a sign of the struggle the festival seems to be having in making up its mind about just what kind of festival it is. More on that soon….).
On the other hand, Olympia rockstars Sleater-Kinney came close to personify both the festival’s harder edge and to hint at the nostalgic base behind the lineups of all four years (more on that later, too – just keep reading). Corin Tucker, Janet Weiss, and Carrie Brownstein showed the wild crowd filled with plenty of old-schooler fans and Portlandia newbies how a rock trio really works – and it was refreshing to see a woman-led band in a prime slot on the schedule, too.
Ween wrapped up our night with an awesomely mediocre set on the Riot Stage after Sleater-Kinney finished up. It may just be that the legal weed culture in Colorado just jaded us natives prematurely. or that the 8th-grade humor and psychedelic jokes aren’t quite showing the longevity they once promised, but Ween have seemingly reached the point where listening to them on record is just plain more fun than struggling through 90 minutes of live action. Dean and Gene can still perform with the stamina of rockers the age their post-adolescent lyrics suggest, to be sure, but the ingenuity and snarky sarcasm just don’t translate anymore. Maybe it’s the fact that Dean looks like your older brother from high school, a decade or so after graduation when he’s broken up with his high school sweetheart, subsequently rejoining the family to live in the garage and look for a “real job.” Or it cold be that Gene looks more like a slightly hungover Billy Joel than a comedic, resilient rock star. Either way, 90 minutes turned out to be at least 45 minutes too long for the evening.
Our day started in the windy heat again, this time watching Juliette Lewis and the Licks dominate the stage, albeit in the hated, scorching 1:00 pm slot – yet another band led by a powerful woman relegated to the early “prove yourself” slot – regardless of the fact that Lewis is an accomplished actor and musician, and the Licks have been a band since 2003, albeit one that went on hiatus in 2009 (because of Lewis’s acting career). To be put in this slot on Sunday – the slot also most likely to be missed by those hungover from the previous night’s activity – must have been especially insulting. No matter – Lewis and her four-piece tore up the early afternoon with some raucous, straight-on rock n’ roll, mixing in the best parts of classic rock with a punky underscore. Meanwhile, Lewis herself proselytized about the dim future of a Trump-infected America, dressed in a red, white and blue, star-spangled spandex jumpsuit that recalled Evil Knievel’s heyday – and the small, sweating and sunburning crowd loved every second of it.
As the heat wore on – with a brief interlude of rain – Converge and Hatebreed took over the Riot Stage, flooding the festival with their high-minded thrashcore, and in Hatebreed’s case, added a little sunshine and happiness to the usually brutal and confrontational genre. Murder By Death split the two with an oddly bright set on the Roots Stage – mostly because their haunting style plays much better in haunted hotels than in sun-baked lots. During some of this, we took a chance with the Hellzapoppin’ Circus Sideshow Revue to see the latest in nasal cavity nail and nostril drill technology, mixed with some burlesque, vaudeville, and sword swallowing. In the words of more than a few in the audience on their way out after the show: “Meh – seen most of it, but not bad!”
Chevy Metal – led “from behind” by Foo Fighters drummer Tyler Hawkins – played a shit-hot set of dirt rock covers on the Roots Stage next, with selections from Van Halen, Black Sabbath, and just about any other band you’d expect to hear while your neighbor washes his truck in the driveway next door. The trio put a ton of fun into the covers, and the effect was infectious as the day began to slowly cool. Next door Me First and the Gimme Gimmes followed on with their own set of covers – soaked in ironic punk rock – including more banal and hilarious selections from the likes of John Denver, Billy Joel, and more.
Up-and-coming all-girl outfit Bleached graced the indoor Nicole Hoffman Stage later, showing off a style reminiscent of early G0 Go’s with a punkier shot in the arm – high energy, sassy, great puck rock music that a quickly growing audience loved. A little later in the afternoon, but this was yet another strong female act that was once again relegated to an earlier slot – starting to see a pattern? These musicians in particular deserved a more enticing lineup slot, honestly.
After waiting for 2Chainz for 30 minutes (of a planned 45-minute set), we bailed from the Rock Stage to catch an aging – but still pretty brilliant – Bad Religion at the Riot Stage. Visibly sporting a pile of decades in their hair, faces and under their belts, the lineup pulled off a furious set that spanned all 30 years of their creative, innovative output, and left no-one disappointed. Meanwhile, Tyler, the Creator browbeat an audience that didn’t show enough life when he and fellow MC Jasper Dolphin took to the stage “…jumpin’ around like an idiot!” according to Tyler. That audience woke up quickly and ushered in a sunset that saw the main stage filling up with an obscene amount of Misfits merch on thousands of bodies.
Gogol Bordello primed that audience with their own scintillating brand of Eastern European gypsy punk for just about an hour behind Eugene Hütz‘s eclectic charisma and endless energy, along with the explosive troupe of musicians. Their violinist stood guard at stage right, barking out lyrics and swashbuckling with bow in hand, while the intensely German-looking accordionist danced and ran frantically all over the stage, swapping sides with two screaming women and an aged Rastafarian bassist – all furiously playing music based as much in the Bowery in NYC as in the Ukraine.
Finally, the damn broke and The Misfits flood poured on, like a gooey, blood-red, and syrupy mess of heavy distortion, horror film mayhem, and downright silliness. A sea of Crimson Ghost-bedecked fans began thrusting out towards the stage – wearing the skull on t-shirts, tattoos, in face paint, on socks, jackets, backpacks, piercing – you name it, someone wore it there. The original lineup of Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein – joined by Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo – quite literally serenaded a hypnotized audience for a little over an hour with the sticky and exciting horror punk they’d begun playing in the early ’80s. Danzig occasionally struggled with vocals – perhaps a little under-prepared for the altitude – but otherwise the band was tight, on point, horrifying – a thousand fans’ dream after an actual lifetime of waiting.
We’re not the first outlet to call this out, but Riot Fest may have a sexism problem. Consider: out of 80 bands performing, only 15 featured women artists. Of those 15, only two actually occupied a prime (but not headlining) spot on their scheduled day. With the exception of the Jane’s Addiction set – which actually featured female exotic dancers, not musicians – no band with a female in it played later than 7:30 pm. Considering that a large portion of the fans that bought tickets likely have a day job that prevents them from going to this venerated festival before 5:00 pm – at best (likely no earlier than 6:30, with traffic, clothes changing, child coverage, etc.), scheduling prevents them from seeing more than two female-prominent bands at all, on any day, throughout the festival. How is this fair?
I could bring up the argument from the nostalgia perspective to try and explain this, but it doesn’t work – not really. In case you’re unfamiliar, the argument is that Riot Fest – and many other nostalgic, backwards-looking festivals, shops, clubs, and community groups – are more concerned with re-creating the atmosphere from the many genres’ time period. After all, it is educational…. That’s all fine, but it doesn’t represent the Riot Fest government in the best light – even with a healthy punk rock attitude attributed.
Out of 80 overall acts covering all sorts of genres, only 15 had at least one woman as part of the band (16, if you include the exotic dancers that appeared onstage with Jane’s Addiction). Of those 15, only three acts were scheduled after 6:00 pm – leaving 12 sequestered to thw pre- and pre-pre-prime time slots when the festival likely had half the audience (or less) that would show up later in the evening.
Using the nostalgia argument above, you could say that Riot Fest 2016 represents an era in rock – in this case the ’90s, more than any other – filled with way more male than female musicians, run by male managers, publicists, roadies, etc., etc., funded by male investors, and that made music sold to way more males than females. And maybe there’s some truth to that. But that doesn’t make it ok to simply ignore the increase in influence, quality, quantity and fierceness that woman artists have added to rock in the last 20 years by relegating acts to the early slots in the schedule, and by employing more than three times as many male artists and bands. It’s time for Riot Fest to grow into the present, it would seem, or continue to lose respectability in the festival scene.
It’s true that pulling off a festival like Riot Fest is daunting, to say the least – as one friend put it, it’s “…like building and running a small city” for three days at a time – and to make it a nomadic city increases the complexity exponentially. Just running one stage for a day, showing 8 – 10 acts with as many as 50 artists, hundreds of pieces of equipment (and who knows how many non-standard “contract requirements” that have to be fulfilled) is a superhuman effort. To make that work across four stages, simultaneously, for three days, seems positively Sisyphean – and Riot Fest organizers deserve the credit for pulling it off pretty well for the past four years (at least since the festival began to tour regularly).
Still, there seemed to be some boneheaded decisions made this year – or maybe just oversights – that led to some potentially dangerous situations for humans in the festival audience. Most importantly, there was no water available outside at either end of the festival other than bottles that could be purchased at one of the food vendors in the middle of the park. This led to huge lines at the limited fountains inside the rodeo building, filled with people suffering from various degrees of dehydration from standing in direct, 90+ degree sun rocking out. A quick question about it to festival medics showed that the lack of water outside really added to their concern – and workload – with more and more fans facing the potential of serious dehydration as each day wore on.
Add to that the fact that the number of food and drink vendors – including the portion of them that sold water (which was less than half, by our count) – was noticeably smaller than years past. This led to huge, sweaty, lines with long waits throughout the day, with even more dehydrated, sweating fans awaiting sustenance. At least from the outside, it made the festival look challenged, and seemed to put an emphasis on profit, rather than people – or rock n’ roll.
Riot Fest – at least in its multi-city, touring format – is just approaching its adolescence, so some identity issues aren’t too surprising. But those issues seem to be getting more pronounced with each year, and that’s a little concerning (of course, nothing fatal, to be sure).
The midway was gone this year. Not a huge problem, to be sure, but maybe an unsettling sign of decline? Riot Fest used to make a big eal of the carnival aspect of the festival, and the last vestige of that this year was the Helzapoppin’ Circus Sideshow Revue. The Revue itself was more unsurprising than years past – or at least contained nothing new, actually repeating the script of years past almost precisely (we know – that’s how vaudeville works – there’s never anything new under the sun). This year there seemed to be less energy around the Helzapoppin’ tent overall – less excitement, less showmanship.
When you combine this with the almost haphazard collection of artists this year and the unfortunate scheduling tendencies, there seems to be room for alarm for the future. Of course, we don’t want to denigrate the Herculean stamina and superhuman organizational skills necessary to acquire, schedule and run 80 unique gigs in a single festival – which says nothing of the otherworldly patience one would need to keep these artists satisfied. So our criticism is in no way intended to imply that the organizers, promoters or foot soldiers of Riot Fest are lackluster.
It just brings to light the possibility that Riot Fest’s time may be waning. Running this giant accomplishment year after year, and attempting to fill it with quality and quantity, diversity and familiarity, beauty and fierceness – and trying to satisfy legions of fickle humans while trying desperately to break even – all of this may just bee too much to ask for many more years.
Which is all the more reason that all of you should support your local Riot Fest – before, during, and after the festival. Otherwise, what are all going to do next September to counteract the pet foods smell in September, as we wrap up our summer?
The 16th Annual Denver Post Underground Music Showcase has come and gone, but the images of such a stellar, bombastic weekend remain. Enjoy a selection of moments DenverThread caught – call it a little flashback. We had so much fun, and we can tell you did, too….
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
8:00 PM – Kinky Fingers – Irish Rover
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.
Day one is in the books. Riot Fest started off hot, and ended cool on the asphalt outside of Sports Authority Field last night, with The Flaming Lips winning the night. Die Antwoord had a popular set that welcomed the sunset – but it lacked much more than shock value, really. Gogol Bordello threw a frenetic party full of Eastern Bloc gypsy tunes, which had a huge crowd dancing and jumping for about an hour, but Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips stole the night with their usual psychedelic freakout, starting with a brilliant version of The Chemical Brothers’ “The Golden Path” – I mean, has anyone ever heard the Lips do that one live? Confetti explosions, a giant chromed ballon in the shape of the words “Fuck Yeah Riot Fest,” lights and a walk across the audience in a giant balloon. What more could you ask for?
Aside from some frustrating crowd control details (three – THREE – lines one had to stand in to get a beer? Really?), the show went off smoothly, and the place was packed. Check out our slideshow, and get out there tonight for more!
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After two days of ear- and heart-blasting music, lights, beers and friends, The UMS is probably starting to feel like home to you by now. The problem is, there are still two full days left – and more acts than ever to try and catch! So – we’re going to help you out again, with a lineup of acts by the hour, recommended by DenverThread, and guaranteed to leave a mark – on your soul as well as your record collection. Take a deep breath, a swig of your courage of choice and hold on – here we go with UMS 2014 Day Three!
Eldren explode from the stage with an overwhelming psychedelia that evokes Polyphonic Spree and – yes, I’m gonna say it – Electric Light Orchestra. There may be just seven members, they sound closer to 10 or 15. Big, lovely bombast and pure party happiness. Check out “Yankee Stargazer,” below. ★★★ (3 Stars)
Sweeping synthesizers over thumping bass hits and soft, shoegazey vocals lead you down into a cool, cavernous calm. This is where Inner Oceans lives, and where they want you to come and stay. Check out “Ready Your Ghost,” and see how you feel about spending time there. (Inner Oceans also plays at 4:00 pm Sunday, at the Skylark, if you miss this afternoon’s performance). ★★★★ (4 Stars)
TV Girl lands at the Hi-Dive from hometown L.A., and bring in happyhappyhappy trip-hop mixed with fresh samples and throaty harmonies. If this doesn’t start off your Saturday evening in grand, Summer Pop style, you’d probably better have a few more shots before your next band. Check out “The Getaway,” and tell us it doesn’t melt you like a popsicle. ★★★★ (4 Stars)
EC Lab plays a simple, powerful brand of bluesy garage that evokes a little bit of Black Keys, a little bit of Red Hot Chili Peppers (back when they were screaming about real men and coyotes, not lamenting their Californication). The duo is part of L.A.’s The Royal Heist, and will rock the heat into your afternoon. Bring a towel. Check out “No Longer” and see (The band is so far underground that the only place y ou can hear them – outside this afternoon at the UMS, is on MySpace. Go figure.) ★★★ (3 Stars)
Two Tone Wolf Pack may be the strongest example of what used to be called the “Denver Sound” at this year’s UMS. Based in some mixture of Appalachian Mountain music, Pentacostal tent revivals and gothic country, the sound defined much of the music coming out of Denver around the time the UMS was just cutting its first teeth (see 16 Horsepower, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, The Denver Gentlemen, Munly, and so many more). Two Tone Wolf Pack aren’t reviving it, though. They’re living the music, and the backwoods, jumping a train to the next town lifestyle, and howling about it. Great, great stuff. Check out “Dead Men Hangin’,” below. ‘Nuff said. ★★★★★ (5 Stars)
Danny and Andrew Aranow – both play in other Denver bands (Monroe Monroe, Microdots, Saturn Cowboys) – step right smack into the haze of Colorado’s most popular new retail item with this instrumental stoner rock band. If you’re not partaking – either with edibles, vape or the old fashioned way – you’re probably going to feel like you have after their set. Great time to grab a basket of friings with those beers and mules. Have a listen to “The Coked Out Bunnies EP” while you spark up. ★★★ (3 Stars)
We just couldn’t break these ties….
AAN create melodious, dreamy folk that actually brings their home of Portland, OR to life in front of you. Easy, sweet pop hooks and vocals that approach the clean Jeff Buckley range over accomplished, math-ey guitars, synths and rhythms. This set should be a great time to wind down and re-charge for the rest of your UMS night. Check out “Amor Ad Nauseum” to get a taste of the Portland air. ★★★★ (4 Stars)
Simply put, A Shoreline Dream is HUGE. About to hit their 10th year in existence, they completely envelope the shoegaze genre, and then some. Their sound threatens to encompass the entire festival, but it feels as intimate as your 3am drunk dials or light blue 5am consummations. We don’t know how they’re going to fit all of that int the Irish Rover, but it’s definitely going to be worth it. Listen to “The Land of Those Who Wander EP,” below. ★★★★★ (5 Stars)
If you stop by for a minute in the Shoreline Dream set to re-energize, then you’ll be ready for Joy Subtraction. Just don’t miss this one. Joy Subtraction welds together the heavy sounds of Black Sabbath and Black Flag with the screaming sarcasm and rage of Future of the Left in the heat of pure, molten rock ‘n roll. This band will make your skin crawl – in a really, really good way. Not to be missed! Check out their “Essential…” album, preferably very, very loudly, below. ★★★★★ (5 Stars)
When I found out that the Cramps spent years playing with no bassist, it blew my mind. Such an ominously, sickly sweet sound, seemingly from a torture chamber beneath some New Jersey garage, really. And I cried when Lux Interior died. If any of this resonates with your rock ‘n roll fantasy, you’re going to just love Best Creeps. Great, reverberating, old-school garage shockabilly at its best. Check out “A Fever,” again – loudly. ★★★★★ (5 Stars)
Shady Elders may just be the best example of what might be the new “Denver Sound” (see Two Tone Wolf Pack, above, for reference). With the dreamy, almost shoegazy vocals of Fox Rodemich, alternately shimmering and thickly distorted guitars and a distinct pop sensibility, this trio delivers where shallow bands like Tennis just can’t cut it. Have a listen to their “No Favors EP” and see for yourself. ★★★★ (4 Stars)
Jim Yelenick may be the hardest working man in Denver punk rock. Besides relentlessly – and brilliantly – spewing out acoustic covers of punk rock (and other) classics like “Police On My Back,” “Beat On The Brat” and “True” (a more heart-wrenching cover of the classic Spandau Ballet song you will never hear), Yelenick also leads Denver’s habit-adorned Nuns of Brixton (the only Clash tribute band that matters), as well as his own punk troupe Pitch Invasion. He also works with Jet Black Joy, Evil Hick and Negative Man – and he somehow also finds time to sleep and eat. Take some time to catch him, and bathe in his comfortable humor, with and inimitable charm. In the meantime, sample some good old “I Fought the Law,” below. ★★★★★ (5 Stars)
Kissing Party is quintessential post-punk with strong pop hooks and shimmering guitars. In a word – sweet. But they’re also a bit weighty at times, crafting the perfect Denver love song from time to time. Have a listen to their “Winter In The Pub EP” to see what you think, then get on over to Moe’s for some great BBQ while you take in their live antics. ★★★★ (4 Stars)
Thanks For Everything used to be The Life There Is. They make a sort of intense, slower psychedelic pop rock. Listen to “Weekend,” then go see them. ★★★ (3 Stars)
Brian Hagman leads the heavy, Black Sabbath in hell assault of Black Lamb. It’s something you need to see to believe. So do that. In the meantime, listen to a simple, glorious playllist, and relax your neck. ★★★★★ (5 Stars)
Coming from Denmark means that, invariably, at some point you’re going to get a Hamlet comparison – probably from a smart-assed music journalist. So here goes – Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt definitely rocks a Hamlet-esque demeanor, both on record and onstage. At their Denver show at the Marquis theater last Thursday night, he sulked in the crowd before the show, catching and opening set by Tampa Bay’s “Merchandise,” decked entirely in black – jeans, jacket and midwest country preacher leather wide-brimmed hat – sipping a tall boy. He looked angry – maybe a little tipsy – but really, really angry.
When the band took the stage, they started loud, fast ans sloppy, and didn’t stop or chat or anything for a good 40 minutes. A great 40 minutes – to be exact. Rønnenfelt lunged at the audience, screaming in his low guttural howl as if to blame anyone, everyone in the pit for his dis-ease. Iceage’s sloppy punk rock no-wave noise is a perfect antidote for what’s passing as punk rock pretty much everywhere nowadays – and it’s a good thing they’re getting heard. They’re not nice guys, but they don’t need to be. Rønnenfelt’s sulk is heavy, carrying the weight of a lot of shit that’s wrong with the world it seems – at least from a post-adolescent Danish punk rocker’s point of view. His demeanor is somewhere between Ian Curtis and Sid Vicious – but his anger is pretty shakespearian. The four-piece showed it that night on the Marquis’ low stage. Check out this slide show to catch a glimpse of the heat.