Denver has been known as one of the best places to catch live music in the Mountain Time Zone for as long as can be remembered. It’s a staple on the jam band circuit, while having mostly every new touring indie band making it a certain stop on their North American tours. The wonderful thing about living in a city with an eclectic music scene is checking out everything that any unheard genre has to offer. Music festivals are the new weekend vacation for the post-college millennials who have so much wanderlust that they can barely make it back into work on Monday; but, the open air of festivals and playground for partying can’t compare to an intimate evening with a band where the sound is great and the crowd actually knows the music.
Making a list with anything more than 5 mentions screams a lost reader, but I couldn’t whittle down the list any further! These are all shows that are worth venturing out for in the coming months. The best introduction to any new band is always catching the energy live in person!
Genre: Indie/Southern Rock
Tunes to check out: The Funeral, No One’s Gonna Love You, Casual Party, Laredo, Infinite Arms
Band of Horses has a new album out this year and it packs lots of the same soul and spirit of their previous albums. Ben Bridwell, lead singer, continues to faintly belt out tracks that immediately grip the listener. Their Seattle-based southern charm is seamlessly translated into each of their shows. Bridwell will be the focus of the show and his sweat can be seen pouring onto the same microphone that sends out the affecting sing-a-longs that everyone has come to know and love.
Genre: Dream Pop
Tunes to check out: Space Song, Myth, Lazuli, Days of Candy, Norway, Lover of Mine, Real Love
Anything that comes out from the duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally has a heavenly quality. You wouldn’t expect anything sprouted from the near sea-level Baltimore to have such a cloud-like atmospheric sound, but Beach House has seemed to carve their own way through the skies. Victoria has the ability to softly yell her way into the hearts of every listener. During their live shows Scally (Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals) and Legrand (Vocals, Keyboards) will be seen playing off of each other marvelously under a fog of darkness and lowly lit fluorescent lights.
Genre: Psychedelic/Funk/Soul Rock
Tunes to check out: So Good At Being In Trouble, Necessary Evil, Multi-Love, Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, The World Is Crowded, Stage or Screen, Strangers Are Strange
Ruban Nielson (Vocals, Guitar) has been building on his funky influence to the UMO sound since forming the band in 2010. Since then, there have been a few members cycled through, but the lo-fi guitar and keyboard riffs have only gotten sweeter. Nielson steals the show throughout every performance as he can barely hold back his bleeding emotion that covers everything from past loves to the perils of the modern world. After having completed multiple world tours, their light show has refined to make a lovely compliment to the swings of an UMO show.
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
Tunes to check out: Let It Happen, ‘Cause I’m a Man, The Less I Know The Better, New Person, Same Old Mistakes, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Elephant, Apocalypse Dreams, Solitude is Bliss
Kevin Parker is the cream of the crop from the recent wave of psych rock and indie dance acts to come out of Australia over the past 10 years. This island continent is burgeoning with new music and Tame Impala seems to be leading the way. The first album, InnerSpeaker, swept the indie rock scene bringing back everyone’s ears and flashbacks to the 60s/70s psychedelia days. As Tame’s progression has continued, they’ve added more layers and production value to their albums to the enchantment of every current(s) and new fan of the band.
If you need any more convincing, give a read and see Kevin Parker’s passion for playing live - “Anyway people ask me if I get bored of playing the songs every night for about 77 tours. I've never really had time to think about it so I just say 'not really sure a little bit whatever'. If I imagine a painter who painted a picture one day and then was asked to paint the same picture 100 times I'd expect him to get pretty sick of that painting. But if every time he painted it he got to feel just a fraction of the love I feel from our audiences and fans in every city we play and the expressions on people’s faces in the front row when "their" song comes on I imagine the painter would have no trouble painting that same picture everyday for the rest of his life.”
Even if Tame Impala isn’t your thing, you’ll get your money’s worth checking out Mac Demarco as an opener. He’s a grungy, foul-mouthed rocker who’s delightful melodies will escort you serenely into the evening.
Genre: Electronica, Ambient, Chillwave
Tunes to check out: Lotus (Colorado, Spiritualize, Umbilical Moonrise), Tycho (Awake, A Walk, Hours, Coastal Brake, L), El Ten Eleven (My Only Swerving, Fanshawe, Yellow Bridges)
These three bands together can set the stage for one of the more peaceful, yet inspiring, nights of your life. Each has their own style of ambient electronica that would most fittingly accompany the most beautiful blazing sunset crouch beneath the horizon. Tycho will bring up the energy a bit more, and will help you think what a quiet night out during Burning Man could evolve into. Lotus has very strong jam roots, and will likely improvise until you have lost yourself for a bit. El Ten Eleven has a magical post-rock sound that will settle in wonderfully between the rocks.
Genre: Soul, R&B
Tunes to check out: Better Man, Coming Home, Smooth Sailin’, River
It’s not completely known just yet how Leon Bridges is able to pack such a powerful punch as the 27 years young soul singer from Fort Worth, Texas has burst onto the music scene over the past couple years. The Wall Street Journal described him as a "throwback to '60s-soul a la Otis Redding and Sam Cooke." It may be that he was originally born in Atlanta, Georgia, because Leon has a way of recalling strong soul and blues influences from the 60s deep south. Seeing him onstage will make you rethink that it’s 2016 while you are snapchatting the entire performance. He only has one album, Coming Home, out at the moment, but each song has more romance and story than the last.
Tunes to check out: Varuo, Svefn-g-englar, Hoppipolla, Fjogur Piano, Takk, Saeglopur, Heysatan, Staralfur
Originally from Iceland, Sigur Ros has been touring the world over for the past 20 years. They have always stayed true to their roots, so this will be the band’s first time back in a few years. Jónsi (Vocals, Bow Guitar) has always provided an emotionally relatable (even though sung in Icelandic) vocal undertaking that piles on to the band’s expansive sound. Sigur Ros will lift you out of your seats in the Paramount Theater and transport you unknowingly into the rolling hills of the Icelandic countryside. Jónsi, also known for his solo endeavors, will hypnotize you with his falsetto voice and make you forever believe the importance of what Sigur Ros is capable of. Even with the huge landscape of their sound, seeing them in the Paramount Theater will be something that won’t be forgotten. Oh yeah, the bowed electric guitar is pretty cool, too.
Genre: Psych rock, Experimental, Indietronica
Tunes to check out: Stretch Your Face, Sweatmother, Father Sister, Berzerker, Forever Heavy (BMSR), Sun Lips (BMSR), Gangs in the Garden (BMSR)
Tobacco is the least traditional performer on this list, and that’s why he’s worth checking out. If you haven’t been watching HBO’s Silicon Valley to hear Tobacco’s “Stretch Your Face” play over the opening credits, you will be in for a treat to discover Tobacco’s heavily distorted synth and vocoder beats. The creator of Tobacco, Thomas Fec, has an equally interesting side project called Black Moth Super Rainbow, which has very similar synth and vocoder beats that will twist your thoughts from normal. Seeing Tobacco live will make you feel like you walked into the wrong warehouse party on the outskirts of town. The show consists of a heavy electronic set-up with bizarre video visuals projected in the background that will only heighten your paranoia.
Written by Joe Benz, good friend and Bighorn collaborator
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