Sep 132013

covenhovenMany in the Denver area are familiar with Joel Van Horne as the frontman for atmospheric indie-rock act Carbon Choir (whom I’ve profiled here on this blog from time to time). Carbon Choir has since called it quits, and in the meantime Van Horne has taken a completely different direction–toward folk.

His new album is being released under the moniker Covenhoven, named after the log cabin in Wyoming built by his grandfather, where Van Horne spent summers as a kid. “Some of the best and lasting memories of my life are from this place,” writes Van Horne on the Covenhoven website.  “This music comes from that place… this refuge that I hold dear.”

Indeed, the songs on the record call to mind the places of natural beauty and the fond memories evoked by such a place. With an understated, reflective style reminiscent of Bon Iver, in effect, Van Horne transports the listener to his childhood, allowing us to experience the feeling of a place most of us will never actually see–and yet, we can relate to it because many of us have such a place within our own memories. This is music that is real, because it comes from a very real place, both physically and emotionally.


Photo: Lucia de Giovanni

I have to say, I really like this turn Van Horne has taken. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him perform acoustic sets from time to time, and have really liked his songwriting style, even while playing unplugged versions of Carbon Choir tunes. While it might seem on the outside to be a drastic change of course, those of us familiar with Van Horne and his songwriting abilities can see this is a natural evolution for him.

Covenhoven will see its official release with a show on Friday, Sept. 20 at The Walnut Room in Denver, but you can sneak a listen to the entire album this week over at OpenAirCPR from Colorado Public Radio. You’ll be glad you did.

Aug 232013

The Epilogues PosterThe weekend is once again upon us. If you’re looking to unwind with some great live music in Denver this weekend, here are just a few picks among the many great shows going on.

The Dave Matthews Band is here for a two-night stint at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, 6000 Victory Way in Commerce City. Snoop Dogg opens both shows. Tickets start at $45 per night, available from TicketHorse. Service charges apply. Gates at 6:00 PM nightly; shows start at 7:00 PM. All ages.

Boulder folk act Gasoline Lollipops are playing at The Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave. in Denver, along with Sawmill Joe, Poet’s Row and Natalie Tate. Tickets are $7 each, available from The Oriental Theater. Service charge may apply. Doors at 8:00 PM; show starts at 9:00. Ages 16+.

Local indie/garage rock band The Outfit are having an album release show at Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer in Denver. Opening acts include FaceMan and Gun Street Ghost. Tickets are $10 advance, $12 day of show, available from Larimer Lounge. Service charge may apply. Doors at 8:00 PM; show starts at 9:00. Ages 21+.

Speaking of Larimer Lounge, you should go back there Sunday for an afternoon/evening of BBQ and music featuring The Epilogues. Lots of great Denver acts will be joining them, including Reno Divorce, Eldren, Attic Attack, The Photo Atlas, Post Paradise, Reason the Citizen, Instant Empire, Quotes and DJ Alf. Tickets are $10 advance, $15 day of show, available from Larimer Lounge. Doors at noon; music starts at 1:00 PM. Ages 18+.

Have a great weekend!

Aug 162013

capitolhillmusicfestThis weekend in Denver is packed with great live music,  just as summer heat makes a comeback. There’s a lot to go over, so let’s get right into this weekend’s live music picks:


Local indie-rock outfit Eldren are headlining a show at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax in Denver. Opening acts include The Yawpers, The Foot. and Pull the Alarm. Tickets are $15 each, plus service charge, available from Bluebird Theater and AXS. Doors at 8:00 PM; show starts at 9:00. Ages 16+.

Chicago alt-rock band Fletcher and local indie-rockers Wire Faces are co-headlining a show at  the Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway in Denver. Also appearing are Confluence and War Over Water. Tickets are $6 each, available from the Hi-Dive; service charge may apply. Doors at 8:30 PM; show starts at 9:30. Ages 21+.


Saturday’s a big day for all-day music events in Denver, and we’ve got two to tell you about here.

The 1st Annual Capitol Hill Music Festival will take place Saturday at Stoney’s Bar & Grill, 1111 Lincoln St. in Denver, with some of Denver’s best talent playing on two stages throughout the afternoon and evening. Featured acts include The Railbenders, Birch Street, Places, Vices I Admire, Take to the Oars, Red Fox Run, Rebel Tongue, Attic Attack, Lionized and more. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 day of show (plus service charge), and can be purchased here. VIP passes (including food buffet and all you can drink) are also available. First performance starts at 11:45 AM. No age limit listed on the event, but everyone will be carded.

The Cultivate Festival, an annual event sponsored by Chipotle Restaurants, features chefs, artisans, farmers and great food to raise awareness for sustainable, wholesome food. Great music is also part of the event. The Denver Cultivate Festival will take place at City Park on Saturday, and will feature performances by several national acts, including Cold War Kids, Blitzen Trapper, Good Old War, Allen Stone, Chris Golub and Denver’s own Air Dubai. Festivities kick off around 11:00 AM, and run all the way to 7:00 PM. Best of all–it’s FREE and open to the public.

Have a happy and safe weekend!

Aug 092013

Princess MusicIt’s the weekend in Denver. That means I’ve got some more live music picks for ya. If you are looking for some great music around town, here are a just a few tips to get you started.


Local indie band Princess Music are debuting their first full-length album Odobenidae (don’t ask me to pronounce it) at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax in Denver. The show will feature a 17-piece chamber orchestra, along with Stelth Ulvang and Distant Correspondent. Tickets are $15, available from Bluebird Theater and AXS. Service charge may apply. Doors at 8:00 PM; show starts at 9:00. Ages 16+.

Singer-songwriter Ben Taylor is headlining at the Soiled Dove Underground, 7401 E. 1st in Denver. Opening act is Gary Revell. Tickets are $25, available through Soiled Dove Underground. Service charge may apply. Doors at 7:00 PM; show starts at 8:00. This show is all-ages. (NOTE: This show is almost sold out, so get tickets now if you want to go!)


Denver folk-pop singer-songwriter Matthew Moon is having a CD release show at the Soiled Dove Underground to celebrate the release of his new album I Am the Wind. The Steve Law Band will open the show. Tickets are $10 each, available from Soiled Dove Underground; service charge may apply. Doors at 7:00 PM; show starts at 8:00. Ages 21+. (NOTE: This show is also on the verge of selling out, so don’t delay!)

Austin-based rock band Saints of Valory will make a tour stop at Bluebird Theater. Opening the show are local acts My Body Sings Electric and Monroe Monroe. Tickets are $9 each (plus service charge), available from Bluebird Theater and AXS. Doors at 8:00 PM; show starts at 9:00. Ages 16+.

Have a terrific weekend!

Aug 022013
The Belle Jar

The Belle Jar

After taking a break last week from the exhausting-yet-highly-rewarding Underground Music Showcase, I’m back with weekend picks. If you’re looking for some cool live music in Denver this weekend, here are a few suggestions to get you started.


Singer-songwriter Kate LeRoux is marking her official return to the Denver music scene with a solo set at Swallow Hill’s Tuft Theater, 71 E. Yale in Denver. Tickets are $12 each, available from Swallow Hill, with discounts available to Swallow Hill Members. Show starts at 8:00 PM, and is all ages.


Denver folk-rock act The Belle Jar are having a CD release show at the Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway in Denver. Also appearing are Get Along and Matt Hoffman (of Strange Americans). Tickets are $8 each, available from the Hi-Dive. Service charges may apply. Doors at 8:30 PM; show starts at 9:30. Age restriction not posted at press time, but assume it’s 21+.

Local act Land Lines is headlining a show at The Walnut Room, 3131 Walnut St. in Denver. Also appearing are Elin Palmer and The Seven Hats. Tickets are $9 advance, $12 day of show, available from The Walnut Room. Service charges may apply. Show starts at 8:00 PM. Ages 21+.

Happy weekend!

Jul 222013

Underground Music ShowcaseSo another Underground Music Showcase is in the bag. I’m exhausted, but it was completely worth it. Here is the last round of highlights.



I couldn’t make it in to the UMS until 4pm or so, but I managed to catch the last few minutes of The Whicker and Pine at Illegal Pete’s. This band has grown considerably in size and sound since I last reviewed them here.

The Whicker and Pine

The Whicker and Pine

I had a band interview during the five o’clock hour, but I still managed to grab a few minutes of The Outfit at the Hi-Dive (great band, high energy), along with Rachel and the Kings at the Main Stage, who are always in fine form.

The Outfit

The Outfit

Rachel and the Kings

Rachel and the Kings

One of the highlights of the night–for that matter, one of the best moments of the UMS in general–I basically stumbled on when I was having dinner at the Punch Bowl Social. The Dirty Femmes (the Violent Femmes tribute act fronted by Jen Korte) absolutely knocked it out of the park. I later found out that original Violent Femmes member Gordon Gano was actually sitting in on violin for the set. Too many people in the space for me to grab a good picture, but trust me, this is a tribute band worth seeing.


Folk act I’m With Her put on one of their best shows at South Broadway Christian Church. Best to see them at a show soon–the act officially ends with the close of summer as Haley E. Rydell (shown left) will be moving to (gasp!) Minnesota.

I'm With Her

I’m With Her

Indie-rockers Petals of Spain had a fun performance over at Illegal Pete’s. This is where I discovered that the gorilla I hi-fived on Night One was one of the bandmates in costume.

Petals of Spain

Petals of Spain

The final performance on the Main Stage was definitely worth seeing. Denver’s own Nathaniel Rateliff closed the stage down with the reunion of an early Denver act he fronted, Born In the Flood, featuring the Meese bros. on guitar and drums. UMS director Kendall Smith came out beforehand to thank all the UMS team, sponsors and volunteers–and then to the delight of the crowd, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper came onstage to introduce Born In the Flood.

John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper introduces the band.

Born In the Flood

Born In the Flood

Born In the Flood

Born In the Flood

Shows on the last night of the UMS continued past midnight. After four days, I was too exhausted to stick around that long, but I had to stay and see my friend John Common take the stage at the Irish Rover with his band Blinding Flashes of Light.

John Common

John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light



Natalie Tate
Megan Burtt & The Cure For Love
Chimney Choir
Something Underground
John Wirtz
Wire Faces
Residual Kid
In the Whale
Rob Drabkin

All told, I’ve been to this festival three years running, and this year’s was the best by far. Kudos to Kendall Smith, the team of volunteers, the Denver Post and OpenAir CPR for all they did to make the weekend awesome. If you are not from Colorado and are an indie music lover, you owe it to yourself to make plan’s for next year’s UMS. If you live in Denver, you have no excuse. Just saying.

Jul 212013

Underground Music ShowcaseThis year’s Underground Music Showcase is destined to be one for the books–huge crowds, great bands, and great performances, overall. Day 3 was my favorite so far. I know there were some great performances on the main stage, but I gravitated toward some of the smaller venues, and found lots of “wow” moments in the process. I was a little sparing with pictures this time around, partly to save battery, partly because of poor lighting, and partly because I just wanted to focus on the music. But here are a few highlights from yesterday:

No sooner had I arrived and got settled at Punch Bowl Social but this guitarist phenom set the place on fire. Not literally, but you know. Jaden Carlson is barely a teenager, if that, but she’s got the chops and musicality of veterans three and four times her age. I don’t know how I’ve been a part of this scene without seeing her before now. One of the best moments of the UMS for me thus far.

Jaden Carlson

Jaden Carlson

I stayed on at the Punch Bowl to have a hot pretzel and listen to this promising newer rock act, War Over Water. Looking forward to seeing their progress in days ahead.

War Over Water

War Over Water

Headed on over the Gary Lee’s Motor Club and Grub for the last few minutes of singer-songwriter Holly Lovell’s set. Her mellow style was perfect for sitting in a cool space on a hot, breezy afternoon.

Holly Lovell

Holly Lovell

Next up at Gary Lee’s was Navy, the latest indie-rock incarnation from Dan Craig (sorry, no pic). Another “wow” moment, I think Dan has stumbled on a great combination with this one. Love the songs, love the vibe.


Patrick Dethlefs did an outstanding acoustic set at South Broadway Christian Church. Loved the slide guitar behind him, and the music sounded awesome in this space. South Broadway continues to be one of my favorite venues of the UMS each year.


Patrick Dethlefs

Other acts I caught that deserve a shout-out: Hindershot set up a party at Illegal Pete’s (although the beach balls reportedly got a little out of hand); Attic Attack rocked the Skylark Lounge; Anthony Ruptak and his band had a great set at South Broadway Christian; and it was good to see Jen Korte and the Loss back in action, packing out the Irish Rover.


Katie Laurel
Lindsey O’Brien
Jessica Sonner
Sarah and the Meanies
The Epilogues
Shady Elders
Red Fox Run

Whew! On to Day Four…

Jul 202013

Underground Music ShowcaseMomentum for the 2013 Underground Music Showcase is definitely increasing. More crowds, more bands, comfortable evening weather and dynamic performances were the norm last night at the UMS, as the Baker district filled with music and music lovers.

I tend to focus on local talent, so to my shame, I missed headliner Mudhoney at the main stage, although I heard from several sources that the band was outstanding. (I had “mudhoney” ice cream at Sweet Action–does that count?) I did, however, manage to catch a few minutes of LA-based girl pop-punk band Bleached on my way from one local act to another–and that was worth the detour.

Some other highlights from Day Two:

Indie-rockers The Belle Jar started off playing to a sparse crowd at 3 Kings Tavern, but by the end of the set the venue area was full–partly because people finally started navigating through Denver’s Friday night traffic, and partly, I think, because word was spreading about them while they played. A great way to kick off the evening.

The Belle Jar

The Belle Jar

Guitarist Ryan Chrys has a well-established reputation in Denver for his crazy guitar work in The Demon Funkies, but his newly formed country act, Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts, is gaining traction as well. I managed to catch a few minutes of their set at The Hornet.

Ryan Chrys

Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts

New Denver “supergroup” Hollow Talk (comprised of members of d.biddle, Il Cattivo and Ideal Feathers) played a loud and raucous set at the Hi-Dive. The backlighting was cool live but hard to catch on the iPhone…but you can see ’em if you squint a little.

Hollow Talk

Hollow Talk


Besides the main outdoor stage, it seems the place to be last night was the Irish Rover. Absolutely packed with people for most of the night. I couldn’t get close enough to get pics of Sweet Tooth Meat Tooth or The Raven and the Writing Desk, but both sets were awesome. (I would have loved to see how TRATWD managed on that tiny stage with six people, a keyboard, drums and a marimba–but I just couldn’t get close enough to find out.) I did manage to squeeze to the front just enough to grab a picture or two of Science Partner, who also killed it.


Science Partner

Science Partner

Other acts I caught in passing that are worth mentioning last night were Gristle Gals at Illegal Pete’s (caught the sound check on my way to Belle Jar), and Ivory Circle and Shenandoah Davis at Gary Lee’s. All worth checking out. Also, the few minutes I caught of Common Anomaly’s set at Skylark Lounge were impressive.


Mudhoney (obviously)
Esme Patterson
Thee Dang Dangs
Chimney Choir
Princess Music
A. Tom Collins
Bop Skizzum
Ark Life


Big day today: Day 3!!

Jul 192013

umsAs the Underground Music Showcase (UMS) is my favorite festival of the year (and it certainly helps that I only have to drive a few miles to get to it), I like to debrief a little bit after each day and share some of the highlights, and perhaps put a few bands on your radar to check out.

As for me, I generally keep my expectations of Day One of the UMS to a minimum, since things are just sort of ramping up, and crowds are generally sparse the first night. It usually takes some time to gain momentum. That wasn’t the case this year. Not only were the bands I saw putting their best foot forward from the jump, but this year a lot of people were already around to see it happen. In short–it was a great first night.

Some quick highlights to share with you–and forgive the pics, they’re taken with an iPhone (hey, I’m a writer, not a photographer):

Local revival rock act The Wales kicked off the night at the Hi-Dive. They’re relative newcomers to the Denver scene and only have a couple of demos up on Bandcamp, but they show promise. Keep your eyes on ’em.


The Wales

The Wales

I have discovered I’m a sucker for well-played blues-rock. For some reason I never quite caught, West Water Outlaws had their midnight slot changed to 8:00 PM at the Irish Rover. I managed to stop in for the last few minutes. Hoo, boy. Look for a debut album from them in the fall.

West Water Outlaws

West Water Outlaws

I stayed on at the Irish Rover to catch the first part of soul-rock act Calder’s Revolvers, on the advice of a friend. Glad I lingered. I’ll definitely be watching for these guys.

Calder's Revolvers

Calder’s Revolvers

Denver food establishment Illegal Pete’s opened up a new location on S. Broadway just in time for the UMS, and it’s worth checking out as a venue on its own. The Jekylls, a 60’s pop act comprised of members of The Hollyfelds, The Railbenders and Sunday Girl, were rocking it onstage.

The Jekylls

The Jekylls

And then there’s Varlet, who entertained a crowded Hi-Dive with their quirky, almost cabaret version of indie-rock. (Non-locals might faintly recognize the lead singer there; that’s Lily Scott, the indie singer-songwriter who got voted off American Idol Season 9 far too soon, in an early-season shocker.



There were a couple of other highlights I couldn’t get pictures of. Andy Palmer‘s set at The Hornet was one of my faves of the night, but it was too dark to grab a picture without flash. Then there was the guy in a gorilla suit that hi-fived me on Broadway, but it happened so fast that I didn’t have the presence of mind to get someone to snap a picture of it.

There are, of course, far too many great bands playing at the UMS to catch them all, and there were some shows I wanted to see that I didn’t. So I’ll close out the highlights each day with a note of regret…


On to Day Two…

Jul 182013

umsI’ll make this simple: the place to be in Denver for live music this weekend is the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase 2013, which kicks off this evening (Thursday) and runs through Sunday throughout Denver’s Baker district.

Over 400 bands. Nearly two dozen venues. Four days. $50. Best live music deal in Denver, and it only happens once a year.

Headlining acts at this year’s UMS include Mudhoney, Small Black, Cults and Lord Huron, among others. While these shows promise to be awesome, some of the best stuff happens in the smaller venues, with smaller indie bands. Not to mention some of the best local talent Denver has to offer. The lineup is to massive to mention, but just a few of the local acts include The Epilogues, Ark Life, Princess Music, Born In the Flood, The Centennial, Varlet, The Raven and the Writing Desk, Vices I Admire, and many, many others. (A full lineup and schedule can be found at the UMS website.)

A limited number of wristbands and VIP badges are still available, so if you’re in town and haven’t gotten yours yet, you can pick it up at the UMS box office (located a 1 S. Broadway tonight, and at 21 S. Broadway for the rest of the festival). Four-day wristbands are only $50, and VIP badges (offering extra perks) are $120. I’ll be live-tweeting throughout the weekend, so follow me at @jeffmcq if you want updates.