The ten best concerts to see in Denver this week
ZZ WARD @ GOTHIC THEATRE | WEDS, 5/29/13
While riding the bus to school as a child, Zsuzsanna Ward spent her time in headphones, thinking about just how much she wanted to become a singer. As an adult better known as ZZ Ward, she reached the crux of that dream long ago and is now well on her way to moving into the mainstream. Ward cut her teeth in two genres by performing in her dad's blues band as a kid and writing hooks for and playing alongside local rappers in Eugene, Oregon, as she got older. Her slickly produced 2012 full-length, Til the Casket Drops, nods to both those styles with compact, bluesy guitar work and guest spots from rappers Kendrick Lamar and Freddie Gibbs. Add a substantial voice, good looks and image-building quirks (such as her adoration of fedoras and calling her music "dirty shine") to sweeten the pot, and a probable radio superstar is standing right in front of you.
POSTAL SERVICE @ RED ROCKS | THURS, 5/30/13
The Postal Service is not a typical pop band. One guy writes and records the music, and he sends it through the mail to the other guy, who writes and records the lyrics. Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel is the act's sound guy, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie is the word man. When the two halves are stuck together, drum loops emerge out of fogs of digital static; synthesized blips jump through time and space like quantum particles. When Gibbard's vocal patterns are layered over the music, they're like decoding devices, picking out hidden rhythms and melodies and assembling them into a coherent pop syntax, perfectly splicing the fragile human voice with the sharp, frigid tones of microcircuitry, each intensifying the essential vulnerability of the other.
SOUNDGARDEN @ 1STBANK CENTER | TUES, 5/28/13
Soundgarden has always shown a willingness to experiment well outside the standard rock mode, which has given the act a greater arc of creative development than that of many of the other bands who were also lumped in with the grunge phenomenon. The band's 1989 album, Louder Than Love, was marketed as heavy metal, but its darkly poetic lyrics, emotionally raw music and psychedelia-tinged songs struck a chord with people looking for something smarter and more vital than so much of the era's music, which seemed rife with over-commercialized hedonism disguised as rebellion. Soundgarden's breakthrough album was 1994's Superunknown, with its hit singles "Black Hole Sun" and "Spoonman." After an acrimonious breakup in 1997, the band got back together in 2010, and its tours, along with its 2012 comeback album, King Animal, proved the outfit hasn't exactly mellowed with age.
JUICY J @ CERVANTES' | TUES, 5/28/13
As a founding member, rapper and producer of Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J helped cultivate a sound that combined a creeping darkness with DJ Screw-influenced, syrup-induced trippiness, pairing unlikely horror-flick sound effects with rolling hi-hats and popping snares. The group complemented their borderline-evil sound with lyrics about murder, dark mysticism and satanism and flows that switched between double-time and triplet-riddled cadences and cult-like chants. As the group evolved, they dropped most of the dark content, which helped them transition into the mainstream in the early aughts with several hits and an Oscar win for the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," from the film Hustle & Flow. Three 6 has since broken up, but Juicy J has become one of the most featured artists in the past few years thanks to his subdued, hypnotic drawl. His third solo album, Stay Trippy, is scheduled for this year.