The best concerts in Denver this week
FRI-SUN | MURDER BY DEATH at STANLEY HOTEL | 1/17-1/19
When Murder by Death first formed in Bloomington, Indiana, nearly fifteen years ago under the name Little Joe Gould, the outfit was somewhat of an anomaly, as the whole chamber-pop phenomenon hadn't happened yet -- and wouldn't for another five years. But the act, as would later become evident, wasn't afraid of swimming upstream. In the ensuing years, Murder by Death often bridged the gap between punk and indie rock, essentially building its name playing the same underground-music circuit as hardcore bands. It didn't really matter if the group's sound fit that milieu or not; the members of Murder by Death had no problem winning folks over with their spirited live shows. In a stroke of inspired booking, Murder by Death is performing three shows at the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's The Shining.
FRI & SAT | JOHN DOE at LION'S LAIR | 1/17-1/18
John Doe started the band X in 1977 with Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake and wrote some of the most vivid portraits of American life penned in the annals of punk rock. Combining country and punk, X couldn't be said to be in the traditional punk mold while also being directly influenced by The Ramones. As a solo artist, John Doe has written music in a more singer-songwriter vein but with the same ability to highlight the poetic aspects of the dark edges of culture and a hopeful romanticism that doesn't wax into the naïve or melodramatic. In 2011, he wrote an excellent collaborative album with former Colorado-based singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, A Day At The Pass, as well as his latest record, Keeper.
FRI & SAT | RAILROAD EARTH at FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | 1/17-1/18
Roots Americana newgrass sextet Railroad Earth from Stillwater, New Jersey, continues touring heavily and building a strong fan base here, this time taking over the Fillmore for a night of acoustic genre blending; jazz, rock, bluegrass and even Celtic music all come into play in the group's sound. The live shows are full of improvisation and instrumental prowess, and openers Head for the Hills from Fort Collins holds its own with upbeat, fast-paced bluegrass originals and covers like Talking Head's "Life During Wartime."
PHILLIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 1/15/14
Phil Anselmo, of course, is best known as the frontman of Pantera. But since the untimely split of that influential late-era thrash band, Anselmo has had his hand in various heavy projects, including Superjoint Ritual and his longstanding side project, Down, in which he plied his gruff, powerful vocals. Last year, Anselmo released a solo album, Walk Through Exits Only, as well as a split EP with Warbeast called War of the Gargantuas. On both of those efforts, done in what some might consider an extreme-metal vein, Anselmo sounded like an especially menacing hardcore vocalist. Not really fitting into any standard metal or punk context, he's now making fiercely compelling material with his current band, the Illegals.