The twelve best concerts in Denver this weekend
It's a good one, folks: KS 107.5 FM's Summer Jam brings hip-hop royalty to Englewood tonight, and most of the people there will probably be capping off their weekends with The Fray at Red Rocks on Sunday.
Timothy Norris for LA Weekly. Slideshow Iggy Azelea plays Summer Jam at Fiddler's Green.
There's more: Dragondeer, subject of this week's Backbeat feature, will release its long-awaited debut at Lost Lake on Saturday. And tonight, our own Westword Music Showcase Pre-Party featured A Band in Pictures, In the Whale and Science Partner for free at Stoney's. More excellent music follows:
John Butler Trio at Red Rocks Amphitheatre: Friday, June 6
Before striking out on his own, Frank Turner spent some time in London's Million Dead, one of the better post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s. Rather than singing with nuance, as he does now, Turner screamed and yelled in that band, at the same time conveying a restlessness and conviction that didn't seem like an affectation. Around the time that Million Dead split, in 2005, he received a tape of Bruce Springsteen's unvarnished masterpiece Nebraska, and the honesty and vulnerability of the songwriting clearly made an impression on Turner, as his solo work has been more in the singer-songwriter vein since then. Still, his lyrics haven't softened much, and his albums, including last year's Tape Deck Heart, could be described as folk with attitude.
Laserium: The Cosmic Laser Concert at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science: Friday, June 6
A celebration of a visually stunning art form born in the late 1970s and brought into the contemporary age with the newest technology, Laserium: The Cosmic Laser Concert returns to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's Gates Planetarium for a limited summer run today. The multimedia exhibition blends the music of bands like U2, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Beatles with the latest in visual-effects technology.
No show is exactly the same, as a different laserist conducts each one, synchronizing selected songs with beams of light in on-the-spot creations projected overhead. Viewers get to sit back and relax as colors, shapes and patterns morph into each other in a once-in-a-lifetime sensory experience that unfolds inside the serene atmosphere of the planetarium.
"Sometimes an audience is raucous and rowdy, and sometimes they are subdued and chill. With this show, the laserist can adjust the flavor, if you will, to match the mood," says Jon Robertson of Daystar Lasers, which works with the museum.
Red Fang at the Gothic Theatre: Friday, June 6
Red Fang started out at the height of stoner rock's popularity, and the band's music displays some of the hallmarks of that movement: sludgy, colossal riffs and distorted vocals scaled to epic dimensions. But the members of Red Fang also spent some of their '90s youth in Portland, witnessing all those great bands of the Northwest that were more noise rock and punk than metal. Acts like the burly but playful KARP and the moodily dynamic Unwound partly inspired Red Fang's roaringly triumphant sound. Now touring with Big Business, which includes former KARP singer and bassist and current Melvins bassist Jared Warren, these guys are paying that early inspiration forward.
Rocky Votolato at the hi-dive: Friday, June 6
Rocky Votolato built himself a sturdy platform for going solo. When his band, Waxwing, imploded in 2005, Votolato was in the right place at the right time. Emo had taken the nation by storm, and teenage girls were replacing their Backstreet Boys posters with depictions of sensitive tattooed boys. Votolato's affection for folksy, acoustic ballads and heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics branded him as another mall-punk messiah -- but an astute listener can hear the differences. His Texas upbringing twangs in his work, which gives equal nods to Willie Nelson, Nick Drake and Paul Westerberg (when Westerberg is at his best, anyway). 2010's True Devotion, doesn't depart from the sound he has been crafting over the past decade, but it's a warm, familiar batch of songs.
KS1075 Summer Jam XVII at Fiddler's Green Amphitheater: Friday, June 6
Summer Jam is local radio station KS-107.5's signature event, a seventeen-year tradition that offers a lineup to rival that of any big festival of up-and-coming hip-hoppers, pop crooners and R&B performers. As always, the latest big names will be on stage, including Australia-born Iggy Azalea, who's known as much for her geographically unrelated Southern drawl as she is for her Lil' Kim-style lyrics. Tech N9ne, a longstanding rap outlier who has built a fervent fan base in the Juggalo world, is another interesting component of the 2014 lineup, though he should hardly be a surprise: The Kansas City rapper has collaborated with the likes of Eminem, T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar. Lamar, too, will be a part of the big summer show, headlining alongside N9ne and the reinvented Juicy J. Newer names like Kid Ink and Sage the Gemini will also make their mark on the festivities. Though this year's Summer Jam has a thinner roster than some of the previous installments, KS-107.5 is still capable of giving its fans what they want.