The eight best shows in Denver this week
It's a particularly good week at Red Rocks, with something like half of our recommended shows taking place at the World's Sexiest Natural Ampitheatre. There is a particularly appealing collection of Colorado talent taking that stage on Thursday, when DeVotchKa joins the symphony orchestra for what is becoming an annual joint show. As always, the rest of our picks follow.
Mac DeMarco plays tonight at the Gothic Theatre
Lost Lake Lounge : July 14
Amen Dunes's Damon McMahon could have turned out like so many writers whose brilliant work was found and published posthumously. Fortunately for him, some friends shared his home recordings with people connected to Locust Music while he was in China for a few years, and 2009's D.I.A. became a bit of an underground sensation before he returned to America. His lo-fi psych pop recalled early Elephant 6 music, if more of that collective's bands had embraced Nick Drake, Van Morrison or Fairport Convention rather than the Beatles and the Beach Boys. McMahon's latest effort, 2014's Love, puts some fine lines around the fuzzy edges of melody that worked on earlier efforts. But still intact is an air of spaciousness and nostalgia, as though he were crafting a sense memory of walks on foggy mornings while the sun rises. It's warmly reflective, expansive music, infused with a sense of wonder.
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Chautauqua Auditorium : 8:00 p.m. July 14
Carolina Chocolate Drops famously met at an all-black banjo convention in Boone, North Carolina, in 2006. If that sounds improbable, consider that they also man-aged to make Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'em Up Style (Oops!)" sound decent in a 2010 cover. This is a band that doesn't fit into boxes too well, and that's a good thing. Their strength is in their modern twists on traditional Southern sounds; they often dig up dusty sheet music to resurrect long-forgotten tunes. As of last year, lead singer Rhiannon Giddens was the sole original member remaining in the group; this tour is his first with a new lineup. New members include a cellist and a multi-instrumentalist, which should keep the music as innovative as ever. At their Red Rocks gig, the band will be joined by fellow old-time outfit Old Crow Medicine Show.
Gothic Theatre : 7:00 p.m. July 14
Canadian warbler Mac DeMarco seems to have come out of nowhere -- plucked from obscurity, shoved into the festival circuit, and now headlining a tour of his own. The singer-songwriter has released three albums in as many years; the latest, 2014's well-received Salad Days, is a showcase for his goofball honesty. And he has a number of self-released efforts from prior years, as well, both solo and with his band, Makeout Videotape. But it was the intentionally cruddy, VHS-quality video for 2012's "Ode to Viceroy" that really introduced the singer to the larger world, through an aesthetically defining clip about his signature cigarettes. At barely 24 years old, DeMarco sounds like a pro, echoing the smarminess of Donovan while fitting into a survey of contemporaries like DIIV and Real Estate. He has a unique style of guitar playing that almost comes off as lazy and intentionally out of tune at times, but it only adds another layer to his mysterious charm. Known for quippy stage banter and plenty of belching (see 2013's Live & Acoustic Vol. 1 for multiple examples), DeMarco possesses everything needed to create an intricate, Beck-like legacy.
Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival
Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 5:45 p.m. July 14
When Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival announced its lineup last April there was some controversy about the truncated roster for the July 14 show at Red Rocks. Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Asking Alexandria, Trivium and Body Count (Ice-T's metal band) were announced for Denver, but those are the only bands playing that date, a divergence from Mayhem Fest's tradition as a day-long show with multiple stages.