The Sixteen Best Concerts in Denver This Weekend
Rodrigo y Gabriela will headline Red Rocks on Sunday, but it's the undercard we're most excited for: Namely, Nathaniel Rateliff, who hasn't played his own stuff around here in a while.
Tone of Arc plays Vinyl Saturday night.
We'd also like to make sure you're aware of Vail Rocks, which supports the exceedingly worthy Love Hope Strength charity. There's plenty more, including SummerGrind's skater's paradise in Englewood and an exceptionally good Folks Festival lineup at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons.
The Baseball Project
Oriental Theater : August 15
No national metaphor could survive unmolested from the time of Walt Whitman to the time of Bruce Springsteen, and baseball is no exception: In the 130 years since Whitman connected "base-ball" to our divine guts, it's been drained of blood, sweat and specificity by generations of greeting-card caricatures of the sport as innocence lost or a pretty good way to spend Father's Day. But fans, justifiably wary after decades of commercials set to "Centerfield," accepted the Baseball Project -- a college-rock supergroup featuring members of R.E.M., the Dream Syndicate and the Young Fresh Fellows -- without hesitation. Here's why: the di-vine guts! The band writes about baseball players, not baseball -- from Carl Mays, baseball's unwitting Cain, to Mark McGwire, dying in a gated community for our steroid sins.
Fox Theatre : 7:00 p.m. August 15 and Bluebird Theater : 9:00 p.m. August 16
For years, Austin-based guitar wiz Eric Johnson was known to be a perfectionist in the studio, which might explain the four- and five-year gaps between the hand-ful of recordings he's made over the past three and a half decades. But Johnson took a slightly looser approach on 2010's Up Close, trying to be more spontane-ous, letting things happen in the moment, and sometimes using the first few takes in the studio rather than laboring over them for weeks, as he's done in the past. The guitarist, whose tone is instantly recognizable, is in damn fine form on the disc, as he is on his brand-new album, Europe Live, which includes electrifying renderings of career-spanning songs alongside new material and a badass cover of John Coltrane's "Mr. P.C."
Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 7:30 p.m. August 15
There was a time when Beck would put out three albums over the course of one year. That time was 1994, to be exact, a decade before the release of his latest, Morning Phase, an album that arrived six years after Modern Guilt and the artist's largest musical break to date. But maybe a few years off was exactly what Beck needed -- Morning Phase is a dreamy alt-folk masterpiece best served with 2002's Sea Change. A hallmark of Beck, however, is his ability to dabble and evolve in ways both weird and unexpected, and given that the release prior to this sunshiny acoustic dream had a more dystopian rock feel, it's best not to get too cozy with the direction of his current sound.
Cervantes' Other Side : 8:00 p.m. August 15
With its horn-filled ska and good-time beats, Fishbone may not be swimming in the mainstream -- but it's the mainstream that's missing out. Since the then-junior-high-schoolers formed this band in 1979, its musical underbelly has always been rocking rhythms layered with alternative-tilted tracks. Saxophonist-singer Angelo Moore further defined the group's funky direction, eventually hooking Fishbone to a Capitol Records contract and an eponymous EP in 1985. While subsequent albums have displayed even more stylish production and savvy songwriting, Fishbone's uninhibited, enthusiastic live performances keep fans floating in.
Swallow Hill Music Hall : 8:00 p.m. August 15
With his handmade "guit-steel" guitar and deep, country drawl, Junior Brown makes a hell of an impression. Over the course of four decades, Brown has taken his blues-inspired honky tonk across the nation and around the world, thrilling fans of honest and well crafted roots music. In truth, Brown is one of a very select group of artists who has as great instrumental skills as he does songwriting chops.
The 1up Colfax : August 15; August 16
As half of the Benevento-Russo Duo, Marco Benevento played bass lines with his feet and held down organ and Wurlitzer parts with separate hands. But in the trio format, he's completely at home behind the piano, which he says is totally his ax. The forward-thinking Benevento usually makes some absorbing music by putting guitar pick-ups in a piano, using effects, samples, circuit-bent toys and loops. Joining him on these two 1Up dates are former Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz and drummer Andrew Borger, who's performed with Tom Waits and Norah Jones.
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
Planet Bluegrass Ranch : August 15; August 16; August 17
In the 24 years since the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival was started in Estes Park the festival but for the last two decades it's been held at Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons. Over the years the festival has grown, and created its own culture and spirit, while remaining true to its initial vision for spending a glorious Colorado summer weekend celebrating stories and songs -- from around the musical and geographic world. Brandi Carlile, Randy Newman, Dispatch, Ani DiFranco, Josh Ritter, Greg Brown, Elephant Revival, Lake Street Drive are just a few of the acts in this year's line-up.
Vail : August 15; August 16
Nearly two decades ago, The Alarm frontman Mike Peters was diagnosed with lymphoma, from which he's since recovered, and in 2005, he was diagnosed with leukemia. While at the cancer center in Wales where he was being treated for leukemia, he could see Mount Snowdon, and he thought, "When I get through this, I'm going to take all the Alarm fans, and we're going to go to the top of the mountain and we're going to sing a concert, and all the money raised will support the local cancer center." That was the initial inspiration for Love, Hope, Strength, an international, music-centric cancer charity with its headquarters in Denver and chapters in Dallas, Peru, the United Kingdom and Australia. Through bone-marrow drives at concerts, music festivals and events in the United States and the U.K., the organization has signed thousands of people to the national marrow database in the last few years and has found hundreds of matches for people who needed donors. For the third annual Vail Rocks, Peters will be on board, as will DeVotchKa, School of Rock, The Fixx's Cy Curnin, Scotty Stoughton from Bonfire Dub, DJ Aero and Onward Etc.
4335 W. 44th Ave., Denver, CO
1128 13th St., Boulder, CO
18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO
2700 Arapahoe St., Denver, CO
2637 Welton St., Denver, CO
71 E. Yale Ave., Denver, CO
1082 Broadway, Denver, CO
6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Englewood, CO
3295 S. Broadway, Englewood, CO
717 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO
500 W. Main St., Lyons, CO