Colorado summer concerts 2012: 10 tough musical decisions before Labor DayBy Colin St. John | May 18th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
This Colorado summer boasts one of the stronger concert calendars in recent memory. And far be it for anyone to complain, it does present some issues — including your credit card statement come September. Still, the biggest quandary might well be the conflicts that are presented on any given evening. Here is a guide to the juiciest match-ups and hardest decisions. It’s Rocky vs. Apollo, Ali vs. Frazier and, ah, Kramer vs. Kramer — Rocky Mountain style.
Horse Feathers (Bluebird Theater) vs. Best Coast (Fox Theatre)
Fight day: May 26
Blow-by-blow: Portland’s Horse Feathers is making some serious inroads among the indie-folk set, basking in spare, emotional melodies on this year’s “Cynic’s New Years.” Best Coast, led by singer Bethany Cosentino, has been a hipster blog darling since before its debut in 2010. The latest, “The Only Place,” largely eschews its foundational fuzz for a more poppy direction; it’s sure to garner the duo even more fans.
The champ: California takes Oregon for coastal honors. Best Coast will be worth the trek up to Boulder.
The Shins (Red Rocks) vs. Santigold (Ogden Theatre)
Fight day: May 29
Blow-by-blow: Santigold sparkled at a recent SXSW set: Her stable of catchy songs — including ones from her new record — and a sharper live act widely separate the Philadelphian from any misconceptions that she’s merely an M.I.A. rip-off. James Mercer and his Shins released another masterfully-crafted LP in March (“Port of Morrow”), with pop hooks so resonant and crisp that they might inspire Zach Braff to pen “Garden State 2.”
The champ: The Shins win. (It almost rhymes, okay?) Mercer’s emotions lit by distant Front Range streetlights-as-candles beat the dance party sure to be popping off at the Ogden. Bonus: The Shins formed in Albuquerque; Four Corners represent.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters (Red Rocks) vs. Destroyer (Bluebird Theater)
Fight day: June 9
Blow-by-blow: Big Head Todd on the Rocks is a Colorado tradition on par with telling out-of-towners about the “300 days of sunshine” while sipping a double I.P.A. brewed in your uncle’s neighbor’s basement. Destroyer may not be a Canadian mainstay, yet, but Dan Bejar’s project outside of the New Pornographers has swiftly eclipsed it with erudite lyrics and unforeseen transitions. “Kaputt,” from last year, feels like Steely Dan for the download generation.
The champ: Destroyer destroys. “I write poetry for myself,” Bejar sings on “Blue Eyes.” Well, you and everyone who is willing to listen, sir.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival (Telluride Town Park) vs. Wilco (Red Rocks)
Fight days: June 22 and 23
Blow-by-blow: The 39th Telluride Bluegrass Festival takes place from June 21 until 24, preventing ‘goers any and all chance of catching Chicago’s venerable Wilco in Morrison. This year, Telluride boasts heavyweights like John Fogerty, Alison Krauss, Béla Fleck, Sam Bush and many others. Some of the lineup no doubt had some influence over Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and his band’s development.
The champ: In a squeaker, one of the best festivals in the country reigns supreme. But, if you don’t want to make the trek to San Miguel County for the sold-out TBF, you could do worse than an outdoor Wilco show or two.
Thurston Moore (Larimer Lounge) vs. the Avett Brothers (Red Rocks)
Fight day: June 29
Blow-by-blow: Colorado has wholly embraced North Carolina’s Avetts, welcoming the rootsy crew to our state year after year. There’s no doubt you’ll hear tunes from the group’s upcoming Rick Rubin-produced follow-up to 2009’s pop smash, “I and Love and You.” As one of the godfathers of punk, Mr. Moore has been putting out experimental, searching solo material since ‘95.
The champ: Moore. There’s not a lot of youth left in him but plenty of sonics. Go see the Avetts the next night (June 30) with Denver’s own DeVotchKa warming up in front of the crimson sandstone.
Shill alert: The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase takes place during the same weekend as these next two shows. It might just beat every choice on this menu.
Dirty Projectors with Wye Oak (Bluebird Theater) vs. Fiona Apple (Paramount Theatre)
Fight day: July 20
Blow-by-blow: Dave Longstreth’s Dirty Projectors will release a new full-length 10 days before this show and it’s sure to be chock full of cacophonic trip-outs. Wye Oak, supporting, is one of the better under-the-radar groups in the game these days, singer Jenn Wasner’s vocals reaching for jaw-dropping highs and lows. Fiona Apple re-emerged and slayed at South by Southwest. As is her wont, her June release has a name as long as her list of stand-out tunes.
The champ: If only because she tours about as often as the original Led Zeppelin lineup, take the big bucks to the Paramount for Fiona Apple’s trenchant words and a haunting set.
Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw (Sports Authority Field at Mile High) vs. Lucinda Williams (Chautauqua Auditorium)
Fight day: July 21
Blow-by-blow: It’s a country music smackdown, pinning relatively younger icons against something of a developing legend. While Chesney and McGraw shall satiate country-pop-craving KYGO masses at the Broncos’s home, Williams takes to a National Historic Landmark outside of Boulder to hang her heartbroken, incisive lyrics on the line.
The champ: Pop on your cowboy hats and wave to the lines at Mile High as you cruise up to Chautauqua. Williams will deliver a potent evening of Americana aimed right for the nerves.
Neil Diamond (1stBank Center) vs. Tenacious D (Red Rocks)
Fight day: July 26
Blow-by-blow: It would behoove one to be careful establishing who is “the D” on this one. Something about this choice is hilarious yet serious, in a sort of mock-rock arm wrestling match that follows in the wake of Super Diamond and Tenacious D’s just-released, “Rize of the Fenix.”
The champ: Surely Neil Diamond has separated himself from much of the songwriting pack over the past 50 years — go back and listen to “America” — but dare it be said that Jack Black and Kyle Gass can take their tongues out of their cheeks to go toe-to-toe with him. Go to Tenacious D. One of the duo’s lyrics for this victory would be apropos but, nonetheless, unprintable.
Kiss and Mötley Crüe (Comfort Dental Amphitheatre) vs. Jack White (Red Rocks)
Fight day: August 8
Blow-by-blow: So, what’s it gonna be? A bunch of guys who wear make-up while they’re playing or a hue-obsessed dude who looks like he’s wearing make-up because he’s so pale? 1970s rock or aughts-rock that harkens back to the 1970s?
The champ: Jack White, hands down. This year’s solo debut, “Blunderbuss” is up there with the best White Stripes records, arrestingly produced with exhilarating changes. He will rock and roll, ahem, all “nite.”
Pretty Lights (Red Rocks) vs. Andrew Bird (Buell Theatre)
Fight day: August 17
Blow-by-blow: This contest presents a stark contrast yet will leave some young fans who favor a sampling of styles across the proverbial board scratching their heads. It’s simple, really: Do you want to dance or chill out? Lasers in your eyeballs or croons cuddling your ears? Samplers or violins?
The champ: Ft. Collins’ own Derek Vincent Smith, will no doubt rage a party out west, but Bird wins this round. He whistles while he works.