Summer concerts cross generational boundaries 

Separated at rebirth

click to enlarge David Byrne, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Aug. 27 and 28 - FERENC SZELEPCSENYI / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Ferenc Szelepcsenyi / Shutterstock.com
  • David Byrne, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Aug. 27 and 28
While countless new recordings are just a click away, it’s still not uncommon to hear people complaining, loudly, that today’s music isn’t nearly as good as it was back in their day, whatever day that happened to be. And although that may make for spirited, if predictable, arguments, there’s no shortage of evidence that we have as many gifted artists roaming the earth today as we ever did.

As evidence, here’s a selection of kindred spirits — each hailing from a different generation — who just happen to be playing Colorado in the months ahead. If you love one, there’s a good chance you’ll love the other. And if that happens, maybe we can all spend less time arguing and more time listening.

David Byrne > Dirty Projectors

Talking Heads founding frontman David Byrne and Dirty Projectors main-man David Longstreth both do awkward really, really well. Their quirky kindred spirits blend seamlessly on “Knotty Pines” and “Ambulance Man,” two collaborative tracks that balance their shared vocal affectations and African rhythm-inspired pop leanings. It’s a match made in alternative-rock heaven, and the two artists have each proven themselves to be no less compelling onstage.
Dirty Projectors, Bluebird Theater, Denver, June 26
David Byrne, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Aug. 27 and 28
click to enlarge Dirty Projectors, Bluebird Theater, Denver, June 26 - LIVEPICT.COM
  • livepict.com
  • Dirty Projectors, Bluebird Theater, Denver, June 26

John Prine > Kacey Musgraves

Two country singer-songwriters who’ve never shied away from taking subversive approaches to their chosen genre, Prine and Musgraves embrace any and all opportunities to infiltrate conservative country radio with wry social commentary. “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm, where all the money goes / Jesus Christ died for nothin’, I suppose” sang Prine on the devastating chorus of “Sam Stone,” his 1971 song about the death of a drug-addicted veteran. Four decades later, Musgraves made an unlikely debut on country-radio playlists with her ode to small town desperation “Merry Go ’Round”: “Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay / Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane / And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.” Turns out that one of the first songs Musgraves wrote after she moved to Nashville was titled “Burn One with John Prine,” a goal that, given their mutual admiration, is not entirely unlikely.
Kacey Musgraves, Pepsi Center, Denver, July 3
John Prine, Buell Theatre, Denver, Nov. 10 (technically not a summer concert, but too good to ignore)

Jackson Browne > Father John Misty

Apparently there’s something about living in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon that reaches down into musicians’ souls, even if what comes to the surface isn’t necessarily the same. Jackson Browne and Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, shared that same experience, albeit decades apart, and the two singer-songwriters’ combination of haunting melodies, dark sentiments and sublimely melancholic vocals have invariably drawn critical comparisons ever since former Fleet Foxes drummer Tillman released his major-label debut Fear Fun back in 2012. That said, the two artists’ public personas could hardly be more different: Iconic ’70s singer-songwriter Browne is incurably earnest, while the chronically ironic Tillman prefers to keep people guessing when it comes to that whole sincerity thing. The two have since shared stages together on a number of occasions, so maybe they’ll end up meeting somewhere in the middle.
Jackson Browne, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, July 17
Father John Misty, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Aug. 15
click to enlarge Janelle Monáe, Paramount Theatre, Denver, July 1 - CRFEATUREFLASH PHOTO AGENCY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • CRFeatureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
  • Janelle Monáe, Paramount Theatre, Denver, July 1

Ms. Lauryn Hill > Janelle Monáe

Like many of us, Janelle Monáe has never tried to hide her love for Lauryn Hill. “Lauryn’s values were so different to a lot of the other artists who were out at that time,” Monáe said of the former Fugee in one interview. “I felt connected to her: She let me know that being an artist wasn’t about trying to fit in, or cultivating a sound that someone else had — it’s about embracing the things that make you who you are.” For Monáe, that has included several shifts in image, both onstage and off, but the soulful throughline between the two gifted artists’ musical approaches has never faded.
Janelle Monáe, Paramount Theatre, Denver, July 1
Ms. Lauryn Hill, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Sept. 26
click to enlarge Ms. Lauryn Hill, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Sept. 26 - JSTONE / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • JStone / Shutterstock.com
  • Ms. Lauryn Hill, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Sept. 26

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks > Car Seat Headrest

Consequence of Sound has described William James Toledo Barnes, whose Car Seat Headrest has gone from a solo project to a full-on lo-fi pop band, as “the closest indie rock has come to perfection since Pavement bit the dust.” Meanwhile, Stephen Malkmus has kept the slacker-pop spirit of his influential ’90s band alive on a string of albums with his subsequent band The Jicks. Barnes, who signed to Matador Records in 2015, continues to acknowledge his debt to Pavement, Guided by Voices and similar high-school heroes, but still looks forward to the day when he can step out of their shadows. These things take time.
Car Seat Headrest, Fox Theatre, Boulder, July 27; Gothic Theatre, Englewood, July 28
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Gothic Theatre, Englewood, July 31

Erasure > Chvrches

Although decades apart, both of these bands clearly share a debt to Depeche Mode, one more directly than the other. In the case of ’80s hitmakers Erasure, the comparison is inevitable, given that keyboardist/songwriter Vince Clarke was one of Depeche Mode’s co-founders. Chvrches, on the other hand, are a generation removed, having formed in 2011 and toured as Depeche Mode’s opening act two years afterward. The similarities have not been lost on critics: When The Guardian reviewed Chvrches’ debut album The Bones of What You Believe, they pointed out that “the glacial ‘By the Throat’ could be a lost Erasure single.” All of which just goes to show that, as long as we still have electricity and shoulder pads, synth-pop will never die.
Chvrches, Ogden Theatre, Denver, Aug. 6 and 7
Erasure, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver, Aug. 10

Gillian Welch > Courtney Barnett

Welch’s Dustbowl serenades may often come across as more old-timey than Barnett’s more rock ’n’ roll inclinations, but both are tremendous singer-songwriters and altogether engaging performers. Plus, you can go online to watch Barnett’s heartfelt cover of “Everything Is Free,” a song Welch wrote about music piracy that appears on her Time (The Revelator) album. That album, by the way, is in regular rotation in Barnett’s tour van, and its not hard to hear why.
Gillian Welch, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Sept. 17
Courtney Barnett, Ogden Theatre, Denver, Sept. 29 and 30


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