Instant Empire is one of Denver’s best kept secrets. Fresh off the release of their sophomore effort, Heavy Hollow,  the six-piece has been heralded by local press as the next up-and-coming band to watch.

Denver’s Westword likens Instant Empire to The Hold Steady and The Mountain Goats, calling Heavy Hollow a project “dripping with ambition” that is a ”blunt-force drama…dotted by nuanced rhythm and expertly paced melody.” Likewise, Reverb says “together, the outfit cranks out anthemic tracks that ring with honesty and sincerity.”

The indie rock band solidified its lineup just last year, placing Matt Grizzell on drums, Aaron Stone on bass, Doug Chase on keyboards and Sean Connaughty and Lou Kucera on guitar. Scotty Saunders leads the band’s dynamic sound as lead vocalist.

Together, the band produces sweeping, anthem-esque stories of love, youth, recklessness, freedom and uncertainty that are sure to pique the interest of even the staunchest music critic. Check out their video for "Cadillac Road (live)".

Instant Empire plays alongside Austin-based trio, The Rocketboys and California-based band From Indian Lakes tonight at Hi-Dive (Denver). Tickets are $7 and be purchased at the door. Doors open at 8PM and the show starts at 9PM. The show is 21+ and tickets and more information is available online here.
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David Dondero is a true American troubadour if ever such a thing could be such a thing.  He has been performing for a long time, but as as a solo artist he really came into his own when he signed onto Conor Oberst's record label, Team Love, and released South of the South in 2005.  His songs about traveling across the country are honest and heartfelt; don't confuse heartfelt with sensitive, because Dondero has tough skin and typically isn't afraid to tell it to you straight in his lyrics.

Dondero is a welcome face at the Hi-Dive, having performed there atleast once every year that I've lived in Denver.  His last release was 2011's A Pre-existing Condition on Ghostmeat Records, which includes some nice covers from blues and country artists like Lowell George and Charley Pride.  Like any true songwriter worth his salt, I'm sure Dondero will surprise us with some new tracks he has been working on (he had a new song to share back in February in Brooklyn, a show where the picture below was taken).  If you are new to the music of David Dondero, I included one of my favorite songs here for you to check out.

Elliot Moonshine & the Ghost and The Maykit will both be opening for David Dondero tonight.  Both bands are based in Denver, so it will be interesting to see how the local talent shapes up to Mr. Dondero.  Here are a couple of tracks from those two groups - check it out:

Tonight's show is 18 and up; doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m.  Check out the Hi-Dive's website for more event details.
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The Larimer Lounge last Saturday was the setting for Flashlights' cassette release party.   The theme for the evening seemed to be about trying something new; new members were added to all of the night's performing acts, either specifically for the show or as permanent additions.  Flashlights was trying something new by releasing a special edition cassette.  Larimer Lounge was trying something new with a backyard setup that now includes a hanging carpet; noise complaints in the area had kept both Larimer Lounge and the Meadowlark from having outdoors guests past a certain time, but it seems like both venues have been working to aleviate the problems and have since been able to open their respective porch areas.  Summer is a great time to try new things, especially things that include being outside in the cool evening air.

LUST is Dillon Morton, and this show was billed as LUST's live set, and so it was a special treat for the audience to see Morton use instruments in his performance.  Accompanied by a bassist and a Casio keyboard, Morton's dark and edgy electronic music was accentuated by a green glowing backlight and fog.  Morton played tracks from the 2011 Dark Water EP, music which he has described as based as an "erotic horror movie soundtrack," and seamlessly meandered through his set with little pause and not one more word spoken than absolutely necessary.  LUST: so spooky, so dance-y.  

Roniit is an electro-pop singer from Denver, and she was joined by her boyfriend Eric Brown for their first live performance together (she exclaimed in between songs, "I'm really excited - tonight I have a new band member!").  There were lots of laser-y lights aglow as the tiny Roniit took the stage, letting her voice speak for itself.  You might like her music if you're a fan of infectious pop tunes that get stuck in your head.  Highlight of the performance:  the guy who was on stage, helping control the strobe lights came out to whip up some energy in the audience, and attempted to do so by doing power-cardio handclap jumps.  He was atleast 6 feet tall, so his extension was wide and left most people in the front row to scatter; but, he got people moving as he surely set out to do.

I like the genre identifiers for Flashlights glo-fi and dream-pop; both have a relationship with the nighttime, which can also be "flashlight time."  The stage warranted the portable, battery-operated invention as machine fog billowed out and descended onto the crowd of fans.  Those closest to the stage could barely make out the silhouette of their neighbors in the ethereal setting that was not unlike a lagoon or maybe a dance graveyard.  With the candy-colored stage lights flipped on, the club atmosphere was ignited.  Ethan Converse and Alex Anderson are the most recent iteration of Flashlights, and were joined by Ethan's friend Taylor Thomas on stage who was in town from Austin, TX to play drums for the special event.

Ethan talks about his collaboration with Travis in the video interview exclusive to Concerted Effort - if you haven't watched it yet, check it out (there are some sweet fingerboard shots in there you won't want to miss, as well).  Flashlights performed songs off of their recently released EP, So Close to Midnight, as well as some brand new, never-before-heard tracks.  A few technical difficulties were quickly forgotten as the crowd enthusiastically danced to the glo-fi tunes in the brightly illuminated fog.  I have a little bit of a bias here: Flashlights never fail to impress me.  I'm looking forward to seeing them play again at the Westword Music Showcase this Saturday June 23, and am curious to see how Alex and Ethan pull off playing two sets for both Flashlights and ManCub (back to back at City Hall), now that they are both collaborators in each project.

Check out more photos from the night on our Facebook photo album!
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Lipgloss, Denver's longest running club night does more than throw a great dance party every Friday night. Sometimes the prospect of quality acts coming to town can't be ignored, and Lipgloss will help throw a one-off party at another venue. That was the case when The Twelves and The Phantom's Revenge came to Denver, and the result was a wicked Wednesday night dance party that instantly became a night to remember. If you were there, you already know, but if you missed it, check out the video below to see why you should keep your eyes out for the next one. Until then, be sure to catch Lipgloss - still every Friday night, but at their new Beauty Bar location. They'll be hosting a big act in their new digs to celebrate their 11th anniversary with the Junior Boys on June 29 - another sure to be can't miss event!

Lipgloss presents The Twelves from Concerted Effort on Vimeo.

The Lipgloss anniversary party is on Friday, June 29 at Beauty Bar. This 21+ event kicks off at 9:00PM sharp. Tickets are $7 in advance and are available for purchase online here.

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Last weekend, Denver band Glowing House released their sophomore album Days Run Out. If you missed the release party, their album is now available for purchase and stream through their website. We had a chance to get Glowing House on camera to talk about their new record. The husband-and-wife folk duo talked about the origins of the band, working with producer Jamie Mefford, and the musicians they collaborated with to put together their new album. Check out the video before heading over to to listen to and purchase Days Run Out!

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Flashlights, one of Denver's best electro-pop bands, will be at the Larimer Lounge this Saturday, June 16, for the release party of their new EP So Close To Midnight. Concerted Effort had a chance to hang out with them in their practice space and got them on camera to discuss about their upcoming show. Watch them talk about what surprises they have in store, including the Denver debut of their new live drummer. Head over to the Concerted Effort Facebook page for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the show. Then head over to the show and get your hands on their EP on limited edition cassette!

This 18+ show takes place at the Larimer Lounge on Saturday, June 16 and also features Roniit and Lust.. The doors open at 8:00PM and the music starts at 9:00PM. Tickets are $10 and are available online here.
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Folk music lovers of Denver that are familiar with Glowing House should know that this husband-and-wife duo are releasing a new album.  And this new album is being celebrated officially at the Hi-Dive this Saturday.  For anyone new to Glowing House, their CD release show is going to be a folk treat with local artists Poet's Row and You Me and Apollo playing alongside the folk couple, and who will also be inviting their friends and collaborators to the stage to properly introduce their new album Days Run Out.

Glowing House is offering a copy of their new album FREE to the first 100 ticket buyers. Purchase a ticket online here before it's too late! You can also WIN tickets to the show by sharing this post on Facebook!

The core members of Glowing House are Steve Varney and Jess Parsons, and both of them were performing music separately before joining forces as bandmates and as a married couple.  Former drummer Patrick Kline was one of the staples of the group's fluid lineup, but as folk music goes you can expect that the community is naturally drawn to collaboration. In recording the new album, Varney and Parsons brought in the talents of cellist Phil Parker and local Denver musicians Jeanie Schroder (DeVotchKa) as well as Wes Watkins (Petals of Spain/Air Dubai) to add to the musical accompaniment.  The new album was recorded in the Morrison Community Church where Varney's father is a pastor.

Days Run Out is the sophomore release by Parsons and Varney and was produced by Jamie Mefford.  Since their first album was handled by the band from start to finish, they were effusive in their praise for Mefford's finishing touch on the album.  "World class microphones plus a guy like him . . . it was interesting how laid back not only he is, but also just the way he records." said Varney.  When asked about the differences between the recording process when you are working with a producer like Mefford, Parsons responded, "Jamie knows how to make a record, and we know how to write songs and perform.  The first album is very much what we did live, that's how I thought of it; it's what I sing and what I play live.  And it's amazing to have someone with an ear for when we put this all together how is it going to sound." Mefford worked has worked with the likes of Gregory Alan Isakov, Carbon Choir, Dan Craig, Jeromy Dion.

How do musicians initiate the collaboration process? I don't know if it's always this easy, but sometimes you just go up to someone and ask, like how Glowing House approached Jeanie Schroder. "We just happened to meet her one night.  It was just a moment like 'Oh, you're here and we're here and we're in talking distance of you, and I'm going to ask you this'.  We ended up playing with each other at this alumni event for the University of Colorado Denver, which is where we both went and Jeanie went a while back.  She ended up playing for us with 'Taming Lions' . . . and after we were done, we asked if she would track on the album.  It was really awesome." said Varney.

With a produced sound and musical flair from Denver friends, Glowing House is enthusiastic about this new album. "It's been great to have these other people come in and it felt like the song was brand new for us.  We don't give them any direction; like what you hear Wes playing is out of Wes' head."  said Parsons.  "We feel really proud of this one.  I think for the first time [a recording of ours] gives a good representation of what we are."

Poet's Row is a folk duo made up of Emily Hobbs and Mickey Bakes, and "Daydream" was the last single they released in early January from their Exquisite Corpse EP.

You Me and Apollo is a folk band led by Colorado Springs-born Brent Cowles and the five-piece call Fort Collins home. Their last release was Cards and Cheats, and their most recent single is "Before I Die" which is included here for your listening pleasure.

Glowing House will be playing their official CD release show this Saturday at the Hi-Dive with Poets Row and You, Me and Apollo.  Doors are at 8 PM and the show starts at 9 PM, and is all ages.  See more show details on the Hi-Dive's website here.
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For music fans who were lucky enough to catch Plastic Plates’ unforgettable set at SnowBall Music Festival last March, they know seeing the talented producer in an intimate venue like Summit Music Hall is a rare treat. Plastic Plates will bring his remixes to Denver this Friday, performing alongside Flosstradamus and headlining artist and former Aeroplane member, The Magician. Little is known about The Magician, so our friend Brianna Hernandez of Early Bird // Night Owl chatted with the Belgian producer to discuss parting ways with Aeroplane, touring the festival circuit, and his upcoming show in Denver on Friday.

BH: How did you first get into electronic music? What made you want to be a DJ?
TM: I got a magical feeling the first time I saw my uncle DJ. He played electronic disco music, but also all the records I knew from the stereo and radio at home. He was an incredible DJ and used a microphone to present each track. I was very young – it was in the '80s. When he stopped his career in 1988, he gave me his material and record collection. From there, I learned how to deejay, without a microphone [laughs] in my bedroom and started to buy electronic music records.

Finally, I had some opportunities to play in Belgian bars and clubs in the mid-90's.

BH: Which artists were you influenced by growing up? Who influences you now?
TM: Michael Jackson, ABBA, Queen, Alan Parsons Project, Supertramp, Serge Gainsbourg. Also, all the pop, synth pop and disco music from 1976 to 1988.

Nowadays, I'm influenced by Daft Punk, Mark Ronson, Erol Alkan, M83, Metronomy, Perseus, Lindstrom & Prins Thomas, Gonzales, Sebastien Tellier and more.

BH: Has it been difficult for you trust your own instinct since parting ways with Vito aka Aeroplane? Now that you are working solo, do you second guess yourself?
TM: It has been difficult indeed because I never trusted myself in the past projects. I had to make difficult decisions. Now, my mindset has changed. I do what I feel and I'm a better man for it. We only live once.

BH: You recently played Rock in Rio Festival. What was that experience like?
TM: It was my first festival experience in Portugal. The festival is great – it is in the top 20 best festivals in Europe, in my opinion. However, I felt that almost 50% of the crowd didn't know about me. But, I did my thing and it worked amazingly well!

BH: You also played Camp Bisco last year. Do you enjoy playing large outdoor festivals or smaller, more intimate shows?
TM: I have such great memories of Camp Bisco last year! I would have loved to do it again this year but it didn't work because of schedule conflicts. I like small clubs because it's warmer. Closer to the crowd, you can share a smile, dance with people, talk to them. The approach is completely different at festivals. I like it though, especially when the sun is shining!

BH: You reached Number 1 on Hype Machine with your remix of RAC’s “Hollywood (featuring Penguin Prison).” What made you choose to remix this track? How have blogs and MP3 websites like Hype Machine helped and/or hurt your career?
TM: They asked me to remix it, and I was pretty sure that I could make something cool with the vocals. Vocals are actually my first selection criteria. Being ranked on Hype Machine means that your track is the most popular. It can be for an hour, for a day, two days, etc. For sure it helps your career, your name is on many blogs and social networks. It's a great promotional tool, it helps to build your fan base.

BH: Where are some of your favorite places to play in the US and outside the US?
TM: In the US, I really like playing in New York because it's my favorite city in the world. As for the crowd, it is different in each city. I like San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, Philly, Chicago and LA. Outside the US, I love London, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, Brussels, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Tel Aviv. I used to hate playing in Paris, but since last year it's become one of the best cities to play.

BH: What do you miss most about home?
TM: My cat, my studio, good food, friends, my bed…

BH: You are playing alongside Plastic Plates and Flosstradamus in Denver on June 8th. What is your favorite Plastic Plates track/remix?
TM: I've chosen Plastic Plates to tour with me, because he's good to warm up [the crowd]. My favorite tune that he’s made? I would say his remix of Adele’s "Set Fire to the Rain."

BH: Who haven’t you remixed that you would like to in the future?
TM: I would have loved to remix Lana Del Rey’s "Video Games." In the future? Metronomy, Santigold, M83 and Daft Punk. Drake or Kanye West would be an exciting new challenge.

BH:  Any crazy tour stories?
TM: Recently, when I was playing at a festival, I looked out at the crowd and they were looking at me and the stage, but not as usual. Only after having played, I saw some videos and on the stage behind me, there was a big magician’s hat and guess what came out of it? A guy with a bunny outfit, drunk and dancing during the entire set!

Catch The Magician with Plastic Plates and Flosstradamus at Summit Music Hall this Friday, presented by Euphonic Conceptions. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online here.
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Thursday night at the Hi-Dive was loud.  Electronic machines and powerful lyrics were amplified throughout the small venue on Broadway; although few in attendance were there to witness it, the artists on stage didn't hold back.  It kind of felt like watching a documentary of exotic animals in their natural habitat.  The local hip hop performers on stage that evening were not lacking in talent or stage presence; the pairing of Sole and Abstract Collective helped ground the evening in words of action, while Wanderdusk helped animated the flavor of the Hi-Dive with more dreamy and inspirational themes.

The Abstract Collective has a dedicated vibraphone player included in their lineup; when you notice this, you immediately know that these guys aren't your average hip hop group (I mean, really, how cool is that?).  Along with the vibraphone, the Abstract Collective bring a full band to the stage which includes drums, bass guitar and keyboards.

The two MCs for the group, Ari Max Wechsler and Matt Melsen, take turns accompanying their fellow musicians on stage in a pleasant harmony of words and sound.  The group has more of a positive bend to them, with lyrics spoken intelligently about making positive change.  During their set, the group performed a cover by Telefon Tel Aviv and had a guest MC join them on stage. 

Sole, aka Tim Holland, performed solo with some remixed songs.  He started with "Theme" which was remixed with Lana Del Rey's "Blue Jeans". Holland also played new music, previewing a song called "Denver Nights" which was inspired by the police interaction experienced during the Occupy Denver days.  Holland told us a little about his involvement with the occupiers in an interview I posted on the blog just last week.  "They're an armed gang, terrorizing the streets.  Beating the fuck out of me and my friends on a regular basis," said Holland.  In response to the sparse crowd, he mentioned that it must have been due to "all the Sole fans [were] locked up in the FEMA camp". Sole's music is characterized by the political undertones that strongly highlight inequality and injustice that exists in our country, and you might just learn something about current affairs if you give him a listen.  On stage, Holland was incredibly personable and openly talked to the crowd throughout his set; when the sound guy gave him a quick time check toward the end of his set, he looked at the queue on his computer and said, "That's okay buddy, I get paid by the hour."  

Wanderdusk is made up of three guys: a drummer, and laptop man and an electronic machine-smith.  For their set an elaborate projected animation played in the background as they played playful, ambient songs, in contrast to the real-world lyricism of the previous bands.  The dreamy music was a delightful way to be sent back onto the streets of Denver.

Check out more photos from the night on the Concerted Effort Facebook page.

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Back on tour after the release of their fourth studio album, Balkan Beat Box is making a stop in Denver tonight at the Summit Music Hall. This band emerged out of New York in 2005, but their sound is much more eastern than east coast. Balkan Beat Box was founded by Israeli-Americans Tamir Muskat and Ori Kaplan, and the duo fused together Mediterranean and Balkan music with electronic and hip-hop styled beats to create a fresh, new, extremely danceable approach to that traditional sound. Their third studio album release showcased some of the band's experimentation with Arabic and Spanish influences, and their newest album, Give, is another infused exploration of world sounds. Balkan Beat Box usually performs live with many supporting musicians to give incredible energy to their performances. Check out "Part of The Glory".

Atomga Groove Alliance is a ten-piece band from Denver that is rooted in afro-beat. With a scattering of instruments at their disposal including a full horn section and various percussion, they should recreate high energy afro-beat music with authenticity. They will also incorporate a host of other influences and styles into their sound, like funk, reggae and jazz. Check out "The Cure".

Men In Burka is the Denver electronic music project of Kamran Khan. With a couple supporting musicians and an array of synthesizers, sequencers, samplers and drum machines, Men In Burka creates a Middle Eastern infused version of hip-hop beats and experimental electronica that should get the crowd bouncing.  Check out "Khanga".

The Summit Music Hall doors open at 8:00PM and the music starts at about 9:00PM. The show is 18+ and tickets are $20. Tickets and more information are available online here.
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Hair spray, ripped jean vests, black eyeliner.  The masses had come out to see their favorite bands, whether it be a 16 year-old teenager getting ready to see Against Me!, or the 40-ish punks here to see their old-school favorites, The Cult.  Everyone was united in their use of hair spray, ripped jean vests and black eyeliner.  This was kind of an expensive show for the Ogden, I'm guessing because of the nature of the headliner being kind of a big deal (I guess?); regular tickets were about $40 and VIP tickets were $100.  Very un-punk rock prices for a very punk-rock show, the most punk-rock aspect of which being the courageous announcement by singer Tom Gabel of Against Me! of his decision to become transgender and change his name to Laura Jane Grace.

The Icarus Line is very loud.  Their set consisted of songs that were bass-heavy and the drum kit was thunderous.  This is what they must mean by hard rock; it was beating up my ears.  Joe Cardamone's shirtless body was nearly translucent as he swiveled around the stage and his voice ricocheted against the bass chords being fired off by Alvin DeGuzman.

I would say Cardamone was certainly going for the "sensual-by-way-of-disturbing" kind of stage presence, something you might see if Jim Morrison was really skinny and hyper like Iggy Pop.  In between songs, it was hard to tell when Cardamone was improving some one-off remarks or if what he was saying was actually part of a song.   For example, Cardamone slinkily ran his fingers over his floor monitor with his head held low whilst repeating into his mic, "You hurt me," then with a quick swivel raised his voice to exclaim, "You gave me herpes!" and turned his back to the crowd as the initial base chord for another song began.  In summation: a little eccentric and very hard (rock).

Against Me! is a band that began when Gabel moved to Gainesville, FL to play for swampy college kids.  As he gained three other band members, the band became popular with their anarchy-tinged music that chronicled the experience of being broke, getting drunk and sometimes throwing bricks in the new Starbucks storefront window.  15 years later, with a little more polished sound and a new drummer, it's surprising that this band is so popular and still attracting the younger crowd.  I guess the music is just what you want to hear when you're a teenager, with major themes usually sticking to angst, friendship and speaking up against what isn't fair or intelligent.

The band came on stage and presented themselves to the mixed age range that had come to see the second performance of the new Laura Jane since the news broke by Rolling Stone in early May.  Against Me! started the night with "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" which will be the same title of the forthcoming album, according to Rolling Stone.  They played a few new songs, and then stuck to mostly the big singles, like the more recent "Thrash Unreal" and "White Crosses", and older, punk-at-heart tunes like "Pints of Guinness Make You Stronger" and "Don't Lose Touch".  As the night wore on, the teenagers tried their best to jump around but it was all very tame in my book.  The older fans that were standing with their vodka tonics and Coors Lights took a sidestep to avoid any elbows; a highlighter-yellow-haired girl attempted to crowd surf and was airborne for 10 seconds at the most.  I have a friend whose fiance is really conflicted with Gabel's recent decision; having grown up listening to Against Me!'s songs since high school, I have to imagine that he feels a little confused, even if he can't outright say it. A real testament to the experience of seeing these guys on stage in Denver was that I felt like they were the same band I saw in Gainesville; their music changes, their drummer changes, their singer's name and gender orientation changes, but they're still true to my memory of Against Me! almost six years later.

The Cult played to a full theater, whose front row audience instantly aged 20 years.  Instead of the plaid button-up shirt with hipster glasses, new onlookers with mesh tops and devil-horn headbands were now clamoring for the prime spots up front.  A ominous shaman figure was projected on the stage's backdrop while the soundcheck ran on for almost an hour.  When the group came on stage, I was instantly struck by the abundance of black leather.  Singer Ian Astbury also doesn't speak British anymore (many years of Britpop music knowledge has taught me to disregard any political correctness with those blokes).  New songs and old songs were freely distributed in the Cult's set.  For instance, one sample of a few consecutive songs they played included a songs from 2000, 1985, and 2012 ("Li'l Devil" from Electric, "(Here Comes)The Rain" from Love, and "Lucifer" from Choice of Weapon.  At one point, Astbury commented that Denver's love affair with marijuana made the city more like a "Bangkok brothel".  Astbury has almost 30 years worth of songs under his belt with The Cult, and his success has afforded him the opportunity to make such claims.  

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