By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Last October, the first annual Westword Music Awards Showcase treated listeners to the most successful local-music festival in recent memory. Over thirty Colorado bands, specializing in music ranging from rockabilly and jazz to country and funk, entertained thousands of people at handful of LoDo venues.
The only way to follow an act like that was to make the second annual Westword Music Awards Showcase bigger and better -- and that's exactly what we've done. This year's event features more bands at even more venues. From 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. on Sunday, September 22, 39 of Denver's best acts will take to stages across LoDo -- at Rock Island, the Sports Column, McCormick's Fish House & Bar, Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co., the Great Room at Wazoo's, Jackson's All-American Sports Grill and Flat Pennies. A $5 wristband, available at any of these venues (21 ID required), is your ticket to a night of great music and gets you into any and all performances.
To come up with this year's roster of performers, Westword asked four dozen denizens of the local scene to sound off about the area's best bands (acts signed to major labels were not eligible); the judges' mominations resulted in the sixty bands included on the Westword Music Awards ballot. Over half of these bands will perform Sunday -- so get out and listen, then vote for your favorites. The winners will be announced in the October 3 issue of Westword.
Below are profiles of all the bands nominated for Westword Music Awards (in alphabetical order). If a band is scheduled to play at Sunday's Showcase, the location and time (subject to change) are listed at the end of the profile.
Profiles by Michael Roberts
(Special thanks to Elisabeth Samudio)
According to Reed Foehl, lead vocalist and guitarist with Acoustic Junction, "It took us a really long time to break through in Denver. We'd be really successful in Boulder and then we'd go to Denver and be staring back at thirty people. It took us five or six shows like that before anybody started coming--but now it's like the twentieth time, and we're starting to pack places." The same progression has taken place across the country; four years ago, when Acoustic Junction first started moving from town to town in search of welcoming ears, they found a lot of half-filled rooms. But now, the combo--made up of Foehl, multi-instrumentalist Tim Roper, bassist Curtis Thompson and drummer Matt Coconis--is a consistent draw as a headliner and an opening act of choice for the likes of the Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler and Widespread Panic. A self-titled CD and an appearance at this year's South by Southwest music conference fueled industry awareness of the outfit, resulting in a prolonged flirtation with Atlantic Records and a relationship with Capricorn Records that Foehl predicts will be consummated in the near future. He sees this interest as a natural extension of the hard work the band has done: "We play between 160 and 180 gigs a year, and the figures we've been earning have been getting better and better. So I would think for an A&R person, it would be a real no-brainer." As Foehl understands it, Capricorn is interested in reissuing the band's CD early next year, but Acoustic Junction isn't waiting around for this to happen. Instead, the players will be sticking to their crazy touring schedule. "We're going to be constantly on the road," Foehl points out. "As usual."
David Booker, aka the Captain, has been at the blues-rock game for quite a while now. His previous combo, Captain and the Red-Hot Flames, earned a Best of Denver award as best blues band in the mid-Eighties. But the passing of time has not sapped his drive; ask him a question about his current combo, the Alleygators, and he'll chew your ear to bits. "We have our second CD out now," he begins. "It's called Mojo Alley, and of the ten songs on it, eight are originals--and even the non-originals are pretty original. One of them is a 1930s tune by Bo Carter, a member of the Mississippi Sheiks, and the other one is by Lou Donaldson--it's an instrumental from his Blue Note days. So we cover the whole spectrum there. Our music is very different: It's not the standard Howlin' Wolf-Muddy Waters-Chess sound. A lot of it is very funky. And so are we." Right now, the Alleygators consist of Booker on guitar, drummer Ben Makinen and bassist David "Snakebone" Martin--a lineup that has only Booker in common with the one that cut Mojo Alley. But that doesn't faze the main Gator--nor should it. He's seen them come and seen them go, but he's still keepin' on. "We're taking occasional sorties into Montana and Wyoming these days," he notes, "and in 1997, we're going to be playing in Holland and Germany. And as far as I'm concerned, we're sounding better than we ever have--which, when you've been around as long as I have, is really saying something."
McCormick's Fish House & Bar
Robert Schneider has just flown back to Denver from Japan, and boy, are his arms tired. "Japan was great," he effuses. "We've probably got our biggest audience there, for some reason. I think we've sold as many copies of our album [Fun Trick Noisemaker, on spinART] over there as we have in America. But because there are so many fewer people in Japan, we're like one-tenth of the way to gold there, and like one-hundredth of the way to gold here. Maybe." Obviously, record sales have little correlation to critical acclaim; if they did, Schneider would be on top of the world. The Apples have received nothing but glowing notices for Noisemaker, and Schneider's work on the latest album by Olivia Tremor Control (on Flydaddy) and the new disc by Neutral Milk Hotel (on Merge) just earned plaudits in a recent issue of Spin. No doubt reviewers will be equally pleased by the avalanche of Apples product that's set to descend upon them in the near future. "Our label in Japan, Trattoria, just put out a compilation of all of our EPs and seven-inches," Schneider says. "And we licensed that to spinART; it should be coming out on vinyl here pretty soon. We've also got a bunch of small labels who've been after us to do seven-inches for them, like Hep Cat Records from North Carolina, and Lissys Records and Jukebox Records from the U.K. But what I'm most excited about is a split seven-inch package that we're putting out on Elephant 6 [Schneider's Denver-based label]. It'll be in a gatefold package just like the original version of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour." Even as Schneider is putting these various schemes in motion, he continues to get calls from major-label reps turned on by the video for "Tidal Wave," which has been getting airplay on MTV and its sister network, MTV2. But the Apples remain committed to spinART for at least two more records--and the indie mindset for all eternity. "The coolest thing about the video," Schneider proclaims, "is that it's being played all over the country, but I know that I recorded it on my little eight-track board at my house."