The Show(case) Must Go On!

The Westword Music Showcase has come of age over the past decade -- not unlike LoDo, where we launched the event in 1995. Now in its ninth year, the Showcase has moved out of its original home and grown into a can't-miss annual celebration of area talent. And this year, we're expanding the lineup of one of Colorado's biggest local-music events to include three powerhouse national acts: Guided by Voices, Particle and Mark Farina.

Last year, thousands of music fans converged on Market Street, where we hosted scores of bands in five clubs and on a packed outdoor-stage area. True, we had some minor problems with smoke and ash -- courtesy of the Hayman Fire, which blazed brightest on the day of the 2002 event (the year before, when the Showcase was held in late May, there was a blizzard) -- but that wasn't enough to quiet the musicians or the crowds who turned out to take part in the party. Recognizing that while we couldn't do much to influence the weather, we could improve our surroundings, this year we decided to take our show on -- or, down -- the road: We've moved out of lower downtown and into the burgeoning Golden Triangle neighborhood.

But while the neighborhood is new, the concept isn't; it's simply old and improved. And so on Saturday, June 21, we'll present another marathon-style roster of first-rate talent, with 34 local acts culled from the Westword Music Showcase ballot at five venues: La Rumba (99 West Ninth Avenue), the Acoma Center (1080 Acoma Street), Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge (930 Lincoln Street), the Church (1160 Lincoln Street) and Serengeti (1037 Broadway), as well as an outdoor stage located in the 900 block of Acoma Street.

Gates open at 3 p.m. at Ninth and Acoma, and the music lasts well beyond the witching hour: Showcase ticket holders are eligible for a reduced admission to Mark Farina's show at the Church, which begins at 11 p.m., when our other venues will be shutting down. Farina will also perform a teaser set on the outdoor stage at 6 p.m., followed by national headliners Particle and Guided by Voices.

With solid lineups in every venue, some strategy will be required to survive the Showcase: We recommend wearing good shoes, drinking a lot (of water or other beverages; the event is open to those 21 and up only) and mapping out a parade route. Our pocket guides, available at each venue, are helpful navigational tools; so is this guide, which includes the times and places that participating acts will be playing.

As in years past, the Westword Music Showcase ballot was shaped by a committee of local-music enthusiasts and bona fide experts. This year, 62 acts were nominated in the categories of blues; hip-hop; DJ/dance/electronica; country/bluegrass/ roots; singer/songwriter; rock; pop; hard rock; punk; jazz/swing; and eclectic. That's the largest number of artists we've ever had on a ballot. We also have more new names on the roster this year than ever before: Black Black Ocean, the Soul Thieves, FOMOFUIAB, Rogue, Vaux, the Motet and Sons of Armageddon are just a few of the first-timers who appear alongside such Showcase veterans as Otis Taylor, Nina Storey, Opie Gone Bad, Yo, Flaco! and DJ Ivy. Profiles of each act, written by a crew of Backbeat contributors and spreading across this section, will help you bone up on what the nominated bands are up to, where they came from and where they're going.

Fans and readers determine the winners: Readers can vote by mailing in the ballot printed on page 23; filling in a ballot at any Showcase venue; or voting online at www.westword.com. The deadline for submitting ballots is noon on Monday, June 23; winners will be announced during a special awards ceremony at the Bluebird Theater at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 26. The evening will be hosted by Bob Rupp, with music by Sam Bivens and the Denver Jazz Orchestra, and will include the induction of five-time winner Blister 66 into the Showcase Hall of Fame. That event is free and open to the public; tickets are available at the Westword office, located at 969 Broadway -- in the heart of the same Golden Triangle neighborhood.

The Showcase itself isn't free, but it's pretty darn close. Advance tickets are available for $5 at any of the participating venues and Colorado Liquor Mart; tickets are $10 on the day of the event. That's a good deal for a stellar afternoon and evening. Come help us celebrate the Showcase's new digs -- and our city's vibrant music scene.

MARK FARINA
6 P.M., OUTDOOR STAGE
11 P.M., THE CHURCH
Mark Farina's trademark synthesis of soulful house that's soaked with an almost liquid overlay of slow-burn subterranean jazz has made him one of the most popular and well-known DJs in the world. A native of Park Ridge, Illinois (a hamlet just outside of Chicago), Farina began deejaying in high school -- taking his influences from the Chi-town house scene where he was indoctrinated at clubs like downtown's Medusa. But Farina was thrust into the spotlight when he began spinning in his adopted home of San Francisco, where he still resides. Using a bare-bones setup of two turntables, a soundboard, a couple of CD players and a sampler, Farina creates his deep-house groove sans the pre-fab mixing software many DJs rely on to smooth out the kinks. His flawless mixing shows a fondness for minimalism, with darker tones and funky bass lines glazed with exotic world music and samples seamlessly laid over everything from beepy techno to relaxed soul.

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