The Show(case) Must Go On!

"We try to integrate all the sounds that we've come up with over the years -- Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and what have you -- into a cohesive whole," says Watts. "We're looking at mixing it all up, trying to put maybe a Tower of Power horn feel to salsa, or a jungle beat to Afro pop. We like to stir up the genres in an intriguing way."

Formed in 1998, the Motet consists of vocalist Jans Ingber, slide guitarist Mike Tiernan, percussionist Scot Messersmith, bass guitarist Garrett Sayer, keyboardist Greg Raymond and Watts on drums. The band combines the precision and exploration common to jazz with the tribal percussion associated with West Africa. The group has amassed quite a following in Boulder and Denver and has hosted some great guest musicians on recent gigs: Members of bands including Deep Banana Blackout and the Flecktones are recent sit-ins. Says Watts, "You never know who might show up." -- Hutchinson

OPEN ROAD
NOMINATED IN COUNTRY/BLUEGRASS/ROOTS
Some bands are coy about their influences; others are blatant, taking the music they draw inspiration from and trying to twist it into a hybrid or a gimmick. Open Road is neither: The combo plays bluegrass, straight up, with a freshness and vitality that makes the antique style sound young.

"We like to honor the tradition of bluegrass," says Caleb Roberts, who plucks the mandolin for the Lyons group. "I prefer the power of simple melodies and the tones of the bluegrass instruments that seem to resonate with the most basic human emotions."

Roberts was once a member of Denver's now legendary Slim Cessna's Auto Club, and the rest of Open Road -- Keith Reed, Robert Britt, Eric Thorin and Bradford Lee Folk -- have noteworthy backgrounds in bands like Grass Route and Cheyenne Lonesome. Now, however, the five players have absorbed the soul, earthiness and virtuosity of bluegrass icons such as Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, blending the echoes of tradition with a modern emphasis on songwriting and energy. On Cold Wind, the group's 2002 Rounder Records debut, the Appalachian strains of fiddle, banjo and mandolin jump and holler around Folk's twangy, authentic vocals. The whole thing hums with the rootsy essence of Americana.

"I love the recordings of the first generation of bluegrass musicians, especially the recordings of live performances," Roberts says. "Part of the intensity of the performance of this music is the interaction the musician has with the audience. The audience creates a greater urgency for the performer to convey the emotion of the music." This chemistry with its listeners is a big part of Open Road's ever-increasing appeal; the band has been nominated twice, in 2001 and 2002, for the title Emerging Artist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. With a hectic summer schedule full of festival appearances -- not to mention preliminary work on a new album slated for the spring of 2004 -- Roberts and company hope that someday their own work might enter the hallowed canon of bluegrass.

"Some traditional music has a unique power to be timeless, which is why it's remembered, replayed and drawn upon in new music styles," he explains. "Traditional music has its place in the music world today because of this power to speak to people." -- Heller

OPIE GONE BAD
NOMINATED IN POP
Having just finished his fifth season as the house crooner of the "Star-Spangled Banner" for the Colorado Avalanche, and having logged more than a decade fronting what in 1997 became Opie Gone Bad, Jake Schroeder has developed a keen sense about the business of rock and roll.

"Since we started as a nine-piece R&B cover band in 1992," he says, "the music industry has turned upside down and is currently going through what I think is the biggest changes in its history. And we're not twenty anymore. We love to travel, but it has to make sense. None of us can hop into a van and be gone for six months and go in the hole financially to do it."

Playing music festivals from LoDo to Laramie and boasting three CDs (including a Live at Red Rocks platter), Opie Gone Bad throws down a high-octane funk, pop, hip-hop and alt-rock-tinged sound that gets audiences up and moving. And while the band plans to scale back on its busy touring schedule, its musical program is far from over.

"We're lucky enough to be able to use Rocky Mountain Recorders as our lab for recording new stuff," Schroeder says. "It really is an amazing and truly state-of-the-art facility. So for now, we're going to work on writing and recording and, by thinning out some of our gigs, work more in the vein of this being a creative endeavor. We're really lucky to have had the band as our main jobs for so long, and we're really blessed by the support we receive here in town." -- Hutchinson

PLANES MISTAKEN FOR STARS
NOMINATED IN PUNK
8 P.M., SERENGETI
When Planes Mistaken for Stars moved to Denver from Peoria, Illinois, in 1999, the small-town band dreamed of building a modest following in Colorado. Four years later, after touring extensively throughout North America and Europe, Planes has earned a worldwide notoriety as one of the most brutal -- and brutally passionate -- live acts around.

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