The Show(case) Must Go On!

After leading Denver's acid-jazz pioneers Groove Kitchen throughout much of the '90s, Prather took a few years off from performing to work in production and sound design. When the itch to gig struck again, he didn't want to take the beaten path; he wanted to blaze a new one. "I didn't want to be a DJ," he says. "I wanted that live jazz feel."

So he went on to recruit a veritable who's who of the Mile High City's jazz and funk scenes: keyboardist/bassist Geoff Cleveland of the Emergency Broadcast Players, the horn section from the Psychedelic Zombies, and other top players who man samplers and electric piano. The result evokes everything from Bootsy Collins-style funk to Zappa jazz with a sci-fi edge.

After gigging all over Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs, the Sons released their self-titled debut in January, swerving all over the place with such amusingly titled tracks as "Charlie's Angel Dust" and "Monk Meets the Addams Family."

Obviously, the band has a sense of humor. So what's with that sinister-sounding name? Prather explains that it's a political joke: In the band's collective eyes, George Bush Senior represents Armageddon, which means that George W. and his siblings are the Sons of Armageddon. Laughing, Prather says, "We had no idea how prophetic we were going to be." -- Peterson

SOUL THIEVES
NOMINATED IN ROCK
As ambitious purveyors of airtight groove rock with an occasional comedic edge, the Soul Thieves wander the Rocky Mountain region relentlessly, performing more than 200 gigs annually. In addition to touring the Midwest and Southwest in support of Microphone in the Sugar Bowl, the quintet still finds time to record humorous culture-based anthems such as "Red Wings Suck" -- which became an instant classic among crowds at the Pepsi Center.

"How do we explain the music?" asks singer/guitarist Michael St. James rhetorically. "It's butt-shakin', heartbreakin', love-makin' music. We really try to give the audience the full spectrum; from a great dance tune to a funny, tongue-in-cheek song, all the way to the affecting ballad. A lot of bands tend to categorize themselves and box themselves into a corner. It's like they feel that the heartfelt ballad will detract from the big-ass rock song. I guess we aren't afraid to give you everything."

St. James shares fronting duties with Greg Ferguson, with whom he has been singing for nearly fifteen years. During this lengthy stretch, the pair has honed its harmonies and arrived at two distinct styles. And the group boasts a rhythm section that any rocking ensemble would be proud to call its own: Dani Hofer-Harrison on bass and Jeff "The Hitman" Martin on drums.

"What sets this duo [Hofer-Harrison and Martin] apart is their gift for taking technical ability and turning it into amazing grooves and a solid backbone," offers lead guitarist Ryan Donely. "When these guys lock it in, you can't help but start dancing." -- Hutchinson

JILL STEVENSON
NOMINATED IN SINGER/SONGWRITER
Colorado native Jill Stevenson recently shook off the dust of Denver, packed up her acoustic guitar and left her band behind. She's currently pounding the pavement in New York City; her first gig in Babylon was at CBGB, the epicenter of the original punk-rock explosion. It's a bold move for a young player who's still one year away from being able to legally purchase a drink in the venues she plays.

"I started singing before I could talk, and I always remember loving music and making it," Stevenson says. "My mom is a pianist, and my father is a singer/songwriter/guitarist who taught me how to play by ear, although I think I just inherited that gene from him."

Stevenson's first full-length CD, Underway, highlights her relaxed, soulful and passionate style. A folk-flavored effort, the recording helped boost her profile among local listeners and other Denver-based players. She promises that those who miss her will see her again: Stevenson plans to continue working with drummer Matt Amundson and single-monikered bassist Tex when she comes back to visit her home town. "It's funny how things work out," says Stevenson, "but I will be coming back to Colorado as often as possible. I certainly won't leave my home and my loyal fans behind." -- Patrick Casey

NINA STOREY
NOMINATED IN SINGER/SONGWRITER
8 P.M., DAZZLE, WITH WENDY WOO
If local-music aficionados took bets on which area performer would be most likely to get signed by a major label, bluesy, evocative singer/songwriter Nina Storey would definitely be in the chips. Not that her current independence has prevented her from reaching national audiences through other mediums. "I had one of my songs, 'If I Were an Angel,' on the TV show Alias, and I had something in this really great film called The Broken Hearts Club [a 2000 release starring Dean Cain and John Mahoney]," Storey says. "And I've had music in some documentaries, a couple of films that went to cable, some stuff on the Lifetime channel. Obviously, getting stuff placed is awesome."

Touring beyond Colorado has kept Storey hopping as well: "In the past few months, I was on the West Coast for shows in L.A., went to the East Coast to places like New York, did some shows in the Midwest, and I'm doing some festivals, too." Between these dates, she'll try her best to wrap up a new album, her first since a self-titled offering issued in early 2002. She calls the new material "an evolution. It's still the essential me in terms of sound and energy and intensity that I put into my music, but it's probably more revealing in ways, and hopefully even more honest."

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