The Show(case) Must Go On!

Shredding a scorching form of nü-metal, Aggressive Persuasion's live show borders on savage. Taking full advantage of youth's limitless energy, the members drip sweat and blitzkrieg passion on each stage they play. After finding an audience in southern Colorado, the band started gigging in Denver, sharing stages with other members of the heavy-music scene. AP's sound solidified in 2002, when Leflar, who has a background as an a cappella singer, replaced longtime vocalist Mattie Baughn. Such changes helped move the band outside of the bar realm; its live schedule now includes such venues as Denver's Bluebird and Gothic theaters and Pueblo's Chief. In January, the group released its debut CD, A Sense of Reality.

"I'm a band Nazi," Leflar says, chuckling, when asked if being older than his mates foists extra responsibility onto his shoulders. Pushing the others to work even harder on practices and promotions, Leflar is also behind AP's plans to move to Denver after its regional tour ends in August -- something that's possible now that the other members have finally graduated from high school. -- Catalina Soltero

ALL NIGHT HONKY TONK ALL-STARS
NOMINATED IN COUNTRY/BLUEGRASS/ROOTS
Boulder's All Night Honky Tonk All-Stars serve up a twangy, old-timey soundscape, and as their name implies, they do it all night long: The quintet plays forty songs at an average gig.

Mark Farina
Mark Farina

Formed as a one-off opening act in 2001, the ensemble continued as a band because the chemistry between players was so good. "The gig felt great, the dance floor was full, so we went at it," says vocalist/rhythm guitarist Danny Shafer.

The All-Stars claim former members of Runaway Truck Ramp and the Danny Shafer Band, plus current members of Hit and Run, Greenwich Gulch and Danny Shafer and the Ramblers. Augmented by drummer Jason Pawlina and bassist Jim Sullivan, the outfit boasts not one, not two, but three capable singers in Shafer, mandolinist Rebecca Hoggan and lead guitarist Greg Schochet.

"There's nothing we can't cover in terms of vocal style," says Shafer. "[Hoggan] does all the Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris stuff. I do all the Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Gram Parsons stuff. Greg does the Johnny Cash and Junior Brown stuff -- he's got a really low voice."

"It's nice to have that male/female front in a country group," Shafer adds. "We do all the old duets."

Beyond the covers, the All-Stars also play a number of originals primarily penned by Shafer, but all of it is true to the classic honky-tonk sound. That doesn't mean their audience is easily categorized, however. "We'll go up to Wyoming and play for a bunch of cowboys," says Shafer, "and the next night, we'll play the Fox Theatre for a room full of college students." -- Peterson

BACKBONE VELVET
NOMINATED IN BLUES
The coed blues-rock quartet Backbone Velvet first took shape at guitarist John Gonzales's wedding reception, in August 2000. The performance was a milestone for standout vocalist Marri Jo, as it marked a triumph in her twenty-year struggle with stage fright.

A classically trained opera singer who toured Europe when she was eighteen, Marri Jo gave up singing in 1985 because of burnout and anxiety. She started singing again for her circle of friends, including Gonzales, bassist Chip Fair and drummer Laura Coleman, in the late '90s. At first she would avoid their gazes by singing from a darkened kitchen, but she slowly built her confidence to the point where she could sing in front of complete strangers again. But the anxiety is not entirely gone: "I'm a puker," she says. "I throw up at every single show."

The original plan was for Backbone Velvet to play ten or fifteen covers for friends at Chip Fair's annual Christmas bash in Bailey, but the band soon mushroomed into a mainstay at Herman's Hideaway, the Soiled Dove and other Denver stages. Thank goodness: Marri Jo's re-entry into the performing world is a boon to the Denver music scene. Her raw, powerful pipes are reminiscent of Grace Slick's and Janis Joplin's, and they're backed by a band that dabbles in everything from blues to hard rock to psychedelic exploration.

Ultimately, the bandmates' longtime mutual friendships are the glue that holds Backbone Velvet together. "We all get along so well," says Fair. "It's all about the love." -- Peterson

MARCY BARUCH
NOMINATED IN SINGER/SONGWRITER
Marcy Baruch throws a mean pancake party. Every New Year's Day, the luckiest people in Denver are invited over for breakfast and mimosas. But not everything that Baruch serves up is syrupy and sweet: Rousing rockers and spare, personal pieces are nestled among the catchy pop tunes and folksy offerings on her two recent discs, Hathaway Smiles and Clearly.

In addition to penning her own compositions, Baruch has been collaborating with other artists. "I love my work as a singer/songwriter, but my other true love is in harmony work," she says. She produced fellow songstress Kate Gleason's CD, Return to Me, and performed as both an opening act and a backing vocalist on tour with Nashville artist Lynette Vantreese in 2002.

Baruch's versatility is evident in her live show. Her performance is equally compelling whether she's working as a solo act or backed by a band, whose membership varies with each gig; the only constant is her creative partner and collaborator, bassist Scott Surine. Baruch, who recently returned from a tour of the East Coast, exudes an energy that's both strong and subtle. She doesn't always generate as much fanfare as some of her local contemporaries, but her followers keep increasing in number. We suspect it's the music, not the pancakes, that keeps 'em coming back. -- Soltero

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