By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
Long before I knew any better, I was a Raiders fan, a fact that riled most of my Broncos-loving kinfolk. Everyone except my dad viewed my inexplicable fandom as something just a notch below heresy. But while Pops didn't exactly share my zeal, he dug the fact that I was marching to the beat of my own drummer, and staunchly defended my right to do so.
Back then, I'd sooner be strapped to the front end of my dad's Monte Carlo and paraded around town in my skivvies than be caught dead sporting the orange and blue. Nonetheless, there's a picture of me — I must have been around seven or eight — standing in the front yard of my grandpa's house at 21st and Federal, wearing a pleather letterman's jacket emblazoned with the Orange Crush-era logo. My disapproving scowl is unmistakable. The Raiders were playing the Broncs on my birthday, and one of my favorite aunts had given me the jacket as a present. Worse, she'd had the gall to ask me to pose for a photo. After some prodding, I eventually relented. Of course, I also made sure to offer up my best gas face.
Sometime after that, though, it occurred to me: I'm from Denver, not Oakland. Why the hell am I pulling for a team from a place I've never even seen, much less been to? I couldn't come up with a reasonable answer. And from that moment on, I began rooting for the home team. Obsessively. I bled orange and blue.
When John and the boys won, so did I. And when they lost, well, I was stricken by the same paralyzing, week-long despondency that immobilized all the other Broncomaniacs. All through the lean years, I held steadfast to the notion that one day we'd have our season in the sun. And when that time was about to come, we all knew it. We felt it in our bones.
I've been rooting for this town's music scene almost as long. I vividly recall longing for a time when artists from here wouldn't have to flee to the coasts to get their shine. In the '90s, we pinned our hopes to a number of locals linked to majors — the Fluid, then Spell, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the Samples and the subdudes. Whether you were a fan of these acts didn't matter. The hope was that someone, anyone, would break through nationally so that the spotlight would then be cast in our direction. But despite the various levels of acclaim that those groups achieved — Big Head even scored a platinum platter — Colorado was still mostly an afterthought for the industry, a place to come and ski rather than an area to discover an untapped wealth of new talent.
Now, all these years later, our time has finally come. I can feel it in my bones. There's more talent in this town than I can remember ever being assembled before, and the labels and presumed power-brokers are finally paying attention. Granted, the business has changed and the kingmakers of yesterday no longer rule, but it's still gratifying to know that we're finally getting our due. Consider all that's happened over the past few years — from the platinum sales and Grammy nods, to the groups that have licensed their tunes in TV and film, to the acts that have landed on majors or respected indie imprints, to still more acts that have aligned with prominent booking agents or are being relentlessly pursued by labels. We've arrived.
But while all the attention is absolutely warranted and long, long overdue, those are just the headlines. There's something far more special happening in the scene right now that makes any discussion of the convergence of art and commerce seem almost irrelevant. It's become commonplace for local bills to be stacked top to bottom with great acts, to the point where you head to the club early just so you don't miss the openers, which are often every bit as vital as the headliners. And just when I think we're close to reaching critical mass, a flood of new bands emerges. National notoriety is great and all, but it's nothing compared to the undeniable sense of community you feel going to these shows, seeing your friends and neighbors pour themselves into their art. It's more than a scene. It's who we are.
Watching someone like Nathaniel Rateliff opening up his veins and making himself completely vulnerable on stage at the hi-dive, and then looking around and seeing an array of other prominent players in the crowd, all with the same awestruck expressions on their faces — that's one of the things that makes Denver great. All the disparate collaborations is another. When these musicians aren't at each other's shows, they're playing together, creating entirely new music in completely different configurations.
It's invigorating to know that this sort of thing is happening every night, all over town, across many factions of the scene. From the hi-dive and Larimer Lounge to 3 Kings and Bender's taverns, from the Toad Tavern and Herman's Hideaway to the Walnut Room and the Soiled Dove, from Cricket on the Hill and the Lion's Lair to Eck's and the Iliff Park saloons, from Cervantes' and Quixotes to Dulcinea's and the Oriental, from Sox's Place and Monkey Mania to the Tarshack and Rhinoceropolis — you get the sense that we're all in this together, and whether or not outsiders deem our scene worthy, we know it is. When all is said and done, we'll hold on to the music and the friendship.