By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Fifteen years ago, on a cool, damp night in LoDo, a local music festival was born. By the standards of today's Westword Music Showcase, the inaugural event was modest. I know, because I was there — as a spectator. Little did I know back then that one day I'd be charged with curating the Showcase, a role I've filled for the past six years as it moved to the Golden Triangle and became bigger and better than ever. And despite the fact that I make this claim each time, this year's edition really is the be-all and end-all.
For starters, the lineup is astonishing from top to bottom, regardless of your musical tastes. For nine measly bucks and some change ($20 if you wait until Saturday to get your tickets), you'll hear five bona fide big-shot headliners (one of whom is also on the bill at this year's Pitchfork and Siren festivals) and more than eighty of our town's finest acts. Plus, we've added several cool new venues, and we're getting an earlier start so you can take in as much music as possible. This guide contains the basic info on this year's performers, but stop by the Backbeat blog this week for some free MP3 downloads.
See you Saturday, June 13, at the Showcase! — Dave HerreraClick here for a complete Showcase schedule.
BUILT TO SPILL
8:25-9: 50 P.M., VERIZON WIRELESS OUTDOOR STAGE
The Westword Music Showcase is about the experience of seeing performers making music on the spot, in real time — and few groups are more representative of that aesthetic than Built to Spill. Led by Idaho-based singer-songwriter/guitarist Doug Martsch, the band makes consistently brilliant albums, such as 2006's You in Reverse. But instead of treating each track like a glass figurine that might shatter if not handled with care, Martsch and company boldly elaborate on their original designs without getting hung up on perfection. "You can fuck up and forget about it a minute later," Martsch notes in an interview available in its entirety on westword.com's Backbeat Online blog. "Do things that you might not want to be totally remembered for, things that wouldn't be totally representative of Built to Spill...things on the guitar or whatever. You do them on your guitar for a minute and then move on. It's a really freeing experience to play live."
6:55-8:05 P.M., VERIZON WIRELESS OUTDOOR STAGE
Stepping nimbly onto the escalator built by the Fray, Meese is on the fast track to being Denver's next big breakout band. And while there's no denying the hard work, passion and attention to craft the brothers Patrick and Nathan Meese have put into their outfit since moving to Denver from Cleveland, it seems almost impossible for Meese not to succeed; the band oozes sharp, glittery hooks that are simultaneously frantic and casual, low-key and assured. Now that the group's major-label debut, Broadcast, is due to be released on Atlantic Records on June 30, its sweet, bouncy, synth-plus-guitar sound might become the soundtrack to more than just Denver's summer. — Jason Heller
5:35-6:35 P.M., VERIZON WIRELESS OUTDOOR STAGE
The Fluid's reunion show at the Bluebird Theater was amazing on every level — and the fun was only starting, as lead singer John Robinson points out via e-mail. A secret club date in Seattle was "a total blowout," he writes, and a throng of 6,000 ate up the band's performance at a festival celebrating Sub Pop Records' twentieth anniversary: "I got a little crowd surfing in, just like old times." Since then, the original lineup's played more gigs in New York City and Seattle, and while there are no plans to record new material, Robinson stresses that the players are "keen to remix and remaster some of the back catalog and make it available at some point." Everyone's also game to reassemble every so often if the occasion is right — and the Westword Music Showcase proved to be the perfect fit. Robinson believes "it could well be the music event of the summer for Denver." — Roberts
4:15-5:15 P.M., VERIZON WIRELESS OUTDOOR STAGE
"I'm at my best when I'm at my worst," croons Cursive's Tim Kasher in "From the Hips," a track from the Omaha band's most recent album, this year's Mama, I'm Swollen. And — as those lyrics and titles indicate — Kasher uses his band's comeback album as yet another vehicle for his lush, extended metaphors and self-referential probing. But Kasher's three-year break after 2006's Happy Hollow seems to have mellowed the introspective songwriter out a bit; a few of the postmodern edges have worn off, and the band seems a bit more open to flat-out rocking. That is, in a totally sensitive way. Of course, there are still plenty of twisted, conceptually complex anthems in Cursive's repertoire, including songs from its masterpieces, 2000's Domestica and 2003's The Ugly Organ. — Heller
3:00-4:00 P.M., VERIZON WIRELESS OUTDOOR STAGE
New York trio A Place to Bury Strangers burst on the scene on a wave of comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain — comparisons that certainly weren't unfounded. Still, APTBS has take one particular sliver of that sound (namely, it's early, white-noise era) and amped it to an exponential degree. Nearly industrial in its starkness, the group forges shivering, lumbering songs that stab like icicles and throb like the hearts of mastodons. The act's self-titled debut full-length from 2007 is a formidable recording, but it pales before its blissfully punishing live set — aided by singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann's array of customized, homemade effects pedals, which he crafts by day for clients as illustrious as Wilco, U2 and another of his obvious influences, My Bloody Valentine. — Heller