25 reasons the Denver music scene rules
Denver is the capital of Colorado. It is located exactly one mile above sea level. Weed is legal here, while riding your bike on the sidewalk is not. Your mom can make more free throws than Andre Iguodala -- these are all facts. The music scene here sucks ass...now, that is an opinion. The difference? One's irrefutable, and the other, well, nobody asked you, random Craigslist dude. Listen, there are plenty of things about the scene that we're not crazy about, but the good far outweighs the bad. If you think it sucks, you're either new here or you're just not paying attention. Here are 25 reasons the Denver music scene rules.
25. Can't speak for the cover scene...
...but people here will pay good money to hear your own songs, and if you're good -- or, better yet, if you're good and show potential -- they'll come back.
24. People are incredibly passionate about music
The only thing bigger than music in Denver is the Broncos. And you know how we feel about them, right? Music fans are every bit as excitable. Don't believe us? Try painting over a beloved mural and see what happens.
23. People here are adventurous listeners
We're early adapters here. Tons of bands have gotten love here before anybody else in the country even knew who they were. Ask Phish and the Dave Matthews Band. Fans aren't afraid to give new music a chance, even if they've never heard of you.
22. There's no shortage of places to play
If it seems like we have almost as many venues here as we have dispensaries, it's because we do. Okay, not really, but there's an unbelievable number of incredible places to see and play live music, and more and more are cropping up all the time.
21. There's no shortage of places to record
Whatever your budget and needs are, there's a plethora of amazing studios where you can record with talented engineers to help produce your masterpiece, whether you're playing punk or funk or metal or blues or folk, and whether you're looking for digital or analog, in a home studio or a world-class room.
20. There's no shortage of talented videographers
You can tell somebody how cool something is all you want. You can be as colorful, passionate and descriptive as you want, but the best way to get your point across is simply to just show them, and in the viral age we live in, a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Lucky for us, there's a gaggle of talented videographers and editors out there to help document the music of the Mile High City.
19. There's no shortage of talented artists and designers
As many talented musicians as we have in this town, there are at least as many talented visual artists, ridiculously talented illustrators and designers like Noah Van Sciver, Ravi Zupa, Ken Serafin and Jonathan Till, among others. And each of them have unique styles and visions that more than do justice to the music.
18. You can actually make it here
As first proven by the Fray and subsequently by countless other bands -- including, most recently, the Lumineers, an act that got its start playing open-mic nights at the Meadowlark -- you can actually make it from Denver without having to change your sound or to move somewhere else.
17. There is no definitive sound here
In the early part of the last decade, and even to some extent now, people bemoaned the fact that Denver didn't have a definitive sound like more ballyhooed places such as Seattle or Athens. But then folks seemed to stop giving a shit about trivial stuff like that and just made great music. So, yeah, the bands don't all sound the same here, and that's a good thing. How boring would it be if they did?
16. The sound doesn't suck
Okay, so while, granted, you probably won't have to look too far to find a place where the sound sucks, you also won't have to look too hard to find a competent sound person who takes pride in making sure that you sound good.
15. That "local music" stigma has all but disappeared
A decade ago or more, when you attached the word "local" to the music being made here, it almost had a negative connotation. In some people's minds, the designation instantly conjured notions of an inferior product -- and it wasn't necessarily the quality of art (although that, too, has improved dramatically); it was more for the quality of the product, from the artwork to the recordings, which some considered sub-standard. These days, that predisposition isn't as prevalent. Hell, some labels thought enough of the independent versions of the recordings to re-release the records as is.
14. EDM isn't a new phenomenon in Denver
While there's all this talk everywhere in the country about the rise of electronic dance music, Denver has always been a hotbed for EDM. Long before it even had a name, people were getting down -- and they're still getting down, at some of the hottest dance clubs in the world.
Where else in the world do you know of that when you have trouble with your voice, you can easily make an appointment with a pair of world-class voice doctors and get scoped and treated by the same docs who treat damn near every major artist to come to town? Uh, that would be nowhere else.
Noah Van Sciver
12. Noah Van Sciver
In addition to illustrating fliers and providing cover art for bands like the Swayback, Backbeat's own Noah Van Sciver has immortalized countless bands in his weekly cartoon strip 4 Questions. Being featured in the strip has almost become a rite of passage at this point, and Denver's lucky to have such a world-class dude documenting the scene.
screenshot from Big Bad Bob
11. Bob Ferbrache
A local treasure for more than three decades, Bob Ferbrache is a world-renowned producer who's done records for everyone from the Fluid to Slim Cessna's Auto Club. And he's done it all from the basement of a humble house in Westminster. Ferbrache puts an excruciating amount of care into all that he does, and the results are undeniable.
10. Dave Otero
Making records out of his Flatline Audio studios, Dave Otero has created a signature sound that has catapulted an inexhaustible parade of local metal bands to prominence, and he puts the exact same care and precision into those recordings as he does for records by choice imports like Cattle Decapitation and Demonica.
09. DIY isn't a four-letter word in Denver
DIY, of course, stands for Do It Yourself, but you don't have to spell that to the people in this scene, which cultivated the famed Rhinoceropolis, a DIY space revered across the country, a proud link in a long line of other kindred spaces past and present such as Monkey Mania, Blast-O-Mat, the Tar Shack, Hipster Youth Halfway House and Garageland, among countless others. And it's not just shows: These folks continue to put out their own 'zines, their own music and book their own festivals, in addition to doing everything else you can imagine.
BLKHRTS on stage at the Westword Music Showcase last summer.
08. There is no shortage of musicians
Feel like starting a new project and need some musicians? No problem. You can hardly throw a rock around here without hitting somebody who plays in a band. And you'd be surprised how easy it is to find people to play with if you just ask. If nothing else, the Denver scene is flush with people who gleefully lend their vast talents to innumerable bands -- people like the Meese brothers, Fez Garcia, Greg Harris and Casey Sidwell, among countless others.
07. There's so much talent here, in fact, that...
...when the touring industry comes to grinding to a halt around the holidays, you hardly even notice because there are still a ton of cool local shows worth checking out.
06. All local shows are not the exception
Even when the touring season is in full bloom in the summer time, it's not at all unusual to see an all-local bill packed to the gills from the beginning of the night until closing time. Whereas in other places you might arrive fashionably late with little regard to the opening acts, here, you do so at your own peril.
05. People here will take you as seriously as any band from out of town
Around here, a lot of people get just as excited -- if not more -- about bands like Speedwolf and Havok as they do Metallica. And for good reason: Those bands totally kick ass, and you wanna know what? When you think about it, Metallica is really just a local band from San Francisco.
04. You have a legitimate shot at opening for a national act
That last sentiment perhaps explains why you frequently see local acts opening for bigger national acts -- and, in some cases, even outshining them. The reason is simple: The folks making music here are no joke and can completely hold their own. Ask Skrillex about the time Ishe opened for him at Beta.
03. You have a legitimate shot at performing at Red Rocks
It's no secret that entire tours are planned around performing at Red Rocks. Many artists view playing there as a career-defining achievement -- and it is. You have to rise to a certain level of prominence to play there, and some may never scale that peak. Yet every summer, a select few local bands get the privilege of playing in front of a sold-out audience at Film on the Rocks.
02. The radio will actually play your songs
Oh, here's the other unique thing about Denver. If your songs are good enough, there's a better-than-average chance that you'll get to hear your songs played on the radio, either on a weekly specialty show or maybe even in regular rotation if you make the cut during KTCL's annual Hometown for the Holidays promotion, in which ten local bands are guaranteed airtime every year just before Christmas. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
01. We take care of our own
While there are stories on the news virtually every day that continue to erode your faith in humanity, for every inexplicable act of senseless cruelty, there's heartwarming story after heartwarming story of how the people in our music community have set aside their differences and come together to help one of their own, whether it's raising money to help pay for medical expenses (see Jim Norris or Karen Cuda benefits) or simply reaching out when someone else is down or in need after a harrowing loss (see wildfire benefits).
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