A Love Letter to Denver From the Westword Music Showcase

Wheelchair Sports Camp and friends march from City Hall to La Rumba.
Wheelchair Sports Camp and friends march from City Hall to La Rumba.
Brandon Marshall

It’s easy to think that the Denver music scene is small and insular. If you go to enough local shows, you start to expect to see the same people at every one, and suddenly you find yourself staring at a bartender one night, unsure if you recognize him because you frequent that bar or because he’s in one or like seven bands you see regularly. But that analysis of the Denver music scene — that it's small — and Denver as a city, are inaccurate. There was proof over the weekend at the vast, diverse, and near-perfect summer party that is the Westword Music Showcase.

The Westword Music Showcase brought 100-plus Colorado bands and some touring headliners to fifteen stages at various bars, restaurants and clubs in the Golden Triangle neighborhood. Wandering between spaces, trying to catch bands we love and bands we never heard before, something struck us. Denver as a city, and the music scene within it, is not the same six bands and the same twenty fans you always see at the hi-dive or Larimer Lounge on the weekends. Denver is a mass array of clubs, venues, bars and even Mexican restaurants that are all too eager to open their doors to the day-drinkers and music-makers of this city. Denver is Bannock Street Garage, packed to the brim with sweaty, happy punks who are all excited to shout “fuck yeah!” when you ask if they are having a good time. It’s the kids who danced their faces off in a sweltering parking lot to Wave Racer. It’s also the people lounging on a rooftop at an unofficial showcase party, reminiscing about the bands they saw that day and watching the sunset over the skyline, before returning to the massive crowd ready to lose their minds to Flume.

When people talk about Denver, and the music scene, the words “vibrant,” “active,” and “huge” get thrown around. Those aren’t just tourism marketing buzz words. Denver is thousands of people descending onto a few block radius to have beers with friends and listen to the music that gets created in their own backyard. People might call Denver a desert island, and if they think that, then we’ll be the first ones to push them off the island in a makeshift raft with a anthropomorphized volleyball. Denver is an oasis, a haven, the Queen City on the Plains. It is the city where people from every social group and every class and every age come together to enjoy the music and culture they so love.

Church Fire played a mesmerizing set at Stoney’s early in the afternoon. One half of the duo obscured his face with a giant scarf, the other wore a flowered head-piece. Their gothic synth-pop is tense and intriguing, like being in a dream you feel might turn into a nightmare at any moment, yet you refuse to wake yourself up, curious about where it may go next. In the crowd was a tank-top clad bro in reflective sunglasses. A green-haired girl hula-hooped next to the stage. Feet away, a couple played skee-ball, stopping every few minutes to dance to the beats emitting from the light up synths. A girl wearing all leather (like Arrested Development style leather-daddy leather) stood front and center in the crowd. Nearby soccer fans split their attention between some international game and the captivating set.

That is Denver: All those people coming together to witness something weird and wonderful that half of them had probably never heard before. There are few better places to see it than the Westword Music Showcase. We'll see you next year!


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