MCA's Summer Concert Series Brings Side Projects to the Rooftop

MCA's B-Side Music Fridays goes through the end of the summer.
MCA's B-Side Music Fridays goes through the end of the summer.
Flickr user John Zacherle

The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver has a particularly gorgeous rooftop, one that comprises plants, downtown views and a charming cafe. For the past few summers, the MCA has brought musicians and patrons together in that space for a small concert series. This year’s set of shows, dubbed the B-Side Music Fridays, is featuring local musicians playing in side projects. Past and future acts include Esme Patterson, Leighton Peterson from Safe Boating Is No Accident and a DJ set by Rose Quartz. We spoke to Lauren Patterson and Carina Buchwald, who manage both the cafe and the music series, about this unique set of shows.

Isa Jones: How did the B-Side series come about?

Lauren Patterson: Several years ago, the museum started having music on the rooftop, and it’s been through a few adjustments. This year we wanted to find a way to really showcase secondary or side acts of different musicians.

Carina Buchwald: The program has grown and grown and grown in different varieties. At first we were thinking of some really big-name acts, but we realized we only have capacity for 200 people. So we thought showcasing smaller side projects would be a really cool way to showcase local music without having the rooftop fall over.

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How did you find the acts you’ve featured this summer?

Patterson: Some of it was people who actually played last year; some of the people were friends of ours. It was really easy, because every Denver musician is in about six or seven different bands. So it was easy for us to be like, “Well, if you want to actually play from this band this time…” For example, Normal Eyes is members of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.

Buchwald: Initially we were interested in booking Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, but then we realized it would draw too many people and would take away from the beautiful setting and the vibe and mood that we have up here. Instead of booking someone huge like that, this was an opportunity to showcase a side project.

Music is very intertwined with the MCA’s mission.

Patterson: I would absolutely agree. With all of our programs, we try to have a music element. Music is just a part of the art culture of Denver.

Buchwald: The cafe is obviously a food-and-beverage kind of venue, but we’re able to bring in music on top of this art space. So it’s incorporating a lot of things — art, music, food — that make up the fabric of our community.

How have the shows been going?

Patterson: They’ve been going great. The feedback we’ve had from both musicians and patrons has been incredibly positive. It’s such a unique venue, which always has its own struggles — the sound and stuff — but playing on the rooftop is something you don’t really get to have in most band experiences. Everybody’s been thrilled.

Buchwald: Denver skies are absolutely beautiful, and bands are playing during this twilight time. I actually had one musician tell me that he was watching the clouds roam around as he was playing, and it was a very beautiful experience for him.

What do you like about the program?

Buchwald: I love that it opens up the museum as a place for people who maybe have not been here before. It makes it accessible. You have people who go to local shows all the time — maybe they’ve heard about the MCA, but they haven’t been here. I really like that it makes this art institution a place that’s accessible to other demographics.

I imagine this series draws a different crowd than you normally get at art exhibitions and openings.

Patterson: It’s such a wonderful time to come up and see all the people and the diversity of the patrons. Another thing is, we try to bring diversity within the music. Instead of just having all singer-songwriter, we try to bring in different styles of music, which is important, because Denver really has a huge range of music.

Are you going to do something like this again next summer?

Patterson: Yes. Each summer the program evolves a little bit, and we try to tweak it, because we want to be putting out something fresh and new. It’s definitely something we love to do. It will keep going.


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