This time last year, on Westword Music Showcase weekend, I took the reins from Laura Bond and doled out my first Beatdown. And, my, how Mootown has changed since then.
Hip-hop is finally getting some respect, with organic crews like the Break Mechanics and Dojo leading the way and clubs like the Snake Pit taking a chance on hip-hop on the weekends. I've watched baby bands like the Fray and Born in the Flood grow up before my eyes and move to the A-list. I've also watched artists like Drug Under (featuring ex-members of Sick) and Sammy Mayfield, who've been on the scene for a long time, finally get their due with a Showcase nod; meanwhile, amazing outfits like Sparkles, Kallisti, FOMOFUIAB and Soul Thieves became faces on the back of milk cartons. But for every one that called it a day, a new one formed to fill the void -- units like White Dynamite, the Last Seen, Alien Pimp and, most recently, Matson Jones. I've witnessed the welcome return of such stalwarts as Corruption and Uphollow and saw Love .45, Vaux and Fear Before the March of Flames get signed. Over the past year, I've logged countless hours at the Larimer Lounge, the Blue Mule, the hi-dive, Herman's and Rock Island, watching bands like Bright Channel, Swayback, Voices Underwater, D. Biddle and Black Black Ocean, among others. Some acts have blown me away, others not so much. But none made a bigger impression on me than the three Showcase nominees profiled in this issue.
Rose Hill Drive is in a league of its own. I can't remember the last time a group held my attention for thirty, forty minutes -- much less performed a full two hours, without any gimmicks or novelties, and not have a single wasted minute in the set. These kids, as my man Snoop would say, are the real deal Holyfield.
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Chris Fogal of the Gamits, whose new album Antidote was just released by Suburban Home, has truly outdone himself. Back when the Gamits first formed and I heard the demos -- before the "Come Get Some" seven-inch was released -- it was instantly apparent that Fogal was a great songwriter. With Antidote, it's indisputable. Fogal has weathered many lineup changes over the years and still emerged with a brilliant record.
Likewise, Rubber Planet, a group I initially dismissed mostly because of its goofy name and shtick, has delivered the album of its career with Out There. The music speaks for itself -- and did so even when I stupidly refused to listen. I'm listening now.
The local scene has never had a more talented cast of characters. And there's no better place for you to see what I've been bumping my gums about all year than this Saturday's Westword Music Showcase. See you there!