Every year, for the Westword Music Showcase, we enlist our army of Backbeat wordsmiths to host various stages, and, in addition to their emcee obligations, we ask them to pull double duty (or triple-duty in some cases) and also write up the acts that appear on their individual stages. Kyle Smith hosted the Vinyl Rooftop stage. Page down to read his thoughts and see some photos.
On a nearly 100-degree day, the idea of hanging out on the rooftop at Vinyl sounded like a recipe for misery, but the mostly enclosed room, while not exactly air-conditioned, was cool enough to provide a space for people to escape the sweaty masses at street level and enjoy the work of some of Denver's best DJs.
When Es-Nine got things rolling with some Jurassic 5, the only people on the rooftop were Vinyl employees and Es-Nine's wife; it took ten minutes before Es-Nine stepped down to the floor and noticed that the room's sound system was silent aside from the stage monitors.
Once the house's stage manager remedied that problem, Es-Nine settled in behind the decks and spun an all-vinyl set of laid-back underground hip-hop, doing some scratching and mixing for his own pleasure but mostly just hanging out and letting tracks play, occasionally ducking behind the decks for a sip or two of PBR.
It's a shame so few people heard the set, but, while we can't presume to speak for the meticulously tanned and tatted dudes in tank tops hauling around huge buckets of ice or the female bartenders in sundresses assembling huge piles of citrus wedges and arranging cases of bottled water and Red Bull, Es-Nine's set was exactly the kind of thing we'd want to hear if we were getting ready for a long, hot day of tending to party-goers.
John Templeton's set of cerebral, playful, Germanic techno was a 180-degree stylistic departure from Es-Nine's, but the vibe remained largely the same: The ambitious founder and curator of Denver's Great American Techno Festival kept it, in his words, "light and weird."
The tracks he played served as a reminder that, at a time when the prevailing fashions in electronic dance music are dubstep and the stomping, hyper-compressed sugar-gavage of post-Gaga pop, the left-field samples and intricate but functional beats favored by German labels like Perlon still offer a multitude of pleasures, especially when it's one in the afternoon and you'd rather listen than dance anyway.
But Templeton did draw the day's first dancer, one of the denizens of the blue circular booths that started to fill in in this hour. She danced for a few minutes, then came back a bit later with her boyfriend and danced for another few minutes. Yay techno! Yay Saturday! Yay Showcase!
DJ Brick Lee showed up in a tuxedo sans jacket; he had to dash to a wedding (first as a member of the wedding party, then as the DJ) directly after his set, but he actually looked perfectly dressed for the set of classy, funky, soulful house he spun as people continued to trickle into the room.
The crowd was still pretty lethargic at first, briefly transfixed by the sight of a Vinyl employee shimmying precariously up the structure of the patio's shade cover to hook up a hose for the overhead fountain, and, in the case of one booth, playing flip-cup, but by the end of the hour Brick Lee had several people dancing, and was even busting some moves himself, hamming it up for a camera or two.
And then it was time for dubstep. It wasn't clear whether Alert of the Whomp Truck brought people with him or if it was just that it was now 3 o'clock and everybody had finally warmed up, but all of a sudden there was a genuine crowd in the room as Alert assumed his position behind the decks, face-covering bandanna and 3-D glasses in place, for a cohesive set of all-original dubstep tracks.
Much of the dancing was semi-ironic, as might be expected for a genre that, in its American form at least, has become all but impossible to take seriously (thanks, Korn!), but Alert's set steered clear of cartoonishness and made the case for the form's viability when placed in the right hands.
It's no longer remarkable for indie kids to dance, but that they do so in Denver is largely thanks to boyhollow (aka Michael Trundle, the co-founder of Lipgloss), who couldn't have been expected to do anything other than slay the now pleasantly full room with his patented mix of rock-friendly dance tunes old and new. And slay he did.
At one point all eyes shot toward a guy who jumped on to a booth seat and Travolta-danced, and even the doofy Elliott-Gould-but-less-charming-looking guy in a polo, khaki shorts and white Nikes who'd been sitting with friends in a booth took his lady to the floor for the one-two punch of James Brown and the Stones. Boyhollow closed his set with an homage to the patron saint of nostalgia-soaked indie dance, loading LCD Soundsystem's "Dance Yrself Clean" before handing over the decks and the fully primed crowd to...
...Ginger Perry! Musicians often say that they make the music that they want to hear, and that's clearly what Ginger Perry does with her eclectic, sugar-rush approach to deejaying. She may as well have been throwing a dance party for herself, so clearly enraptured was she by her mix of '80s dance-pop, hip-hop, mid-'00s dance punk (can't remember the last time we heard the Faint), and whatever the hell else made her want to shake her ass (which she flashed to the crowd at one point) and sing along.
That the largely female crowd ("Do you see all these chicks?! Check out all these chicks!" she said to a friend who stepped on stage) ate it right up just made it that much better, and Perry turned the set into a genuine show, one that could have gone on much longer.
MU$A introduced his set by announcing, "I'm not gonna play a lot of dancefloor music, but try to dance anyway." The crowd was game, and for the most part it wasn't too hard to dance to his set, a brainy and frankly brilliant mix of crowd-pleasing hip-hop and WTF randomness, with plenty of more subtle head-nodding bits sprinkled throughout.
MU$A wasn't quite as animated as his predecessor, but he could frequently be seen bouncing gaily, a big grin on his face, as he weaved together tunes that worked just as well for the beer-soaked partiers taking a breather in the booths, shoring up energy for Girl Talk, as for the girl in the purple dress, drenched head to toe from the fountain outside, dancing barefoot as the sun started to set through a light haze of heat and stray smoke from the fire up north.
"Go see some bands, too," boyhollow said to the crowd at the end of his set, but after spending seven hours with Denver DJs without witnessing a single weak moment, you'd be perfectly justified in thinking that your choice of entertainment for this afternoon was just fine.
-- Kyle Smith
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