BEST SINGER-SONGWRITER 2006 | Angie Stevens | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Go on: Just try to find a single soul who's seen Angie Stevens live and not been completely entranced. Backed by a stellar cast of musicians, Stevens engages audiences in a way that makes every performance feel intimate, like she's playing her songs just for you. The amiable chanteuse has shared the bill with a wide array of performers and had every audience riveted by the end of each set. Hell, she's so compelling, we're pretty sure that her earnest acoustic-based rock could win over a Cephalic Carnage crowd. Bolstered by songs that are often chillingly poignant ("Judy," for example, a song about her mother), Stevens makes the icicles form on your spine the minute she takes the stage.
To say that Vaux has a combustible live show is like saying Ashton Kutcher is sort of telegenic. With six equally virtuosic members, it's hard to decide what part of Vaux's frenzied, retina-searing sets to focus on -- the light canister wobbling back and forth on Ryder Robison's bass cabinet in time with his rumbling bass lines, or drummer Joe McChan whirling about so violently it seems his head will snap right off at any minute? Or should you watch frontman Quentin Smith, who, with mike in hand and veins pushing to the surface, often resembles a pit bull tethered to a stake? Add to that homemade strobe towers that flash on and off in sync with the music, and you are in the presence of a veritable powder keg.
Valiomierda has its priorities in order. Yes, the band delivers lyrics in Spanish and Portuguese as well as in English, but trilingualism is less important to cohorts Lance Julander, Val Landrum, Bart McCrorey and Igor Panasewicz than is rocking listeners to within an inch of their lives. Thanks to originals such as "Crucificados Pelo Sistema" (not to mention a crushing cover of Motorhead's "Killed by Death"), Valiomierda is lethal in any language.
First came Nightingale. Good band. But that name? Not so much. Fortunately for the world at large -- which surely would have assumed that Nightingale was some crappy goth-metal act and avoided it forever -- the group was inspired to change its name by one of the dozens of outfits that already claim it. So Denver's leading purveyor of psilocybin-spiked drone switched to a tag that had been a contender back when the group was formed: Moccasin. Of course, some might argue that Moccasin is just as bad, or maybe even worse, than Nightingale. Pshaw! Sure, moccasins are those dopey shoes appropriated by hippies and art teachers. But a moccasin is also a snake. A viper. A really cool water-type viper with heat-sensing organs and poison and fangs and stuff. Hiss.
Remember back when Mile High Stadium became officially known as Invesco Field at Mile High? All but on-air commentators stubbornly refused to refer to the facility as anything other than Mile High. That same sort of logic prevails here with the act originally dubbed Red Cloud (which counts Westword's own Jason Heller among its members). After discovering that a Christian MC had already co-opted the name, the band -- whose emotionally charged sets have made it one of the most compelling live groups in the scene -- simply slapped "West" at the end of its tag and called it good. Balderdash, we say: Whoever coined the phrase "Go west, young man" obviously didn't know what he was talking about. As our man Clarence the barber noted in Coming to America, "Mama call him Clay, I call him Clay -- Cassius Clay." Stick to your guns, boys.
With so many recent shakeups, it's surprising that Ghost Buffalo isn't a ghost of itself. But despite that fact that founding guitarist Matt Bellinger left his main band, Planes Mistaken for Stars, right around the time that Planes drummer Mike Ricketts left Ghost Buffalo, GB landed on its feet -- and put all its muscle behind its self-titled, full-length debut on Suburban Home. The disc proves what fans of the quintet's live show have known all along: Ghost Buffalo is poised to become Denver's next breakout indie band. The disc melts indie pop, moody country and even a sliver of vintage goth into the dulcet strums and sighs of leader Marie Litton. With new drummer Andy Thomas -- not to mention a stunning video and yet another national tour on the horizon -- Ghost Buffalo has a whole new lease on the afterlife.
The band's members themselves might deny it with their dying breaths, but (die) Pilot's quirks are what make it so captivating. Unlike so many other bands trying to force vast Coldplay/Pink Floyd vistas through the tiny straw of indie rock, singer/guitarist Eugene Brown and crew allow just the right amount of creative tension and unfiltered soul to seep into their work. Radiation, Weather, Art, (die) Pilot's 2004 debut, showed overwhelming promise. The group's new lineup, which includes the odd yet otherworldly tones of full-time violinist Paul Jansen, is working on its sophomore disc. We'd bet on it being among the year's best when the dust settles on 2006.
How short Denver's collective memory can be. A mere decade ago, Painstake was the hardcore band in town to beat. But in 1998, the group (which counts Vaux guitarist Adam Tymn as an alum) went on hiatus -- a break that everyone, the group included, eventually assumed was permanent. Earlier this year, though, four of its five members found themselves in the same town and on the same page once more, and resurrected Painstake with singer Jaime Van Lanen. With a new sound that's even more progressive, complex and compelling, Painstake is set to strike fear -- and fire -- in the hearts of Denver's hardcore scene all over again.
Supergroups suck and should all die. Lucky for them, the members of Quadramess disown the "supergroup" tag, preferring the slightly more humble description "a bunch of has-beens." But really, they're being too hard on themselves. Featuring former players from Dressy Bessy, the Czars, Jux County and Hemi Cuda, among others (guitarist Devon Rogers alone has been in approximately 3,000 Denver bands), the band hasn't let its high-profile ancestry get in the way of making some huge, beautiful noise. In fact, as groups go, Quadramess is positively super.
Whatever you do, don't ask the members of your favorite group why they start side projects. The answer is always the same old cliche: "We have all these songs that don't fit with our main band, blah blah blah." The Wheel, however, means it. Nathaniel Rateliff, along with his Born in the Flood bandmate Joseph Pope, began the Wheel as an outlet for their slower and more somber material. Like a foot race against a fading pulse, the act's sketchy folk holds the power to both exhilarate and exhaust -- and within its rickety fencing, Rateliffe's voice is given ample acreage to roam, soar, sigh and sob. In fact, at its sleepiest and weepiest, the Wheel is better than Born in the Flood. Now all we need from the band is a CD. Now.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of