Best Singer-Songwriter -- Male 2007 | Gregory Alan Isakov | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Gregory Alan Isakov has a unique, endearing presence that instantly sucks people in. Isakov has rendered us dumbfounded on numerous occasions with his ability to move audiences in a way that performers with much larger profiles would envy. With a captivating voice that evokes a rootsier Glen Phillips channeling Kelly Joe Phelps, Isakov sings rich pastoral songs that conjure long walks down dusty rural roads. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and raised in Philadelphia, Isakov moved to Colorado at the end of the last decade. Since then, he's released a spate of outstanding discs, including his fantastic debut, 2003's Rust Colored Stones, 2005's Songs for October and last year's Ghost Stories and Fair Weather EP. A new disc is slated for release this May, and we can hardly wait.
Watching Rachael Pollard perform at Chielle recently was a breathtakingly intimate experience. It was like being serenaded by a hummingbird from a windowsill. Pollard sang with a delicate hush that was barely above a whisper, and at one point, she even played her acoustic with her gloves on. It was almost as though she was afraid of disturbing the neighbors. As it turns out, her words speak loud enough on their own. With candid musings that can be unsettling, whether she's singing about waiting for her period to start or reflecting on the current state of affairs ("This country is going to shit/But you got what you wanted/Pretty soon it'll all be desert/'Cause you took what you wanted"), Pollard's a compelling lyricist -- not to mention a highly imaginative guitarist. But her most bewitching features, by far, are her angelic voice, which is equal parts Cat Power and Joanna Newsom, and the way she phrases her words.

Best Guy Who Spends Forty Hours a Week at Band Practice

Andrew Segreti

Guitar players are a dime a dozen, but finding (and keeping) a decent drummer in D-town? Not so easy. That's why Andrew Segreti is the golden drummer boy of the local scene. His octopus arms reach far and wide into varied musical projects, including Bailer, the Autokinoton and the Horace Van Vaughn. His performances, marked by flying hair and sweat, are wily exercises in the physical limitations of the human body. From thundering soundscapes to experimentally diverse beats, Segreti is the reincarnation of every fuck-off drummer who ever lived (or died). And he's only in his twenties, meaning that he's just getting started. Damn.

Best Guy Playing Music for All the Right Reasons

Chris Adolf

Once upon a time, people used to actually play music because they loved it, purely out of joy and for no other reason. No shit. Hard to believe, right? To think that folks wrote and recorded songs with complete disregard for how it would be received or how it would be marketed -- that's just crazy! These days, many musicians often have an agenda before they even have a band name or any songs. Chris Adolf (The Love Letter Band, Bad Weather California) is the antithesis of those people, which is what makes him so refreshing. Of course, his songs also happen to be pretty goddamn fantastic, but even if they weren't, his ideals make him somebody worth supporting. Check out the message on his MySpace page: "Fuck the indie-stry. Fuck contacts. Fuck sound scans. Fuck deals. Play music." Fuckin-A, man. Sounds like a T-shirt.

Best Expatriate Still Involved in Local Music

Andrew Murphy

When he created Radio 1190's Local Shakedown program many years ago, Andrew Murphy taught listeners that indigenous Colorado talent was more than just a series of transient fads. And even though he eventually moved to the Bay Area to work for Revolver Distribution, Murphy's heart remains firmly dedicated to the scene he so brilliantly championed. Aside from the groundbreaking historical work he's done on the early punk and new-wave scenes in Colorado and the superb local releases he's issued on his own Smooch Records imprint, Murphy plans to re-release records from old-school death-rockers the Soul Merchants and long-running scene vets the Denver Gentlemen later this year. Also in the works is a book on the history of Colorado music and a documentary on the Americana phenomenon native to our fair city. Whereas most people would prefer to leave their past behind, Murphy has never forgotten where he came from, and we're all the better for it.
Promotions can be a nasty business. The competition is rabid, cutthroat and full of enough shit-talking to make Simon Cowell cringe. So who ever thought that rival promoters could actually work together instead of against each other? To prove that harmonious unions are always better than pretentious bidding wars, the heads behind the Oriental Theater have teamed up with the infamous Deadhead Bianchi Brothers -- who run the Sancho's/Dulcinea's/Cervantes'/Quixote's empire -- to form a totally killer booking alliance. The merger allows the individual promoters access to each other's venues for special events and also includes a cross-promotion deal to maximize advertising exposure for everyone's shows. Smart move.
Landlordland used to be that weird indie-pop band that didn't fit in with the other indie-pop bands. The act had a little too much rock and roll in its blood, and its use of samples seemed to be at odds with its more conventionally melodic brethren. As a result, the group's live shows sometimes came off a little stilted and messy. Then one night last November, Landlordland cast off its awkwardness and played with a glorious disregard for its own safety, creatively and emotionally. With a newer rhythm section consisting of Ben Williams on bass and Jed Kopp behind the kit, the band emerged from its artistic cocoon with a fury -- kinda like a power-pop Blues Brothers, with Sylas Cooley as John Belushi and Darren Dunn as a not-at-all-inhibited Dan Aykroyd. It was one of the most intense and electrifying performances in recent years.
Dynamic lead guitarist Dustin Bingham left Eyes Caught Fire in the fall of 2005, which seemed to end the band's long run as one of the most well-regarded acts from Colorado Springs. Though relatively unknown in Denver, Eyes had built a strong regional reputation for its hauntingly cathartic live show. Despite encouragement from peers and fans, nothing was heard from the group for more than a year, and most assumed it was gone for good. But Eyes surprised everyone by taking the stage again in November 2006, and although its members had entertained the idea of going forward without the irreplaceable Bingham, it didn't really seem like a viable option. Bingham ultimately returned, and Eyes Caught Fire has been warming hearts with inspiring performances of its unique brand of shoegaze/trip-hop ever since.
Dameon Merkl looks like the tall, handsome son of Orson Welles and has the dark vocal intensity of Nick Cave. His deep voice has a presence and timbre that late-night jazz radio-show hosts would kill for, but even an easy laugh from him carries an undercurrent of menace. As the brooding yet diabolically humorous frontman for Bad Luck City, Merkl is the kind of character you'd root for whether he was the president or the head of a crime family. The stories he weaves in song are spun from the urban-underbelly mythos of film noir, Cormac McCarthy and James Ellroy. In years past, Merkl's sometimes abrasive and guttural voice could seem monochromatic. Lately, though, he's learned to channel it to match his band's rich emotional tapestries. A natural showman, Merkl masterfully straddles the realms of avant-punk and lurid lounge.
You just knew that if the woman who made the sax scream, howl and sing in Nightshark ever put her lungs to use as a vocalist, she'd probably be pretty great. With the edgy, ferocious presence of early Patti Smith and the fearless spirit of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks-era Lydia Lunch on her side, Becca Mhalek is a daunting presence on stage. Her words come forth like steady but unpredictable bursts of volcanic lava while her tortured voice strains at its boundaries and seethes with a rage born of unresolved emotions. Although her thick, dark hair hides her eyes, you can imagine them wild or squeezed tightly shut with the force of the dark, electric energy flowing through her every pore. Mhalek embodies the uncompromising sound of MVP with an enviable conviction and raw power.

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