Best Kick in the Balls of the Music Scene 2008 | "Denver Music and Other Anomalies"FM Magazine | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Every scene needs a Zachary Vora. In the second issue of FM (Fucking Mountains), Vora took the Denver music scene and all its sacred cows to task, essentially asserting that while some acts are a big deal here, the rest of the country could give two shits — and so we should stop being so goddamn self-congratulatory about the whole thing. He's partially right, of course; at times, we risk dislocating our shoulders as we pat ourselves on the back. Just the same, we've got it good here, and we don't need validation from people who live elsewhere to take pride in that fact. Every scene needs an agitator to keep things grounded, and Monsieur Vora — whoever he may be — is ours.
There are plenty of literary bloggers in Colorado, but most tend to divert their attention toward the coasts as the default harbingers of lit life. Not so at the New West website, which has a thread devoted to books and writers in the Rocky Mountain region. Boulder-based writer Jenny Shank offers almost-daily updates on local readings, publishing gossip and reviews of books penned by real, live Colorado authors; the blog also features in-depth interviews with such authors as Kent Haruf and Nick Arvin. Yes, Denver does have a lively literary scene — and you can find it right here.
D.biddle is basically the brainchild of frontman Duncan Barlow, a member of the semi-legendary hardcore band Endpoint in the '90s and thus no stranger to musical catharsis. When he started performing with this band, he focused on quieter but no less intense songwriting. The result has always been good, but the current incarnation of d.biddle has proved the best vehicle for Barlow's thoughtful, incisive songwriting. In years past, a d.biddle show could be a contemplative affair, but you always got the sense that Barlow was ready to bring back a touch of the raw emotionalism he was so good at summoning. It's there today, and the outfit's mixture of brooding atmosphere and fiery emotions makes for one of the scene's most impressive and inspiring performances.
It's impossible to think of a show in the past year that made us happier to be Denverites. Slowly but surely, Ian Cooke has become one of the most vital artists in this region, and he proved it this night; with his honeydew voice and looped cello, he made songs that seemed to come out of the ground organically and fill the room with pure sound. Then came headliner and transplant Eric Bachmann in full-on troubadour mode. Initially accompanied by only a nylon-string guitar, his songs swung back and forth like the drunken louts they referenced. But when Elin Palmer joined the mix, followed by Cooke, the songs moved beyond downtrodden to something far more affirming. On this same night, we also witnessed a grown man passed out against a water cooler, nose pointing to the heaven. Awesome.
For nearly two decades, Carmen Allgood has been an ardent supporter of local music. The original host of Mountain Homegrown, she's also sat on the board of the Colorado Music Association. And through her nationally syndicated weekly radio show, The Colorado Wave, currently carried on over a hundred stations, Allgood's continuing to do her bit to expose the rest of the country to all Colorado has to offer.
CU Art Museum director Lisa Tamiris Becker is committed to showcasing the accomplishments of the university's distinguished art faculty. Last year, after the death of teacher and feminist conceptual artist Antonette Rosato, Becker had Rosato's students mount one of her last pieces, a poignant installation called "Pattern That Connects." The wall-hung piece, made up of fallen leaves that have been sewn into scores of little gauzy slipcovers, highlights the idea of fragility.
In the late '70s, David Kilgour started the Clean with his brother and a friend. That band went on to influence not only New Zealand's underground music scene, but musicians around the world who saw that music could be raw, imaginative and fun all at once. The Clean never became a household name in the United States, but thirty years and several solo albums later, Kilgour toured the U.S. in support The Far Now, and ended up playing here this past November. With a rare grace and an impressive ear for timeless melodies, he and his band gave one of the most memorable performances of the year and even treated the audience to an early Clean classic, a lively rendition of "Tally Ho."
Amy Reeder Hadley's Fool's Gold manga comic follows Penny, a typical high-school girl with typical high-school problems: namely, boys who are jerks. Penny starts a secret club to deal with her dilemma; she and other club members identify unworthy boys as "pyrites" (the club is disguised as a geology group) and throw darts at voodoo dolls representing the boys, vowing not to date them. As girls flock from the jocks to the nerds in increasing numbers, Penny rearranges her school's social hierarchy — and finds herself at the top. But then she struggles with dating one guy while sustaining a strange attraction to a pyrite. The second volume of Fool's Gold was released in December; Reeder Hadley is planning to make the series a trilogy, so fans will have to wait a little longer to learn whether Penny strikes out or strikes it rich.
Spoke's debut album, Wordplay, showcases the MC's relentless scattershot rhyme flow. His style is like the second coming of Big Pun, his proclivity for complex rhyme schemes has listeners rewinding just to see if they missed anything — and he does all that in Spanish, too. Spoke's live show is as good as his recorded output, mesmerizing fans with a spirited performance that has them hanging on every line. Spoke is currently doing shows and touring with rapper/producer Playalitical and lyrical mastermind Chino XL, as well as appearing on projects from Infinite Mindz and the Union Station, so it could be just a matter of time before he breaks out nationally.
No one will confuse Cephalic Carnage with a new act: Guitarist Zac Joe and his squad of aural assassins have been grinding out visceral riffage for more than fifteen years. Still, they remain as impressive as ever, and show it on every note of Xenosapien, their latest CD for Relapse Records. Rather than simply heaving out death-metal cliches, the musicians approach each track as a test of their skill and imagination. And on the likes of "Divination & Volition," which is as technically impressive as it is brutally inventive, they pass with the highest marks in the class.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of