Best Music Festival 2015 | RockyGrass | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

At some recent point in time, people like investment bankers started paying attention to music festivals, and the industry ballooned. Now the summer concert season feels like an arms race between massive promoters rushing to cram more bands, more people and more amenities into any given field or parking lot. You'll find an antidote to all that at RockyGrass, which is held each July on the picturesque grounds of the Planet Bluegrass ranch. For 42 years, the festival has rewarded its exceedingly loyal fan base with a lineup dense with legends and talented up-and-comers playing fiddles, banjos and the like. As an operation, RockyGrass seems determined to leave its attendees relaxed and renewed.

Walking into the posh Temple Buell Theatre to see Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, fans knew they could expect an extraordinary performance from a band with plenty of sophistication and emotive power. On that score, Cave and company amply delivered. But when Cave waded into the crowd on the backs of seats, it was a surprise that flipped the usual dynamic of performer and audience on its head, in a place where that almost never happens. In that moment, Cave brought us into the realm of his masterful storytelling for an inspired, unforgettable experience.

Readers' choice: Colorado Symphony Orchestra

No Denver band has come as close to perfecting its sound as Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. On the group's latest release, Totem, SRRS builds upon the sinister framework established on 2013's Sineater, adding more melody, urgency and musicality. The rhythm section of bassist Jon Evans and drummer Andrew Warner is so airtight that it's nearly suffocating. Breaths of fresh air are supplied by transcendent synth and guitar flourishes from Doug Spencer and Wilson Helmericks. And Hayley Helmericks continues her vocal onslaught while doubling as a kind of shaman. Totem is no collection of cheap tricks, but rather a carefully crafted bit of magic.

Readers' choice: Falling Faster Than You Can Run, Nathaniel Rateliff

At the 2014 awards luncheon of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, Governor John Hickenlooper repeated a claim that he's been making since he was mayor: Metro Denver has more music venues than Austin, a city that has a much bigger reputation as a music mecca and even bills itself as "The Live Music Capital of the World." Could that be true? We set out to do a count, and discovered that not only does Denver have more live-music venues than Austin, but it also hosts more concerts every year. At the 2015 CBCA awards luncheon, Hickenlooper again repeated the claim — this time noting that it now had the Westword seal of approval. Rock on!

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