Best Band Fronted by a Television Star

SPELLS

Before he regularly sold out comedy clubs, and before he wrote and starred in his own TV show, Ben Roy was an engaging and energetic frontman and singer. Roy — whose television show Those Who Can't just got greenlighted for a second season by truTV — fronted bands like the 29th Street Disciples and the Fire Drills for years. These days, despite his busy and burgeoning career as a comedian and television star, Roy still finds time to gig, and still approaches it with the same exuberance and abandon he's always shown. His current band, SPELLS, is his best yet, and is in the midst of preparing to release its first full-length. While fronting a punk band and starring in a television show may seem like polar opposites, Roy's genuine approach to both crafts makes them appear seamless.

When David Castillo of Pizza Time and Panaderia launched Bummeroo in 2015 — a music tour that took place only on YouTube, with live performances of bands in settings of their choosing — it seemed like an idea whose time had come. For Bummeroo 2, Luke Thinnes of French Kettle Station decided to take his performance not just out of his bedroom and into the street, but to the Cherry Creek mall, where shoppers were treated to a high-energy performance of upbeat post-punk pop. Filmed by two friends, Thinnes unleashed his raw enthusiasm for music on the unsuspecting audience, taking the concept of the festival and of confrontational performance to a whole new level. Mall security politely turned off his amp once the nine-minute show was over.

A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator are both on major labels, but their roots are firmly in underground and alternative hip-hop. The ability of both artists to bring their 2015 tour to Red Rocks with like-minded artists Danny Brown and Vince Staples may not have signaled a major change in the world of hip-hop, but their elaborate set designs were on par with what you might see at any large-scale concert, short of those by monster acts like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead or Miley Cyrus. It felt as though experimental hip-hop had finally arrived.

Steely Dan apparently bears the curse of heavy rain during appearances at Red Rocks, and while this proved problematic for anyone trying to actually get into the venue on July 6, 2015, it was not without a certain fascinating quality. In fact, the whole evening seemed like a dream: Banks of thick fog obscured paths and at times imbued the stage with an opaque quality. After the show, the fog cloaked walkways and roads, making visibility tricky at best. But like most concerts at Red Rocks, it was an unforgettable experience that can't be replicated at any indoor venue.

In 2015, more so than in years past, video artists were involved in local shows. Active video artists from VJ Dizy Pixl and Orchidz3ro to Mark Mosher, Kim Shively and Chris Bagley are adding an immersive element to largely experimental music shows. One of the most active is 75 Ohms, a team that comprises Ryan Peru and Cheyenne Grow. Using a combination of digital and analog equipment, 75 Ohms always seems to tap into the vibe of the performers, combining video collage, abstract visuals and live stage-camera imagery to produce a truly unique experience every time.

75ohms.tumblr.com

Bob Rob Medina grew up in Aurora, was exposed to punk rock as a preteen, and started playing in his own punk band by the mid-'80s. Medina took in the significance of the movement and noted that you didn't need to be from someplace special for your version of punk to be special. For a few years, he wrote a blog about his experiences, sharing illustrations he made from photographs and memory. Eventually the blog included interviews, and Medina had on his hands a bona fide oral history of Denver punk in the '80s, which he turned into Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks, a handsome and essential volume on the subject.

bobrobart.bigcartel.com

D'Angelo held his universally acclaimed Black Messiah hostage for some eleven years, crippled by his own perfectionism. Ultimately, the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement convinced him to submit his revolutionary R&B for the record. He and his band (the Vanguard) took their show on the road, and for the first time in forever, the world's greatest purveyor of auditory foreplay came to Denver. He and the Vanguard put on a capital-S Show, with every note in its place and every song played like it was the first time. D'Angelo served as conductor, guiding band and crowd alike through peaks, valleys and hairpin turns. Let's hope the wait for his next visit won't be measured in decades.

Readers' choice: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

While Denver continues to solidify itself as a music hub, it still lacks the infrastructure and opportunities of larger cities like New York and Los Angeles. Because of this, we sometimes lose talented and serious musicians who hope to take their careers to the next level. Marshall Gallagher honed his style in the Denver scene for many years, playing in underground acts like Solar Bear and establishing himself as one of the best guitarists around. Recently, Gallagher made the move to Los Angeles and continues to flourish as a guitarist, songwriter, performer and vocalist there. Fronting the incredible bands Swing Hero and Teenage Wrist, he also tours regularly with 3OH!3 and has recently started penning songs for other artists, including Sophia Scott. Gallagher's progression after leaving the Mile High City is proof that sometimes, taking the boy out of Denver might be the best thing after all.

Globe Hall
Jeff Davis JWD Imagery

Denver lost the Sidewinder Tavern, but it got quite a consolation prize with Globe Hall, a barbecue joint/live-music venue that Jeff Cornelius opened last fall in the circa 1903 lodge and union hall in the heart of Globeville. While the barbecue smokes out back, the casual, 200-seat venue smokes with musical acts designed to make the Globe "a little bit of a hybrid," Cornelius says, with "really accessible, fun, danceable music."

Best Venue to Leave Denver — Permanently

Casselman's

When Casselman's opened in RiNo in 2009 in the 9,000-square-foot building that had been Shakespeare's pool hall (and a distribution warehouse for the May Company in the '40s and '50s), it took a little while for the 1,200-person venue to get its sound and lighting system fully dialed in. But over the next six years, Casselman's morphed into a full-fledged music room. And while it brought in a number of national acts during that time, including Warrant, Skid Row, Anvil, Lynch Mob, Too $hort and Raekwon, Casselman's also hosted an assortment of local bands and nonprofit and corporate functions.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of