Best Band Working for Immigrant Rights
Anthony Camera

The Denver-based Roka Hueka plays radically cross-cultural ska music, borrowing from punk, Afrobeat, reggae and occasionally hip-hop to make music that's rooted in Latino culture and fierce as all get out — not to mention fun. The band founded an annual benefit concert to raise funds for immigrant causes, using its music-industry ties to help a community that has been under attack by the Trump administration.

facebook.com/roka.hueka

Best Face of the Denver Music Scene
Miles Chrisinger

The best Denver musicians are hardworking, highly collaborative and willing to take risks and try out new sounds. Few have exemplified those traits like Nathaniel Rateliff. He has worked both as a singer-songwriter and as a frontman for Born in the Flood, the Wheel, and the soul act Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, which just released its new album, Tearing at the Seams. Traveling the world, playing at the Grand Ole Opry and the Apollo in the same week, and garnering headlines in the biggest publications, Rateliff, who was born and raised in Missouri but has lived in Colorado since the late '90s, has become synonymous with local music, and has brought acclaim to this city with his work ethic, songwriting chops and performance skills.

nathanielrateliff.com

The guys in Under a Blood Red Sky take the music of U2 very seriously; in fact, frontman Billy Bunting has been channeling Bono for so long it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. The band will occasionally arrange its set lists by era, changing outfits and stage visuals to align with what U2 wore on various tours over the years, and has even re-created the legendary 1983 Red Rocks show from which it gets its name.

uabrs.com

Good music. Good message. Good people. Those are three things that make Roots, Rice & Beans Denver's best new band. Rapper Molina Speaks formed the project in 2017 with fellow Westword MasterMind ILL Se7en, Roka Hueka bassist Ric Urrutia and Wild Lives/Roka Hueka drummer Blake Pendergrass. Merging experimental jazz beats with tight bars courtesy of Speaks and ILL Se7en, Roots, Rice & Beans ditches the preconceived notions that hip-hop should be driven by a rapper alone and that a pre-recorded track or jazz must be relegated to background music. Instead, these artists favor innovation, genre blending and putting on a stunning, moving show. Unlike many bands that labor at branding and promotions, Roots, Rice & Beans instead focuses its energy on music and poetry.

molinaspeaks.com

Readers' Choice: Decatur

The influence of Jessi Whitten, music director and assistant program director for Colorado Public Radio's OpenAir, can be heard across the airwaves. The radio veteran's taste is vast and eclectic, but her secret weapon is an intense knowledge of her home state's music scene. Whitten's programming blends local and international acts, and she helped push the likes of Esmé Patterson and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats beyond state lines. Prior to helping launch CPR's OpenAir in 2011, she was at Boulder's famed Radio 1190, a college station known for producing listener-favorite on-air personalities. In addition to deejaying and directing OpenAir, Whitten contributes to NPR Music and has made appearances on NPR's Morning Edition and All Songs Considered, as well as on New York public-radio station WNYC.

cpr.org/openair

For more than two decades, active rock station KBPI has occupied the 106.7 position on the FM dial. So it was a shock to longtime listeners in Denver when the outlet jumped to 107.9 to make room for The Bull, a new country offering. And while there have been some technical difficulties with this transition that are in the process of being fixed thanks to the perseverance of station vet Willie B, the switch will ultimately have an unexpected benefit for Coloradans who love rockin' down the highway. Because the station can also be heard at 107.9 FM in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, it will soon be possible to drive from Cheyenne to Pueblo without ever having to change the channel. Before long, you'll have no reason to take your hands off the wheel — unless it's to play air guitar.

kbpi.iheart.com

Glasss Records is guided by ethos, not genres. Musical outfits like RAREBYRD$, Abeasity Jones, Pearls and Perils, and EVP crisscross hip-hop, post-punk, noise and electroclash and find themselves right at home on the vinyl- and cassette-centric label. Run by musical power couple Vahco Before Horses and Amanda Gostomski — who perform in various projects themselves, including Glasss acts Gold Trash and Princes Dewclaw — the label seeks to collaborate with the artists it signs. Glasss Records also backs the idea that artists can be studio producers and record engineers, putting them squarely in control of their own product. Before Horses and Gostomski serve as curators and helping hands, demonstrating how local music can become next-level when everyone works together.

glasssrecords.com

It's hard to categorize Erin Stereo. This mixmaster has been a guest DJ at Mile High Soul Club and Funk Club, fought the power through music at the 45s Against 45 fundraisers, and celebrated all things house with her Everybody's Free dance parties. She spins records between acts at the Skylark and the Bluebird Theater, creates one-of-a-kind sets for KGNU, has celebrated the LGBT community behind the turntables at X Bar, adds a musical component to standup comedy shows, and entertains all-ages crowds at DIY venues like Seventh Circle Music Collective. A true music connoisseur, Erin Stereo mixes funk, soul, house, hip-hop, pop and just about any genre with a good beat.

erinstereo.com

After practicing on some turntables in a friend's garage, DJs Laura Conway and Meghan Meehan decided they were ready to heat up the dance floor for real, and the NightShift was born. Three years later, the all-vinyl post-punk, Italo disco and carefully curated pop night has gone from a small Thursday evening gathering to a bumping monthly Saturday night event at the Meadowlark. Conway and Meehan found that when women are behind the decks, more women feel comfortable on the dance floor, helping NightShift's popularity grow as a true "ladies' night." The duo recently created NightShift Karaoke, a nomadic pop-up night of YouTube karaoke, with vinyl deejayed between songs to maintain the party's vibe.

facebook.com/dancethenightshift

Back in 2016, local artist Dante Dixon, aka Dante ThatGuy, noticed that there were no spaces in Denver that showcased up-and-coming hip-hop, neo-soul and R&B artists. So he decided to launch the Vibe, a weekly open-mic night that provides space for local musicians to perform in front of a crowd and get more comfortable with their style and in their craft. The Vibe, which rotates between clubs, is also a chance for hip-hop lovers to hear new music made in their own back yard. Check Dante's Facebook page for Vibe locations.

facebook.com/dantethatguy

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