Best Evolution of a Music Nonprofit 2023 | Youth on Record | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Brandon Marshall

Youth on Record was founded in 2008 as by the musicians/activists of the Denver band Flobots. In 2010, Jami Duffy, YOR's current executive director, was brought on board; the name was changed and the mission expanded. While it began as a tiny nonprofit, Youth on Record now operates programs at nine high schools and middle schools five days a week, linking students with musicians, and last year it bought into the Underground Music Showcase. Youth on Record also has a recording studio in its headquarters, where students and local musicians make music today. YOR music ambassadors have included big names and community leaders, including Big Gigantic, Molina Speaks, Melissa Ivey and more.

Brittany Teuber

In a music community as tight-knit as Denver's, it's only natural for a supergroup like BTTRFLY Quintet to form, creating a unique brand of music influenced by funk, jazz, neo-soul, R&B and swing. The group comprises Grammy-nominated drummer Adam Deitch and Grammy-winning trumpeter Benny Bloom, both from Lettuce; Pretty Lights collaborator and Break Science keyboardist Borahm Lee; Break Science bassist Hunter Roberts; and Big Gigantic producer and saxophonist Dominic Lalli. BTTRFLY Quintet released its debut album, Coast, in November 2022, but because all of the members have their other projects and tours, the band's concerts will be rare...and certain to fly!
High Shutter Productions

DNA Picasso (aka Devin Nyshawn Arnold) has always looked to his namesake for inspiration, and his latest album is a clear nod to the artist's Blue Period. Arnold calls the March release his "most authentic" album yet, and those words ring true from the first listen, which will have you coming back for more. Although many associate the color blue with sadness, Arnold runs through every emotion imaginable in The Color Blü, celebrating love, self-reflection and the knowledge that going through bad times just makes the good ones that much better. The album also reflects Arnold's collaborative spirit, with bars from Colorado hip-hop artists Chris Cart3r, Malcolm Whyz3, Forty $even and more. Be sure to add this one to your playlist: You'll feel anything but blue.

Kori Hazel

N3ptune is one of the few local musicians to play Red Rocks early in his career. The artist, whose captivating earworms are an intoxicating fusion of pop, soul, hip-hop, rock, gospel and more, has wasted no time making big moves since releasing his debut album, RENAISSANCE, in 2021 (and which he just re-released). N3ptune stayed booked and busy throughout 2022, going on an East Coast tour and playing a headlining slot at the Westword Music Showcase. His music pulls listeners in, inspiring them to live more authentically and pursue their own passions, just as he pursues his with vigor. N3ptune could well be the next Colorado name to break worldwide.
David Novin

While EVANOFF had been known more for its dream-rock and jam-oriented sound, keyboardist Brennan Forrester, guitarist JJ Evanoff and drummer Jake Hall took a heavy prog-rock direction on their 2022 album, SINGULARITY. The full-length is an energetic, captivating swell of psychedelic rock with eight innovative, instrumental tracks that mix chugging prog metal with sprinklings of dreamy lo-fi and future bass influences. EVANOFF closed out 2022 opening for jamtronic mainstay Papadosio on its Colorado run, and is now embarking on a well-deserved East Coast tour. We're loving this heavier sound from the band, and can't wait to see what directions it takes this year.

VOLORES is the COVID baby of husband and wife Nathen and Shelby Maxwell, who needed something to occupy their time during the pandemic. Already musicians (Shelby is a singer-songwriter, and Nathen is the bassist for Flogging Molly), the two were able to seamlessly create a sound they call "mountain goth," and they debuted it with the single "Ages" early in 2023, teasing their album of the same name, which was released in February. With Shelby's poetic lyrics and whispery yet soulful vocals soaring over the solid foundation provided by Nathen's intricate bass lines, the album has a classic-rock sound fused with pop and indie influences.

Best "Ecstatic Satanic Dance" Concerts

Hex Cassette

Duncan McCallum

"In a perfect world, I would die on stage," says Zachary Jordan, aka Hex Cassette. But Jordan's performances are already pretty memorable, with demands for blood sacrifices and slam dancing to his electrifying, darkwave EDM. Although he's decidedly in the DIY scene, Jordan has also played the Crypt, the hi-dive and Lost Lake, and even opened for Cold Cave at the Oriental. He calls his sound "ecstatic satanic dance," reminding listeners that we're all gonna die, so we might as well have a good time while we're here. If goth darkwave and existential dread are your thing, be sure to listen to Hex Cassette's 2022 release, Pomegranate Death.
Studio Apocalypse

A show from 57-piece avant-garde marching band itchy-O is less a concert and more a mind-altering, transcendental experience that transports audiences to a whole new realm. Often staged at the Oriental Theater, where the group just produced its Intergalactic Masquerade, itchy-O's conceptual concerts are planned with the highest level of intention and presented as if they were a ceremonial rite. The group even partnered with the Colorado School of Mines last year to create a Söm Säptälahn, a fifty-piece gamelan-esque instrument of gongs and metallophones made from more than 600 pounds of donated metal. Such innovations make Itchy-O's shows riveting sensory events you won't witness anywhere else.
Courtesy Molina Speaks

Multi-disciplinary artist Molina Speaks has established himself as one of Denver's most indispensable, timeless creatives for his tireless work building community. A writer, poet, playwright, educator, painter and musician, Molina has released more than fifteen DIY albums under various monikers, but the one he produced in 2022, Dreams Life and Times, was more than an album: It was an immersive project meant to showcase his philosophical hip-hop in a listening experience. The pop-up installation debuted at Understudy in December, and Molina hinted that it could be produced again this year.
Brandon Johnson (@bjohnsonxar)

While GRiZ, aka Grant Kwiecinski, has become a Red Rocks mainstay, that hasn't stopped him from playing pop-up sets at places like Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom or Beacon. But perhaps his most memorable set in 2022 was at the Stanley Cup watch party at Auraria's Tivoli Quad on June 18. The Detroit-born, Denver-based producer has consistently released future funk, trip-hop and glitch-hop meant to start parties and keep them going. His latest release, a collaboration with Zeds Dead titled "Ecstasy of Soul," is out now on all streaming platforms.

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