Best Immersive Concerts 2023 | itchy-O | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
Stephanie Parsley

Ricochet is only Maddy O'Neal's second full-length, but its high-profile collaborations prove that she's been destined for greatness since she began producing in 2010. While she focused more on samples in her earlier work, here O'Neal reached out to her contacts to help her compose original instrumentals. Ricochet collaborators include Lettuce trumpeter Benny Bloom, STS9 bassist Alana Rocklin, producer Ryan Montbleau, producer/trumpeter Balkan Bump, rapper Def3 and many more.

Chinelo Cary Tyler, who makes music under the name Nelo, first popped up on Colorado's hip-hop scene in early 2020 and has been making waves ever since. Last year he released two EPs, Born Again and Seasonal Depression, a full-length album titled Time Is Limited, and five singles, as well as providing multiple guest verses on other artists' tracks, collaborating with Jay Triiiple, ego n friends, Holiday, DNA Picasso and Rebecca Hartt, to name just a few. Outside of the studio, he and Kerrie Joy co-created the wildly popular Dope $h!t w/ Friends concert series, a set of independently run shows highlighting BIPOC artists. With conscious lyrics heavily inspired by his spirituality (his parents are both in the ministry, and he's an occasional guest speaker at local church services) and funky throwback samples, Nelo's music strikes the balance between easy listening and thought-provoking artistry.
Cleo Mirza

Two Can Play That Game, released in August 2022, is a testament to the versatility of Aurora-based rapper Schama Noel. Across ten tracks, Noel experiments with flavors of pop, R&B, alternative and EDM, all grounded by a love of hip-hop. He is a master of curating a distinct atmosphere with each individual song, from a breezy summer night with your sweetheart (The Rev. da IV-assisted "Bumble Bees") to a rowdy party with your crew ("No Love"). Featuring his viral hit "Sugar Mom," which racked up nearly 275,000 listens on Spotify alone (it's also big on TikTok), the album is Noel's sixth full-length project, and has us looking forward to number seven.
Natalie Jo Gray

A supergroup of all women musicians, Big Richard formed in 2021 with Bonnie Sims on mandolin, Joy Adams on cello, Emma Rose on bass and guitar and Eve Panning on fiddle. Since then, the quartet has made a splash in the Colorado bluegrass scene with its soothing, virtuosic melodies steeped in folk and Americana sensibilities. Big Richard signed with Thundering Herd Artists in February 2022, and has played festivals such as Telluride Bluegrass, WinterWonderGrass and Big Sky Fest in Montana, with more to come this year. Hear what a full live set from this group is like on its first full-length release, Live From Telluride.
Reggie Ruth Barrett

It had been nearly six years since 51-year-old Geoff Union and his band, Ragged Union, left us hungry for more following the release of 2017's Time Captain — but after a slight change in lineup, the "grassicana" band delivered another delicious down-home album. The nine-track Round Feet, Chrome Smile, which dropped in September, is a feel-good album all the way through, perfect for a drive through the mountains or a get-together with friends.

If you've walked around the 16th Street Mall or the Denver Performing Arts Complex over the past seven years, chances are you've heard the blaring sounds of Brothers of Brass. The New Orleans-style brass band, founded by Khalil Simon, has been trumpeting around Denver since 2016. While it first established itself by busking outside everything from DCPA let-outs to football games at Empower Field to the Phish lot at Dick's, the band is now playing places like Ophelia's Electric Soapbox and Meow Wolf. Brothers of Brass is also steeped in activism, helping to lead protests and encouraging youth engagement by playing local schools. Be on the lookout for its upcoming full-length, set to drop in late April.
Silky Shots

Brandon Theis, aka The Orchestrator, has become one of Denver's most popular artists on the strength of his saxophone-infused wobbly beats, which have nabbed him sold-out headlining slots at Meow Wolf, the Bluebird Theater, the Marquis Theater, Larimer Lounge and Globe Hall. While he has yet to release a full-length, Theis is consistently dropping singles that hint at big things to come. Meanwhile, his energetic live concerts are a wonder of live-music production as he jumps from deejaying to trilling his sax to playing guitar to banging on his drum kits. Theis is diving into hip-hop, too, adding more vocals to his tracks that run the musical gamut, with inspirations in jazz, trip-hop, funk, soul, EDM and more.

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