The Arise Music Festival kicks off today at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland and runs through Sunday. Take one look at the schedule, and you'll quickly see there are an overwhelming number of acts on the bill. We narrowed it down to the half-dozen acts you must see. Keep reading to see which ones we picked, and feel free to weigh in below with the ones you're most looking forward to checking out.
MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD @ CENTER STAGE | 8:30 P.M., SAT Since 1986, Michael Franti has been making music with a social conscience. From his industrial punk days in the Beatnigs to the hip-hop-leaning Disposable Heroes to his current (and most commercially successful) project, Michael Franti & Spearhead, which has been going strong since 1994, Franti has become renown for his social activism through his music. Whether he's spitting aware (and angry) rhymes or playing his "rebel rock," as he calls it, a sort of fusion of folk, pop, hip-hop and whatever else is influencing him at the time, Franti is consistently compelling.
PROJECT ASPECT @ SYNTONIC STAGE | 2:30 A.M., FRI/SAT Jay Jaramillo, better known for the music he makes as Project Aspect, is a festival veteran, with appearances at Sonic Bloom and Wakarusa. Influenced by the likes of Glitch Mob, VibeSquad and Spork, Jaramillo began toying with the idea of electronic production under the name Project Aspect five years ago, after attending a Sound Tribe Sector 9 show and after-party. Since then, the producer, a co-founder of the Mile High Sound Movement, has built up a good deal of momentum in the scene for both himself and his crew, earning a spot as a go-to opener for acts like PANTyRAiD and STS9, whose 1320 Records imprint has issued three Project Aspect releases -- two original scores and one remix album -- in the past year and a half.
GREENSKY BLUEGRASS @ CENTER STAGE | 6:15 P.M., FRI For the better part of the past fifteen years, this band from Kalamazoo, Michigan, has toured like it was a life mission. True to its name, its roots are in bluegrass -- but there's also an improvisational side to the music that recalls the more interesting guitar work of Jerry Garcia. On the strength of hundreds of shows, not to mention a mastery of the art form, Greensky Bluegrass won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2006. Combining covers of traditional songs with excellent original material, the group is at its best in the live setting, as the All Access series of live albums attest. Greensky's extended improvisations, like some of the best music from the Allman Brothers and the Dead, are more inspired reinterpretation than indulgence.
TWIDDLE @ SOLAR OVERDRIVE STAGE | 10:45 P.M., SAT As genre lines seem to almost be nonexistent today, Twiddle reenforces the notion that bands can break any and all rules when jamming live. Gone are the days of simply playing bluegrass; welcome to the new era where jazz, funk, reggae and rock are blended together seamlessly. Twiddle, a four-piece hailing from Vermont, brings a fusion of sounds that feature progressive fret work, feverish piano melodies and funky jazz drums, all of which have helped propel this promising act into the spotlight.
LUNAR FIRE @ CENTER STAGE | 11:30 P.M., FRI You really have to see Lunar Fire to understand what's so special about this collective. You can't accurately call it a band, because dancers are an integral part of the show, often leading the musical improvisation through movement. And what dancers they are, implementing fantastical costuming, spinning fire, aerial acrobatics and more while the world-jam-rock fusion pounds out behind their graceful gestures. Each member of the group has fingers in several other pies; they all come together in Lunar Fire to cut loose and let the music go where it will. With two percussionists, two vocalists, a bass player, several dancers and a rotating cast of guest musicians playing unusual instruments in the group, you never know where this journey is going to take you -- but it's a given that it will involve deep, inspirational lyrics and some of the sweetest eye candy you'll ever see.
CHALI 2NA @ CENTER STAGE | 9:45 P.M., FRI Taking cues from the Cold Crush Brothers, a group from way back, Jurassic 5, anchored by Chali 2na's smooth baritone, was almost like the barbershop quintet of the rap world, the way its members' distinct voices blended together to form a textured sound that's oh-so-pleasant to listen to. Since J5's breakup, Chali 2na has released his solo debut, Fish Outta Water.
There are a slew of other notable acts you should check out at Arise, including Future Simple Project, the Motet, Technicolor Tone Factory, Random Rab and Lotus Drops. Denver Disco's resident acts will also be playing secret sunrise set at the Syntonic Stage. Peep the full schedule at AriseFestival.com.