The twentieth annual Westword Music Showcase brought over 11,000 people to the Golden Triangle to watch more than 150 bands of every possible variety. Our writers and photographers saw excellent lunacy and affecting songs -- the bands and artists of Denver have built a music scene that contains the best of this city.
We're looking forward already, talking about how we can make the Showcase even better next year and preparing for this Thursday's Westword Music Awards ceremony at Casselman's. As for the events of Saturday, we leave you with this -- a guide to the coverage you'll find elsewhere on Backbeat and a few lingering thoughts and images. Thank you to everyone who played, and thank you to everyone who showed up to sing along, find new things and generally enjoy what Denver music has to offer.
Backbeat's Showcase coverage -Ten things I learned at the Westword Music Showcase -CP-208's Tripp Wallin on why he performs in drag -One spectacular photo that sums up this year's Westword Music Showcase -Video: Westword Music Showcase attendees on fashion and festival essentials -Shout-outs from bands who played the Westword Music Showcase -Photo: King Khan and the Shrines buy (legal) weed in Denver Photos of, among other things, nearly all the over 150 bands on the lineup -City Hall, Roostercat, Dazzle, 100% De Agave, Stoney's Bar and Grill and Krewe, by Eric Gruneisen -Vinyl, Bannock Street Garage, Broadways, Rooster and Moon, La Rumba, Curious Theatre and Bar Standard, by Brandon Marshall -Main stage, by Aaron Thackeray -The people of the 2014 Westword Music Showcase, by Aaron Thackeray
And a few more things we saw and heard...VIDEO: What makes the Denver hip-hop scene unique
Mighty mighty emcees
We tried something a little different this year, asking various Denver music organizations we like to hold down MC duties. The were remarkably great. I saw ZetaKaye House's John Baxter set the tone in Curious Theater and the powerful voices of Minor Disturbance make Rooster & Moon seem like an arena rather than a coffee shop. Everywhere I went, they were turning sets into special occasions. Check them all out:
City Hall -- Welcome to the D.O.P.E. Game RoosterCat -- CAM Records Vinyl -- Ultra 5280 Bar Standard -- Holy Underground Stoney's -- Souls in Action Bannock St. Garage -- Mutiny Information Cafe Rooster and The Moon -- Minor Disturbance La Rumba -- Cafe Cultura Dazzle -- FoCoMX Krewe -- Greater than Collective 100% De Agave -- Souls in Action Curious Theatre -- ZetaKaye House Broadways -- Denver Music Task Force
Cover songs that totally ruled
The '90s have been back for, oh, the last four years. That said, I don't often see or hear of contemporary bands taking stabs at challenging covers from the era. But at this year's Showcase, I saw two very distinct and admirable versions of well-known tracks from seminal '90s renditions that literally stopped me in my tracks (there is a lot of hurrying past live bands performing at the showcase, not because you're ignoring the band on stage, but because you're usually trying to see a few minutes of several different sets within each hour. There are a fuck-ton of great musicians in Colorado, and the Showcase is where you can get a good listen to many of them.)
The first cover crushed was Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic," which I caught MTHDS in the midst of doing just as I was dipping out of City Hall. The song itself might not seem challenging, but these dudes went above and beyond, bringing out a robot (JUST LIKE IN THE VIDEO!) on stage to dance. But more than that, the members had MCA, AdRock and Mike D.'s own dance moves from the video down AND a vocal effect that mirrored the robotic "intergalactic planetary" vocal lines that run throughout the song almost exactly.
I don't know if this band does the song for other shows or if it was a one-time special to the showcase event or not, but it was incredible. The Beasties are one of those bands that can unite a crowd easily, but MTHDS took it to the next level. The audience screamed "Mmmmmm, drop!" at that meta-moment self-referencing break in "Intergalactic," further proving that MTHDS picked the perfect song for the raucous room.
The second cover came courteous of Lil' Thunder, which I heard purely by accident. On my way to help some friends load their gear I passed by the 100% Agave stage and heard Smashing Pumpkins' "Cherub Rock" blasting out of the the mexican restaurant. It was gave me chills, it was so good, and I had to take a detour in to see who was performing. Every note was perfect and Marie Litton's voice was like a better version of Billy Corgan's. It was one of those moments in time where I found something completely new and different in a song I had listened to hundreds of times over in my life.
After the opening song of a thoroughly vigorous and entertaining set, the typically riotous King Khan asked if the barricade in front of the stage could be moved. "We're from Germany," he said. "We can't have segregation like this."
At one point during "I Wanna be a Girl" Khan essentially tucked his junk, or possibly least the best a guy could do wearing pants. "Marijuana is legal so everything is possible," Khan said.
Khan introduced "Luckiest Man," from the band's latest effort, Idle No More, by saying (approximately), "This is an ass crusher. But different from the Gay Pride Fest."
Near the end of the set, Khan thanked Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hunk. No idea why.
Our thoughts continue on the next page. Fuse-blowing rock In The Company Of Serpents only played two songs before losing power at City Hall's upstairs cue room. Coincidentally, Singer/half-of-the-band Grant Netzorg predicted there would be power supply problems in an interview earlier that week on an internet radio show I host, but not at City Hall and not because of his band. In the interview with Metalix, Netzorg clairvoyantly remarked the band Bongripper would cause a "brown out with your frown out" at Marquis later Saturday night. In fact, Netzorg may have jinxed his own band. A self-described lover of "ridiculous walls of amplifiers," Netzorg's formidable accumulation of equipment may have been too much for City Hall's cue room stage to handle. Only the stage was affected and power was restored in time for I Am The Shotgun to begin without delay.
Current Westword cover subject the Dirty Few brought a characteristically energetic show to Broadway's patio. Photographer Brandon Marshall captured the highlights:
Time for some new apparel. I couldn't walk ten feet without seeing a shirt proclaiming someone's love for weed or Colorado or both. People here love the Colorado state flag and weed leaves equally, and it makes me wonder: who are they showing off to? I mean, we get it. We all live here, so we know weed is legal, and that rules. But really. Do we need five hundred different shirts explaining the double meaning of "A mile high"?
Some quick final thoughts
-Vimana front man Zac Joe (formerly of Cephalic Carnage) was an unofficial celebrity bartender at the City Hall cue room, serving discussion about death metal guitar techniques in between drinks. --BL
-There was a guy with a Mohawk and a shiny silver cape was with a gal in a shiny gold cape. Your guess is as good as mine. --JS
-I still like the fact that 2 Chainz rhymes "arena" with "penis." Nobody says penis these days. It is all about dick. Long live the penis. --BD
-IAMTHESHOTGUN's set was part of a recent string of appearances showcasing their almost completely revamped lineup after last year's Westword Local Music Showcase. Guitarist Bryan Pelle is now the only remaining original member. Any IAMTHESHOTGUN vocalist will have big shoes to fill, Kade Beem is their third replacement after the band parted with fan favorite Kenny Higdon in 2012. Judging by the considerable turnout, IAMTHESHOTGUN's rebuilding process has been successful. --BL
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