Since the beginning, women have played integral creative roles in the Denver music scene, and today there is no shortage of projects fronted and led by women. Ranging from noisy pop and folk rock to beatboxing soul and hip-hop, what follows is a list, in alphabetical order, of the ten most vital female-fronted bands active in Denver.
10. Chella & the Charm
Michelle Caponigro moved to Denver from Wisconsin around 2000 and soon began crafting insightful folk and Americana songs, performing under her stage name of Chella Negro. In the past few years, Caponigro has been performing with a full band of regulars called Chella & the Charm. Caponigro's philosophical and poetic take on the struggles of everyday life transcends genre, and the band expertly breathes vibrant life into the storytelling.
9. Church Fire
Shannon Webber spent several years fronting the arty and confrontational punk band Dangerous Nonsense. She brings that same sense of theater and fiery intensity to current project Church Fire. With David Samuelson, Webber has forged the kind of synth-pop band that is as thought-provoking as it is easy to dance to.
8. Death In Space
Girls Rock Denver alum Aleeya Wilson could be said to have taken a real departure from the aspirations of many of her peers. As Death In Space, whether performing as a solo artist or with any of her various band lineups, Wilson is a relentless experimenter of great imaginative powers. Her sound can't be confined to being merely noise, avant-garde rock or weirdo punk. Wilson is the type of artist who takes real risks and is worth checking out.
7. Dressy Bessy
With roots in the '90s indie-pop scene in Denver and beyond, Dressy Bessy started out as a noisy pop band with raw punk energy. While the energetic quality of the music didn't take a back seat, Dressy Bessy refined its sound in a more melodic direction over the following decade. In 2016 the band released its first album in nearly a decade, KINGSIZED, revealing a more stripped-down fuzzy rock-and-roll sound akin to the music it made early in its career. In a live setting, singer Tammy Ealom always seems to possess a surprising forcefulness that elevates the music.
6. The Milk Blossoms
This trio defies easy categorization because its two singers, Michelle Rocquet and Harmony Rose, bring such strong voices and songwriting that are so different yet complementary. Rocquet is not just a human beatbox in the vein of Tez of CocoRosie, but also a powerful soul singer. Rose's more ethereal style brims with a raw emotional resonance. It's pop, it's soul music, and it's experimental at its core — but un-selfconsciously so.
Read on for five more great female-fronted bands in Denver.
5. Plume Varia
Cherie and Shon Cobbs moved to Denver from Minneapolis, not knowing what kind of music scene they would find. Well into adulthood before really pursuing making their own music, the two more or less knew what they wanted to do. With Cherie's rich, haunting voice and the overall melodic caress of the sound, Plume Varia is reminiscent of some bands out of the classic 4AD catalogue while forging its own path, and has been described by listeners as psych rock, dream pop and everything in between.
4. The Raven and the Writing Desk
Julia LiBassi and Scott Conroy were making music in various projects while living on the East Coast, but decided they wanted a change of pace and moved to Denver (long before the current wave of transplants). Their band, The Raven and the Writing Desk, formed in 2010 and has steadily evolved its dark pop from Danny Elfman-esque compositions to a more adventurous and brooding batch of songs. There's always something transporting and dreamlike about the band's music that has kept it from ever becoming stale.
Denver underground-rock veterans make up Sleepers, a band that represents the vision of singer Kat Ellinger. Influenced by hard rock, Ellinger, an undeniably charming and commanding presence on stage, has a real knack for reaching into her own psyche and drawing out expressions of universal human experience, grounded in her imaginative rendering of ideas and stories. The group's current lineup released Drive in 2015, an album that powerfully chronicled Ellinger's examination of running from life as she knew it — and then running back to embrace the kind of life she wanted.
2. Snake Rattle Rattle Snake
Frontwoman Hailey Helmericks and guitarist Doug Spencer would have secured their place in the history of Colorado music with the cathartic and menacing band Monofog. But in late 2008 they put together a new band and spent some years working out a vehicle for Helmericks's pointed, vivid words, which demonstrated an ability to evoke defiance and transformation. With the 2014 album Totem, Snake came into its own, balancing brooding atmospheres with a coiled momentum that springs forth at thrillingly unexpected moments.
1. Wheelchair Sports Camp
Combining humor, playfulness, radical political perspectives, compassion and undeniable musical chops, Wheelchair Sports Camp is unlike any other hip-hop act around. Kalyn Heffernan is a riveting figure with a transcendent flow. You can't really pin Heffernan's beats and collaborators to a specific era or subgenre of hip-hop, and she always switches up her configuration and presentation and methodology while making the music happen in consistently fascinating ways.