Editor's Note: Trawling the Small Print is a new feature wherein we squint hard at big festival lineups and spotlight a few gems that may have been hidden below the headliners.
Saturday is the Day of Rock in Denver, a one-day festival this Saturday, May 28, that aims to benefit Amp the Cause, a nonprofit that improves the lives of children. A music festival that helps children sounds like something that all of us can get behind, right?
Five stages along the 16th Street Mall will host a variety of breakthrough bands and musicians, many of whom you may not have heard of but are still well worth checking out. The event is free, though donations are encouraged.
We spoke to two of the performing groups – local band Popfilter, and the Nashville-based Muddy Magnolias. Rolling Stone named the latter the “best unsigned duo” in 2014, which is actually the same year that they formed.
“Before the band, I was living in the Mississippi Delta, and I was just writing songs on my porch,” says Kallie North. “I thought I’d go to Nashville to see if I could make it as a professional songwriter, and that’s when I met Jessy [Wilson]."
“I was singing songs with John Legend and writing songs under his wing,” Wilson says.
Describing the sound as “Southern soul rock-and-roll blues fusion — all types of shit," North and Wilson say that they are in fact best friends, something that is evident from their chemistry.
“We both put a lot of weight on spirituality, and we come from two different walks of life leading up to us meeting in Nashville, so we just blended all that together with this music,” North says. “I think people are really gonna enjoy it.”
They admit that they know nothing about the Day of Rock. This will, in fact, be the Muddy Magnolias’ Denver debut.
“I went to downtown Denver for St. Patrick’s Day one year, and it was so much fun,” North says. “The day after we play the Day of Rock, the whole band is getting in a car and going to Red Rocks to see My Morning Jacket.”
The duo has an album, Broken People, coming out in the fall, and they’ll be touring throughout the rest of the year. In Denver, North says that we can expect energy, soul and a spiritual experience.
“We haven’t really looked at the lineup just yet, but we will,” North says. “I’m sure there’ll be some bands that we want to catch.”
One of those bands should be Denver’s Popfilter, an indie-pop trio that spent a year as a group before releasing its first song in December 2015.
“The biggest reason we started Popfilter was to give ourselves a creative outlet in which we could express our musical, visual and philosophical ideas,” says frontman Mason Maxwell. “Even if the songs are simple and ‘pop,’ there are bigger ideas in there that I think about constantly (and that I think a lot of other people think about). Love and fear and death and growing up and where do I fit in and what am I supposed to do with my life and how do I get to where I want to be and I know it wasn't good for us but I still miss you and on and on. Writing songs is one of the only ways I know how to express those thoughts in a healthy way.”
Maxwell says that Popfilter is a constantly evolving project, with each bandmember bringing different influences to the table.
“We all love so many different kinds of music, and we're constantly pushing ourselves to try new things,” he says. "We never want to get stuck in just one genre. We don't want to put limitations on ourselves.”
Maxwell is looking forward to the Day of Rock, because he believes it gives great local artists a chance to perform at a major festival with national acts, while Amp the Cause does much-needed work for Colorado families and children.
“We're playing songs nobody has ever heard except for my mom, [and I’m] a little nervous to test them on an audience,” Maxwell says. "I might twerk. We'll see how it goes. I just bought new shoes, and they make me dance uncontrollably.”
Well, that will certainly be worth seeing.
The Denver Day of Rock takes place on Saturday, May 28. Go to denverdayofrock.com for details.