Music News

An Even Dozen

One Saturday every June, thousands of people descend on the Golden Triangle for the Westword Music Showcase. For music fans, the Showcase is the most hotly anticipated local-music event all year, every year. And to my continual amazement, that old cliche is eternally applicable: The Showcase just keeps getting bigger and better, and the 2006 edition is no exception.

On Saturday, June 17, Westword will present its twelfth Showcase. Like a precocious adolescent, the event continues to grow and change beyond anything that was ever imagined when we launched it in a handful of LoDo clubs on a cold, damp Sunday night all those years ago. This year, we have Arrested Development for a headliner on the all-ages Outdoor Stage at Tenth Avenue and Acoma Street, and we've tapped into several amazing projects that will keep pumping energy into that venue. PeaceJam will be on hand to tout its upcoming tenth-anniversary celebration this September -- complete with a dozen Nobel Peace Price winners and a concert at Magness Arena -- and we've partnered with the folks from the Dew Action Sports tour, who will set up a freestyle motocross ramp along the west side of the main stage, where they'll offer exhibitions all afternoon. And then, of course, there's the music that will fill nine more venues in the neighborhood.

While the Showcase itself is a blast, putting it together is an arduous task, involving everything from organizing the nominating committee (more on that later) to lining up and scheduling the talent to assembling the special issue describing all that talent. Nevertheless, this is a labor of love, and worth every minute. It's particularly gratifying to give folks the opportunity to see so many of the artists I've been raving about for the past year. And I'm always eager to see which acts will turn in breakthrough Showcase performances that will keep folks talking for weeks and months. In recent years, sets by the Fray and Born in the Flood left people stunned. The former, of course, has gone on to become one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- breakthrough bands to ever emerge from Denver, while the latter continues to build a rabid following.

Speaking of Isaac Slade and company, when you turn to the Westword Music Showcase ballot on page 104, you'll notice that some high-profile acts like the Fray aren't included. Just so you know, the glaring omission is intentional, and no comment on that outfit's artistry (everyone still loves Fraymond). It simply speaks to the fact that committee members are stoked about giving newer, up-and-coming groups their chance to shine. And you'll also notice that we have plenty of first-timers on the ballot this year -- including Machine Gun Blues, Savage Henry, Redline Defiance, Meese, Ten Tiers, Laylights, Valiomierda -- as well as such perennial faves as Love.45, Rubber Planet, Hot IQs, the Swayback, the Erica Brown Band and the Railbenders, among many others.There are structural changes, too. Based on feedback after last year's Showcase, we've added several new categories -- Reggae/Ska and Gothic/Industrial, for example -- and we've condensed others, such as Country/Alt Country and Roots/Americana, to more accurately reflect the local music scene. Just like that scene, the Showcase is always evolving.

Through the years, though, there's been one constant: We rely on a committee of local music enthusiasts -- amateurs and professionals alike -- to help us come up with the bands listed on the ballot. This year's nominating committee was the largest yet, composed of everyone from past nominees to booking agents, club owners, sound men, radio personalities and folks just like you, regular music fans. A month ago, we gave committee members blank ballots and asked them to weigh in on the local artists who've impacted them the most over this year, and then we put the acts mentioned most often on the final ballot. Some of you more astute readers -- read: conspiracy theorists -- may have noticed that many of the committee members are involved with groups that appear on the ballot. Rest assured that nobody was allowed to nominate themselves. Actually, while nobody was allowed to do that, they did anyway -- but we didn't count those nominations. (While we may have been born at night, it wasn't last night.)

Don't like the picks? Think the committee is full of crap? Did we miss your favorite band? Not to worry: The ballot includes a fill-in-the-blank line where you can vote for the band or DJ of your choice. And that, my friend, is the best part of the Showcase. It's by you and for you, and democracy rules. We'll be collecting ballots until noon the Monday after the Showcase, and the acts that get the most votes will be celebrated at the Westword Music Showcase Awards party a week later.

But music listeners who head to the Golden Triangle on Saturday, June 17, are always the guaranteed winners.

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera