Denver Comes Alive Brings New Orleans Music to the Mission Ballroom

Denver will come alive at the Mission Ballroom.
Denver will come alive at the Mission Ballroom. Michael Martin
Inspired by the groove-oriented jam event Brooklyn Comes Alive, Friday night's Denver Comes Alive at the Mission Ballroom will bring together some of the biggest national touring acts from the jam world. The event is the brainchild of new Colorado resident Kunj Shah, the 32-year-old owner of Live for Live Music.

The lineup for the first Denver edition of Shah's event includes Oteil Burbridge & Friends, Ghost-Live (a special collaboration between members of Ghost-Note and Soulive), Star Kitchen & Friends and Poppa Funk & the Night Tripper; a tribute to Art Neville, the legendary founding member of The Meters, and Dr. John, among others.

Westword spoke with Shah to get an idea of what to expect from the one-day jam extravaganza, and to discover how the concept came to be.

Westword: What's the story behind the Comes Alive tradition?

Kunj Shah: It all starts where I think all music starts, which is in New Orleans. My friends and I fell in love with New Orleans during its Jazz and Heritage Festival. We just loved the whole city and its culture and vibe. I got married down there. Frenchmen Street in the French Quarter really spoke to us.

The fact that you can walk in and out of multiple venues all night long and be exposed to some of the best music in the world sort of sparked the idea for Brooklyn Comes Alive, where we would have three venues all within walking distance with different collaborations that we created and kind of mixed and matched in Fantasy Football-like lineups. The idea came from trying to replicate the vibe of Frenchmen Street during Jazz Fest. We felt like that type of music could and needed to be re-created in Brooklyn and in different cities, even if just for one day.

When and where were you doing it in Brooklyn?

We did it in Brooklyn the last five years, and we're still doing it there. It will be held there in March this year. We used to have it at Brooklyn Bowl, the Music Hall of Williamsburg and Rough Trade, but this year we've moved it to one large venue with multiple stages at a place called Avant Gardner. We moved from Williamsburg to Bushwick, which is like the new and upcoming Williamsburg. All the artists kind of got priced out of Williamsburg. I got priced out, too, which is why I live in Denver now. [In an email, Shah clarified he was joking about being priced out.]

How how do you like Denver?

I love it here. We've been here for a year now. Between everything that's available in the city to the outdoor opportunities. I went from a tiny one-bedroom to a three-floor townhouse. We go hiking here. I never would have thought I'd be hiking back when I lived in New York. I wouldn't have believed I could live like this. And the food scene here is really good. My wife is a foodie. There's a great collaborative energy in this town. In New York, people are not looking to have a conversation. If you have an idea here, people are willing to be a part of it. There's a lot of cross-pollination with people who are willing to work together for a bigger cause. And the music scene here is incredible. The majority of people here like to see live music, and they make art a part of their lives. I feel like the music scene is more vibrant here than anywhere else in the country. Music and all of the arts seem to be a big part of the culture. 

The Mission Ballroom seems like a great spot for this event.

Absolutely. I think it's one of the greatest indoor venues to be constructed in America in the last decade. They figured out how to address all the stuff that people complained about at large venues. You've got great sight lines, no long waits at the bars, and it's beautifully constructed. Even the bottled water is affordable. I'm used to New York prices.

What's the format going to be?

It will start at 6 p.m. and go until 1 a.m. There's a lot of community coming together for this. There will be food offerings from Josh Pollack, who does Famous Original J's Pizza and Rosenberg's Bagels, and one of my favorite artists, Frenchy, who is from New Orleans, will be there to live-paint, and he'll have a gallery set up. The tribute to Doctor John and Art Neville is going to be amazing. There hasn't been a tribute to them yet, and this will be performed by artists including Ivan Neville, Ian Neville, George Porter Jr. and other people who played a lot with the two legends whom we recently lost. It should be an incredible evening of music, art and culture. We're really excited about it.

Denver Comes Alive takes place at 6 p.m. Friday, January 31, at the Mission Ballroom, Denver. Tickets are $29.95 to &99.50.

Correction, January 29, 2019: The band Ghost-Live's name was misidentified in an earlier version of this story.
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Nick Hutchinson writes about music for Westword and enjoys playing his guitar when not on deadline.
Contact: Nick Hutchinson

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