The Biggest Music Stories of 2018

2018 was the year Grandoozy came to town.
2018 was the year Grandoozy came to town. Michael Emery Hecker
Denver's music scene has been busy in 2018: Musicians keep releasing stellar material and throwing amazing shows, promoters are building new venues and remodeling old ones, and the city has seen the birth and rebirth of major festivals. In the meantime, Red Rocks has witnessed spats, skunks and lawsuits, the DIY scene has continued to recover from the city's closure of arts spaces, and buskers have come under attack. And we've been there to cover it all. Here are the ten biggest music stories of 2018:

click to enlarge
The future looks bright at the Mission Ballroom construction site.
Kenzie Bruce
Promoter Wars
The fisticuffs between entertainment promoters that plays out nationwide has been especially dramatic in Colorado, where AEG Rocky Mountain Presents announced the opening of the Mission Ballroom, a state-of-the-art music venue in RiNo to add to a stable of venues that includes the Ogden Theatre, Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre and the 1STBANK Center; Live Nation, in turn, took over booking the Summit and Marquis theaters from Soda Jerk Presents, remodeled those venues and the Fillmore Auditorium, and bought the independent promoter Emporium Presents, which books national acts at the nonprofit amphitheater Levitt Pavilion in Ruby Hill Park. Thanks to the tireless competition between these massive companies, Denver has seen some incredible acts, including Childish Gambino, Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney, come through town. The downside: Independent promoters are finding it harder and harder to attract talent to their venues when AEG and Live Nation take up so much space in the market.
The new wheelchair ramp outside Glob and Rhinoceropolis.
Kyle Harris
Is DIY Dying?
Sometimes no news is big news. That’s the case with Rhinoceropolis and Glob, two DIY arts and music spaces shut down by the city shortly after the 2016 Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 people in Oakland. Every few weeks, we were told the spaces would soon reopen. Every few weeks, we were disappointed to find out that they had not — and still haven’t, two years after the fire department kicked out artists living there and after tens of thousands of dollars have been poured into remodeling the spaces to bring them up to code. Many of the venues' former residents have moved from Denver to more affordable cities. One, the visionary musician and artist Colin Ward, died by suicide, a death many in the local DIY scene blame on city officials who kicked him out of his home, sending his life into a spiral.

click to enlarge
Wildermiss at the 2018 Westword Music Showcase.
Danielle Lirette
Old Bands, New Bands
Some of Denver’s most established acts released new albums this year. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats put out Tearing at the Seams, Gregory Alan Isakov dropped Evening Machines and DeVotchKa put out This Night Falls Forever, suggesting that Denver's seasoned artists are maintaining their popularity while staying fresh. Newer groups, like Oxeye Daisy and The Velveteers, made their own waves, and the music industry began to shine light on Wildermiss, which is on the brink of joining breakout acts like The Lumineers, Tennis and Rateliff on big stages nationwide.

click to enlarge
The Brothers of Brass started in Atlanta but found success in Denver.
Anthony Camera
Busker Blues
The Westword Music Award-winning band Brothers of Brass have built their career in Denver busking outside big events, from concerts to Broadway musicals. Along the way, they've garnered gaggles of fans who drop money into their bucket. But they've also gained a few enemies among fellow buskers and downtown residents, because as good as the Brothers are, they’re deafening. They have spent months in negotiations with the Downtown Denver Partnership, the Denver City Attorney’s Office and hotels and businesses, addressing noise complaints lobbed at them. While they continue to perform outside the Denver Performing Arts Complex and other venues, their struggle has made headlines and highlights conflicts over gentrification and freedom of speech.

click to enlarge
The Underground Music Showcase on South Broadway, July 28.
Miles Chrisinger
UMS Has Underground Music Success
In early 2018, news broke that the event organizers at Two Parts had purchased the Underground Music Showcase from the Denver Post Community Foundation. Looking at the largest multi-day festival spotlighting local talent as well as a strong lineup of national bands, we wondered whether the new team would pull off the event in the company's first year in charge. The crew at Two Parts didn’t just pull it off; they infused it with new life, turning it into an immersive experience, replete with high-end food, drink, art installations and all manner of cultural fare. Tobias Krause, onetime coordinator for the Westword Music Showcase, led the programming efforts and rebooted what was once a down-and-dirty South Broadway festival into a landmark event that honors local musical traditions while embracing the best of what new Denver has to offer.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris