Five Noteworthy Bands Nominated for Westword Music Awards — But Aren't Playing Showcase

With close to a hundred local bands performing at the Westword Music Showcase this weekend, it's easy to sample a broad base of the music happening in Denver today. Perhaps you'll see a band for the first time and that performance will inspire you to vote for that band in its category in the 2016 Westword Music Awards. Several bands on the ballot, however, aren't playing the Showcase, but are certainly worthy of your consideration as you cast your votes (due by Sunday, June 26). Rather than shotgun you with a long list of names, here are five bands that should be on your radar.

1. Bangplay takes the idea of No Wave funk to new places with an irresistibly raw energy and an adventurous spirit of experimentation. The group's bass player, Luke Thinnes, performs as French Kettle Station, his Arthur Russell-esque post-punk dance project, at the Westword Music Showcase today, 12-12:40 p.m. at City Hall – Main Stage.

2. Chase Ambler has made some of the liveliest and most emotionally stirring melodic punk of the past five years. If pop punk today has a flagship band, it should be these guys.

3. Prison Glue is Kevin Wesley, the former guitarist for local noise-rock luminaries Hot White. This is Wesley's current noise project, in which his methods, tones and textures evolve with every performance. Prison Glue recently released the fascinating World Without Values on the Ascetic House imprint.

4. Stay Tuned is the highly political — but never boringly polemical — and intensely energetic hip-hop project featuring three heavyweights in the local hip-hop scene: MCs Mane Rok and Ichiban and DJ Awhat!!

5. Sister Grotto is the solo project of Tiny Amp co-owner Madeline Johnston. Bringing together gossamer melodies and otherworldly — or maybe innerworldly — atmospheres with processed vocals, guitar and synth, every Sister Grotto show is a transporting and soothing experience.

“Sister Grotto is the culmination of my previous work,” Johnston says. “It has been the project in which I truly feel like I have found a home, sonically, for everything I have been leading up to since I began playing music. The elements I had been working toward have finally come together in a tangible way with Sister Grotto. The intention for the project is a lot about processing. Internalizing the forces that throw me around in the external world. Mantras. A way of breathing. A release. A way of being. A way of feeling. I am fascinated by concepts that are simultaneously universal and personal. I aim to create and present what I call 'anthems for the human condition.'”

“I think the devices [I use to make sound] themselves help to inform the compositions,” Johnston continues. “Sometimes it’s the other way around. I seek out experimental sound objects that assist the correlation of form and content within the soundscapes. For example, using a telephone microphone might make the lyrics more intimate in a way, relating to talking to someone late at night on the phone. You are alone/you are not alone. Or the use of loop-based structures might speak about the concept of time, phrases that repeat themselves coming back to haunt you.”
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.