Westword Music Showcase

Celebrating 25 Years of the Westword Music Showcase: ATOMGA

Atomga at the Five Points Jazz Festival.
Atomga at the Five Points Jazz Festival. Deuce Washington, Mile High Music Group
On June 29, we'll present our 25th Westword Music Showcase. The event has grown dramatically since it was founded in 1995 with just a handful of bands playing around LoDo. In 2019, more than seventy local acts will fill venues throughout the Golden Triangle, while national headliners CHVRCHES, Jai Wolf, JAUZ, Bishop Briggs, Crooked Colours, lovelytheband, The Knocks, The Wrecks and SHAED will play the two main stages.

Many of the artists who have participated in Showcase have gone on to worldwide success, while others continue to perform for loyal local audiences. And some have cashed it in and left music altogether.

The Afrobeat ensemble ATOMGA formed in 2011. In the years since, the group has used its twist on the genre to fight for human rights and against corporate greed. The band, which includes around ten members, explores the intersection of Latin, jazz and African sounds through dance-inspiring improvisation. We caught up with saxophonist Leah Concialdi to find out more about her thoughts on the Westword Music Showcase and Denver's music scene.

Westword: What memories and stories do you have of playing the Westword Music Showcase?

Leah Concialdi: The first time we played the Showcase, in 2013, we got to play outdoors at City Hall, and I remember it being one of our biggest plays to date at that point. Playing that space and seeing the professional photos and write-ups was a defining, "Well, I guess we're a real band" moment for us.

Headlining La Rumba in 2017 was also an honor for us. Not only was it a packed room, but it's a great feeling playing to an audience with some of your favorite bands dancing in the front row and supporting one another. As much as we love meandering around the Golden Triangle, the lineup there was so stacked that day with some of our favorites including Los Mocochetes, the Other Black, GoStar, and more that we pretty much camped out at La Rumba all day. Needless to say, lots of mojitos were consumed.

How has your own band evolved since playing Showcase?

Playing the Showcase and several community events throughout Colorado has really helped grow our audience and leverage our music to appeal to concertgoers from all walks of life. It's really cool to play an event like the Showcase and then be hit up for weddings, events, and other opportunities because people just so happened to stumble across us there. We're at the point where we can really vet every opportunity and make sure we're strategic about every gig we take, when to release music, how we want to present content, etc. A huge milestone for us was playing the main stage at the Five Points Jazz Festival this past month.

Denver's music scene has changed a lot over the past 25 years. What are your thoughts on its evolution?

I'm loving the surge of top tier musicians moving to Denver and how we've really solidified ourselves as a national hotbed for music. What I love most is that even though there's an influx of people moving here, we're still a very community-oriented market. There's not really an air of competitiveness and there genuinely is room for everyone here.

The 25th Westword Music Showcase will sound off in the Golden Triangle on Saturday, June 29. Find out more about who's playing, vote for your favorite acts on the Westword Music Awards ballot, and buy tickets at westwordshowcase.com.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris