Mile High Makeout: Let's get small

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About once a month, I end up in a conversation with someone about how much better the music scene is in Chicago/New York/Seattle/San Francisco/L.A./Detroit/yourcityhere. Usually, the term "cowtown" pops up, along with some derogatory comment about Coors, Colorado Springs and/or Michael Martin Murphey. And there is, of course, some truth to it all. The sheer volume of musical activity that comes out of those big cities is impressive, and the concentration of industry types makes it seem like there's a lot going on. However, all of this misses the point. The fact is that Denver's music scene isn't great in spite of its size; it's actually great because of its size.

Let me explain. Anyone who's ever lived in a booming metropolis will agree that Denver just isn't in the same league. By the same token, anyone who has lived in the Denver area for more than 10 years will agree that our beautiful city has come a long way. Much of the progress can be attributed to a sense of loyalty and camaraderie that comes from being in a relatively small community.

Sure, Denver can be a bit insular and claustrophobic at times, but it's our distance from the hype and machinery of the music business that makes the key components of the music scene -- musicians and music lovers -- so vivacious, cohesive and creative. We have an embarrassment of cultural riches, and yet, our options are considerably more limited than are those for our brethren in NYC or SFO. Consequently, we should nurture, cultivate and cling to what we have with zealotry and alacrity.

Call it an attitude of scarcity, if you will. Call it circling the wagons, maybe. And maybe, just maybe, we feel like we have something to prove to our seemingly more sophisticated and urbane urban cousins. The fact remains that Denver's smalltown/small family vibe means we'll vociferously support the efforts, ambitions and successes of everything from 3OH!3 and Ghost Buffalo to Big Head Todd and the Flobots (whose "Handlebars" I actually heard on the radio while sitting in a coffee shop in Bangalore, India!), even when we don't like their songs.

When the chips are down and the musical heroes of our bovine metropolis launch their salvos into the wider world, we stand by cheering and back-patting because that's what we do -- we support our own. People always say there's strength in numbers, but I say there's potentially greater strength in unity and optimism. Denver doesn't want to be the next New York or L.A. -- or even Austin or Seattle. We're happy being the next Denver, the best Denver. Stand by your band. --Eryc Eyl

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.