This past year has battered the music industry. For most of 2020, venues have been shuttered, with bands canceling gigs and trying to figure out if and when it will be safe to play again, all while trying to stay healthy and survive. Over the past nine months, Denver has lost more than our fair share of musicians and venues, and grief is constant. But amid all of the crises, we've also seen a few moments of joy — and Westword readers have cherished them.
Here are our ten most-read music stories of 2020:
Shortly after the COVID-19 shutdowns, musicians were panicking over losing a few weeks of work — without having any idea how bad things would get. In the face of cancellations, members of the Colorado Symphony, who had planned to spend 2020 celebrating Ludwig Van Beethoven's birthday, decided to play a virtual, socially distanced, online rendition of "Ode to Joy." The instrumental take on the hopeful song kept us all going as the pandemic crashed into Denver. It's time to play it again.
Concerts! Remember those? One of the last ones we reviewed was Miranda Lambert's March 2 gig at the Pepsi Center, where she torched the patriarchy in her pop-country tunes. "Through those anarchic numbers, Lambert rode the crowd like she had a crop in her hand, whipping us into a frenzy over the terrible men who ruin women’s lives: abusive dads, boyfriends, husbands, bosses — all the patriarchs that make life hell," Kyle Harris wrote. The crowd ate it up.
The city was excited when the Denver Botanic Gardens announced its summer concert lineup back in February. Randy Newman was coming to town. So were Amadou & Mariam + Blind Boys of Alabama, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mary Chapin Carpenter, DeVotchKa and more. It was going to be another utopian summer in Denver, as fans sipped wine on the grass and enjoyed great music in one of the city's most glorious outdoor venues.
Back in February, it was big news when a concert was canceled. And when Miranda Lambert announced she was too sick to play her Denver gig and Michael Kiwanuka got stuck in a traffic jam on I-80 and couldn't make his Gothic Theatre concert, readers cared. That was before every show was scrapped.
Colorado saw its share of losses this year, but none struck our readers as hard as the death of Billy Bunting, the frontman of Under a Blood Red Sky, a U2 tribute band. “We are beyond heartbroken to share this news with you. The heart and soul of our band, Billy Bunting, passed away this morning,” the band posted to social media. “Whether we performed to 200 or 2,000 people, Billy’s devotion, passion, and love for the music and fans was always the same. He was the consummate professional and a driving force in establishing the local tribute scene in Denver.”
On March 12, even before the stay-at-home order hit Denver, global concert promoters AEG and Live Nation announced that they would be suspending all tours until the coronavirus was under control. But that night, Post Malone was scheduled to play Denver, and despite public-health recommendations that people not gather in crowds, he went on with the show — one of the last big concerts in the country.
No Red Rocks until...May? Imagine that! Readers were appalled when news broke that Denver's most beloved venue would be canceling most concerts through the end of May 2020. It seemed like an eternity. Little did we know. At this point, we have our fingers crossed for May 2021.
Back in April, when the state was shut down over COVID-19, we were all looking for ways to connect — starting with those nightly howls. Then Dazzle owner Donald Rossa, the Denver Music Group, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts and Colorado Creative Industries threw a statewide drum circle to create community. “We have to show people that this is our time in history,” Rossa said. “I keep reading back to the last pandemic. And what happened after that last one? The Roaring Twenties. There was the introduction of jazz and things like that. So there's a lot of things back in that time that says: Okay, let's move it forward. We have something to look back on. It's the same. How you can use a road map there? Let's use it. And that's what we're intending on doing.”
This list, written on March 13, broke down all the concerts that were being canceled after AEG and Live Nation had shut down big tours. That was back when we had hope that live events might return by summer. Ah, the good old days. Things only got worse from there.
Denver's music scene takes care of its own. And when Jason Stoval, aka Sid Pink, suffered multiple head injuries and went into a coma in Paris, our city rallied to support him through a GoFundMe campaign. "Sid is just a pure, good soul," said Mutiny Information Cafe owner Jim Norris. "He’s just a good person. It breaks my heart to think that something like that happened.” Happily, by June, Sid was recovering.
What were your favorite Westword music stories of 2020? Let us know at email@example.com.
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