Last night, the third floor of the McNichols Civic Center building was transformed into a musical game show, complete with judging cards, a panel of guests, and two witty hosts. Bob Boilen, the host of NPR's All Songs Considered — the decade-old musical-exploration radio show-turned-podcast — and his sidekick, Stephen Thompson, an NPR music reviewer and columnist, brought their All Songs Listening Party to town for the closing event of this year's Denver Music Summit. Boilen says they host these parties "very irregularly. We've done them roughly four times a year over the last three years."
Strawberry Runners of Denver opened the event with an intimate performance. Then it was time for the party. The panelists were Xavier Dphrepaulezz, front man of the NPR's Tiny Desk contest-winning Fantastic Negrito, along with Open Air music director Jessi Whitten and Thao Nguyen of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.
Here is how it works: Boilen plays a song off his laptop, which is part of a mix that is put together by songs submitted by the guest judges, himself, and Thompson. The crowd doesn't know the song. A clip of the song is played, and the audience members each hold up a score card numbered between one and ten. Thompson and Boilen then can ask specific members of the crowd why they chose the number, and the guest judges pipe in with their two cents. Conversations of musical influences, pop-culture, and sometimes humorous tangents arise. Here's a glimpse at the music (and discussions) from last nigh's event:
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Song #1: "Don't Wanna Fight" by the Alabama Shakes
"I've been listening to that album a lot recently, so I knew from the moment I heard it that I already just love that song. It makes you want to dance, and I just love the groove." — Amy Osgood of Greater Than Collective
"I love the truth in music, and I think that band is really raw, and I like that." — Xavier Dphrepaulezz of Fantastic Negrito
"I hear a lot of the BeeGees in that song." — Bob Boilen
Song #2: " Woman (Oh Mama)" by Joy Williams
"It reminded me of afro pop. The layers were really thoughtful. It had construction but it wasn't too busy." - Jessi Whitten of OpenAir
Song #3 : "Strange Hellos" by Torres
"I loved the beginning. It was so intense, and she wasn't married to a true time signature, but then the drums came in and I was like... oh..." — David Runge of Strawberry Runners, who put up a nine during the beginning of the song, but as it continued, he changed it for a six.
Song #4 "Crown" by Run The Jewels
"I love the beat, lyrically it's so well done. The story is so well rendered, there is so much humanity." — Thao Nguyen of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.
Song #5 "Shame" by Young Fathers
"So far this is my favorite album of the year. It had a great propellent quality to it, where subtle layers add to the complexity." — Whitten
Song #6 "Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35" by Bob Dylan
"It's so boring, and his voice is so bad." — An audience member who gave the song a one.
"As someone who bought that 45 the week it came out, and the radio was filled with prestine, easy listening music, we as a generation wanted something different." — Boilen
Song #7 "The Blacker the Berry" by Kendrick Lamar
"This makes you uncomfortable, which is great." — Ben DeSoto of Greater Than Collective
Song #8 "Colors" by Genevieve
"It feels good and I feel like I should like it. It's healthy to like things that make you feel good. But maybe it's that I don't like things that make me feel good." — Whitten
Song #9 "Half As Much" by Hank Williams
"He just so badly wants what he doesn't have." — Boilen
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Song #10 "Hard Times on the Killin' Floor" by Skip James
Dphrepaulezz told the crowd that his family is from deep Alabama, and this song was a song that his uncle would play when he was a youngster, which really influenced him. "The reason why Fantastic Negrito even exists is because of this song."
To listen to more of Bob Boilen's musical picks, and to hear why he does/doesn't like them, and why he thinks they matter, and other commentary, listen to All Songs Considered.