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 in and left music altogether.
Husband-wife duo Shon and Cherie Cobbs, who play in the indie-pop act Plume Varia, met as kids at the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Michigan. They moved to Denver in 2011, skeptical about what the city's music scene would offer. To find out more about it, they attended the Westword Music Showcase and were blown away by the local action. Since then, they've performed multiple times at the event and are now in the Showcase Hall of Fame.
We recently caught up with Shon to find out more about his memories of the festival.
Westword: What memories and stories do you have of playing Westword Music Showcase?
Shon Cobbs: When we moved here from Minneapolis in 2011, I was trepidatious about what kind of local music scene I was moving into. Would there be any good venues that encourage local music? Does the local press cover local music in any meaningful way? Questions like that filled my mind as I attempted to unravel Denver music. Coming from a place like Minneapolis, a known and thriving scene, I was skeptical.
My questions were answered and my skepticism was vanquished on June 18, 2011...the day of that year's Westword Music Showcase. I read about the event in Westword and was incredibly impressed from the start. So many venues featuring so many local bands of diverse genre, sound and popularity. It was nothing I had ever seen before. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a part of it. A year later, when we started the Plume Varia project, one of my first goals was to play the Westword Music Showcase.
That following year, we were fortunate enough to be nominated and, even more fortunately, asked to play the event. We were completely unknown. Not only was the project new, but we were new as well, knowing fewer than a handful of other local musicians. Point is, we weren't exactly drawing in the big crowds for the noon set at Bar Standard that day; however, without a doubt, that first WMS set was one of my favorites we have ever played. It was a moment of feeling like we found our home. The feeling of acceptance and belonging. As odd as it may sound, it was a feeling we had never even experienced in our previous musical home. The Westword Music Showcase will forever remain special to me, as it was what cemented my perception of the Denver music scene as a thriving, supportive and diverse scene that we wanted to be a part of.
How has your own band evolved since playing Showcase?
By now, we have been fortunate to play WMS several times, and each one is special and somewhat of a unique mile marker for the Plume Varia journey. Since that initial year, we have played countless shows with amazing bands, have opened for fantastic national acts, have toured a little, and even made an album with and have opened for lifelong musical heroes. It's been an incredible ride, to say the least.
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Denver's music scene has changed a lot over the past 25 years. What are your thoughts on its evolution?
It's funny, because even though we have been here since 2011, sometimes we still feel new to this city. However, then we look back on the rapid changes the city has gone through, both the good and bad, and are just amazed at how the music scene has continued to grow and thrive but, in my opinion, has not lost its uniquely supportive and collaborative nature.
When a favorite band ends up calling it quits, it is no time before new projects pop up that we are crazy about. When a venue shuts its doors, it is almost always followed by another one coming to life. The scene feels like it is constantly evolving, growing into its own and becoming one of the premier music cities in the country. I am excited to see how it continues to grow and develop, and I most certainly hope that the Westword Music Showcase, an event that we believe is one of the anchors of the Denver music scene, continues to develop and thrive right alongside.