This week, Westword music contributors took a moment to call out and shout out the standouts of their year in music, whether their concerns skewed local or national, niche or general, personal or quantifiable. In this week's print edition and on the web, you can find reflections on jazz and experimental music, Denver's embattled yet flourishing DIY scene, and more. Two of our esteemed critics, Isa Jones and editor emeritus Kiernan Maletsky, chose to reflect on notable live-music experiences of 2015.
Every couple of months I make a mental list of concerts I want to try to attend. In 2015 I found the list more and more dominated by local bands. It’s a poorly kept secret that Denver is a city of passion and talent, especially within the music scene. I saw too many bands to number, local and otherwise, but there were a few hometown heroes that stood out. Some I caught by accident; others I sought out over and over as the year progressed. Here are seven local bands (in no particular order) that put on outstanding, face-melting, heartbreaking, jaw-dropping, joy-inducing shows in 2015.
1. Rubedo, Independence Day show at Bluebird Theater
2. Church Fire, Westword Music Showcase set at Stoney’s
3. Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Totem album-release show at Gothic Theatre
4. The Reminders, Artopia set at City Hall
5. Lara Ruggles, Cynics & Saints album-release show at Walnut Room
6. Blue Rider, UMS unofficial backyard party at Meese brothers’ house
7. In the Whale, “Whales Suck” beer release at Black Shirt Brewing
— Isa Jones
GOOD TIMES NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD
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The best music-industry list of 2015 is the one naming the year’s ten top-grossing tours, both because live music is doing historically well and because it’s a hilarious list. Sure, there’s the requisite Taylor Swift appearance, and One Direction takes the top spot. But Neil Diamond (BAH BAH BAH) is on it, too, as is Take That, which is One Direction plus twenty years and minus Harry Styles. And sitting at number four is suburban dad Garth Brooks, who returned to Denver in March for nine consecutive shows at the Pepsi Center. Right before the residency kicked off, he held a press conference at Children’s Hospital Colorado. The Arapahoe High School cheerleading squad was there to welcome him, along with Bernie (the bulldog) and Dinger (the dinosaur). There were also several hundred onlookers and some snacks. The cheerleaders led the mascots and a few of the hospital’s patients in a line-dance routine set to “Shake It Off.” Shortly thereafter, Garth Brooks appeared. Some people screamed. Some people cried. Other people simultaneously screamed and cried. The cheerleaders were pretty excited, but not as excited as they had been for “Shake It Off.”
— Kiernan Maletsky