The Ten Most Shocking Music Stories of 2016

In Denver music news, as on the national stage, 2016 has been good, bad — but mostly it's been ugly. From the deaths of irreplaceable pop icons to the (forced) closures of beloved venues (R.I.P. Quixote's) and the bizarre antics of artists we can't seem to escape, this year has kicked our collective asses. Before we run screaming into 2017, here's a look back at ten of the most shocking or controversial stories in Denver music that rocked our world in 2016.

1. David Bowie died.

On January 10, 2016, just days after his 69th birthday and the release of album Blackstar, David Bowie died, following an eighteen-month battle with cancer. The global pop icon's unexpected death triggered a huge outpouring of grief and gratitude for his contributions to music, art and fashion, and for how his defiance of strict boundaries of genre or gender inspired audiences and other artists.

2. Prince died.

On Thursday, April 21, 2016, legendary American musician Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, died in his home in Minnesota. His sudden death came after health concerns caused his plane to be grounded after a concert. Tributes to Prince's longstanding contributions to popular music and culture, as well as his support of female artists, came swift and loud in Denver: a mural on Broadway, a concert and screening of Purple Rain at Red Rocks, and more. Westword's Michael Roberts recalled his close encounter with Prince in L.A. in 1985. We're not over it, and we may never be.

3. 82-Year-Old Colorado Metalhead Slays on America’s Got Talent.

It ain't always sunny in Colorado, and not every octogenarian karaokes to Frank Sinatra. On this summer's season premiere of America's Got Talent, 82-year-old John Hetlinger, of Broomfield, proved both of those points with his audition. While the panel of judges smiled panderingly at Hetlinger's hiked-up khakis and toucan-emblazoned collared shirt, he cued the band. His performance — of hard-rock band Drowning Pool's 2001 hit "Bodies" — made jaws, well, hit the floor. The former Navy pilot and aerospace engineer is a karaoke enthusiast, so watch out for him around town and get ready to head-bang. Just don't throw out a hip.

4. Gathering of Juggalos Coming to Colorado.

Go West, young Juggalo! Whoop whoop!

According to a seminar held on Saturday, July 23, Insane Clown Posse confirmed that its annual festival, the Gathering of the Juggalos, will happen in the Denver area in 2017. The unique festival has taken place in various locations in the Midwest since its inception, including this weekend's seventeenth edition in Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio (after protests from residents blocked its planned event in Kaiser, Missouri). Denver (and Colorado) has long been a locus of ICP fandom, but this news was met with fervent opposition from Westword readers commenting online.

5. TJ Toddler harasses Denver music community.

Local musicians who sometimes perform as the band TJ Toddler were the subject of a Westword cover profile after a series of bizarre incidents involving pepper-spraying a sound engineer and harassing other Denver bands via social-media platforms and other outlets. While some members of the music community credited Westword's exposé on TJ Toddler's activities with highlighting a type of harassment that's difficult to prosecute or avoid, some readers believed the coverage would only encourage trolls to keep on trolling.

Read on for the five most shocking music news stories of 2016.
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Katie Moulton is a former Westword music editor. She's written about culture for alt-weeklies since 2009 and has also worked as a venue manager, radio DJ/producer and festival organizer. Her go-to karaoke jams are "Flagpole Sitta," by Harvey Danger, or "Ride Wit Me," by Nelly, which tells you a lot.
Contact: Katie Moulton