The Twelve Best Shows in Colorado Over the Holidays

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Here's a list of good shows in America's Greatest State this week. We've called this period of time "the holidays" in the headline up there, but we realize why that might be confusing/misleading. Here are the holidays we're specifically referring to (in chronological order): The final day of Chanukah, Christmas Eve, Christmas, the beginning of Kwanzaa, Washington's Birthday and the Day After Christmas Day. That last one is a real state holiday in several places, mostly (of course) in the South. It is not a real holiday at the Westword office, however, so while you won't hear much (more) from us today or tomorrow, we'll be back with a full slate of Internet words and pictures on Friday. Who knows? Maybe we'll make room for a video or two.

We really, really digress. Go check out some music this week, and enjoy your holiday(s)!

See also: Paper Bird and Esme Patterson Had to Split Up Before Both Could Take Off

BoomBox Ogden Theatre : 9:00 p.m. December 26; 9:00 p.m. December 27

The last few years have been a renaissance of sorts for electronic musicians. Once confined to the underground warehouse rave scene of the '90's, modern dance music has grown infinitely more sophisticated, stylistically, into the brave new frontier of performers who expertly mate digitally enhanced beats with traditional drums, bass and guitar. At the forefront of these modern hybrid of electronic dance rock bands is Boombox, featuring multi-instrumentalist and singer Zion Godchaux and fellow bandmate DJ Russ Randolph on sequencers, groove boxes and turn-tables. Although there is jamband DNA flowing through the veins of Zion Godchaux, son of Grateful Dead alumni singer Donna Jean Godchaux, don't mistake Boombox for a jamband. If anything, there is a strong digital dance vibe to the music than the guitar noodling Godchaux's namesake might suggest.

The Crystal Method Belly Up Aspen : 9:30 p.m. December 26

When the Crystal Method debuted, it was hard to imagine the outfit would still be going strong more than two decades later. Serving as America's answer to English acts like the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, the group -- Las Vegas natives Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland -- managed to cash in on the already waning big-beat vibe before the public's taste for it dissipated completely. And from there, the music evolved into the similar, if slightly more underground-focused, nu-skool breaks sound: a big, stompy, rock-inflected breakbeat style that lacks subtlety but packs a wallop and is accessible enough to appeal to mainstream, rock-focused audiences. In other words, it sounds exactly like what the ignorant masses think dance music should sound like rather than what dance music actually sounds like -- which also accounts for why Crystal Method tracks have been used in video games and movies.

Mark Farina Bar Standard : 9:00 p.m. December 26

Farina, in case you're not familiar, got his start as a house DJ in Chicago alongside house-music godfather Derrick Carter, and took the Windy City's best-known electronic-music export in a different direction when he started mixing down-tempo house tracks into jazzy, funky combinations.

Paper Bird Bluebird Theater : 9:00 p.m. December 26

Early on a Tuesday night at Syntax Physic Opera, Paper Bird is taking advantage of its sound check to play a bit of a new song, "Parade." It is one of several things the band will debut tonight; another is the writer of the song, Carleigh Aikins, on lead vocals. Normally, this portion of the process lasts only a few seconds, but the six musicians feel good, better than they had in practice earlier in the day, and there are no real time restraints on this open-mic night. So they just keep going, past the delicate intro to the irresistible chorus. A gentle melody becomes an elaborate harmony, and the drums build like a stampede. Aikins takes a small step forward into her microphone and leans slightly back -- then absolutely tears into the third verse.

Read more here: Paper Bird and Esme Patterson Had to Split Up Before Both Could Take Off

Big Head Todd & the Monsters Boulder Theater : 7:30 p.m. December 27

Seeing Big Head Todd and the Monsters perform is as much a Colorado tradition as taking photos of mountain-filled sunsets, skiing all winter long and enjoying craft beer on a weekend afternoon. A Big Head Todd show should be on every Coloradan's bucket list, if only to marvel at the crowd of die-hard groovy fans. They're good people who enjoy having a good time, and whether or not you start out as a fan of the group's ska-influenced blues rock, the mood is infectious. That said, the fans aren't the only draw here. The Monsters, who started out in Boulder 25 years ago, would not be a staple today if their music wasn't so durable. They've put out more than a dozen albums -- one of which, 1993's Sister Sweetly, is certified platinum. So after you've gone skiing and taken a picture of that sunset from I-70, head over to the Boulder Theater and take in a hometown Big Head Todd and the Monsters show.

The Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge : 9:00 p.m. December 27; 8:00 p.m. December 28

Brad Leali grew up in Denver, studied with the local legend Neil Bridge and went on to be lead alto saxophonist for the Harry Connick Jr. Orchestra, as well serving as its musical director for four years. Now based in New York, Leali has played with jazz heavies Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Joe Williams and Jimmy Cobb. If seeing Leali's deft playing, which recalls Cannonball Adderley, isn't already reason enough to come check out him out, he'll be performing with an ten-piece jazz orchestra.

Great White The Lava Room : 7:00 p.m. December 27

The veteran blues rock band Great White got its start in 1977 during the early days of the Los Angeles Hard Rock scene, when Van Halen was in its ascendancy and the glam metal with which it later became associated had yet to become a going concern. Its 1982 debut EP, Out of the Night quickly caught on in the local radio market and its audience increased dramatically and quickly. Throughout the rest of the '80s, the band had a handful of radio hits starting with its breakthrough 1987 album Once Bitten... with the singles "Rock Me" and "Save Your Love." The group fractured in 2000 when founding member Mark Kendall announced he was leaving the band and the next year long-time singer Jack Russell declared Great White over. Though both Kendall and Russell released solo records to varying degrees of success, the legacy of their old band loomed large and the two worked together again in Jack Russell's Great White.

Lee Foss Beta : December 27

Lee Foss seemingly came out of nowhere to become one of the hottest DJs of the last couple of years. In truth, he came out of Chicago, where a lifelong love of house music -- as well as a passion for Detroit techno, '80s electro and '90s hip-hop -- shaped the futuristic sound that has positioned him as one of the most influential producers in house today. On top of a busy schedule deejaying, Foss -- who currently splits his time between London and Los Angeles -- runs the Hot Creations label with fellow rising star Jamie Jones, with whom he also co-produces as Hot Natured. Described by DJ Magazine as "one of the most talented new forces in dance music today," Foss also has the distinction of being the favorite producer of fellow house-music innovators Art Department.

Victor Wooten and Thundercat Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom : 9:00 p.m. December 27

With his virtuosic playing and two-handed approach, Victor Wooten has long been a pacesetter on the electric bass. From his work with Béla Fleck & the Flecktones to a vibrant solo career launched with his outstanding 1996 debut, A Show of Hands, Wooten has proven the broad potential of the bass guitar. Not only is he a major force on the instrument, but he's one who's been more than willing to share his knowledge with other musicians. Wooten has written books such as The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music and spearheaded a number of music clinics, workshops and camps. Tonight Wooten teams up with Thundercat, another bad-ass bassist who's isn't afraid to push boundaries.

Strings & Wood Concerts 5 Year Anniversary Show The Soiled Dove Underground : 8:00 p.m. December 27

Under the Strings & Wood name that he debuted five years ago, local promoter Art Heffron has mastered the art of producing memorable shows. Working at diverse venues ranging from the Oriental Theater to his own Baker back yard, Heffron creates environments for local and touring bands to play for thoughtful, engaged audiences. Strings & Wood celebrates its anniversary this week with a show headlined by Seryn. The Denton, Texas-based band crafts truly masterful, inspiring pop music with the acoustic instruments that are Strings & Wood's hallmark. Denver songwriter Lara Ruggles will open, and there may be a surprise guest in store.

Narrowed Seventh Circle Music Collective : December 28

Although best known for its gaudy entertainment and even gaudier gambling culture, Las Vegas, like any city with a sufficiently large population, has an underground music scene. Since 2012, Narrowed has been touring out of Vegas as part of a new wave of emo characterized by the post-hardcore of '90s bands like At the Drive-In, Mineral and Braid. But Narrowed isn't just drawing on the work of these groups for inspiration; its guitar work often crosses into even more experimental territory, touching on Sonic Youth and the math rock of A Minor Forest. Whatever its musical DNA, Narrowed showed considerable growth on this year's Narrowed//Southtowne Lanes EP and appears to be comfortable evoking and exorcising its collective angst with unhinged honesty.

Tenacious D Belly Up Aspen : 9:00 p.m. December 28; 9:00 p.m. December 29

It's hard to believe that Jack Black and Kyle Gass have been getting about as metal as you can get with acoustic guitars for two decades now. While the pair's association dates back to 1989, when they met in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe Fest, it was another five years before they dubbed their duo Tenacious D, throwing in ferociously humorous lyrics that borrow from metal clichés. On the pair's 2001 debut, they delve into tunes about anal sex, cock pushups and weed. Meanwhile, 2006's The Pick of Destiny, which was reissued on vinyl last month, finds Black and Gass, along with guests Ronnie James Dio and Meat Loaf, in more epic territory. Tenacious D has played the Fillmore Auditorium and Red Rocks on previous visits, but this two-night pre-New Year's stint at the 450-seat Belly Up offers a chance to see the wacky dudes up close.

- 50 Photos That Prove Red Rocks Is the Most Beautiful Venue on the Planet
- Photos: Musicians Buying (Legal) Weed in Denver
- The Ten Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
- 50 Ways to Support Your DIY Music Community

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.