The bassist is an oft-underappreciated member of a band. But the low end is the soul of the music, and a talented, mindful, imaginative and patient bass player can turn a merely good song into a great one by giving it texture.
Denver is especially brimming with talented bassists who represent a wide spectrum of musical genres. But this list is limited to those who play indie rock.
Here are twenty of the best, listed in alphabetical order by first name or stage moniker.
1. Amadeus Tonguefingers (Little Fyodor & Babushka Band)
The longtime bassist of punk/experimental rock band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band, Amadeus Tonguefingers isn't a flashy player, but his creative bass lines — synced with the expressive but simple and powerful drumming of Tricky Dick Wicket — have anchored the band's crazy antics for years. Tonguefingers is also a producer and talented synth player in projects like Robot Mandala and Drones.
2. Brett Schreiber (Pep*Squad and Stella Luce)
Brett Schreiber has been a true staple of the Fort Collins music scene for more than a decade. Currently playing in avant-pop band Stella Luce, Schreiber got people on the dance floor with his funky bass lines and high-energy stage presence as a member of Pep*Squad.
3. Casey Sidwell (Break Mechanics, Megan Burtt and Dragondeer)
Versatility, chops and imagination make for a great bass player, and Casey Sidwell is a fine example. Whether playing with hip-hop groups like Break Mechanics, singer-songwriter Megan Burtt or blues-rock phenom Dragondeer, Sidwell stands out because his playing can embody any kind of music.
4. Daniel DiMarchi (Tyto Alba and Major Babes)
Daniel DiMarchi may be a quiet presence on stage, but he has an intensity and avulnerability that make his music electric. Influenced more by electronic music, DiMarchi mixes tone, atmosphere and beat-making in a way that might be expected from a deep-house artist. But he plays in rock bands.
5. Ian O'Dougherty (Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Ian Cooke, Uphollow, Fauxgazi)
O'Dougherty has been playing in some of the most interesting musical projects in Denver since the early '90s. While in middle school, he founded Uphollow. Then he started playing in the solo project of his Uphollow bandmate Ian Cooke and helped bring Cooke's sophisticated art to life. He was a member of Fugazi cover band Fauxgazi, and for the past few years has been a member of Slim Cessna's Auto Club. Beyond his considerable versatility and tastefulness as a player, O'Dougherty is a keen observer of the Denver music scene.
6. Jeremy Averitt (Esmé Patterson, Kitty Crimes, the Shift, Natalie Tate, Paper Bird and Dovekins)
Between playing hip-hop with Kitty Crimes and prog in the Shift, Averitt is a musical chameleon. He is also a gifted sound engineer, which probably helped sculpt his ear and versatility.
7. Jeremy Ziehe (See Cities From Space, Red Cloud West, Bad Luck City and New Ben Franklins)
Jeremy Ziehe emphasizes tone rather than notes and keeps the low end solid rather than showing off. He mostly plays with alt-country band New Ben Franklins, but sometimes plays in Bad Luck City.
8. Joe Pope (Born in the Flood, the Seven Hats, Miss America, the Wheel and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats)
Joe Pope made his mark in Denver as part of indie-rock band Born in the Flood, headed by Nathaniel Rateliff. Since then, he has been part of Rateliff's various projects, including the Night Sweats. It's difficult to nail down Pope's style, but his ability to play a song with power and fluidity has been a great benefit for the groups he's been involved with.
9. John Golter (Artillian Death Sword, Pleistocene, Deep Satisfaction and Black Kali Ma)
When Golter moved to Denver shortly after 2000, he found himself making something of a living as the bass player in improvisational rock band Black Kali Ma. But he would go on to make an impact in the local scene as a recording engineer running Glob and as a player in a series of fascinating experimental bands, including Deep Satisfaction. A bit of a technical wizard on bass, Golter never overplays, and masterfully commands his instrument and his songwriting.
10. Jon Evans (Achille Lauro, Science Partner and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake)
Jon Evans is among the most dynamic performers on stage, regardless of the band he's playing with. There is a jazz-like sensibility to his playing that he can translate to a variety of bands, from ambitious and thoughtful pop band Science Partner to the space rock/funk of Achille Lauro or the brooding post-punk of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. These days Evans seems to be doing more tour managing than performing, but if you get a chance to catch the gifted player on stage, don't pass it up.
Keep reading for more of Denver's top indie-rock bassists.
11. Julia Mendiolea (Mercuria and the Gem Stars, déCollage, the Freaky North, Inner Oceans and Esmé Patterson)
Julia Mendiolea's quiet presence and focus lends a subtle but unmistakable layer of atmosphere to the various bands lucky enough to have her. From space rock/pop, psychedelia, dream pop and beyond, Mendiolea's impressive skills, depth and range rank her among the very best bass players in Denver, regardless of genre.
12. Mike King (Ginkins, Ideal Fathers, Violent Summer, and the Outfit)
Rarely does one see a bass player who shows such unabashed enthusiasm for music. Mike King commits. He knows the lyrics. He physically and emotionally throws himself into the music and the performance. That his bass lines are so distinctive and powerful doesn't hurt, either. King also composes some of the best 8-bit music around.
13. Mike Perkins (Male Blonding)
Perkins is mostly known as a member of Male Blonding. But his bass playing in that indie-rock/post-punk band is so distinctive, creative and powerful that he sets a high bar for bass players in Denver.
14. Neil McCormick (Boulder Acoustic Society and Safe Boating Is No Accident)
McCormick could have a career as a comedian, but his real gift is playing bass. He has great technical skills, but his creativity in songwriting and putting together utterly unique and theatrical performances with Safe Boating Is No Accident sets him apart from virtually all of his peers.
15. Noah Matthews (Andy Rock and the Real Deal, Dearling and the Maykit)
Noah Matthews has put his gifts in the hands of some of the better local indie-rock bands, including Dearling and the Maykit, as well as the high-energy rock/funk band Andy Rock and the Real Deal.
16. Sean Boyd (Red Glow Aviator, Blue Blooded Girls, the Skivies and Codename: Carter)
With a career in music as eclectic as his talent, Boyd has played in mostly experimental rock bands and at the more avant end of indie rock. His melodic and textural bass style has been integral in giving his various bands an unconventional low-end sound.
17. Suzi Allegra (Catatonic Lydia, the Pseudo Dates, Fingers of the Sun and Quantum Creep)
Suzi Allegra has been in various musical projects since she started playing bass at age thirteen. Early on, Allegra played in punk bands while also learning the technical side of the instrument. In later bands, she was able to combine those punk roots with her jazz and classical training for some of the best pop songwriting out of Denver with the Pseudo Dates and Fingers of the Sun. She currently plays in indie-rock/power-pop band Quantum Creep. Allegra is also a gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist, allowing her to see how all aspects of a song can fit together.
18. Todd Spriggs (Light Travels Faster, Emerald Siam)
When Spriggs moved to Denver from Texas in the early 2000s with his then-band, Light Travels Faster, he stood out as a bassist because not only did (and does) he look like a rock star, but his creativity and ability to vibe with any style of song in that band's eclectic catalogue was impressive.
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19. Tom Plassmeyer (Tanukis and Chimney Choir)
Tom Plassmeyer plays both electric and upright bass, and his ability to swing with changing rhythms and moods within a song has served him well as a member of two of Denver's most interesting and experimental pop bands. With its wide range of influences, the Tanukis sounded like no one else but fit in well in Denver in the mid-2000s, and Chimney Choir's ambitiously imaginative concept records require Plassmeyer's refined technical ability.
20. Tyler Campo (Cowboy Curse, Gun Street Ghost and Soft Skulls)
Tyler Campo can give a song momentum and delicacy. Also a talented singer, Campo currently plays in Soft Skulls.