The 25th Westword Music Showcase main stage will be graced by twelve acts, our biggest international lineup yet, including a mix of electronic stars, rockers, and pop bands, along with Denver's own YaSi and Slow Caves. The result: an all-day party sure to keep you dancing till your legs give out. Meet your 2019 Showcase headliners below, then see them in person on Saturday, June 29, in the Golden Triangle.
For CHVRCHES, it started with a song: the stratospheric synth-pop banger and 2011 debut single “The Mother We Share.” In the years since, the track has become emblematic of early 2010s indie, while the band itself has steadily ascended to global fame and the upper echelons of festival bills. Along the way, the group has perfected its propensity for massive pop hooks and buzzy synth pop, sounding forever caught between the ecstasy of the dance floor and sweeping cinematic excess. In any case, emotional grandiosity reigns supreme, and CHVRCHES remains the unequivocal master of the happysad.
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The natural conclusion of years of flirtation between indie rock and electronica, Sajeeb Saha, aka Jai Wolf, makes music on the border of both. It hasn’t kept the EDM world from embracing his music — early cosigns came from Skrillex and ODESZA — and fans of both have flocked to him. (He sold out two Denver dates at the Ogden Theatre this spring.) With the release of his debut album, The Cure to Loneliness, Saha establishes himself as a distinct and remarkable musical innovator, blending the sugary synth pop perfected by M83 with traditional electronica and guitar-forward riffs reminiscent of the Strokes and Interpol. The result is as undeniably contemporary as it is compulsively listenable.
You can accuse JAUZ of many things, but being overly subtle isn’t one of them. To wit: His most recent release is a tongue-in-cheek remix of “Baby Shark," which he mixed with Darude’s “Sandstorm” at Coachella this spring. An increasingly ubiquitous name in EDM circles and festival bills, JAUZ (born Sam Vogel) broke into the international mainstream in 2014 with the midtempo dubby single “Feel the Volume," setting the stage for his trademark blend of trap, dubstep and thick bass house that would make his name. Now Vogel’s increasingly upward trajectory seems all but unstoppable.
Born British but raised in Japan and Hong Kong, Bishop Briggs’s big break came the old-fashioned way when she was discovered by an A&R industry type in a Los Angeles hole-in-the-wall. What followed is an undeniable success story: Her debut single, the folksy-guitar-meets-EDM “Wild Horses” garnered serious heat on Spotify; her debut album, 2018’s Church of Scars hit number five on Billboard’s rock and alternative charts. Opening slots for alt-J, Bleachers and Kaleo would follow. A pop singer with serious singing chops and a fundamental understanding of hip-hop, acoustic folk, bass drops, and early 2010s synth pop, Briggs’s music defies obvious or easy categorization. We’re guessing that’s part of the plan.
Not to be outdone by the Europeans and Americans, Australia will make an appearance at this year’s Showcase by way of electronica trio Crooked Colours. Originally from Perth but sounding as though they hail from Jupiter, the band broke out in 2013 with a slew of hype-heavy singles, including the jittery if understated “Come Down” and the half-galactic, half-psychedelic “Capricious.” On just-released second album Langata, the group leans into beat-forward songwriting, crystalline production and flourish-free instrumentation underneath echoing vocals. Lead single “Hold On” is as danceable as it gets, and the Ladyhawke-assisted “Never Dance Alone” is among the more interesting duets of the year thus far. Beam them up, Scotty.
Mitchy Collins, lovelytheband's frontman, believes in music as catharsis, for himself and for others. From the jump, his songwriting served as a way to let the air out of his mental health struggles — depression and anxiety included. In the process, he discovered how doing so could resonate with an audience, and the band’s fans responded in kind by streaming single “broken” some 25 million times in less than a year. The group’s open-hearted indie pop is definitely the stuff of feel-good movies and road trip soundtracks. Fans of heart-on-your-sleeve sincere acts like Bleachers and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness will surely know the feeling.
Well, at least they have a sense of humor. New York City duo the Knocks got their name thanks to a roster of annoyed neighbors, the kind who would reportedly bang on the door when the music got too loud. Made up of Ben Ruttner and James Patterson (no, not that one), the Knocks emerged in 2010 by remixing the obligatory list of pop divas — Britney, Katy, Marina — before focusing on writing their own music. By blending soul, funk, disco and rap (and sounding like the Avalanches and Jay-Z hosting a dance-off in Studio 54 in the process), the Knocks make us lonesome for a New York not seen in years. But mostly they make us dance.
Work with what you have, right? In the case of the Wrecks, that meant sneaking into a Los Angeles home studio where a friend was housesitting and pumping out three songs in three days with zero professional recording experience. (That’s what YouTube tutorials are for. And YouTube tutorials are, in fact, how the band figured out how to edit and mix the recordings!) Those songs landed on the group's first release, We Are the Wrecks, a super-short collection of punchy alt rock heavily indebted to 2000s pop punk, Jimmy Eat World and scuzzy punk. The takeaway? You can learn anything on the Internet these days.
Thinking about the Washington, D.C., scene doesn’t exactly conjure images of sleek electro-pop bands, but government-adjacent trio SHAED seems determined to change that. Granted, it’s a family affair: the band comprises producers and twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst, the latter of whom is married to frontwoman Chelsea Lee. They’re somewhat inseparable by their own account, living together in a tiny Maryland house and making their dark, trap-adjacent pop together in an in-home studio. At every turn, they prefer high drama: new song “Thunder” is cinematic pop gold; “ISOU” is a funky breakup kiss-off primed for maximum repeatability. What have you done in your basement lately?
You may not know Slow Caves, but you’ve no doubt seen the band’s ubiquitous round white sticker in one bar bathroom or another. Originally from Fort Collins, the trio has spent years in the local music scene, honing an encompassing dream-pop sound with jangly surf guitars perpetually at the front and center. This has already been a big year for the band, thanks to the release of debut album Falling and landing the opening spot for Calpurnia’s three Colorado shows. Westword writer Ben Wiese called the record excellent back in March. It’s June, and we still agree.
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According to Kesha — and this is verbatim — Jesse Kinch is a “fucking rock god in the making.” (Is it the Jim Morrison haircut? The sepia-toned press photos? Those couldn’t have hurt, granted.) Kinch, the lone winner of short-lived singing competition show Rising Star, seems happy to embrace the designation. His debut album, I’m Not Like Everybody Else, includes a raspy cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell on You” and a highly produced take on The Beatles’ “This Boy.” As far as Kinch is concerned, there’s no shame in evoking 1975.
As a city, we have doubtlessly earned and deserve the nickname “Menver,” which makes us all the more grateful that YaSi exists. A first-generation Iranian-American born and raised right here at home, YaSi makes trap-heavy pop that turns down the brightness on ’90s R&B and drips with self-assured swagger. Fresh off her Red Rocks debut, she has just three singles to her name, including “Issues,” a raw, reflective slow burner that landed on Spotify’s Fresh Finds Poptronix playlist. We’re also partial to her feature on Doze’s “CRZY," a jazzy R&B fever dream that lets vocal chops and her buttery flow shine.
To see the complete schedule for the 25th Westword Music Showcase, coming to the Golden Triangle on Saturday, June 19, go to westword.com/showcase.