Every year at the Westword Music Showcase, we enlist our army of Backbeat wordsmiths to host various stages. In addition to their emcee duties, we ask them to pull double duty by submitting a travelogue of their individual stage. Stephanie March hosted at Cantina this past Saturday. Keep reading for some of the highlights from that stage.
By Stephanie March
The Cantina stage at the Showcase opened with the Railsplitters, a four-piece outfit that originally hails from Jackson, Mississippi. The group paid homage to this fact by performing "Going Back to Jackson" in a beautiful way that only a group from Mississippi could. Although the drinking hadn't really started quite yet and the crowd was smaller, the band's soulful "Where You Are" is the kind of song that makes you sway. Actually sway. And drink lemonade (lemonade with vodka, but lemonade nonetheless). It was a perfect way to get the show started, and it was nice to hear such sweet angels that early in the day.
The Jekylls kicked it up a notch with their James Bond, '60s go-go pop. The quintet made the ever-growing crowd turn around and pay attention. Maybe it was the two hot ladies in the band (Eryn Hoerig and Jody Rodney), or maybe it was because the Jekylls have an upbeat, soulful sound that makes you want to clap along. And we did. We clapped and shook our asses, because when you hear a song like "Goodbye," you just can't help it. The act's debut, The Sweet Factory, was released in April of 2012, and Hoerig told us that they're currently working on their next one, but they want to take their time.
Mosey West played songs about booze and heartbreak. And after several vodkas, beers and tequila shots, this crowd was already well into a day of boozing and heartbreak and totally ready for that sort of thing. The soulful voices of this Fort Collins-based band came to life in songs like "In Tune," and the members' laid-back stage presence brought the crowd up close.
The New Ben Franklins knew how to work the crowd, and the band's songs took us all back to the time when Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash were Top 40. The song "Miserable" was the kind of self-loathing that this crowd needed. With lyrics such as "I don't know what's wrong with you...why won't you break my heart?" you couldn't help but embrace the act, which performed wicked classic country songs and invited Jody from the Jekylls to come help them out on their version of Waylon Jennings's "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys."
When Marty Jones and the Great Unknowns took the stage, the dancing began in earnest. These four fellas definitely understood that if people didn't start shaking their asses, they might pass out, so they stepped things up and gave the crowd some dancing music. Plus, when you see a stand-up bass on stage, you know it's gonna be good. The group wailed on "Come On In," which drew the crowd in and got folks line-dancing.
When Thief River took the stage, the crowd got...aggressive. This band's edgy, country-tinged sound got heads banging and even inspired some ladies to take their tops off. The band's energy oozed out into the hot streets, and curiosity brought in an even bigger crowd, which was treated to snippets of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."
Casey James Prestwood & the Burning Angels took to the stage in the most awesome shirts we've ever seen. These cool crooners have been together for five years, and not only is their sound polished, but they have a look and feel to them that makes you want to be in the band. Prestwood and company demanded that the crowd do whiskey shots, and when you sing songs about cocaine and look so dapper, the crowd will damn well do whatever you tell them to do. Drummer Kevin Finn told us that the band just got back from Manuel Cuevas's house in Nashville, Tennessee, where they recorded a "real" country-music album.
The Yawpers were hot and sweaty. Seriously, at this point the Cantina was like a small torturous sauna. But these guys made the huge crowd forget that they drank too much and still had two bands to go before they could gorge on $2 burritos. The Boulder-based band has songs about being drunk for two days straight ("Rock Bottom"), so it's no wonder that there were some shirtless moments in the set.
As FaceMan took the stage next, there was an absurd influx of fans, so much so that the club had to stop letting people in. When the band belted out "Tackle Me Down," people danced in their teeny little spaces, spilling their drinks all the hell over. The outfit played a plethora of songs in their thirty-minute set and showed their instruments absolutely no mercy.
The final act of the evening was The Knew, which brought a sound worthy of the Clash with a healthy shot of indie. It was good that no band followed, because they closed out the Showcase with unmatchable energy. The dance floor was packed, and we were more than a little sad that the day had come to an end.