Concert Reviews

Westword Music Showcase sells out with 11,000-plus in attendance! Biggest turnout ever!

Sold out? Wait, what? Did I just read that right? Seriously? Sold out? What the ...?

Those were my first thoughts when I woke up yesterday and fired up the old TweetDeck before jumping into the shower. My boy Ralphie, who we tapped to emcee the main stage for us yesterday, had tweeted something about hosting the SOLD OUT Westword Music Showcase. Having heard nothing of the sort, naturally, I responded with a Tweet of my own clarifying that we were not, in fact, sold out, and that there were still plenty of tickets left.

Wait. Did Ralphie knew something I didn't, perhaps...? Uh, yep. Turns out he did. A few minutes later, I frantically tried calling everyone I could think of from the office. No one answered, though, most likely because they were busy, you know, like, setting up the Showcase and stuff. Finally I got a hold of our production guy Dave, who confirmed that yes, indeed, the Showcase had sold out. And while I was talking to him, I dialed up our site and was greeted by a flashing banner also confirming as much.

Wow! No shit, huh? Holy hell! That's unfreakingbelievable -- not to mention unprecedented!

And sure enough, when I arrived around 11:45 or so, signs alluding to a massive turnout -- which would later result in a completely packed parking lot literally bulging at the seams for Ghostland Observatory's mesmerizing twilight into early evening set -- were immediately evident.

Entering the gates, I spied more than a few people scalping tickets to the fest. Scalping! Can you believe that shit? Never even imagined I'd witness such a scene in association with our little fest. And when Oh My Stars started playing just after noon on the main outdoor stage, there was already a throng of fans on hand on par with the type of crowds we've typically seen much later in the day in years past.

And the waves of people just kept building with every act until cresting with Ghostland's set, which whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy. As promised, the outfit's exuberant brand of electro rock was perfectly bolstered by a dazzling live show with laser beams piercing the sky on a picturesque summer night in the Mile High City.

The astounding turnout is really a testament to the astute music fans in our fair city, not to mention the sheer quality of the music being made here, that a music festival comprised of mostly local acts and a handful of the best emerging national bands can attract and energize so many people. It's astounding actually. Not just to see how much the fest has grown, but more impressive is taking into account that just blocks away, Pride Fest was happening at the same time.

In between club hopping later in the afternoon, I ducked back into the VIP area to grab a drink, and overheard someone mention something about Westword Music Showcase being like Denver's answer to South By Southwest. And while that's certainly at least partially true, especially given the concentration of the venues and the number of sets happening concurrently, I'd say that it's also evolved over the years into something akin to a mini Lollapalooza or Pitchfork.

This year's festival was probably most profoundly impactful to me because I've had the unique privilege of working on the Showcase for eight years now, and long before that, I can remember attending the very first edition on a cold and rainy night in LoDo sixteen years ago. So needless to say, I've seen just how far the event has come.

It's crazy to think about the big national acts that have played the Showcase over the years (Guided By Voices, Dinosaur Jr., Drive By Truckers, Lucero, A Place to Bury Strangers, Cursive, the Fluid, Built to Spill, Arrested Development, DJ Jazzy Jeff, the Violent Femmes), as well as the numerous local acts that went on to bigger and bettter (the Fray, Flobots, Meese and Nathaniel Rateliff, just to name a few), and then to realize that this year was bigger and perhaps better than all of those combined.

And it never ceases to thrill me every time somebody comes up gushing about a new local act they've discovered. Yesterday, for instance, my buddy Oscar came up to me heaping praise on Lion Sized and its drummer, in particular. "I know!" I said. "He's kick ass, isn't he?" Rob Burleson, you see, just happens to be my favorite drummer.

Likewise, it gave me great joy to hear that there was a sizable line to get into see one of my favorite local acts right now Air Dubai (Flobots guitarist and Bop Skizzum frontman Andy Guerrero, who's producing the band's new album, said he barely made it in to see the group), and that The Pirate Signal and The Chain Gang of 1974 -- responsible for my favorite albums so far this year, local or otherwise -- subsequently made jaws absolutely drop at City Hall.

Elsewhere, everyone seemed to be wearing the same wide-eyed grins. There was a tangible sense of community permeating the air, not to mention a palpable sense of adulation at the end of Ghostland's set. Could be just because we were drunk -- on Mojitos and the notion of being part of something unique and special -- but no one really wanted the night to end. With this in mind, a few of us even gathered around a piano near the gate as we were leaving for an improptu sing-a-long of "Don't Stop Believing."

Rest assured: We wont.

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera