On June 29, we'll present our 25th Westword Music Showcase. The event has grown dramatically since it was founded in 1995, with just a handful of bands playing around LoDo. In 2019, more than 75 local acts will fill venues throughout the Golden Triangle, while national headliners CHVRCHES, Jai Wolf, JAUZ, Bishop Briggs, Crooked Colours, lovelytheband, the Knocks, the Wrecks and SHAED will play the two main stages.
Many of the artists who have participated in the Showcase have gone on to worldwide success, while others continue to perform for loyal local audiences. And some have cashed it in and left music altogether.
One of the hardest-hustling hip-hop artists in the city (and a mayoral candidate), Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp has been using her lyrics and activism to tackle gentrification, disability politics and criminal injustice. She's one of the rare Denver artists touring internationally, and has even performed in prisons. We sent Heffernan a questionnaire to learn more about her memories of Showcase and her thoughts on the future of Denver music; here's what she had to say:
Westword: What memories and stories do you have of playing the Westword Music Showcase?
Kalyn Heffernan: There’s too many to count! I’m typically super-sweaty and rushing from stage to stage to try to catch all my fave friends. I usually have to take the alleys ’cuz I roll into so many people on the sidewalk, it’s hard to get anywhere. One of my fave memories, though, is when the power went out, and I asked a friend to get my megaphone and a ton of D batteries so that we could busk on the sidewalk. Gregg [Ziemba, Wheelchair Sports Camp's drummer] used a trash can upside down to drum, and we covered “All the Way Up,” by Fat Joe and Remy Ma, and played for the full thirty-minute slot.
How has your own band evolved since playing Showcase?
Holy moly, so much. In fact, Westword Showcase has given us a reason to evolve. We have almost always played the giant City Hall amphitheater stage, and for me, I gotta fill that place. WMS is one of the first places we’ve had the opportunity to grow the band, experiment with new things and push our sound. Because we play every year, I always wanna make sure we’re doing something special that you can only see us do at WMS. That’s why you’ll see us with a much bigger band than usual.
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Denver's music scene has changed a lot over the past 25 years. What are your thoughts on its evolution?
I’m happy to watch evolution in real time. I’m also happy to see more women be represented. I remember a time where the Best MC list was a long list of bois and wondering why. I have only been seriously part of Denver’s scene for ten years, and, wow, it’s changed a lot. Biggest changes for me are how many DIY venues we’ve lost and how AEG has bought up almost everything.
I should also mention that most of the people I started building relationships with ten years ago when Wheelchair Sports Camp was a baby are still making music, and we’ve all grown so much! Plus, we're making better music than ever!
The 25th Westword Music Showcase will sound off in the Golden Triangle on Saturday, June 29. Get your tickets and more details now at westwordshowcase.com.