Spread the Word Festival Takes Over Denver this Weekend for Its Biggest Year Yet

By: Will Baumgartner

A testament to the vision, drive, persistence and commitment to musical community of its founder and mainstay Alex MacKenzie-Low, Spread the Word Festival (StW) returns to Denver this weekend with an absolutely explosive lineup at top venues Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, Levitt Pavilion, and the Denver Coliseum. Now in its seventh year, Spread the Word has grown from its rather humble beginnings to an unstoppable force, bringing international superstars like Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, and BoomBox to head up another powerhouse lineup of local luminaries including Analog Son, Gasoline Lollipops, TNERTLE, Juno What, Magic Beans, Rob Drabkin, and Mackenzie-Low’s own fantastic band A-Mac & The Height. Colorado up-and-comers like The Reminders, Graham Good & The Painters, Eldren, Jaden Carlson Band, Mama Magnolia, Morsel, Dog City Disco, Float Like A Buffalo, Zagriculture and more will join as well.

Alex Mackenzie-Low.

Alex Mackenzie-Low.

It’s hard enough to keep moving forward and upward in the music business as a bandleader: to add the tremendous responsibility and challenges of putting on a festival, do it year after year and keep it growing, seems almost superhuman. As a member and avid supporter of the Front Range music scene, I’ve watched with considerable awe and respect as Alex has struggled with challenges and disappointments, and still managed to persevere. This year’s Spread the Word looks like a substantial breakthrough, so I was happy to sit down with him and get some insight into the process and rewards.

How did StW get started?

I started it in 2013 because I was really into Denver's music scene and enjoyed promoting shows. I loved the layout of the old Quixote’s on 23rd & Lawrence and got comfortable incorporating all three stages in a single event. From there I decided to launch the first Spread the Word Fest at Quixote’s True Blue on 13th Street in April 2013.

That was [also] the year I graduated UCD with a bachelor's in music business so putting on the festival was also my way of launching out of the college world into the music industry. My old band Green River Vibe had just released an album called 'Spread The Word' and I thought it made a lot of sense for the grassroots Colorado-centric festival I was envisioning.

Had you put on festivals before starting StW, or was this your first?

Aside from the aforementioned mini-festivals, StW Fest is the only festival I put on. This is the 7th year of StW Fest and I'm 27 so I've been working on it the majority of my career in the music industry.

StW has consistently grown over the years, from being comprised entirely of local bands with moderate regional recognition playing in small venues, to the nationally and internationally known headliners and top regional acts in huge local concert destinations like the Denver Coliseum and Levitt Pavilion. How did you get from there to here?

Honestly it mainly comes down to putting in a ton of hard work year after year and making the right connections and keeping relationships strong. I try to keep respect and integrity with everyone I work with and believe it all comes back around when talented people work together. I definitely feel blessed to be working with the team we have this year.

StW-Fest-2019-FB-Event-wave-2.jpg

 What acts are you most excited about at this year’s festival?

 Wookiefoot is my favorite band, so that is an honor, especially with Mike Love. BoomBox headlining the main stage after The Werks will be epic, as well as round two of Spread the Word Family Band. Last year's family band was a treat and this year's super group features members of SunSquabi, String Cheese Incident, Thievery Corporation and Pretty Lights Live Band. Karl Denson to end the weekend will be the perfect finale. Stoked!

What advice would you give to fledgling impresarios trying to put their own festivals together? 

Believe in what you are doing and why you are doing it first and foremost. More practically speaking, find an investor. It’s not cheap and it’s a very risky business. Once you have the funding, vision, location, team, plenty advance notice and the drive to see it through… give it a shot!

A-Mac and The Height.

A-Mac and The Height.

You also lead one of the best bands in the Denver area, A-Mac and The Height. Isn’t it a tremendous amount of work to run your band and a festival of this magnitude? How do you balance the two?

It’s very hard. My free time from January to May is extremely limited. I also book the shows at Moe's BBQ, which is my main day job, so it’s definitely a balancing act. A-Mac & The Height is building our management/booking team, and the team supporting StW Fest has grown which helps. Either way, it’s a labor of love which pushes through all the long days.

The proof that MacKenzie-Low’s labor of love has yielded some spectacular fruit, as the old saying goes, is in the pudding. Get out at and taste it this Friday through Sunday May 17th-19th. Tickets and more info available here.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The New Mastersounds' Recent 'Payback' Show Gave 100% of Proceeds to Homeless Youth

By: Will Baumgartner

Last Friday night at the Ogden Theatre in Denver was a joyful experience on multiple levels as The New Mastersounds, joined by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe guitarist DJ Williams and his band Shots Fired, brought their considerable talents and notoriety to the aid of Urban Peak to benefit Denver homeless youth. The New Mastersounds, led by guitarist Eddie Roberts, who is known for his love of and commitment to community, funneled 100% of the night’s proceeds back to Urban Peak. Everything sold for the night, including merchandise from Roberts’ new record label Color Red, went to the organization. So even if you didn’t participate in the silent auction or couldn’t afford to pick up an album or t-shirt, you knew that just by being there, you were helping make life better for others. Add that good feeling to the absolutely stellar performances and rock-solid grooves emanating from everyone on that stage, and it’s no wonder that all of us were smiling all night.

The event, aptly named The Payback, is not a new thing. This show marked the completion of its third year, with past shows in Denver, San Francisco, and New Orleans, which have featured special guests like the New Orleans Suspects and Neon Brown. Urban Peak have been doing their good work since 1988, and through The Payback shows, The New Mastersounds have helped them raise several thousand dollars and public awareness for homeless youth.

The crowd at  Payback .

The crowd at Payback.

As excited as I was to see the Mastersounds again, it was an extra special treat to be introduced to Shots Fired, as this was my first time catching them live. Mr. Williams is not only a masterful guitarist with a precise attack reminiscent of Roberts’ playing, but a coolly charismatic bandleader and compelling composer as well. Based in Denver, he featured several musicians in this set, including Analog Son keyboardist Eric Luba and trumpeter AnDre Mali. If you’ve seen Williams with Tiny Universe, you already know what a great guitarist he is; catch this band and see how much more he can do as a frontman.

When the New Mastersounds took the stage, we were all primed and had our inner groove machines well-oiled by Shots Fired’s dance-friendly set. Those of us who have been fans for years knew that New Mastersounds would not only dazzle us with their musicianship, but keep that dance vibe going while driving us all to new and blissful heights. Augmented by the dynamic duo of trumpeter Mike Olmos and saxophonist Jason Mingledorff, and featuring two mini-sets fronted by the outrageously soulful vocalist Lamar Williams Jr. (known for his work with the Greg Allman Band as well as his own prodigious talents as a songwriter and frontman in his own right), the band continued to show us that we can count on them to continue their traditions while continually growing and reaching higher and higher with each performance.

The New Mastersounds at  Payback .

The New Mastersounds at Payback.

If you happen to be in New York City in a couple of weeks, New Mastersounds will be doing a two-night run at the Gramercy Theater on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Then it’s straight back to Colorado for a run of shows at the Belly Up in Aspen January 3rd, Old Town Pub in Steamboat Springs the two nights following, and the Shakedown Bar in Vail on January 6th.

With all the great happy music we experienced last Friday though, we should not forget what the evening was about. Whether you were there or not, please visit Urban Peak at their website and get involved: donate, volunteer, whatever you can do. With the holidays abound, it’s the perfect season to give and you never know who you might help jump up off their feet to dance.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Lettuce and The Colorado Symphony Took The Mile High a Little Higher with Special Show

By: Will Baumgartner

I imagine it’s the same for anyone in the arts: collaboration always lifts you higher. The high one gets from creation, no matter how renewable and perpetually fresh it may be, eventually starts asking the artist, “What can you do with me that you haven’t done before?” And the artist looks at their art and says, “Good question! Not that I’m getting bored, but…”

Not to belabor the metaphor of a relationship between the creative and the created, but in a very real sense, artists are in a sort of marriage with their work- and to keep this marriage from going stale, they must continually look for new things to do, new experiences and situations which will help them achieve the ultimate goal of any good relationship: the elevation of the soul. One more metaphorical extension and I’ll leave it alone before I get into trouble: sometimes, maybe the best thing to do is bring in some other creative people in and see what happens…

Photo Credit:   Tom

Photo Credit: Tom

We’re talking about something beautiful and sacred here, and that’s exactly what the boys from the Colorado-born “Future Funk” unit known as Lettuce achieved Saturday at Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall when they performed some of their best and most enduring work with the Colorado Symphony. Under the fiery baton work of the young, but already highly accomplished Australian conductor Christopher Dragon, from the selection of material to the inspired orchestration, to the performances of each and every human onstage, it was an ecstatic evening. It was also clearly an elevating experience for everyone involved: the band members, conductor, orchestra musicians, and audience were all beaming and glowing with smiles that just kept getting more beatific through the evening.

Part of that bliss probably had to do with this type of show being a first for the band: at one point, keyboardist/vocalist Nigel Hall said something like, “If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be playing piano with a symphony orchestra…” I missed the rest, as people around me started whooping and screaming. It was a first for me too, as in all my decades of concerts, I’ve never seen a rock band play with an orchestra. As such it was difficult to imagine beforehand what the experience would be like, though knowing how great Lettuce are live and being already familiar with our local treasure of an orchestra, I would have been surprised if it weren’t one of the high points of a lifetime of great shows I’ve been privileged to attend. And sure enough, the only way I was slightly surprised was that the evening exceeded my fondest hopes and expectations. From the opening Lettuce original “Mount Crushmore,” all the way through “The Force,” the last piece in the first set, the way these musicians combined classical precision with the spontaneous fire Lettuce excels in was outrageously wonderful. As layer upon layer of sonic beauty and power was added to the creation, it was an almost overwhelming experience, causing us in the audience to make almost as much noise of our own as we did at Lettuce’s incredible concerts at Red Rocks back in June.

Speaking of Nigel Hall, as great as he is on the keys, that man can really sing. It’s always one of my favorite parts of a Lettuce concert when he opens up that voice, but on Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” Hall really outdid himself. The song was a perfect choice for this setting, as the original’s string and horn parts were expanded to spectacular effect, driving an already uplifting song to stratospheric heights. This feat that was repeated in the second set’s cover of Tears For Fears classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” another brilliant selection for an evening of orchestral funk-rock. In the middle of “Move On Up” though, we got an extra treat as things got considerably quieter and Hall sang a deeply soulful, gospel-tinged interlude about love, belief, and… I don’t remember everything he sang about, but the extended moment definitely fed my soul. It also felt like possibly the most improvised segment in a program that, by necessity, had to have been pretty tightly arranged. Singing something that powerful and moving in a nearly a cappella setting while allowing oneself to at least partially make it up on the spot- that’s not an easy thing to do and Mr. Hall deserves our appreciation for sharing that gift with us.

Screengrab via YouTube user coloradojohnsons.

Screengrab via YouTube user coloradojohnsons.

Everyone onstage was in top form: drummer Adam Deitch, guitarist Adam Smirnoff, the always fun to watch bassist Eric “Jesus” Coomes, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis and trumpeter Eric Bloom all performed with joyous brilliance. Mr. Dragon led the orchestra with zest and panache, and the orchestra itself was unparalleled. Extra special credit must be given to Tom Hagerman, who has been getting notice as a film score composer outside of his 20 years of work as a member of Colorado’s legendary band DeVotchKa, for his masterful orchestrations. His talent proves that those who work behind the scenes are often as important and essential as the performers themselves. And what a lot of work must have gone into this production! We can only hope that everyone involved felt our love and gratitude throughout the concert and the multiple and richly deserved standing ovations. The Colorado Symphony have previously done collaborations with Elephant Revival, Warren Haynes, and others. But on behalf of myself and everyone who was there Saturday, here’s a humble request that they do it again with Lettuce!

Next up for the band is a three-night New Year’s run through Houston, Dallas, and Austin Texas. Their 2019 Vibe Up Tour begins in January, with support from Ghost-Note and Greyhounds. For all Lettuce tour dates and news, visit the band’s website here.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Verses The Inevitable Are Bringing Their 'Grit & Grace' to Larimer Lounge Tonight!

By: Will Baumgartner

Daniel Hertel’s band Verses The Inevitable are in no hurry. They take their time making records, plan their shows carefully, and perform relatively infrequently. All these things, combined with their surfeit of talent and the excellence of their songs, are great reasons to check out their most recent album Grit & Grace, and then get on over to Denver’s Larimer Lounge tonight for an experience you won’t soon forget.

Verses The Inevitable.

Verses The Inevitable.

Every song on Grit & Grace is a gem, and one of several reminders of how apt the album’s title is: there’s clearly a lot of artistry and polish that went into the crafting of each track but at the same time, nothing is over-polished. These songs, multifaceted and sparkling though they may be, still retain their original natural beauty and rough charm. Like any stone, they were formed from gritty elements, from the hard and dirty places found in any truly beautiful location. There’s a sense of struggle in nearly every song on the album, but also an appreciation of the beauty of life, an acknowledgement that light can often only be appreciated by trekking through the darkness.

The album begins with “Tuscaloosa,” a wistful yet gently-driving song, like a letter to a lover the narrator is determined to return to. Its folk rock feel sets the tone for a lot of the tracks to come- while the band regularly dives into other genres, the overall feel of Verses The Inevitable is that of a folk rock band.

Next up is “Horizon,” a ballad that manages to combine a resigned sadness with more determination. “Hard Times” is a bluesy slow-burner enumerating the problems and challenges of the down-and-out, and the first song on the album where singer Madalynn Rose really steps out and shows her stuff. This young woman can really sing, and is a talent worth watching in her own right. Her harmonies with Hertel also reminded me of another way in which the album’s title feels so appropriate, because while they’re both powerful vocalists, Daniel brings the grit while Madalynn carries the grace.

The album artwork for  Grit & Grace .

The album artwork for Grit & Grace.

Next up is “Morgan City Blues,” which Hertel says is one of two songs on the album that were written ten years ago, this one because of its “sad personal nature.” That much is obvious from the lyrics, which tell the tale of watching an addict go all the way down, but through rewriting the song with his partner, keyboardist Wil Snyder, they were able to leaven its heavy subject matter into a shuffling blues with classic piano/organ grooves and a killer harmonica solo from great local stalwart Mad Dog Friedman. “Saint Gertrude” is a somewhat pastoral folk song that sounds like a grateful, quiet tribute to some very personal female saint-like presence in the songwriter’s life. “Unclaimed Ground” is, according to Hertel, about acceptance of the end of a relationship, and yet has a bouncy Americana rock feel with some wry humor in the lyrics. For this listener anyway, it ultimately has a hopeful feel- while accepting what is, the singer still seems to be looking forward to what could be.

“Avarice” is a simple little song that sounds like it was written on a sleepless night by a guy who longs to be a better person. As such, it expresses both doubt and faith in a quietly powerful way. The penultimate song, “Nayasa” is a dirty blues-rock piece with hints of the music of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is apropos since Hertel told me it was inspired by a trip he took there, and expresses the helpless anger he felt seeing the pervasive corruption in each country he visited, and that corruption’s very real consequences of death and starvation. The album’s final song, “Presence” is by far its happiest and silliest, a jazzy swing tune with a New Orleans feel complete with barrelhouse piano and horns. The verses lay out all the either/or dilemmas we could focus on in life, but the chorus just tells us, “Get outta your head!”

In short, Grit & Grace takes the listener through some dark places, all the while reminding us that it’s all part of a journey full of surprising beauty and even some good laughs along the way. We’re all in this life and it ain’t the easiest ride, Hertel seems to be telling us (and himself), but we’ve got to keep going- going and watching our surroundings for whatever stones we might find to contain hidden gems.

Verses The Inevitable contains some of the best musicians on Colorado’s Front Range, including aforementioned Wil Snyder and MD Friedman, with drummer Michael McKee, bassist Matt Certosimo, guitarist Zach Adler, and cellist Zack Reaves. They’re all stellar on record and, as your reviewer can attest, they totally bring it live. There’s nothing quite like a concert by Verses The Inevitable, so get yourself on over to the Larimer Lounge tonight! 

Keep up with Verses The Inevitable here.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

SoDown Lifted and Lit Up the Fox Theatre Last Saturday

By: Will Baumgartner

A Saturday night at one of the top-rated music venues in the country, which happens to be within walking distance of my house, surrounded by joyful energy and kept moving by irresistible dance grooves- not a bad way to spend an evening, right? Add the pleasure of getting to review a headlining set plus a consistently mesmerizing light show with a packed crowd of young friendly faces, and the end result was a music lover whose walk home felt elevated.

I also felt enlightened, because to be honest, electronic music isn’t my field of expertise. That being said, I learned long ago not to ignore it because I love to dance. And what SoDown does-Bass music- is specifically designed for dance lovers. One of the things I’ve learned from talking with those immersed in the culture is “Don’t call it Dubstep!” Also sometimes called “UK Bass,” this music is clearly influenced by dubstep, but also draws on so many different types of sounds that it’s asserted itself to the point where it has its own identity and commands special attention.

SoDown.

SoDown.

So how does SoDown, a relative newcomer in an already exploding field, distinguish itself within the burgeoning Bass pantheon? And who exactly is SoDown? The answers to these questions are interconnected. As is often the case in the electronic music galaxy, we’re talking about one person here: his name is Ehren River Wright. He stands out because he’s an accomplished saxophonist in addition to his clear mastery as a producer, and a fascinating young star whose rise is an exhilarating thing to experience. In the interest of trying to share a bit of that experience, let’s go back to Saturday’s show for a minute.

The crisp autumnal spark outside the theater became a surge of crackling energy inside. Supporting act Megan Hamilton pumped the swelling crowd with her own brand of uplift, blending some live vocals and bits of drumming on a set of pads mounted next to her rig. Everyone was engaged and the smiles exploded toward the entry of SoDown, whereupon the bliss meter hit the high end of the spectrum. From the first notes and flashes of stylized imagery, through the entire barrage of thumping rhythm, soaring melody and spectacular light show, SoDown ascended to some new and dizzying heights.

When young Mister Wright raised his tenor sax to surf the swells and crests on this sea of sound, it was like we were all riding these waves together, light breaking through storm clouds, all surge and spray with a good dose of sway. I’m not sure where all the voices came from, but the familiar backing bits (including, of all people, some Britney Spears) brought a somewhat grounding effect to the ensemble; a reminder that music is a continuum which leads us into an ever-expanding future while holding the power of its own past. Wright came onstage already dancing to the music in his head, and the dance kept growing throughout the night, and throughout the crowd. Even when the “show” experience was “over,” the dance continued on.

SoDown.

SoDown.

Being considerably less well-versed than others in the Bass world, I needed to make allowances for a few things at SoDown’s set. For one, in my research leading up to this night, I’d expected something a bit different. The recorded music that SoDown has released led me to expect something a little more low-key, a tad more downtempo. So it took me a few minutes to adjust my consciousness to the heavier side of his music, until I remembered that if you’re going to create a party or keep one going, it’s necessary to bring some of your heaviest gear with you. As someone who’s attended countless shows by live bands using no electronics whatsoever, I knew this: virtually everyone plays louder, faster, and harder live. That’s the nature of the beast. Once I’d navigated this shift, a handful of the aspects that make up the whole of who and what SoDown is reasserted themselves: the soulful, sometimes even moody smokiness that belie Wright’s love of jazz, soul, and funk were still there. They simply made their presence a little more of an unassuming and pleasant thing, like the quieter guests at a party- they might be bopping a bit more unobtrusively on the periphery or in the midst of all that more frenzied activity, but they aren’t about to leave.

So, ultimately, this is one of the greatest things about the fully alive and ever-evolving world of music we’re so lucky to be part of: there’s room for everyone and everything, all types of people and emotions, all levels of experience and knowledge. That openness was in great evidence at this gathering. There’s no one watching the door at a dance party thrown by SoDown, and if it takes you a minute or three to fold yourself into the crowd, they’re more than happy to make room for you to get in there and be your unique and indispensable self. This element, like the music itself, resists being pigeonholed because there are so many parts needed to make it whole and keep on lifting.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Color Red Records’ Launch Party at Cervantes Was a Fantastic Celebration of Denver’s Music and Arts Community

By: Will Baumgartner

New Mastersounds’ guitarist Eddie Roberts clearly knows a few things: he knows how to play that guitar, of course, but he’s also very knowledgeable about great soul, funk and groove-oriented music so he knows a good thing when he hears it. Combine these talents, skills and wisdom with his obvious love of the arts community and extensive experience in the music business, and you get Color Red, his new record label. With a growing roster already featuring some of the best artists currently playing soul, funk, R&B, and hip-hop, it was no problem for the new agency to bring one of the most exciting and talent-packed shows I’ve ever attended to Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom and Cervantes’ Other Side last Friday.

Eddie Roberts. Photo Credit: J Mimna.

Eddie Roberts. Photo Credit: J Mimna.

It’s one thing to talk about supporting the scene and each other, but action is proof, and the abundance of activity at this event gave overwhelming evidence that Color Red’s focus is on nurturing our community and the musicians who populate it, while bringing along some of Denver’s best visual artists as well. More than just a “show,” it had the feel of a ‘60s “happening;” a gathering of those who love to come together to celebrate life, music, art and each other to elevate the scene and the individuals who give it vitality. Primarily a concert featuring the star-studded Matador Soul Sounds, local funk/soul masters Analog Son (who were celebrating the release of their monstrously wonderful new album Funky Mother), and the explosive, joyful music of Congo Sanchez, with DJ sets from heavyweights Quantic, Nobide and Recess, plus a patio set by the local groove collective known as Free Bear, there was also a sizable contingent of mind-blowing Denver visual artists courtesy of Matt Worldly and his Denartket group. If happy smiles, ecstatic dancing, blissful revelry and massive hugs are your units of measuring the success of an evening out, you’d have had to bring a huge tape measure to wrap around this night.

There were some “bigger names” involved, of course, but another thing that struck a pleasing chord for me was that none of these musical and visual artists were ultimately given any more star treatment than any of the others. This was a dual-venue event which flowed freely back and forth between Cervantes’ larger Masterpiece Ballroom and their Other Side next door, and from the beginning DJ sets and Free Bear on the patio to the closing All-Star Jam, every performer got plenty of attention and room to spread their talent and love.

Analog Son. Photo Credit: Jarred Media.

Analog Son. Photo Credit: Jarred Media.

I’ve been an Analog Son fan for years, and I’ve never been less than thrilled by their shows, but Friday’s set topped them all. From the minute they took the Ballroom stage, the crowd were willingly and joyfully entranced, as the band smoothly and solidly drove through a set that started strong and just kept getting better. The songs from the new Funky Mother album sounded just as assured and wild as any of their older material, and their outrageously wonderful set-closing cover of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” was on a level with Earth Wind and Fire’s reworking of another Beatles’ classic, “Got To Get You Into My Life”. If you still haven’t seen Analog Son live, you’ve got to get yourself to one of their shows soon. Their new album is a heavy slab of electrifying funk and soul, produced by Eddie Roberts himself, and is one of the most live-sounding studio releases I’ve heard. Since it’s the first record the band has made featuring all the members of their performing lineup, this was not surprising to me, but I’m overwhelmed by the power with which they brought that live intensity to the finished product. From founding members bassist Joshua Fairman and guitarist Jordan Linit to saxophonist Michael Chiesa, trumpeter Gabe Mervine, drummer George Horn, Will Trask on percussion and keyboardist Eric Luba, all the way to the beautiful and spine-tingling vocals of Devon Parker and Ashley Niven Fairman, everyone on this record shines like the stars they all are.

There was some overlap between Analog Son’s set and the frenzy being generated on the Other Side by the musical powerhouse known as Congo Sanchez, but while I didn’t have the luxury of catching their whole set, these guys were my big happy new discovery of the night. It was deliciously overwhelming to run next door and be hit by the delirious onslaught of their sound and presence. Utilizing live drums and guitar and featuring an irresistible vocal duo of frontmen/emcees, it was easy to see why this group resists being pigeonholed into any genre. While their overall sound is something one might call “live hip-hop,” I think it’s fitting that their Facebook page just says “MUSIC” next to the genre slot.

Matador Soul Sounds. Photo Credit: J Mimna.

Matador Soul Sounds. Photo Credit: J Mimna.

Now what can I say about Matador Soul Sounds? First of all, I should defer to the words of formidable singer Adryon de Leon when, early in their set, she protested against the use of the term “supergroup” to describe this band. “Don’t get it twisted!” she said, and then went on to explain that they consider themselves a group, period- one that has put their individual gifts together to write songs as and for Matador Soul Sounds, and for us as their beloved audience. This distinction is important because it reflects the genuine humility of all the admittedly illustrious members of the group. Yes, Eddie Roberts is part of New Mastersounds, Adryon is the singer of the great Orgone, Alan Evans has achieved renown not only as the drummer of Soulive but also as a producer and member of other projects, and Kim Dawson has gone from work with the legendary Pimps of Joytime to further build a name for herself as one of the most dynamic and hardworking singers alive. But onstage, on record, and up close and personal, they’re all just total sweethearts who never let their status or egos get in the way of the real business at hand, which is to deliver the best music and the warmest love they possibly can to us, their fans. Their performance on Friday certainly locked me for life. Every song was a treasure chest, every note was a gem, and I’ve never felt more love and joy coming off a stage and flowing over a crowd.

To return to the subject of community, the glowing memory of a night like this wouldn’t be complete without returning to the many visual artists who gave their creative energy to the event, and they were everywhere. According to Denartket founder and coordinator Matt Worldly, he was thrilled when Eddie Roberts approached him at one of their recent events about bringing the collective’s artists to this show, because the whole purpose of the group is to plug these artists into the bloodstream of the Denver area. It was impossible to ignore the essential element they brought to this celebration, and the discovery factor was greatly enhanced for me by watching these delightfully creative individuals pour themselves into it, crafting their works in the moment, sharing their insights and visions with everyone. While space doesn’t allow me to give credit to every one of them by name, they all deserve your attention and will reward it with fabulous visions to feed your hearts, minds and souls. Some of those whose work especially grabbed me were Pher01, Chris Surposa, John Vega, Parker Ledford, Derek Carpenter, and the delightful Bobbi Larmer, some of whose work has now found a place in my home. These are just a few of the great talents represented by Denartket, and we’d all be enriched by following every one of them, including Worldly himself, whose work is as otherworldly as anyone's.

I hope I’ve given you enough encouragement and inspiration to follow and discover every one of these groups and creative people for themselves, because one of the absolute and indisputable home truths of all art and the blessings it brings is that if I keep it to myself, I miss out on one of its greatest gifts, and that is the almost inexpressible pleasure of sharing it with you. If you’re already part of this community, I can’t wait to see and share with you again. If you’re just arriving, we welcome you with open arms and hearts, because without You, there can be no Us.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The SIR Band Brought Power and Passion to Their Globe Hall Set Last Saturday

By: Will Baumgartner

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when attending Saturday’s concert by The SIR Band at Globe Hall in Denver last Saturday. I knew they were a local band getting some buzz, playing at a venue I’d also heard enough about to want to check it out, and that was enough reason to go. In this sense, being a music journalist is the same as being a dedicated music fan, because if you only listen to and go to shows by bands and artists you already love, you’re limiting yourself and not helping the scene to grow. Of course there’s always a chance of being underwhelmed, but without exploration there would be no discovery, and I happened to discover a local treasure Saturday night. An unassuming little trio with a rather innocuous name, The SIR Band will surprise you with the amount of power, passion, and artistry that can be packed into such a small frame.

Speaking of small packages, the band’s frontwoman Sarah Angela doesn’t come bounding onstage looking larger than life. A rather petite woman dressed simply in cutoff jeans and a white blouse, SA (as she is also known to fans) let her voice and songs do the business of winning us over, which she most emphatically did, without resorting to any flashy theatrics or excessive costuming. She didn’t just stand there, of course, but her onstage energy was something that seemed to come up organically through the depth and richness of her singing with the simple beauty and layered architecture of the songs themselves, and with her interaction with the formidable talents of her bandmates Kim O’Hara (guitar/backing vocals) and Luke Mehrens (drums/percussion).

The SIR Band. Photo Credit: Joel Rekiel of   BLDGBLKS Music Company .

The SIR Band. Photo Credit: Joel Rekiel of BLDGBLKS Music Company.

Most of the material performed during this show came from the band’s stellar debut album So Cold (released January 2018 and available through iTunes and other digital platforms), but I was also impressed by their choice of covers and unique takes on those songs, including a rousing version of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” enhanced by two more exceptional female talents who’d already graced the stage that night, R&B/Pop powerhouse Chloe Tang and Vicoda’s firecracker of a frontwoman Shivani Bhatt. There’s something about getting that much female energy and talent onstage that’s just overwhelmingly beautiful and inspiring. These women clearly enjoyed it at least as much as the audience did, and that was an awful lot.

Overall, it’s difficult to say what I was most impressed with during The SIR Band’s performance. Between SA’s bits on synthesizer and acoustic guitar and her dynamic and varied use of her vocal skills, O’Hara’s switching between different guitars and settings, and Mehrens’ precise and expansive drumming, there was so much going on. But I’d have to say that the moment I was most affected emotionally was definitely the quietest part of  an otherwise pretty rocking evening, and that was the performance of “Abby’s Song.” It was an achingly beautiful piece that I knew nothing of except that it got to me, to the point of creating a lump in my throat and a bit of mist over my eyes. As is so often the case with live performances, I wasn’t devoting a lot of my attention span to the lyrics either, but when I mentioned the song afterward to Kim O’Hara, she told me the bittersweet story behind the song, and all I could say was, “Well done.” Without any intellectual knowledge of its subject matter, I was still able to feel the love, beauty and heartache that went into its creation.

Sarah Angela. Photo Credit: Joel Rekiel of   BLDGBLKS Music Company .

Sarah Angela. Photo Credit: Joel Rekiel of BLDGBLKS Music Company.

Another reason I wanted to see this show was because I saw Chloe Tang’s name on the bill, along with the note that it was her last Denver show before moving to Los Angeles. I had the pleasure of being introduced to Chloe’s music about a year and a half ago when I wrote Millennial Wise: Chloe Tang’s ‘Passion//Aggression’ for BolderBeat, but in the time since, I’d regrettably not gotten around to seeing her live. I can now say unequivocally that it was worth the wait, and I’ll be continuing to follow her closely. Talk about little bombs: this young woman packs an incredible punch into her small stature, and her material has continued to grow into something even more powerful than the great stuff I’d already been exposed to, as evidenced by her recent EP Stranger. Wherever you are, listen to her and go see her when you get any opportunity to do so; you will not be disappointed. This bill was truly a satisfying evening of sounds, and wouldn’t have been so complete without Vicoda and Shivani Bhatt who are hurricane of a band with a lightning rod of a singer at its center. They blew me away not only with the joyful fury of their performance, but also with the precision and skill of their attack.

Denver is one of the most happening places in the whole wide world of music right now, so I cannot encourage you enough to take your chances more often than not. You may be fearful of the possibility of wasting an evening, but as The SIR Band and their wonderful guests showed me again this weekend, it’s much more likely that you’ll end up grateful, happy, enriched and the exact opposite of “underwhelmed.”

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.