Colorado Music Festivals 2018: Your Official Guide To Fest Season

Festival season is the biggest time of the year for the music world. So here at BolderBeat, we’ll be updating this feature with every Colorado festival announcement that comes our way. Stay as on the pulse as we are:

May Play Music Festival May 11th

Downtown Greeley is hosting their fourth annual May Play fest with artists like The Burroughs, Brent Cowles, Slow Caves, Silver & Gold, and Post Paradise on the bill. There are a ton of other great local artists to check out, so swoop details and tickets here.

Spread The Word Music Festival May 11th-13th

Taking place at Denver’s Fox Street Compound, Spread The Word features a mix of local and national artists with styles including rock, jam, funk, reggae, hip-hop, folk/grass, electronic and fusion. Headliners of this year's fest include Jeff Austin Band (formerly of Yonder Mountain String Band), Everyone Orchestra (conducted by Matt Butler), A-Mac & The Height, and Bass Physics. Full lineup here.

303 Music Festival May 17th

Hosted by Ru Johnson at Denver's The Church, 303 Magazine is bringing you one awesome night of local music. Trev Rich, CITRA, Eldren, and The Other Black are just some of the bands on the lineup. Full details and tickets here

Five Points Jazz Festival May 19th

This FREE annual festival is back this year in Denver's Five Points neighborhood and will feature artists like Jakarta, The King Stan Band, Impulse, The Hendersons, Patrick McDevitt Nation, and more. You can bounce between venues or just walk around and take in all the good sounds. Full lineup and details here.

Mountain Games June 7th-10th

GoPro is putting on a festival in Vail with headliners like Chris Robinson Brotherhood, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Bonfire Dub, and The Wood Brothers. The weekend will also feature a slew of athletic events, including competitions for your dog, a silent disco, and art exhibits. You can grab tickets to Mountain Games here.

Greeley Blues Jam June 8th-9th

The Greeley Blues Jam keeps the blues scene alive and this year, their lineup includes The Devon Allman Project, Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, and Danielle Nicole. This is one weekend you’ll enjoy being blue. Full lineup on their website.

Taste of Fort Collins June 8th-10th

The 22nd annual Taste of Fort Collins headliners include William Michael Morgan, Eddie Money, Everlast, and Judah & the Lion. Tickets are only $5-$10 and the fest is hosted at Civic Center Park in Old Towne. Grab more info on their website.

Country Jam June 14th-17th

Grand Junction will host Country Jam’s 27th annual four-day fest this year. Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Brantley Gilbert, Brett Eldredge, and Big & Rich top the headliners list of the 30+ artists that will play to your boot kickin’ desire. Surrounded by the red rocks of GJ, this festival annually hosts some of the biggest names in country music. More info at this link.

Sonic Bloom Festival June 14th-17th

If you like electronic music, there’s no better place to be than Colorado’s Sonic Bloom Festival. Happening at Hummingbird Ranch in Spanish Peaks Country, the weekend will feature performances from Shpongle, Keys N Krates, Nightmares On Wax, Liquid Stranger, EOTO and a huge array of other beatmasters. The festival will also feature yogis and movement leaders, as well as interpretive artists. And did we mention the visuals? Full lineup here.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival June 15th-18th

Telluride Bluegrass Festival celebrates its 45th year this summer! Tedeschi Trucks Band, Greensky Bluegrass, and Leftover Salmon top the fest’s 2018 list. We can tell you from past experience that this fest is magical and we’ve even met some our favorite musicians at (where else?) the Port-a-Potties. More info and tickets here.

Cover Rock Festival June 22nd-23rd

Looking for tunes from tribute bands? This festival is all about it. Hosted in Avon, Cover Rock Festival will feature tributes to artists like Simon & Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, the late Tom Petty (RIP!!), and others. More info and tickets here.

Westword Music Showcase June 23rd

Denver’s alt weekly newspaper will host their annual summer celebration this year. With Galantis, Bonobo, The Front Bottoms, Joywave, and a ton of local artists, this will be one to clink a summer beer to and enjoy. More info and tickets on their website.

Van’s Warped Tour July 1st

Warped Tour recently announced that 2018 will be the last year for the traveling festival. Though much has changed since what was arguably Warped Tour’s heyday (moshing is now frowned upon), we’re still sad to see it go. Give these bands a proper send-off- locals 30H!3 are top-billed with acts like All Time Low, Asking Alexandria, and more. Tickets here.

Colorado Rocky Mountain Old Time Music Association (CROMA) July 11th-15th

CROMA's annual Parrish Ranch festival features a great old-time music lineup, workshops, nightly dances, open jams, classes for kids, open stage times, and couples dance workshops. The festival manages to keep old traditions alive while also bringing a modern twist to some elements. Artists at this year's fest will include Bryant and Brown, The Onlies, Betse & Clarke, The Barn Owls, Patt and Possum, Caroline Oakley, Chris Kemiet, and Larry Edelman. Get full details and tickets here.

The Ride Festival July 14th-15th

The String Cheese Incident, Sheryl Crow, and Grace Potter will headline The Ride Festival this year, another Telluride fest that is sure to get you groovin’. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Big Something, and others will keep your summer-chill vibes in check at this one. Full lineup here.

Global Dance Festival July 20th-21st

If you’re ready to dance, Global’s got a crazy mix of electronic and hip-hop artists like Deadmau5, Gucci Mane, Future, and Machine Gun Kelly topping their list. The event is at Sports Authority Field this year and you can snag tickets here.

The Underground Music Showcase July 27th-29th

One of our absolute favorite weekends of the summer is Denver’s The UMS due to its focus on local artists, and all the fun that comes along with wandering around the South Broadway venues hosting the three-day event. In news this year, Two Parts has taken over the event. This year's lineup is stellar with headliners like Alvvays, BJ the Chicago Kid, Classixx, Deerhunter, Digable Planets and over 100 local artists who we absolutely adore. Tickets and full details here

Rockygrass Festival July 27th-29th

Bluegrass, bluegrass, and more bluegrass. That’s what Rockygrass in Lyons is all about! Last year, the festival showed us the changing face of the genre. This year, Sam Bush Bluegrass Band, David Grisman and Peter Rowan, and Hot Rize are already confirmed for this pickin’ celebration, so get your tickets now. More info and tickets at this link.

ARISE Music Festival August 3rd-5th

Colorado’s ARISE is back for its sixth year at Loveland’s Sunrise Ranch, and features seven stages of live music, yoga, workshops, theme camps, art galleries & installations, a children’s village, speakers, and films! Some of the top billed artists for 2017 include Slightly Stoopid, Thievery Corporation, and Trevor Hall. Get more details here.

Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest August 10th-12th

Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest is a FREE, recurring, three-day music festival held every August in the historic downtown of Fort Collins. Bohemian Nights headliners this year include The Motet, Blondie, and The Decemberists. The festival also hosts a number of local bands on their stages- get the full schedule and details for the weekend here.

Local Jam Grand Junction August 10th-12th

Known for its "creativity, passion, dedication, style,  [and] massive talent," Grand Junction's three-day festival Local Jam is a celebration of Western Slope bands ranging from metal to bluegrass. Stray Grass, Jack + Jill, Suckafish, Tim + Richard, and others have been announced for the year. Full details and lineup here.

Mountain Town Music Festival August 17th-18th

Back for its fifth year, Keystone’s Mountain Town Music Festival features a mix of rock and grass bands like Ages & Ages, Mipso, Strange Americans, and Shovels & Rope. The fest is a celebration of “all things Colorado” so you can expect some good brews along with the shows. More info and tickets here.

Velorama Colorado August 17th-19th

Following the Colorado Classic bicycle race, Velorama is returning to Denver’s RiNo Neighborhood for its second year this summer. Cold War Kids, Matt & Kim, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, and The Kills are the bands announced so far, and you don’t have to bike in the race to partake in the party. Plus local acts Brent Cowles, Wildermiss, and Slow Caves are on the bill! More about this new fest here.

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival August 17th-19th

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival showcased artists who brought current politics into their tunes last year, bringing people together in solidarity. Along with its songwriting workshops, the Lyons, CO fest created an awesome artistic community that managed to showcase great national acts too. Indigo Girls, Jeff Tweedy, and Los Lobos have been announced for this year’s fest. Tickets here.

Compound Sound Festival August 24th-26th

Boogie Groove Entertainment is producing this year's first annual Compound Sound. What started as friends performing at a private ranch in 2009 has officially launched into a major music festival. Along with headliners like Cycles, Lucid Vision, Tnertle, and Spectacle, the fest will also have food trucks and vendors, yoga and flow workshops, a healing village and "many more shenanigans." Details and tickets here

Four Corners Folk Festival August 31st-September 2nd

Pagosa Springs 23rd annual Four Corners Folks Fest is ready for a campout with bands like Nahko And Medicine For The People, Amy Helm, We Banjo 3, and Jon Stickley Trio. The weekend will also feature jam camps for kids and adults, and lots of tasty local vendors. See more for yourself and grab camping info and tickets here.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass August 31st-September 2nd

Lionel Richie, Jack Johnson, Zac Brown Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Fitz and the Tantrums, Gary Clark Jr., Bahamas, and The Record Company are the big acts at Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day event this year. JAS has a smaller June event too, which will feature Lizz Wright, Leslie Odom Jr., Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, Josh Kagler and Harmonistic Praise Crusade, and Georgia On My Mind: A Tribute To Ray Charles. Details on both events here.

Seven Peaks Music Festival August 31st-September 2nd

Dierks Bentley is throwing a three-day music festival in Chaffee County this year with headliners like Miranda Lambert, Brothers Osborne, Elle King, Lanco, Del McCoury, Sam Bush and The Cadillac Three. The new fest is a real treat for country lovers and the scenery of Buena Vista sure won't hurt! Get details and tickets here.

Denver Jazz Festival September 14th-16th

With a mix of local and international jazz acts, Denver Jazz Festival promises over 600 dancers and listeners for their three-day fest. Hal Smith's Swing Central, Jonathan Doyle Swingtet, Red Hot Rhythm Rocket, and many others are on the lineup. Check out news and get tickets here.

Grandoozy September 14th-16th

Superfly, the geniuses behind Bonnaroo, are bringing Grandoozy to Denver this year! In what could possibly be the biggest festival production the state has seen, headliners have already been announced and include Kendrick Lamar, Florence + The Machine, and Stevie Wonder. Sturgill Simpson, Miguel, and St. Vincent have also made the list; Denver-based acts Tennis, Dragondeer, Gasoline Lollipops, and Flaural will perform as well. This fest is our most highly anticipated of 2018 so don’t snoozy- Tier 1 tickets are already sold-out so grab your passes here.

Telluride Blues & Brews September 14th-16th

As regular festivalgoers of Blues & Brews say, “It's not the altitude that'll take your breath away. It's the views.” That, and of course, the music. This year, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Govt Mule, Booker T’s Stax Revue, JJ Grey & Mofro, and Anders Osborne will headline. Early bird tickets are already sold-out, so grab passes while you can here.

Festivals of The Past

Wondering what happened to some of your other favorite Colorado festivals? Project Pabst dissipated into the PBR-fueled mountain air with no Denver announcement this year (but Superfly who put it on is the force behind Grandoozy). Bass Center is now in Virginia after the fest was first moved from Colorado to New Jersey last year; Divide Music Festival, who were rumored to return this year, has now been postponed until 2019 stating, “greater forces are working against us;” Groove Festival’s web presence is still replaced by this Japanese site making us still question everything; Mad Decent Block Party appears to have officially gone off the radar; Riot Fest has again only listed its Chicago date in 2018 after the fest cancelled its Denver show last year; and Vertex (which we freakin’ loved) appears to be a distant dream after it was cancelled in 2017.

Make sure to keep up with our festival coverage all summer on BolderBeat’s dedicated fest page!

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

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See Valentine's Day Weekend

By: Hannah Oreskovich

We’ve got your weekend picks, so whether you’re spending it with that special someone or a hard glass of bourbon (we don’t judge), here are the shows to check out around town for Valentine's Day Weekend:

Today (Friday 02/12):

Asalott at Goorin Bros Hat Shop in Boulder 5PM-Close

Looking for that last minute VDay gift? Then this show is perfect for you! Goorin Bros. have an awesome hat selection that your mate is sure to dig. Come by and shop with Asalott’s wicked beats in the background, or bring your babe and make it a date! They’ll make your heart thump while you find the perfect Shalone. Drop on in and get down.

Watch Asalott’s recent Tiny Desk submission video:

Silent Bear Trio and Birthday Celebration at Tandoori Grill in Boulder 830PM-Close

Listen to Silent Bear and The Electric Band:

Abstract Solution at Taco Junky in Boulder 10PM-Close

Abstract Solution is a “rock and roll project that will funk you out with the best vibes, energy, and sound you’ve never heard”. They’re bringing that goodness to TJ’s tonight, so come groove over margs and guac. They promise to make all your dreams come true tonight, whatever those may be. Alright!

Learn more about Abstract Solution here.

Whiskey Autumn at The No Name Bar 10PM-Close

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Whiskey Autumn will be singing to you and your boo behind the big brown door tonight. Come get baddd with this electric-pop and R&B trio - a sensual rendition of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” has been promised. Things are going to get wild. Come check it out!

Watch Whiskey Autumn’s recent Tiny Desk submission video:

Tomorrow (Saturday 02/13):

February House Concert from The Birdhouse Concert Series featuring Weary Bones and Ben Hanna & The Knighthawks in Boulder 7PM-Close

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Longmont’s Weary Bones will be opening up this lovely evening at The Birdhouse with their “unique harmonies and beautifully odd guitar to bring their honest lyrics to life”. And then Ben Hanna & the Knighthawks will make you sweat. Seriously, you can’t sit still at a BH show. This is an awesome DIY concert, put on monthly by local artists themselves. Go hang in their living room, crack one open, and neck on the couch. It’s gonna be rad.

Watch Ben Hanna's Tiny Desk submission video:

The Next Day (Valentine’s Day- Sunday 02/14):

Valentine’s Concert with The Heartstring Hunters, Ben Rabb, & Shanna Hoar at The Laughing Goat in Boulder 8PM-Close

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New York folk artist Ben Rabb will be opening up this romantic evening over your heart-art latte as he ends his most recent tour, with special appearance by Shanna Hoar. Then Boulder acoustic indie-folk group The Heartstring Hunters will swoon you into the night at The Laughing Goat. Treat yoself.

Watch The Heartstring Hunters “Let’s Let Go”:

ANNNDDDD HEY-

Big thanks to all of those who bought tickets to the Homevibe Presents show with Ryan Montbleau at The Riverside this Sunday! The show sold out weeks in advance and we sponsored some press for the event so we appreciate those who checked out our feature and are ready to wine and dine their Valentine with Homevibe!

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Our recent partnership with Cafe Aion Music means we will also recap their upcoming weekend shows for the month of February in our Friday feature. This weekend’s lineup includes Ben Hanna and Whiskey Autumn; read more about both acts here. As you might have noticed, each of these artists actually play Friday and Saturday shows in Boulder this weekend, so feel free to fall in love with one and stalk them at both of their performances.

PS: This week, our Sunday partnership with Green Light Radio and Streetside Productions will feature a track by Boulder’s Whiskey Autumn! The three piece recently released their single “07.04.07” with an accompanying music video that you can watch here! They’ve got two shows this weekend -one at The No Name Friday & one at Cafe Aion Saturday- so let them croon you and your honey live. Tune in Sunday to any of the Colorado Community Network Radio Stations here (95.3 or 95.5 Boulder) or stream Green Light to listen to WA’s “07.04.07” on Valentine’s Day!

See you lovers.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

It Goes Beyond: An Imaginary “Interview” and "Concert" Review with The Itchy-O Marching Band

By: Will Baumgartner

Denver's Itchy-O are one crazy awesome crew. 

PART ONE: THE “INTERVIEW”

I’m in my apartment waiting for The Itchy-O Marching Band to arrive for our interview. I don’t really know what to expect. I’ve heard a lot about them, seen a few photos, and heard their music. I know they can be kinda weird interview subjects because I heard them live on KGNU recently, and when the DJ asked them questions, she was answered by electronically distorted voices delivering cryptic messages which seemed to come from another dimension. What I don’t expect is… what happens.

First, drums. A whole LOT of drums. I hear them before I see them. In fact, I can’t see much at all at first, because my apartment goes dark. Then, BOOM! From somewhere outside the walls, somewhere in the hall, the pounding of drums- a whole lot of them: pounding polyrhythms coming for me. It’s a little spooky, maybe, this invasion of the unknown, but really, it’s a lot more exciting than any kind of scary. There’s something absolutely irresistible in this mystery.

The Itchy-O Marching Band. Photo Credit: Patrick Anderson

The Itchy-O Marching Band. Photo Credit: Patrick Anderson

Then, simultaneously, two things happen: electronics and lights. It’s still pretty dark in my apartment, but as my eyes begin to adjust, I see dark figures (they’re all dressed in black from head to toe, with face-covering masks, black suits, and, on some of them, giant black mariachi hats). I hear, from some other place or universe, sounds coming from what I can only describe as… I don’t know, “intergalactic radios”? All of these sounds, as disparate as they may seem if they were listened to separately or picked apart mentally, are actually working together to create something which is, undeniably, music.

And then there are the lights. Rings of tiny red lights glowing on the brims of the mariachi hats, and other, bigger lights shining from various corners of my apartment. The drumming becomes more insistent and even more polyrhythmic and… WHOA! Suddenly there are lights all over the dang place: pulsing strobes here, sweeping searchlights there, lights worn by the members of the band on their costumes, and, on one end of my apartment, a tower which emits a Tesla-like, crackling, twisting band of electricity. It is now when it becomes more and more clear to me that Itchy-O, while knowing that I had wanted to talk with them, have come to do anything but talk. No, what they want to do is… DANCE!

Sombreros.

Sombreros.

And their want travels to me just like that: This sudden, unavoidable demand and need to dance. I can’t resist it; who could? I’m dancing! How very delightful!! And better yet, I’m dancing with the band!!! They wear giant megaphone-like speakers on their backs, they play drums banded on their torsos which they carry around the room with them while they play various electronic setups also attached to their bodies like food vendors wandering the crowd at a baseball game (or something like that), One member even has a portable Theremin that he carries in front of him; another rides a freakin’ BIKE around my apartment with a computerized music-making setup on the front and a giant megaphone speaker on the back. Some of these lovable freaks are just dancers with no drums or electronic gear or speakers and, wait, look over there! Here comes a big shaggy, sparkly dog-dragon-like-creature, which puts my befuddled and bedazzled mind into some Chinese/Mexican carnival setting. And all the while, the music just keeps playing and swirling while the drums keep pounding and layering, and…

Well, you get the idea. (Or do you?)

Despite the volume of the music, and the fact that all of the Itchy-O members mouths are covered by their masks (all I can see are their eyes), I attempt to begin some semblance of an interview.

WB: This is quite an experience, and it makes me wonder where it all started. What can you tell me about the origins of Itchy-O?

I-O: ____________________

WB: Umm… Okay. Well can you give me some idea of your influences and inspirations?

I-O: _______________________________________ (accompanied by what looks like a smirk of the eyes).

WB: Well, sheesh. We’re not getting very far with this, are we?

I-O: (Gives me the grinning eyes) (Shoves me gently, playfully)

WB: Ah, why do I bother trying to talk to you?

I-O: (shrugs!)

WB: (slightly frustrated, while undeniably still amused; charmed even) Are you intentionally messing with me? Just to get on my nerves, or… or make me feel foolish??

I-O: (shakes head “No!” emphatically) (Grabs me and hugs me- hard!!!)

And so what do I do? Well, what can I do? I surrender, give up on my insistent and rather silly idea of an “interview”, and helpless to resist the pull of the music and Itchy-O’s exhortations to resume the dance, I resume the dance. And it’s wonderful, isn’t it? Oh yes. Yes it is.

*********

PART TWO: THE "CONCERT" REVIEW

The experience described above, while it obviously didn’t “really happen” to me (OR DID IT?), does (I hope) give you, Dear Reader, some idea of what an Itchy-O “concert” is like. At least, the one I went to recently at Denver’s own Home of the Weird (Oddball Haven? Misfits Paradise?), the 3 Kings Tavern. I’d been wanting to catch an Itchy-O’s “show” for awhile, and when it was all over, I was… how shall I put this? I was DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY that I’d gone.

Yes. That’s what I meant to say. Capitals intentional.

Drums. Photo Credit: Patrick Anderson

Drums. Photo Credit: Patrick Anderson

You probably noticed that I put the words “concert” and “show” in quotes. Why? Well, because it’s hard to know what earthly terminology can accurately encapsulate what I was so deliriously, happily engulfed in that night. Itchy-O’s aggregation of 20 to 30 musicians and dancers doesn’t so much “perform” for an “audience” as they do invite everyone who’s there with them to become part of something bigger- much bigger- than the sum of its parts. Itchy-O goes beyond “audience participation” to the point that it’s really difficult to tell who’s putting on the “show”. And that, I think, is the whole point. Itchy-O simply goes beyond. And they insist that we come with them.

Of all these drummers, electronics players and dancers, only four or five of them were onstage: the rest of the group wandered incessantly through the crowd, engaging us all in dancing, playful interaction, etc. A few times, Itchy People (my own term) would come up behind me and play with my pork pie hat, bobbing it around on my head or taking it off of my head and putting it on someone else- and I didn’t mind, not a bit! You can feel the love and the sense of delightful mischief in everything they do; it just makes the experience that much more fun.

3 Kings Crowd.

3 Kings Crowd.

The Itchy People had no qualms whatsoever about coming up and dancing with us. At one point, I was dancing really hard (with my wool pea coat still on), and felt cool air up inside of my coat. I opened my eyes (they’d been closed; I was so into it) and saw that one of the Itchy People was doing this, using some hairdryer-type thing to cool me off. Yikes. How cool is that?

So for heaven's sake, let’s get Itchy-O up here to B-Town SOON because really, until you’ve gone where they go (into another universe?), you truly don’t know what you’re missing. You’d swear you were in some kind of heaven- one way beyond your wildest imaginings. And if you have any dancing bones in your body, well.. Oh boy. You’ll definitely be dancing.

Watch a live Itchy-O performance:

-Will

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

My Morning Jacket's Red Rocks Show Rocked

By: Hannah Oreskovich

My Morning Jacket slayed their sold out show. Duh.

My Morning Jacket graced the Red Rocks stage this weekend: It was general admission seats packed fifteen minutes after the doors opened. It was Jim James in a colorful button-down covered in psychedelic eyes, but sporting sunglasses the whole show to shade his own. It was the first few rows near the stage lifting a girl up as if she were being crucified by sound during “Believe.” It was everyone hands in the air; vibing, grooving, dancing. It was girls behind me screaming with worship during the intro of every song. It was Jim James playing to the back wall of the RR stage during “Dondante,” making the crowd wonder if James was, in his own way, playing to the spirit of Aaron Todovich. It was Carl Broemel wailing on multiple guitars and making sax solos actually look cool. It was an encore with a special appearance by Brandi Carlile (who had a sold-out RR show the following night). It was James turning said encore into a monotone chant after asking Red Rocks to cut the lights, the band to cut the music, and everyone to chant along with him. It was Bo Koster looking like Zorro on the keys. It was every single soul headbanging during “Highly Suspicious.” It was Patrick Hallahan winding up over and over like a windmill to pump out heartbeats. It was James telling us when it was almost over that playing between the Red Rocks walls felt like “we’ve been in the womb tonight and now we’re born again!” It was three hours ending with “One Big Holiday.” It was the crowd buzzing toward their cars with an electric current in the air even after everything was said and done. It was My Morning Jacket.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

Helicopterbearshark: The Master of a One-Man-Band

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Helicopterbearshark is one talented dude.

When I say “he’s a one-man-band,” what do you think of? Maybe you imagine a guy on a kick drum with a banjo and a harmonica. Or maybe he has an accordion in hand and a cymbal hat on his back. Or maybe you think of this (you weirdo).

But whatever you imagine a one-man-band to look or sound like, Boulder musician Ryan O’Malley and his solo project Helicopterbearshark will change your one-man-band perceptions. And in this case, for the better. This guy rocks.

The HBS setup. Photo Credit: Becky Guidera

The HBS setup. Photo Credit: Becky Guidera

On the first Wednesday of every month, HBS has a residency at the Kitchen Next Door. You can see O’Malley setting up his collective of instruments near the wall across from the community table: a kick and a snare, an electric guitar, a saxophone, a keyboard, and a complex-looking loop pedal station

I’ve seen O’Malley play with several Boulder bands like Whiskey Autumn, Natural Motives, & Fleedami. I even name-dropped him in this article a few months back. But in those capacities, he was always guest-spotting on saxophone. After watching just one Helicopterbearshark performance, I realized O’Malley is a sovereign of multiple instruments. Headphones on and eyes closed, O'Malley looped the start of a song with keyboard sounds and then slung his guitar over his shoulder to add a few chords into the mix, all before moving on to record vocal harmonies and tap out a snare beat. It's impossible not to be engaged in his every move.

sax-y. Photo Credit: Becky Guidera

sax-y. Photo Credit: Becky Guidera

O’Malley describes Helicopterbearshark’s sound as “ambient, jazz, electronic mishmash”. There are elements of these genres in his playing, but Helicopterbearshark is really a project that has to be seen to be best described. After all, O’Malley’s live performance is half the fun. Watching him move from instrument to instrument is entrancing, and the synchronized red light that illuminates his kick drum head with every beat pulls you in closer, like a hypnotizing heartbeat. Sure, it’s awesome to listen to HBS over your crispy garlic smashers, but actually watching O’Malley masterfully move from instrument to instrument is the real treat of the entire Helicopterbearshark experience.

So the next time you’re in the mood to watch one guy produce what sounds like a full band of jazzy, electronic awesomeness, catch a Helictoperbearkshark set. You can see where HBS plays next here. And listen to Helicopterbearshark here.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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