From the Eats to the Tunes, Here's Why We Can't Wait for Grandoozy

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Colorado will finally be home to a new music festival this September. The concert promoter, Superfly will debut their first festival, Grandoozy at the Overland Park golf course September 14th-16th. Being the co-creators of other major festivals such as Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, Superfly is not new to creating a memorable experience for concertgoers.

During the fest, we can look forward to over fifty acts, all of which will cater to different tastes in music. Big-name headliners include Kendrick Lamar, Florence + the Machine, and Stevie Wonder. While at the fest, you can spend your Sunday rocking out with St. Vincent, and if you were unable to snag tickets to see The Chainsmokers’ sold out show at Red Rocks in 2016, Grandoozy is your chance to see them in an outdoor setting with a great view of the Rocky Mountains. This is the first time Kendrick Lamar will be back in Denver since last July, and the first time since he won his historic Pulitzer Prize for his record DAMN. His performance is going to be a definite Denver must-see.

The weekend will also be the ultimate Denver music festival experience, from the music to the food. Between performances, make sure to grab a bite or a few before the next act! The entire festival will pay homage to all things local, from the beer you drink to the food you order. The vendors list will spotlight local favorites like Snooze: an AM Eatery (Adam Schlegel), Justin Cucci (Linger, Root Down, Vital Root, Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, and El Five), Carrie Baird (executive chef at Bar Dough and participant on Season 15 of Top Chef Denver), Jen Jasinski (executive chef/owner of Larimer Square’s Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Stoic & Genuine, Ultreia), and Tommy Lee (chef and owner of Uncle and Hop Alley). You just might find your new favorite dish or meet the chef from your current favorite restaurant!
    
After you have finished your food from our local vendors and feel like dancing between acts,  head over to the Break-Room. It will be Grandoozy’s taste of a disco club right in the middle of the Mile High City. The Break-Room will be a dance lounge to satisfy all music tastes, from ambient to electronic. The lineup features various local DJs who are both up-and-coming, as well as popular within the industry. Some of the local acts will include Sunsquabi, Head for the Hills, The Drunken Hearts, AMZY, and Black Pumas.

Ultimately, this will be a showcase of our beautiful city, spotlight our local food vendors, celebrate our local talent, and it will put Denver on the map for big-name music festivals in the future. This is not the festival to miss, so grab your friends and buy your tickets before they sell out!

Grandoozy pricing starts at $99 for general admission single-day tickets, $224.50 for general admission three-day tickets, $249.50 for VIP single-day tickets, and $674.50 for VIP three-day tickets. They can be purchased online here.To get you pumped for our first major festival, make sure you follow Grandoozy on Spotify, and add their playlists! We’ll see you at the Park!

-Taylor

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

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.

Denver's Annabelle Raps About The Importance Of Self-Love

By: Taylor Naiman

Annabelle is The Mile High’s very own 20-year-old female rap artist, and she’s making big moves in the industry. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, she returned to her native Denver to hone her sound. Her introduction to the Denver scene was over a year ago at her first open mic and at the time, she felt like one of Denver’s only female artists. Still, she kept pursuing more stage opportunities at places like The Gothic and Cervantes’ Masterpiece, and while doing so, explored a range of sounds: hip-hop, jazz, rap, and soul.

Annabelle.

Annabelle.

Throughout the duration of her first EP, The Desire, Annabelle creates a storybook and gives the audience her true raw emotion. She has found a balance both lyrically and musically where she can explore different sounds and her own vulnerabilities. Her music is “melodic, soulful and highly vulnerable with hip-hop and jazz undertones.” It is open, emotional, and conveys her vulnerabilities. She strives to give her audience a spiritual awakening.

Photo Credit: Bobby Vasquez

Photo Credit: Bobby Vasquez

Annabelle told me that she is most influenced by artists she herself can dance to, such as Ashanti, Missy Elliott, 2Pac, Bone Thugs N’ Harmony and J. Cole. Lyrically, she likes J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, and Kendrick Lamar. She told me, “I think I hold the same potential as any one of those legends.” And maybe that confidence is just what she needs.

Photo Credit: Bobby Vasquez

Photo Credit: Bobby Vasquez

Currently, Annabelle is working on three EPs in the studio, composed with a new energy and varied tones. They are going to be all about her life journey and “how people can be dangerous.” Each will unmask more of her vulnerabilities pertaining to relationships, self-love, and her continued growth. She describes this music as being reminiscent of an ambient Odesza sound with a  jazzy feel and a hint of a “50 Cent club record.” When she is not in the studio, you can catch her either riding horses or modeling in front of the camera.

Well-attuned to her style and vibe, Annabelle is someone to keep an eye out for. I recently had the chance to ask her a few more questions about her music:

What was your favorite song to write and why?

Should I’ because of the whole story behind it. I walked in on my ex with another girl in his bed. I was pretty calm about the whole situation at the time and didn’t know how to feel about it right when it happened. I tried to write a song about the way I was feeling and it went a couple of different ways before I finished it. But I went from the honest, vulnerable side when I wrote ‘Should I.’ It’s the battle, where you ask yourself, ‘What should I do?’ For me, it is a very poetic song where I can prove my self-love.

What is one piece of advice you would give to another female in the music industry?

Always know your worth and do not settle for anything less. Do not be afraid to tell people, ‘no’ in this industry. Have the confidence to do so! If your ideas do not align with those of other individuals, do not settle.

Learn more about Annabelle and her music here.

-Taylor

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

Optycnerd & Play Pat Join Forces For 'Nonfiction' EP

By: Norman Hittle

Denver’s latest collaboration EP Nonfiction brings OptycNerd and Play Pat together with four tracks that are certain to get some winter dance parties grooving. Check it out:

OptycNerd is an electronic hip-hop/pop duo based in Denver. After meeting at a party and realizing they both had the same first name, Chris Kimmel and Chris Scott knew immediately that they had to form a group. Over the past few years, the Chris' have been crafting their sound and building up their body of work, including their released December 3rd single “Apollo” which is currently in the top 10 running for 93.3 KTCL’s Hometown for the Holidays - and you can vote on until December 12th!

Play Pat is an indie hip-hop artist with a great deal of work under his belt, including his most recent November 2017 release “Uber to Space”. Although he seems to keep his personal information under the radar, Play Pat has a solid SoundCloud following, including multiple tracks with over 10k+ plays- no small feat!

Optycnerd with Play Pat.

Optycnerd with Play Pat.

With their Nonfiction collaboration, both artists bring a solid hip-hop/rap effort to the table, featuring sounds reminiscent to Disclosure, Macklemore, and even nods to artists like Kendrick Lamar on their track “Photoshoot”. Yet, this isn’t the first collaboration these artists have had together, and likely it won’t be their last. Back in September, they combined their powers for the first time on the single “PM AM,” a far more pop/hip-hop oriented track.

Keep up with both acts via their social media, and keep an ear out for more material to be released. These guys are serious about content creation, so if you like what you hear, keep checking back!

-Norman

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

This Denver Company Is Connecting The Traveling Music Community One Overnight Stay At A Time

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Colin Bultinck’s business idea started where many great ones do: at a music festival.

Bonnaroo was one of the first things that inspired me to be a musician.” Colin recently told us, with his first trek to the fest’s Manchester stomping grounds being back in 2015 (Kendrick Lamar headlined that year ICYMI).

“People are so positive there and there were so many people who had traveled from all over the place to be there. That’s when I realized friends were staying in hotels, camping, and looking for places to spend the night near the festival.” Bultinck said, “And that’s when I was surprised that there wasn’t something already like this.”

By this, Bultinck means his company Rock n Doze, an online site where users can book a room for a night similar to Airbnb, but with a heavy music focus.

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“I’ve been a lifelong musician and though I’ve never gone on tour, I have a lot of friends who have. Being involved in the music community, I know it’s a struggle for traveling musicians to find a place to stay, and better yet, to practice. I know touring bands who have stayed in their cars or at someone’s apartment who they met at their show. And I know bands who find themselves inspired on the road wishing they could play once they get to their destination, but don’t have the option.” Bultinck said, “Then there are also the fans. I’ve traveled to four Airbnbs specifically for concerts and music events this past year. Rock n Doze brings this entire music community together.”

Much like Airbnb, anyone can book a room for the night on Rock n Doze and anyone can host a room or home. But users are also encouraged to talk music! If hosts have a studio or practice space, they can include that with their room for rent. If they have gear available for use, they can market that as well. Fans can also book with Rock n Doze and expect to have a host who is more knowledgeable about the local music scene than your average Airbnb-er.

Colin Bultinck. 

Colin Bultinck. 

“Before I moved to Denver, I stayed at an Airbnb. I wanted to find a city where the music scene was supportive of local artists so I shared my story with the host and asked about looking at local music spots that I’d be able to play if I moved here. The host didn’t know any music venues. They were right down on South Broadway by Hi-Dive and 3 Kings! I was surprised that Denver could be such a big music city, but they had no idea where the local spots were. That’s when I realized that whether you’re a musician, a tech on tour, or a fan, there should be something to further connect the traveling music community.”

Hence the birth of Rock n Doze, which is currently available in several music markets with a focus on the Denver and Front Range music scenes. The site is currently in its first stages, with a full launch planned around the start of festival season. Still, it’s already seeing business.

“At my house, I offer a studio space with a drum kit and mics and amps. I had a band who stayed at my house recently, and I jammed out with them for a little bit,” Bultinck said, “This could open up opportunities for home concerts, ride-sharing for fans, and even connecting with potential fans on a more personal level if you’re a hosting band.”

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Local industry players can also advertise services on the site- concert photographers, street teams, and other promotional show services are already available for booking.

Which brings us to the dough. Rock n Doze takes only 5% of fees for services and spots booked, which is less than competitor Airbnb. Just one conversation with Colin will tell you that while he wants to grow the business, the goal of Rock n Doze goes far beyond profit margins.

“We offer bands a cheap place to stay and play, and fans a place to meet other music-lovers.” Bultinck said, “[Rock n Doze] is meant to support and connect an industry that really needs it. I honestly think it’s the future of the traveling music community.”

Check out more from Rock n Doze and book a room for yourself 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.

Coachella Announces 2017 Lineup

Coachella’s 2017 lineup was announced this morning for both weekends of the Indio, California desert festival via Coachella’s Twitter page. Weekend One runs Friday, April 14- Sunday, April 16; Weekend Two runs Friday, April 21- Sunday, April 23.

Headliners include Radiohead, Beyonce, and Kendrick Lamar. Other honorable mentions include Father John Misty, Big Gigantic, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Bon Iver, Future, The Head & The Heart, Four Tet, Thundercat, Lorde, Justice, New Order, Toots & The Maytals, Real Estate, and King Sunny Ade.

Mysteriously missing is rumored Frank Ocean, but maybe that’s to be expected...

Coachella passes go on sale tomorrow, Wednesday, January 4 at 11AM Pacific.

See the full lineup below:

A Light in the Darkness: An Interview With Wesley Watkins of Other Black

By: Mirna Tufekcic

Wesley Watkins is a powerhouse. To have a frontman with so much momentum will inherently draw attention to a band as a whole. But Watkins is just one member of an assortment of artistry that demand its presence on stage: what started with nine musicians back in 2012 has fluxed in members since then, but at times has been as many as 24. Meet the Other Black.


All photos per George L. Bosser.


I had the pleasure of seeing Other Black perform at Syntax Physic Opera in Denver recently and interviewed Watkins post-show. The small stage of the venue was crowded with somewhere between 12-16 artists throughout the set who played three hours of original tunes and featured several local artists whose voices carry a worthy message.

“When I thought about getting features for this show, I asked people who are gonna say something everyone needs to hear. If you’ve not experienced injustice, it’s my job as an artist to bring awareness to the fact that this injustice is around. And I want to encourage those who are strong enough to speak up to continue doing so.” Watkins told me.

Watkins and Heffernan.

Watkins and Heffernan.

Kalyn Heffernan from Wheelchair Sports Camp and Stephen “Brer Rabbit” from Flobots, both of whom have been through a lot of injustice in their lives, each made appearances within the crowd at Other Black's Syntax show to speak about current events in the world with fellow audience members.

Wesley Watkins.

Wesley Watkins.

My conversation with Wesley very quickly took a political, bigger-picture kind of turn. I want to believe it was because our heartstrings tuned in as two agents of change trying to shine light on darkness and bring awareness where awareness is so desperately needed during these hard times.

He went on, “As musicians, especially those staying true to what they sound like, [we] have a responsibly to talk about what is happening in our modern world. We have to be careful of what we put out there- this world can’t take any more bullsh*t. And as a musician myself, I want to encourage other musicians out there to stay true to themselves and not try to be a part of a product.”

I agreed with him wholeheartedly. We, as a people, definitely need inspiration and positive, good-hearted individuals to wield social and cultural sentiment, which music and art (and free press!) is ripe with the power to do.  

Watkins with Other Black.

Watkins with Other Black.

So, where does Other Black fall in this spectrum of empowering agency and bringing awareness?

The Other Black is a music project created out of love for hip-hop, jazz, soul, and gospel music, all of which are genres born out of slavery and life struggles experienced by the oppressed, specifically the black population of the US.   

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. It’s what I grew up with and what I wanted to tap into with this band.” Watkins said. “Most of the songs Other Black plays today, I wrote when I was homeless and on the streets back in 2009. And I want people to know that it was by no fault of mine that I ended up homeless.”

Wesley has been in several different bands including Air Dubai, Petals of Spain, and most recently, he toured with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. But he realized that having his own project was what he needed to do to fulfill his purpose as an artist.  

“By the time 2012 rolled around, I was just getting out of being homeless and had been in several different bands with some of my closest friends. But I kept quitting bands. That’s when a close friend of mine brought it to my attention that I needed to start my own. I started Other Black because of my love for soul and hip-hop.”

But when Wesley talks about soul and funk music, he is talking about the “old-school sh*t” like Sly Stone and Sam Cooke, whose music shed light on the daily struggles of black people in America, and 90s hip-hop, which gave a powerful voice to the still oppressed and marginalized black Americans.  

“We have a system that’s really bias. So what you see from black powerful figures in our media today is so bias and it’s perpetuating a stereotype. To have today’s hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar speak the hard truth they don’t want to hear, but need to, is important and it’s empowering the people. At the very least, what I can do with my music is bring awareness to what is unjust in the world.”  

When I started the interview with Wesley, I wanted to know what Other Black implies in its name. I forgot to ask, but now I’m left with only room for interpretation, which is a good thing. What I infer after talking to Wesley and seeing Other Black on stage at Syntax is that the Other Black is a light amidst the darkness. It’s the mold breaking the stereotype. It’s an attempt at bringing awareness through music by making people get down.

“I want to encourage people to experience themselves, because if people can experience themselves to the core of their being and be comfortable with that, then all of a sudden we have people who are comfortable with how other people are starting to experience them.” Watkins told me.

If you want to find out what Other Black means to you, you can. They will be rockin’ in the New Year with The Yawpers at The Oriental Theater on December 31st for New Year’s Eve. You can check out their Facebook page for more information, and to hear their music, click here. Be on the lookout for the Other Black’s first album too, which is still in the works and will feature 14 songs which more than likely will encourage you to experience yourself. And that’s powerful.

-Mirna

All photos per George L. Bosser. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

MikeyLee The Underdog Gets Midwest Wavy

By: Claire Woodcock

MikeyLee is here for the outsiders. 

When I first heard MikeyLee (Mike Koch), formerly known as White Boy Spacey, I was most impressed with his mix of modern music effects in his tracks. He describes himself as a “new era” rapper with a West Coast/Down South twist. ML is the jungle juice of the basement party, throwing down beats served up as a concoction of Mac Miller meeting Kendrick Lamar for the first time, and having a lasting impression. But MikeyLee says he’s not particularly inspired by anyone: “I truly believe a real artist can be inspired by anything and utilize it in their expression.”

MikeyLee.

MikeyLee.

A rad word master ready to get wavy on the weekends, MikeyLee’s music is loud and goes hard. Each song employs tones texturizing his rampant raps. “Sort Of” lights conventional rap on fire; he says right in the song that his words are “too complex for the simple-minded”. “Over: Back Against The Wall” echoes new age style elements that strike back, taking shots for the underdog.

MikeyLee started rapping and got his tag at a young age: “I started writing to instrumentals at age 10, when you could buy tapes and they had the instrumentals on the other side.” From there, his stage name developed: “[Releasing under a tag] gives me a larger platform to address life issues [so] my opinions on topics are heard by a broader audience,” he told BolderBeat.

Originally from San Diego, MikeyLee’s been slammin’ the Midwest with sick beats for years. After founding his music label LeftFieldMusicCo two years ago, he is striving to beat the normal through his own work, and those of the artists he represents. “My mission would be to show that you can be an out of the box, non-conforming artist and still be acknowledged,” he said.

And that’s exactly why MikeyLee is pushing to make music his full time career: for himself, for his family, for his LeftFieldMusicCO artists, and for his audience. His current game plan? Push boundaries and make people think. MikeyLee is an artist here to show that the underdog and outsiders are the ones working hard. Not just because they have to, but because they are hungry.

Look out for MikeyLee’s first album Kill, Kill, Kill ‘Em All for download on iTunes and streaming on Spotify in September.

-Claire

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

Exclusive Premiere: LA R&B Crooner JMSN's New Single "Cruel Intentions"

Christian Berishaj, better known as JMSN (pronounced Jameson), is a Detroit born and LA based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer, mixer, and videographer. The R&B crooner, who released his debut album, †Priscilla†, in January 2012, also operates his indie label, White Room Records. The success of his freshman album captured the attention of platinum-selling artist Usher, and even landed JMSN four slots on Kendrick Lamar’s groundbreaking Good Kid, M.A.A.D City album. JMSN has credits on “Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “The Art Of Peer Pressure”, “Sing About Me/Dying Of Thirst”, and “Real”.

LA R&B Artist JMSN.

LA R&B Artist JMSN.

Following the success of Priscilla†, JMSN’s impressive talents have allowed him to collaborate with the likes of The Game, J. Cole, Tyga, Ab-Soul, Kaytranada, Ta-ku, and many others. In 2014, JMSN released his second album, affectionately known as the Blue Album. Its release paved the way for a triumphant world tour across North America, Europe, Australia and China.

Currently, JMSN’s musical evolution continues with his upcoming release It is with White Room Records. In anticipation for the album, JMSN has dropped his first single, which we’re proud to premiere here for you today. Check it out:

Listen to the premiere of JMSN’s newest single, “Cruel Intentions”:

Learn more about JMSN on his Facebook page

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited.