Premiere: Listen to Moon Hammer's New "Unravelled" + the Band Tells Us How This Track Was Sewn Together

Moon Hammer. (Left to right: Reed Fox, Megan Crooks, Ishka Bee Phoenix, Mark Emmons) Photo Credit:   Julianna Photography

Moon Hammer. (Left to right: Reed Fox, Megan Crooks, Ishka Bee Phoenix, Mark Emmons) Photo Credit: Julianna Photography

Denver’s Moon Hammer, an ever-changing collection of Moon Magnet-affiliated artists, is playing Denver’s Underground Music Showcase on Sunday, July 28th at 3 Kings Tavern at 6PM. In anticipation of their show, they decided to premiere their new song “Unravelled” with us today before it drops on all streaming services this Friday, July 19th. The song has been created and “destroyed” several times over to near its final completion, so take a listen:

“Unravelled” was mixed by Neil Lyons and frontman Reed Fox, and mastered at Moon Magnet Studios, but prior to that, a lot went into the actual writing and recording process of this track. Says Fox, “Moon Hammer is a writing collective and most of our shows feature a lineup of different members. Everyone can bring songs to the group to play and it's usually Megan Crooks (Ancient Elk) or Ishka Bee Phoenix (Ghost Tapes) because they're genius songwriters. Megan showed us her song ‘Unravelled’ two years ago and everyone was eager to bring it to life. Usually the songs are recorded and released quicker, but this one took longer because we kept reimagining it and adding stuff to it, which is ironic because it is the most minimalist recording I've ever been a part of. The process was a lot like the quote I'd never credit because it came from Bono: ‘Making records is like making sausages, the end result is palatable but you don't want to see how it's done.’ Basically we recorded a ton of things and all agreed it was best to scrap almost all of it.”

Photo Credit:   Julianna Photography

Photo Credit: Julianna Photography

Oddly enough, “Unravelled” almost became a House track at one point in the process. “We recorded it live initially with Dylan Johnson (The Other Black/Dandu) on electronic drums. Derrick Bozich (House of Aura/Sound of Ceres) came over and was recording mellotron months later and since the drums were recorded through an SPDS and every drum pad sound was mono on one channel, Derrick re-recorded the drums on separate tracks. With this project, Neil and I email projects back and forth frequently so I sent it over to him and he remade the drums again and re-recorded some awesome 808 bass. I think it was our third reiteration of drums and bass. He made it sound incredible and chopped up Megan Crooks’ vocals and threw the samples on pads and played them like an instrument (just like you hear in the recording). Then he emailed it back and I made a House version of the song. We considered using it for the chorus when Neil and I met up again at his studio to mix it some more and ended up realizing the House version was a terrible idea.” says Fox.

So how did “Unravelled” finally become sewn together?

“We scheduled a session for Megan, Ishka, Jeremy Averitt (Esmé Patterson), and Kevin Netz (Jurassic Netz/Fever The Ghost) to come over to Moon Magnet Studios and record more stuff, because we still were unhappy with [the song], but little did we know that a version from a year prior was our favorite, and the one you hear now is pretty much that. Kevin recorded gazillions of synths and bass (again) on it. Jeremy recorded xylophone over the whole thing. Ishka recorded vocals. Months after that we listened back to the version from a year prior and realized that was the best version and that we just needed to release it. Then Neil and I met up at the Magnet and I tried to include all the people that had recorded on it which was virtually impossible because that version had scrapped everything.

What you hear now is Neil on the beat, vocal chops, and 808 bass. Neil, Jeremy Averitt, and I co-produced it. Neil did a ton of the snazzy creative things. Derrick's mellotron is on the end of it, and you can hear Kevin's synth on the chorus. Ishka's harmonies are on the chorus and Megan sang and wrote the song of course. Jeremy's Xylophone is on the intro. We kept exploring options and didn't realize the song had already been finished and ended up having to dig up an old project file to get back to how it was before we ruined it.” Fox told us. 

In the end, the complex, two-year recording process of “Unravelled” almost mirrors the lyrics Crooks wrote from the start. Adds Megan, “This song is about letting the force of change and chaos take control and gracefully bowing to its power with faith that things will fall back in place for the better. I wrote the [lyrics] on a whim two years ago, pulling the knowledge from the ether, not knowing I was preparing myself for exactly this time in my life.”

Photo Credit:   Julianna Photography

Photo Credit: Julianna Photography

After letting the force of change take control over their final product and battling their creative demons to get to the gold, Moon Hammer’s “Unravelled” is finally ready for eardrums everywhere. As for what this collective is up to next, Fox tells us, “Moon Hammer is performing on the MCA rooftop with Wes Watkins August 2nd at 7pm! We're also unleashing two more singles before the year’s over, so check out our Spotify to hear our recent releases!”

Keep up with Moon Hammer here.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist 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.

Review: Dandu's 'Caught Between' Ventures Beyond Fusion & Into Livetronica, Hip-Hop, & Even Space

By: Will Baumgartner

It would be too easy- and wholly misleading- to simply call the Denver trio known as Dandu a “fusion” group. Just a glance at the influences listed on their Facebook page could tell you that: Flying Lotus, Aphex Twin, Thundercat, Kneebody, The Bad Plus, and Bon Iver? What do you call a band who are inspired by such a diverse list of artists?! The phrase Dandu uses is “Wonky Groove Music,” and as words go when used in an attempt to describe the basically indescribable, I guess that’s as good a choice as any you’re likely to get. But when it comes to music like this, it’s best to put words aside and simply dig into the music itself.

Dandu. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Dandu. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

So let’s go to their recently released EP Caught Between, and settle in for a trip that, for its relative scarcity of actual words (only two of the six tracks have vocals, and those are more imagistic than didactic), still manages to be wildly evocative. Among the many scenes and visions I get listening to this recording from beginning to end, the prevailing feel is of a spacewalk which varies between a stroll and a sort of power-walk. But while this journey is clearly purposeful and at times just a bit speedy, it never feels hurried.

Listen to Caught Between

The trip begins with “Stu Fish” (featuring Calm Alone, aka Grant Stringham, who also produced and mixed the entire EP), a bit of moody and almost apocalyptic-sounding psychedelia. This track, to which Stringham contributed samples, synth, and some drum programming, sets the mood for the whole journey: clearly, we’re in an otherworldly place, and while there’s a fair degree of darkness and menace around us, there are also lights everywhere- and we have a destination.

Ben Weirich. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Ben Weirich. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

The second track, “Don’t Fret” (featuring Cosmic Slim, aka Wesley Watkins of The Other Black) continues this theme, and is very aptly titled: while the dark hip-hop groove and Watkins’ rapping conjure images of palpable levels of stress, fear and confusion, the overall effect is actually rather lighthearted and humorous, reminding one a bit of Childish Gambino meets TV On The Radio. (The trumpet playing of Carrie McCune adds more color as well.) Yeah, the song seems to be saying, it’s a bit frenetic and somewhat scary out here, but keep walking; we’ve got somewhere to go.

Sean Dandurand. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Sean Dandurand. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Next up is “Hips,” which begins with spacy, soundtrack-like music (I kept thinking it would fit well at the beginning of a sequel to the sci-fi cult classic “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai”). It then moves into the most “fusion”-like territory on the EP, with echoes of Herbie Hancock in his “Thrust” phase. There is also a strong “livetronica” feel here, which is actually present throughout this entire collection of songs, but especially on this one.

Dylan Johnson. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Dylan Johnson. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

The fourth track, “Elfie,” is the darkest-feeling one on the record: despite its rather whimsical-sounding title, the feel is almost dirge-like, and the voice samples have a sad and frightened feel. But keep going, there’s power and beauty ahead, and a truly well-told story must acknowledge the darkness on its way to the shimmering lights in the distance.

Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

I didn’t ask Dandu’s apparent leader/mastermind Sean Dandurand what any of these titles mean (though I’m guessing there are obscure stories and inside jokes behind each of them), so I don’t have any clear idea why the fifth song is called “Moot the Destroyer.” For me, though, this track has the most purposeful feel of any of them: the song strides forward with a clear sense of destination. Maybe it’s whoever this Moot character is pushing on to more destruction, or possibly the story’s protagonist going to stand up to the Destroyer, but maybe all we need to know for sure is that something’s happening, and it’s a powerful moment.

Everyone who listens to Caught Between will get something different out of it, and indeed that’s a big part of its value: this music doesn’t try to direct the listener to feel or think any one specific thing, but rather provides a vast array of possibilities and encourages free association and imagination. For this listener, the biggest payoff comes in the closing track, “All It Could Be.” There’s a great feeling of hope and potential fulfillment in this dreamy, pastoral, and beautiful song, along with a wistful sense of wonder. And Sean Dandurand’s vocals have me hoping I will hear more of his singing and lyrics in future recordings.

In a band whose power comes mostly from the strength of its players, Dandu is exemplary: Sean Dandurand is simply one of the best bassists around, and his diverse talents on his instrument can also be heard in the aforementioned Other Black, where he ably holds down the bottom with style and aplomb. Keyboardist Ben Weirich has been one of my favorite local players since I first heard him about six years ago with the now-defunct but great group People’s Abstract (in which Dandurand also played, and was where the two first met). Weirich uses the keyboards in ways I’ve never heard anyone else do, filling the space between the drums and bass with rich textures. And drummer Dylan Johnson has also more than proven himself as a member of Other Black, though to my ears, it’s in Dandu where he truly gets to show everything he’s capable of, with his inventive and many-shaded uses of the drum kit.

Watch Dandu's video for "Heartbeats Break":

It’s been a busy and triumphant summer for Dandu: I was lucky enough to catch them twice, first with local psychedelic groove-monsters Mlima at CU Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium, and then as openers for jazz supergroup Hudson (John Scofield, John Medeski, Jack DeJohnette and Larry Grenadier) at Chautauqua Auditorium. Since then they’ve toured the West Coast and followed that with a string of performances at the recent UMS fest in Denver. But just as summer isn’t over, neither is their conquest of the season: before heading out for another tour, this time in the Midwest, lucky local music lovers get one more chance to catch them in Denver, when they support the great Jacob Collier at the Bluebird Theater next Tuesday, August 22nd. With Mile High Soul Club also on the bill, we’d all be wise to queue up for tickets now. It’s bound to be a spectacular night!

Keep up with Dandu on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and their website.

-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 2017 Underground Music Showcase Announces Second Round of Artists

The Underground Music Showcase 2017 just announced their second round of artists for this year's festival! Additions include: Headliner Zola Jesus and artists like Bad Licks, Chocolate Diamond, Dear Rabbit, Decatur, Edison, HERESTOFIGHTIN, The Hollow, innerspace, The Kinky Fingers, Ned Garthe Explosion, Retrofette (we should mention here we're premiering something awesome from this band this Friday), Sleepy SunSIR, Sugar Skulls & Marigolds, Sur Ellz, Treehouse Sanctum, Turvy Organ, & more! Make sure to get your tickets for the July 27th-30th festival in the heart of Denver here. And see our previous story for initial lineup announcements at our original announcement link.

Reminiscing on last year's UMS? Peek back at our coverage of 2016:

-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.

Denver's Project Pabst 2017: Ice Cube, Phantogram, Unicorns, & Plenty of PBR

By: Sierra Voss & Hannah Oreskovich

Project Pabst Denver 2017 rolled into town this past weekend for a full day of music and PBR-fueled fun. The RiNo District was alive with the sound of music, lots of people in red, white, and blue Pabst regalia, and a giant unicorn stood in mighty glory at the heart of it all. Festival-goers held PBRs in hand for a full day of music as they strolled the streets for good times and stopped by the two outdoor main stages and the local venues on the block, including Larimer Lounge, Meadowlark (which hosted shows in the kitchen and bar areas), Cold Crush, and Nocturne.

The beer started flowing when the festival gates opened around 1PM as Project Pabst-goers meandered around and gathered near the Laser Horse Stage to catch the first band of the day, Chicago’s Twin Peaks. These boys were a rowdy, rockin’ start to kick off festmode. Headbanging and epic guitar jumps were commonplace throughout their set. Needless to say, the TP dudes started the fest off with killer energy.

Deap Vally. Photo Credit:  Sierra Voss

Deap Vally. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Deap Vally were the next touring act to take an outdoor stage over at the Captain Pabst Stage on the opposite side of the festival grounds. The rock’n’roll lady duo christened listeners with deep guitar cuts and barefoot, drum-stomping beats. They had the crowd foot-stomping along to hits like “End of The World” and at one point gave a shout-out to Denver’s The Velveteers, who toured Europe with them at the end of last year.  

Montoneros. Photo Credit:   Hannah Oreskovich

Montoneros. Photo Credit: Hannah Oreskovich

The next touring act was supposed to be Chicago’s Noname, who played Denver’s Lost Lake not too long ago. Unfortunately for festheads, she actually pulled out of the show last-minute (and several other tour dates). She was replaced with Denver’s math rock outfit Montoneros, who stirred the crowd with their post-punk sounds and kept the afternoon grooving on.

Surfing space with STRFKR. Photo Credit:   Hannah Oreskovich

Surfing space with STRFKR. Photo Credit: Hannah Oreskovich

STRFKR took things up a notch mid-day when they unleashed astronaut dancers who crowdsurfed on inflatables and launched confetti into the crowd. By this point in the afternoon, RiNo was abuzz as the crowd continued to grow and fill in the festival streets. Festivalists stopped at the food truck circle near the Captain Pabst Stage for eats, checked out artwork by Denver’s So Gnar, and explored local acts like All Chiefs, Dave Devine Quartet, Kinky Fingers, Other Black, and Whole Milk.

DB. Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss

DB. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Outside, Danny Brown took the energy STRFKR unleashed and ran with it. His set was straight fire as he jumped around the stage and stopped mid-phrase to let the audience prove their fandom by filling in the missing words to his tunes. Like his music, Brown’s entire energy was playful and unpredictable, which kept the audience awaiting his every move.  

Kurt Vile. Photo Credit:   Hannah Oreskovich

Kurt Vile. Photo Credit: Hannah Oreskovich

Kurt Vile slowed things down as the sun started to dip lower into that late-afternoon warmness outdoors. His incredible and unhurried songwriting skills allowed for a much needed break in the day before the shenanigans of the night took over. He kept the crowd smiling with quick quips and played tunes across his catalogue, including his well known “Pretty Pimpin,’” announcing before he started the song’s iconic guitar line, “I’m going to play you my favorite song.”

Phantogram. Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss

Phantogram. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Vile’s set was followed by Phantogram’s sunset show on the Laser Horse stage. By this time, the streets were packed to the brim with showgoers. Phantogram, as per usual, gave their audience an amazing performance with sweet beats, synth sounds, and their duality of strong vocals.

Ice Cube. Photo Credit:   Hannah Oreskovich

Ice Cube. Photo Credit: Hannah Oreskovich

Ice Cube closed the outdoor part of the festival, opening his set with a mashup of several N.W.A. hits. Shortly thereafter, he yelled, “F*ck this show!” and ran offstage, to which his hypeman announced, “If you paid too much money for Ice Cube to play three songs and leave the show, say this with me, ‘F*ck you Ice Cube!’” It wasn’t long before the crowd began this chant, which Ice Cube apparently loved, as he re-entered with a smile and proceeded to run around the stage crushing his catalogue. At one point, a giant painting of Ice Cube was passed from the back of the crowd to the front, where fans held it up and continued to cheer throughout his set. From the crowded barriers that made it nearly impossible to exit the photo pit to the thousands of fans singing along every word to “Straight Outta Compton,” one thing was clear: Denver loves the Cube.

After Ice, the outdoor stages of Project Pabst closed for the night, and festival-goers packed the block’s local venues for continued sets by Dirty Few, Dragondeer, and Flaural, with Colfax Speed Queen closing out the entire festival.

Denver loves yah PBR. Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss

Denver loves yah PBR. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

At the end of the night, festival attendees left with unicorn koozies in hand, bellies full of tasty food truck eats, and memories of rad musical performances. Missed this year’s Pabst Project Denver? It never too early to start planning for next year Colorado…

-Sierra & Hannah

All photos per the authors. Gallery One per Sierra Voss. Gallery Two per Hannah Oreskovich. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The 2017 Underground Music Showcase Initial Lineup Has Arrived

By: Hannah Oreskovich

The long-awaited and highly anticipated Underground Music Showcase 2017 lineup has arrived. With headliners Benjamin Booker, Red Fang, & Esmé Patterson, this year's fest will take place July 27th-30th. Colorado’s Bandits, Britt Margit, This Broken Beat, Bud Bronson & The Goodtimers, Brent Cowles, The Burroughs, Chloe Tang, CITRA, Coastal Wives, Colfax Speed Queen, Corsicana, déCollage, Dirty Few, Dragondeer, Wolf van Elfmand, Evan Holm & The Restless Ones, Gasoline Lollipops, Get Along, Jilly.FM, Joseph Lamar, King Cardinal, Last of the Easy Riders, Loretta Kill, Mawule, Modern Leisure, One Flew West, The Other Black, Povi, RL Cole, The Savage Blush, Silver and Smoke, SIXXXD, Slow Caves, SYCDVK, Television Generation, The Velveteers, Whiskey Autumn, Whole Milk, Wildermiss, and Yasi are just some of the acts on the bill we've featured in the last year, so needless to say, we're stoked on this lineup. And there are more artists still TBA!

Stay tuned for more UMS info and get ready to join us on Denver's South Broadway for one of our favorite events of the summer! Tickets here.

Reminiscing on last year's UMS? Peek back at our coverage of 2016:

-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.

School of Rock Meets Musical Fame: Life Growing Up at Denver School Of The Arts

By: Sierra Voss

I remember my first music photography gig well. I was shooting for BolderBeat at Denver’s local music festival, The UMS Showcase. It was a strange but exhilarating feeling being down in the audience, watching the shows through a camera lense. My life has been filled with music from a very young age, but I was used to being the one on stage. I spent the majority of my childhood- seven years- attending Denver School of the Arts (DSA) as a vocal major. This festival was my first time using a new artistic tool to capture a musical experience I knew so intimately.  

DSA is a public magnet arts high school and middle school that offers rigorous daily involvement in a specialized art form. When I attended the school as a vocal major, students took part in over an hour and a half of their art form (or major) every day. It was a specific type of education that differed greatly from my other friends high school and middle school experiences. Although I didn’t professionally pursue voice after high school, I found art was always an integral part of my life. It was something I felt made up my genetic composition, and was at the core of how I processed and expressed the world around me.  

My love for photography came after my love for singing, but as I grew older it took priority. It wasn’t until this past year that I had the idea to explore merging the two artistic expressions I loved so dearly. It was this decision that landed me at The UMS, ready to jump into the weekend's festivities.

As I looked at the lineup, I was floored by how many acts had members that went to my high school, DSA. I had no idea so many of my peers had stuck around town to build out their musical passions and careers. I had to wonder how DSA had shaped so many of these current artist’s paths, and was so intrigued about who they had all become within Denver’s music scene. So I sat down with numerous DSA Alumni to explore just that.

Jon Shockness- Kid Astronaut (former singer in Air Dubai)

From my own experience, Jon Shockness was no doubt the cool kid on the block in middle school. He practically melted every one of our moms’ and sisters’ hearts during our 2001 “Pop Show” performace when he sang “Ben” by Michael Jackson.

Jon performing at DSA’s “Peacejam Event” in 2009.

Jon performing at DSA’s “Peacejam Event” in 2009.

How did your time at DSA influence the artist you are today?

When I think about being a singer and my history with voice, I know a lot of it started with the training I got from DSA. Even today, I create some of my vocal tones from arias I sang for master classes in high school. I am definitely influenced by my time there. Being able to harmonize with other artists was definitely learned from DSA. Overall, my time at DSA inspired me to have a lot of respect for artists and different types of voices. It instilled in me a deep respect for my own voice on a deeper level that allowed me to really grow as an artist.

On the hard days, do you have a mantra that inspires you to continue your musical career?

Oh yeah. There was this thing one of my exes told me. She said, “You're always where you need to be.” I was going through a rough time and not sure why things weren't moving the way I wanted them to or thought they should. This was like 2012 before we got signed. Anytime I feel incomplete or like I'm in the wrong place, I remind myself that I'm where I need to be and usually allowing myself to accept my position creates growth.

Portrait of Jon 2017 per the author.

Portrait of Jon 2017 per the author.

Shane Franklin- Lead singer in hip-hop band SF1

The kid that was always, always playing drums on any and every surface he could find.

Shane playing drums for his college band in 2009 at Larimer Lounge.

Shane playing drums for his college band in 2009 at Larimer Lounge.

What did you love the most about DSA?

I remember we used to have teachers that would base writing prompts around our major, like, write an essay about how your major correlates with The Scarlet Letter. DSA really let us create a world shaped by our art form and what we loved.

How did your time at DSA influence the artist you are today?

Students were truly limitless at DSA in terms of collaborations and exploring different art forms. We were given opportunities to collaborate across majors. I remember drumming for the vocal department, tap dancing with the dance department, doing music for the cinema majors, and auditioning for musicals. It shaped me going out into this world as an artist. You can't just keep yourself in a box. That's why my music incorporates dance and theatrics. My time at DSA made me into the collaborative artist I am today.  

Do you think you could live life without music? What would you do instead?

Music is life. It's plan A. Plan B is execute plan A!

Portrait of Shane 2017 per the author.

Portrait of Shane 2017 per the author.

Julie Be- (Julie Almeria) also singer for project STéLOUSE

Julie was the girl who always got the best part in school-wide musicals, and rightfully so. I remember being in awe as I watched her in one stunning musical theater role after the next throughout my time at DSA.

 Julie starring in DSA’s production of  Aida .

 Julie starring in DSA’s production of Aida.

What differences do you notice working with DSA artists versus non DSA artists?

I think there are a lot of generous and nice artists in the music scene in Denver. I think that’s cool because those are the main characteristics I think of when I think of artists from DSA. I definitely think that there is a total sense of comradery between DSA artists though. Like, these are people that I especially want to see succeed. I think we fit very well into a scene that is already pretty generous, and I think we add a lot of good qualities too. DSA artists are just nice people, and nice people are sometimes rare in this world.  

What's your end goal? What if you don’t get there?

The end goal… that's a damn good question, and I ask myself that every day. When I was younger, I defined "success" as being famous, a household name, rich, etc. I doubt I'm alone in that… but now, I see success as being more about how I feel about the work that I am doing as opposed to how other people feel about it. I want to continue creating- releasing my own complete album is a bucket list item for me- and collaborating with other artists in ways that feel genuine to me. If I could do away with my day job and just make music for a living, I would be so freaking happy. Yeah, it would be cool to win a Grammy or to go on a world tour. Do I want those things? Absolutely! But to me, they're not the goal. If anything, they would be a by-product of the goal. At the end of the day, I want to arrive at a place where I can look back at my musical career and say, "I did what I wanted to do, and I did it with integrity".

Portrait of Julie 2017 per the author.

Portrait of Julie 2017 per the author.

Shilo Gold- (Shayna Goldstein)

I will never forget Shayna’s first-day-of-school-outfit in the 7th grade (think platform sneakers with fire flames going down the side and basketball shorts). Shayna has been many things to me throughout my life: a mentor and a fierce competitor, but above all else, my best friend.

Shayna singing in DSA’s Vocal Department’s 2007 “Pop Show."

Shayna singing in DSA’s Vocal Department’s 2007 “Pop Show."

What led you to start your music career in Los Angeles, and why did you decided to move back to Denver?

DSA gave me a certain strength that was bred from a really young age. It enabled me to really believe in myself. We were instilled with the ideas of what we could achieve, and were given a lot of power to invent ourselves as artists. I think it gave me the courage to move to Los Angeles and take on a bigger scene.

During my time in LA, I was missing a sense of authenticity. It felt so competitive and stiff. I left on tour and spent a year playing shows in 38 states. There was no doubt in my mind that Denver was where I wanted to end up.

Have you ever consider exploring a different career? What pulls you back to your artistry?

Pursuing a career as an artist is anything but easy or stable. Everyone has different tastes, and no matter how proud or passionate you are about what you are creating, it doesn't mean that it will be widely received. I have definitely questioned my ability to pursue my craft, and in turn, contemplated what other careers would look like for me. At the end of the day, I have realized that music is something deeply engraved in my bones. It is my journal, and the greatest gift I have to give. No matter what I do to pay the bills, or put food on the table, music is the reason I wake up in the morning and the way I make others feel like they are not alone. It's not that anything in particular keeps me dedicated to music, it's that I've done my share of exploring and have come to realize that no matter what path my life takes, writing and sharing music will always be a part of it.

Portrait of Shilo 2017 per the author.

Portrait of Shilo 2017 per the author.

Nic Hammerberg- Member of SYCDVK & Petals of Spain

Nic was basically my older brother growing up. He drove me to school everyday. We became obsessed with sharing new musical discoveries like Feist, Jack Johnson, G. Love and Special Sauce, and obviously the soundtracks from 'Garden State,' 'The O.C' and 'Grey's Anatomy.'

 Nic performing in DSA’s “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.” Photo by Edward Davidson 2005.

 Nic performing in DSA’s “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.” Photo by Edward Davidson 2005.

What connects all DSA students?

We are a special breed. We all have this connection, but how do you put your finger on it? It feels special to me. It's like if we all went to Hogwarts! You know- we have that bond! We are all from the Gryffindor house is what I am saying.

When I see other DSA artists performing around town, I just know so viscerally what they went through to get there. It's not to say that other people aren't as skilled, like muggles for example, they can be super great wizards too. But us magic folk are true wizards. We can just do anything that we set our minds to. We all studied our craft every day for basically all of high school and middle school. How could that be anything else but magical?

Do you have a song that you would say embodies your journey as an artist?

"Sleeping Lessons" by The Shins. That song has often been an inspiration in moments of sadness, and to really light a fire under my ass. There was something so different and mysterious about that song when I first heard it, lyrically and melodically, that acted as a psychedelic to me; opened my brain to new. There is new everywhere, and there is lots of opposition and challenges in discovering yourself. The lyrics are brilliant and provide a new support and resilience: "So enlist every ounce of your bright blood, and off with their heads…  You're not obliged to swallow anything you despise."

Portrait of Nic 2017 per the author.

Portrait of Nic 2017 per the author.

It became clear after interviewing my peers that growing up in an art school environment truly shaped who these artists are today. They confirmed my deep feelings and beliefs that students from DSA learn and refine skills that allow them to continually re-create themselves as artists. They collaborate with other singers, create an arts community, respect other forms of expression and bring to the table exceptional knowledge of music theory. DSA artists are truly an important part of Denver culture, and are creating a loving and collaborative music scene.

Other awesome DSA artists hidden among Denver’s music scene include: Wesley Watkins (founder of The Other Black and former trumpet player for Nathaniel Rateliff and Night Sweats and), Brittany Williams (of Brittany Williams & The Unstoppable Groove), Halle Spoor (who is currently recording her first album), and Khalil Arcady (Sur Ellz).  

These artists all perform frequently around town throughout the year. Keep an eye on their platforms for updates of future shows!

-Sierra

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

Your Guide To Colorado Shows For New Year's Eve

By: Hannah Oreskovich

It’s time to pop bottles Colorado! Here are our picks for New Year’s Eve shows this weekend:

Berthoud

Jeremy Mohney at City Star Brewing in Berthoud 9PM-Close

Jeremy Mohney.

Jeremy Mohney.

Boulder’s Jeremy Mohney released multiple EPs this year, both of which definitely caught our ear. The jazz/swing artist is throwing down at City Star Brewery to welcome in 2017, and we definitely recommend getting your swing moves on at this one. Mohney will have your feet tappin’ in no time, and after a few celebration libations, you won’t want to sit still. Details here.

Boulder

Andrew Sturtz & Friends at The No Name in Boulder 10PM-Close

Andrew Sturtz.

Andrew Sturtz.

Soulful singer/songwriter Andrew Sturtz will be holding things down behind the big brown door tomorrow night for NYE. Known locally for his solo work and his performances with The Constellation Collective and other groups, Strutz will croon you into the new year in style. Plus, there’s no cover. What’s not to dig? Deets here.

Lady and The Gentleman at The Lazy Dog in Boulder 10PM-Close

Boulder’s Lady and The Gentleman have made some changes to their lineup this year, but they’re still bringing mad grooves to the Colorado scene. Tomorrow they’ll grace the stage at The Lazy Dog, and no cover means no excuses. Get to it! More info right here.

The Alcapones at Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Boulder 10PM-Close

The Alcapones.

The Alcapones.

If you want to be shaken up Boulder, here’s your chance! The minstrel show of The Alcapones will be taking over Conor’s to dance you into the wee hours of 2017. Come hang and get rowdy! There will be lots of funky horn playing for your listening pleasure. More info here.

Yonder Mountain String Band with The Railsplitters at The Boulder Theater in Boulder 8PM-Close

Yonder Mountain String Band.

Yonder Mountain String Band.

Nederland’s Yonder Mountain String Band are holding down the BT for NYE. The five-piece bluegrass band well-known around these parts will share the stage with Boulder’s The Railsplitters. Get over to get down! Tickets here.

Denver

Flobots with Nahko and Medicine For The People at The Ogden Theatre in Denver 8PM-Close

Flobots

Flobots

Denver’s Flobots members have been locally active in several awesome events this year, including Denver’s “Our Neighbors, Ourslves” refugee benefit and the Rock Against The TPP event. Tonight, the crew will swing you into the new year with Portland’s Nahko and Medicine For The People at The Ogden. Tickets here.

Fox Street & Friends with Tiger Party at The Bluebird Theatre in Denver 9PM-Close

Dever’s Fox Street & Friends will be rolling in the new year tomorrow at The Bluebird with a 12-piece band and double sets, which will include music from the movies Boogie Nights and Blow, and tracks by Rick James, David Bowie, and Prince. The band’s frontman Jonathan Huvard is relocating to NYC in 2017, so this show is your chance to catch this crew together in what may be their last local performance for awhile. Tiger Party will open the night with songs by LCD Soundsystem. Tickets for this dance party here!

Itchy-O with Total Unicorn at Summit Music Hall in Denver 8PM-Close

We actually spent our NYE with Denver’s Itchy-O last year, so we’re here to tell you this show is going to be a magical time! The mysteriously masked band will have you boogieing all over Summit Music Hall; Total Unicorn is opening. Enter the dark. Tickets here.

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with Kid Congo Powers at 3 Kings Tavern in Denver 10PM-Close

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club will be laying out their ‘Commandments’ for you tomorrow evening at 3 Kings Tavern, and we’ve actually got a whole interview with Slim himself for you here. This show will be one crazy ride into 2017, so take it! Tickets here.

The Yawpers with The Other Black at The Oriental Theater in Denver 7PM-Close

The Yawpers. Photo Credit:   Hannah Oreskovich

The Yawpers. Photo Credit: Hannah Oreskovich

We love The Yawpers. And we love The Other Black. And both of them are sharing the stage tomorrow night at The Oriental for NYE! The Moved and Evan Holm & The Restless Ones are opening the show, making for a full lineup of Denver badassery. Get to this gig- seriously. Tickets here.

Winehouse Masquerade Ball with Judge Roughneck at Mercury Cafe in Denver 930PM-Close

Winehouse.

Winehouse.

Denver’s Amy Winehouse tribute band Winehouse are ringing in the new year at Mercury Cafe with plenty of sultry, soulful vibes. Presales are only $20 and Judge Roughneck is opening the night, so grab tickets while you can! This will be an awesome show. Deets here.

Durango

Nappy Roots with Jerney at Animas City Theatre in Durango 9PM-Close

Jerney.

Jerney.

Nappy Roots are closing out the year in Durango tomorrow, and Denver’s Jerney is opening the gig. Jerney has been dropping new music like crazy this year, and this is one of his last Colorado shows, so make sure to get to it! Tickets here.

Greeley

The Burroughs with Bryce Merritt at The Moxi Theatre in Greeley 8PM-Close

The Burroughs.

The Burroughs.

Greeley’s The Burroughs dropped some sweet new music this past year, and they’ll be playing that for you tonight + more tunes at The Moxi. The nine-piece soul pop outfit will be joined by Bryce Merritt for good measure. Wicked. Tickets here!

Fort Collins

Rose Hill Drive with The Velveteers at Hodi’s Half Note in Denver 9PM-Close

The Velveteers. Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss

The Velveteers. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Denver’s The Velveteers are arguably one of the most successful acts coming out of Colorado right now. Fronted by Demi Demitro, the heavy rock two-piece will make you headbang all the way up until Boulder’s Rose Hill Drive takes the stage at Hodi’s. Go get yourself hypnotized. Tickets here.

Rollinsville

Jaden Carlson Band at The Stage Stop in Rollinsville 10PM-Close

Jaden Carlson.

Jaden Carlson.

Teenage musical prodigy Jaden Carlson has had quite the year in the Colorado music scene. From impressive opening slots for bands like The Revivalists to her own headlining performances at The Fox, Carlson has proved she knows how to break. things. down. Head out to her last performance of the year tomorrow at The Stage Stop! We guarantee it will be an impressively good time. More info here.

That’s it for us for NYE Colorado! See you in 2017!

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

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.

Boulder's Pearl Street Music & Arts Festival Kicks Off Tonight

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Blind Pilot. Yonder Mountain String Band. Langhorne Slim. What do these three talented acts have in common? They’re headlining the Pearl Street Music & Arts Festival, which kicks off tonight and lasts the whole weekend!

The Pearl Street Music & Arts Festival, which showcases local and national music acts at several venues across Boulder’s Pearl Street, starts at Rembrandt Yard Art Gallery tonight at 530PM with a Songwriter’s Workshop from Elephant Revival’s Dango Rose. From there, there’s a massive list of artists to see at various digs throughout the weekend. Whether you’re looking for a soulful serenade over coffee, (check out The Constellation Collective at The Laughing Goat) or you want to boogie down over brews (get to The Other Black at The Lazy Dog), there’s a show for you! Some of the weekend’s events are free, and others are ticketed, so make sure to get your details on that here.

All proceeds from The Pearl Street Music & Arts Festival go to The Future Arts Foundation and The CAN’d Aid Foundation. Both support local music, art, and more, which makes your entrance a donation to awesome organizations. It’s a win-win!

So get out and do some good this weekend by living local. Check out The Pearl Street Music & Arts Festival’s full schedule for November 17th-20th 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.

Wes Watkins Returns to the Colorado Music Scene

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Wes Watkins has returned with a bang. After a battle with epilepsy forced him to leave a touring stint with Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats, Watkins made his way back to Denver and has been doing what he does best: playing music with every inch of his soul. Not one to stay offstage for long, Watkins came back to The Mile High City earlier this summer and managed to guest in twelve sets at The UMS with various performers, started recording an album for his project The Other Black, and has played gigs throughout the state with artists like Izcalli. How’s that for a homecoming, Colorado?

Last week, The Other Black performed at The Boulder Theater opening for Who’s Bad?, and if there was ever any question of Watkins’ capabilities as a frontman, let me lay those to rest for you now. From his trumpet and synth skills to his energetic engagement with the crowd to his incredible vocal range (when he hits those soulful low notes honey, you’ll straight swoon), Watkins proved he’s everything you want in the leader of his brainchild, The Other Black.

Wes Watkins.

Wes Watkins.

Watkins danced across the stage with finesse during most of the band’s tunes, backed by a 12-piece outfit that included four backup singers, two percussionists, and a small horn section. The group had a couple of minor sound issues in their set, like when they had to stop mid-song because Watkins’ keyboard was nowhere to be found in the mix, but overall they kept a crowd of a couple hundred people engaged who were mainly there for a Michael Jackson cover band. When you can get people up dancing and clapping along to your music, and they came for a band that plays zero originals, that says something.

Megan Crooks.

Megan Crooks.

The Other Black’s sound is a mix of soul and funky doo-wop meets R&B with a little baby bit of pop thrown in. It’s tasty, and we can’t wait to hear what they lay down on their next record, which is set to be finished near the end of the year.

Watkins’s triumphant return to the scene continues tomorrow night, when he will play a solo set at Larimer Lounge opening for The Shadowboxers. Keep up with The Other Black’s show schedule here, and we’ll keep you posted on their upcoming album as details become available.

Welcome home Wes.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Denver's Brittany Williams IS The Unstoppable Groove

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Colorado singer/songwriter Brittany Williams recently released a new track titled “Everything And More”, a tune which you will find on her upcoming EP Brittany Williams and The Unstoppable Groove. The 26-year-old Denver native has been hard at work over the past year, releasing her eight-track debut Cursed With A Blessing just six months ago.

Listen to Brittany Williams’ “Everything And More”:

A Denver native well known in the local R&B/Soul scene, Williams has found herself in “Everything And More”. Her voice is smooth and strong; she belts out the tune with a sultry confidence that is explosive and rich in tone. The upbeat pace of the song, moved along by jazzy percussion and velvety trumpet timbre, creates the groovy ambiance of a smoky jazz club where we are the hypnotized observers and Williams is the star. This release is proof of Williams’ successes to come. Brittany Williams IS the unstoppable groove. And you’d better not miss her.

Brittany Williams.

Williams has managed to surround herself with a number of talented musicians on “Everything And More”, who will also be featured on her upcoming EP. With Wes Watkins (trumpet) of The Other Black and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Sean Dandurand (bass), Dylan Johnson (drums), Ben Weirich (keys), and Ramoane Williams (guitar), Williams has coordinated quite the hard-hitting team. Each member brings their own swingin’ elements to the track while still letting Williams’ vocals shine.

If Williams’ upcoming EP is anything like “Everything And More”, we have a feeling it will be hard to catch her anywhere but on tour. So keep up with her current live performance schedule here, and stay tuned for more from Brittany Williams and The Unstoppable Groove. We’re definitely keeping our eye on this Denver talent, and you should too.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on instagram and twitter.

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