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