Westword Music Showcase 2012

Two weeks ago I won a pair of passes to attend the Westword Music Showcase, courtesy of the fine folks at Ultra5280. Westword advertised that there were over 150 local bands and I saw the tiniest fraction of them, but I had a friend pointing me in the right direction to start the day.

My day started with The Don’ts and Be Carefuls at Club Vinyl at the recommendation of my new friend Nigel. He tells me that he’s friends with the band, but I don’t think he’d recommend them if they were crap.

They had a ton of energy and a great 4-piece loud pop sound – guitar, bass, synth & drums. I might have missed a song or two, but I’m already hoping to catch them during the Underground Music Showcase next weekend (July 19-22). I’m listening to their song “The Still Favorites” as I write this and wish I had a stand-up desk so I could dance and write at the same time.

It was one of the hottest days of the summer in Denver, and everyone was walking around in shorts, t-shirts and sandals, trying to beat the heat in any way possible. I took off my shirt and twirled it around when walking between venues to try & dry it out. We were smart, though, and parked in the $5 structure near the Denver Art Museum and packed a cooler with our own food & a few bottles of water.

After seeing the Dont’s and Be Carefuls we beat feet over to the Curious Theatre to see Ian Cooke. He plays cello and sings but has a full band with him. I used to work with the guitarist Ian O a few years back and he constantly invites me to his shows on Facebook and I haven’t made it out to see him until now, and I’m so glad I did.

They played a couple of covers (Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” and ABBA’s “I’m A Marionette”) and I just really enjoyed the music. You can imagine that it’s not really loud with the cello, but the guitar, bass & drums get things rocking pretty well. Great songs and great presentation with all of the band members interacting with each other. Talked with my friend Ian O after the show & was reminded how great of a guy he is. He highly recommended Battles on the main stage later that day, so we made sure to catch that show.
Here we are at the Public Shaming poriton of this post. Close to the end of the Ian Cooke show some crashing bores came and stood near us & in front of us – I had to tell one guy to step aside as he had rudely set up directly in front of me in the aisle to where I couldn’t see. But the capper was this girl who was standing talking to someone and waving her sweaty body odor right at me:
Don’t be like her, kids. Be aware of your surroundings.
After seeing Ian Cooke, I wanted to catch Joy Subtraction at Bar Standard, but they were the only venue all day to deny access to my 11-year-old. Undaunted, we walked over to Rooster & Moon to watch A Mouthful of Thunder, again at Nigel’s suggestion.
There were a couple of microphone feedback issues and a lot of warm people packed into a small place, but the music was really good, lush, catchy, rootsy pop, and I’d like to see them in a bigger venue that could fit the band & it’s music.
We left a little before the set ended to go get out of the sun and have some food & water and enjoy the air conditioning inside my car. We then made our way over to Stoney’s to see Bop Skizzum, but got there early enough to catch the end of Rob Drabkin‘s set of jam-band-ish tunes. Rob has done some shows recently where he has covered Paul Simon’s Graceland album. I love that record and it looks like a performance of it is up on Spotify that I’ll probably check out soon & may try to see if he’s going to do that live again as well.
Bop is a band I saw for the first time a couple of months ago and really enjoyed meeting Andy, the lead singer/guitar player. I first heard of them about 10 years ago from a co-worker and haven’t really seen or heard much from them in the meantime, but they seem to be everywhere lately (probably thanks in part to the efforts of my friend Aimee at Giese Media). 
Bop puts on a hell of a show, even a short set like they were at the WMS, and my kid loved that they have a female singer. We went up and talked to the band afterward – everyone in the place was sweating like devils afterward – and they’re so nice & gracious.
After Bop we went over to the main stage to catch Battles. What Ian briefly told me about them was that they make dance-type music but using live instruments. Very difficult to describe but enjoyable. Not like sampling, but playing with precision, controlling the sounds the instruments make, probably some looping. Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures. Oh well.
At this point we went back to the car for more air conditioning, water, song trading & singalongs with Terry. Sufficiently cooled, we went back to the main stage area to watch Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Pretty fun stuff, not brain surgery, you know? Something good to listen to while we waited for Girl Talk. Both my kid and I were there mainly to see Girl Talk. I had seen him last year just a few months after All Day was released, and it was easily the most insane concert experience I’ve ever had. I was there alone and everyone was packed together, dancing, sweating, moving almost completely as one. I left that show thirsty, wet, and somehow completely worn out and energized at the same time.
The crowd at the WMS started gathering and I told the people I was with that “shit’s about to get crazy,” and I don’t think anyone believed me, but the joke was on them. More people kept packing into the city block parking lot where the show was being held. All of the people around us were vitalized and we were feeding off that as well. It wasn’t quite dark yet when the show started and everyone started dancing, but the crowd seemed to be holding something back.
(this photo was featured in Westword’s WMS Instagram recap!)
The darker it got, however, the more everyone let loose and just danced like nobody was watching. Maybe that was just me, but it felt like the atmosphere became more charged and the crowd shook off their inhibitions and everyone was having a great time. That’s what a Girl Talk show does to people, and it’s great.
The long, hot day ended with a bunch of tired people, energy spent, us included. My kid told me how great that was, though, and that was worth it for me. I’m completely grateful to Ultra5280 for the tickets and to my friends for sharing the day with us. I hope to have more days & nights like that, and soon.

Band Links:

The Don’ts and Be Carefuls
Ian Cooke
Mouthful of Thunder
Rob Drabkin
Bop Skizzum
Girl Talk

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