In 1995 Westword Weekly started the Westword Music Showcase. As it approaches 30 years, it has gone through changes. Originally staged in LoDo it moved to the Golden Triangle and now is in two Denver hotspots: RiNo Arts District & The Mission Ballroom. It has gone from a one day experience to 2 days. It has gone from July to September. This year’s showcase features over 60 acts, on 12 stages…a third of them women.
Wet Leg – Wet Leg released their debut album in 2021 and have skyrocketed ever since. Rhian Teasdale & Hester Chambers’ have seen their US tour need bigger venues.
Cannons – Cannons’ released their 3rd album Fever Dream earlier this year. Michelle Joy leads this band that has a sound between lounge and indie rock. They are always a fun show. See our photos here.
Big Richard – This an all women, all acoustic band with Bonnie Sims, Joy Adams, Emma Rose, and Eve Panning. We first heard of them in the Spring at E-Town. They have a headlining show at the Gothic in October.
Bluebook – Julie Davis’ supergroup continues to amaze us. We last saw them open for Marissa Nadler. Whether as a 4 piece or a 3 piece, Bluebook is a sunshine haze of fun. See our live photos here.
Cleaner – This is new group with old friends from Muscle Beach, Fast Eddy, Dirty Few, Keef Duster and Colfax Speed Queen.
Same Cloth – Same Cloth is a versatile group led by JoFoKe and Soloman J Chapman. They caught our attention with their long residency at Dazzle.
Sophie Gray – Gray is a new singer-songwriter with a lot of buzz.
Denver’s Underground Music Showcase (UMS) features over 150 acts from all over the nation. The festival, now in its 22nd year has a number of changes. We’re spotlighting 2 of them, and the artists involved here..
Youth on Record was founded in 2008 with the mission to designs and implements strengths-based, music-centered programs intended to equip young people from historically under-resourced communities with the skills needed to find success in life by advancing their academic success, increasing their economic opportunities and career skills, and strengthening their community connections and networks. This year Youth on Record took a 49% interest in UMS. As part of that they’ve brought their own signature events to UMS including:
Impact Show July 30, 2022 – New to UMS this year, the Impact Show is part of a festival-wide focus on supporting mental wellness and the prevention of substance misuse among musicians and an anticipated 10,000 festival attendees. The inaugural show will feature the Seratones, A funk-soul-rock band from Louisiana that marries spirituality, protest, Black feminism, and Afrofuturism.
Youth on Record will also have Impact Days preceding UMS on July 27 & 28, 2022 from 12-6 MST at Youth on Record.
A two-day intensive hosted by Youth on Record and open to all musicians and artists participating in the UMS, Impact Days will serve as an industry-focused kick-off for the festival. Artists, music industry and community leaders will provide skill-sharing workshops, networking, professional development, and wellness coaching opportunities to local and emerging artists. Focused on artmaking, Impact, and Economic Opportunity, Impact Days are designed to build the foundation for institutional resources that will serve musicians, artists, and the creative industries for years to come.
Dozens of industry and arts leaders will host panels, workshops and coaching sessions; industry and arts leaders will be paid for their time. During the pilot year, the event is free to all participating artists. Between sessions, participants will be invited to participate in “care” practices including yoga, access to mental health resources, sober bars, and healthy foods.
Black Fret is a nationwide membership organization with chapters in Austin, Seattle and now Colorado. Black Fret’s goal is to create a global network of connected communities, all supporting their local music economies. And in the process of creating this network, provide opportunities for our Black Fret bands to travel between cities, playing bigger gigs and being paid for shows they would not have had the opportunity to otherwise.
Recently Black Fret Colorado announced its 2022 Black Fret Awardees. The inaugural Black Fret Awardee artists were nominated by local industry experts and founding members in Colorado. They represent a broad spectrum of musical genres and reflect the depth of Colorado’s remarkable talent. They are:
For over 20 years this music festival has brought big names to Denver while also showcasing the local scene. This year over 170 artists will appear on 15 stages over 3 days. Last year the festival was a virtual 3 hour event. This year’s showcase includes Pinegrove, Remi Wolf, Shannon & The Clams, Sofia Valdes among its 13 headliners. Local acts include returning artists of Bellhoss, Slow Caves, Wildermiss, Izcalli and more. There are also new faces including Lnlygirl, The Grand Alliance, Deadluv and more.
“After 20 years of Underground Music Showcase, we were thrilled to be able to carry-on our tradition virtually last year by raising $75,000 for independent musicians” shares Casey Berry, owner of the festival. “With that said, we couldn’t be happier to be in-person for 2021 to not only support live music and local bands, but to support more than a dozen independent bars and restaurants on Broadway!”
UMS is working closely with city and state officials to make sure we rage safely in 2021. This might include reduced capacity (especially at indoor venues), and potentially limiting ticket sales to ensure proper distancing as required. UMS has every intent to become a good example of how to return to in-person, live music festivals in a safe and celebratory manner, and will be monitoring health directives in real time as the big weekend approaches.
There are few times when misfortune makes an artist stick out. Last year at Denver’s Westword Music Showcase a venue suffered a power outage. Some artists tried to continue normally and failed. A few used the opportunity to stand out. Kayla Marque caught our attention in an unamplified set that was majestic in power.
Since then she has released her debut album Live and Die Like This. Her music is a cross of R & B and alternative with emotional performance. . She is playing at the Capitol Hill Peoples Fair this weekend. For info visit http://www.kaylamarque.com & https://peoplesfair.com/
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
KM: My technique has changed over the years, especially since adding guitar, I used to only write on piano. Now-a-days, I keep a small journal with me at all times and I write down anything that strikes me. Some pages only have one or two words, or just a phrase…then I sit down with these writings at the piano or guitar and just kind of play with them. figure out the tone, the mood the color… Before they were more concrete ideas, but my writing seems to follow my identity (or where I am in life) and right now I am sort of lost so not having a definite direction is where I am at. This process is always changing…and evolving I hope.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge makingLive and Die Like This?
KM: The hardest thing was being patient. This was my first solo project and my first time really being in the studio as much as I had to be. (I hated the studio, live performance is definitely more comfortable for me.) Going into the project I thought it was going to be done within a matter of months, and it took a couple years. I didn’t realize it was going to take a considerable amount of time to create a sound that was unique to me. I eventually learned that it could not be rushed and to be patient with the process. I couldn’t be more proud of the Album!
FEMMUSIC: How did you meet Been Stellar & Sur Ellz? What made you decide to have them produceLive and Die Like This?
KM: I’d met them years ago, both through Jon Shockness and Air Dubai. We became friends first…when Air Dubai ended Lawrence (Stellar) started producing, he first did Khalil’s Album ‘Magic’
It was kind of a no brainer, they are both genius…Khalil probably knows my music and writing style better than anyone, and Lawrence knows how to create practically any sound. Put these two together and I had a dream team! And you know what, I am blessed, I didn’t really have to “decide” it was Lawrence’s idea to take the project on, I would have been a fool to say no.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
KM: I think I am discriminated on all the time because I am a woman. I haven’t experienced any really heavy situations, but I’ve had plenty of minor ones, which I just find to be more of an annoyance than anything. Last year, I played divide music festival in Winter Park, my team and I were hanging out at the hotel pool just having some fun, I went back to my room to grab something, and in the elevator there were a group of guys…they started talking to me about the festival because they saw that I had the “Artist Badge” on, so the asks “oh which artist do you work for?” I asked why he asked that and he points at the badge and repeats himself…I tell him I am the artist and he literally says ” wow, I thought you were like some bad ass personal assistant.” So, yeah. A lot of times I am the only woman on a lineup and I am still mistaken for the ‘Secretary’
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
KM: Can I only choose one thing, because I can probably think of a few! I’d like the lifestyle to be more healthy. Physical health and mental health. There has always been that lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, I have experienced some of that lifestyle first hand and what starts out as fun can quickly become dangerous. I’m not sure if that lifestyle will ever play itself out in this industry, but it is something I have changed for myself personally. Just self care in general, we as human beings and artists have so much to offer the world, and we should give ourselves the chance to be alive and well to do it!
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to tour with or collaborate with, and why?
KM: I’d love to tour with my friends, it is something we’ve talked about for a while now. A small tour with Sur Ellz and Kid Astronaut would be magical! As far as people I don’t know, music acts that have strong lead women like Alabama Shakes, Banks, FKA Twigs…just to name a few.
FEMMUSIC: What have you learned now, that you wish you knew earlier?
KM: Gosh, I have learned so much already and I still feel like I know nothing lol. But one thing that I’ve learned that sticks with me, is that I am going to change a lot and that is ok. I used to think that I had to be one way all the time, now I know it is ok to be confused, lost, experimental etc, because that means I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone, which means I am growing.