Westword Music Showcase in Denver

What really matters about festivals and day-long concerts is not so much the music as the spectacle. That’s why I like them, and that’s also why they wear me out.WMS stage and open area June 2009WMS kilt guy June 2009

Westword’s Music Showcase on Saturday, featuring bands from Denver, was spread out over 12 venues, most of which featured a new band every hour from 12 to 6. You could have listened to a band at every venue if you were willing to hoof it from bar to bar every 30 minutes and then visit the outdoor stage, the only one hosting the showcase past six.

Never one to settle on one venue or genre, I dabbled on Saturday, and it was a mixed bag. I missed the Chain Gang of 1974, the first show at the outdoor stage set up in a parking lot at 11th and Acoma, by the Denver Art Museum. But Pirate Signal, the band Westword featured on its cover, was a pleasant hip-hop surprise.

MC Yonnas Abraham started the show by announcing that his pants are always falling down. WMS Pirate Signal 2 June 2009But the belt below his hips held them in place while he danced and pretended to strip off his shirt and worked the still rather small crowd. He’s a Denver native whose parents were political refugees from Eritrea, and the songs, like “Ho Is the Prototype,” reflect that. DJ A-What pouted behind him and yelled into the microphone. For me, it was all about Abraham; I didn’t even see the third band member listed on their website.

I caught a little bit of the Northern Way before I left for my appointment (more on that Thursday). A little rock, a little pop, a little funk.WMS Northern Way 1 June 2009 Although I liked the keyboardist’s looks and singing, he suffered from having to follow Pirate Signal.

Perhaps I would have paid more attention if I hadn’t been so hungry. Festivals always have tons of food booths, right? Wrong. I got a sample of grilled chicken mango salad from Qdoba that, sadly, was small enough to fit in my palm. Other than that, all I could see was beer and Lenny’s Sub Shop, which sounded about as bad as the person puking next to me in the toilet. Seriously, isn’t it a little early for that?

So here I am walking around with 3 pairs of shoes in my backpack, two that I wanted to leave at Cobbler’s Corner, which isn’t open on Saturdays in the summer, and 1 pair of flip-flops for the appointment. At least I got a filling hot chocolate there; otherwise I might have fainted because it was actually warm and dry in Denver for a few hours.

By the time I met Todd at 4 pm near the outdoor stage, it was clouding over and cooling down. I took him to Bar Standard at 1037 Broadway to hear a band called the Knew. The bar held many people as tall and narrow as itself, though I did manage to sidle up to the front to take this picture. WMS The Knew 1 June 2009Soon enough we found ourselves back at the main stage, where Cursive was playing.

Todd liked them much better, and I felt better after getting a hot dog at Lenny’s Sub Shop, split down the middle, grilled, and set on half a brat bun. It didn’t last long.

We discussed our immediate future. I had researched several bands, but their times had all come and gone. We’d heard of the Fluid, set to play next, but we decided more to-ing and fro-ing was in order and made our way to Dazzle to see the Aakash Mittal Quartet.

As we’d surmised, fewer people wanted to listen to jazz than rock, and we got a table, which was soon covered by cheap drinks (the sangria was sweet and spicy) and calamari. Aakash Mittal, who plays, sax, flute, and clarinet, began with a slow solo, and then the band took off into a discordant wall of noise. WMS Aakash Mittal Quartet

“Strange art-jazz mayhem?” I wrote and passed my notebook to Todd.

“Jazz odyssey!” he wrote back. Or perhaps an Indian odyssey, since the last piece was based on a Hindu saying: “A cumin seed in the mouth of a camel.”

Our day did not come to a sudden stop, like each one of the quartet’s pieces, nor did it kick ass like the guitar player. We left Dazzle to find wet pavement and strolled past several restaurants I haven’t reviewed to eat at Le Central, which I have. As we moseyed back toward the truck, I decided I liked the tunes Meese was playing at the outdoor stage, but we didn’t stop for long.

An entire afternoon of music without one person searching my backpack. Take that, Fillmore!

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I haven’t included many links in this post because I upgraded to WordPress 2.8, and my dashboard is not working well. If you want to listen to more music from the festival, the schedule is here.