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!


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.

Leave A Comment

  1. BernardL June 16, 2009 at 10:17 am - Reply

    I enjoyed your thorough run-down of the day’s journey. A ‘discordant wall of noise’ by any name is a tough way to end it. 🙂

  2. Beth Partin June 16, 2009 at 11:02 am - Reply

    It took a little getting used to, Bernard, but I ended up liking that quartet.
    .-= Beth Partin´s last blog ..MonHaibun: Black girl, with skateboard =-.

  3. Todd Bradley June 16, 2009 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    What Beth called a “discordant wall of noise” was some of the best-played, most innovative jazz I’ve ever heard. I was impressed with the quartet’s musicianship, but what really wowed me was the composition. The group clearly knows traditional jazz arrangement like the backs of their hands, but then builds WAY OUT from it in a way that mixes cool/bebop with Indian scales. It was a delight to hear, and I had to buy the band’s only CD, which I’ve listened to every day since the festival. Fortunately, they’re working on a new CD with many of the pieces they performed last week for us.
    .-= Todd Bradley´s last blog ..Mythbusters =-.

  4. Beth Partin June 16, 2009 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    “Discordant wall of noise” was my initial impression; I was impressed with their musicianship too. And just remember, you never would have heard of them, or Brethren Fast for that matter, if I hadn’t dragged you to a concert.
    .-= Beth Partin´s last blog ..Crazy About Denver: Way Tall Buildings on 15th Street =-.

  5. Todd Bradley June 16, 2009 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Oh, I remember. Thank you for taking me to see both those bands!
    .-= Todd Bradley´s last blog ..Mythbusters =-.

  6. Amber June 16, 2009 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    Looks like a blast! And here’s to NO BACKPACK SEARCHES!
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..I’m baaaaack…. =-.

  7. […] McKinsey did a good job on my toenails, though she’s not quite as thorough as Lauren. I felt awkward at the end, because I had to move across the room while the polish dried to make room for her next client, a guy, and she didn’t talk to me once I’d paid her. But it was both peaceful and cheery in there, and I got out of the sun for an hour during the Westword Music Showcase. […]