Denver is increasingly becoming known for its booming live music scene. We’ve got the greatest outdoor venue in the country in our backyard (Red Rocks), we host more than a few music festivals in our great state each weekend between May and September, and national acts are now more often frequenting our stadiums and arenas. 303 has a list of local acts whose careers were born and are growing here, and we’ll share with you a portion of that list, introducing and re-introducing these Denver artists who made big waves in 2016.
Just days ago, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper took the stage prior to his concert to pronounce December 17 Nathaniel Rateliff Day. According to staff writer Kevin Glenn, 2016 has been a phenomenal year for Rateliff—with 246 concerts held across 16 countries and the 640,000 albums sold. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats have already sold out their headlining gig next August at Red Rocks. Since Ratliff’s career is on the up-and-up, his most recent show at the Ogden was possibly one of the last at the venue. We would suggest you catch this Americana/folk singer and his band while they’re still warming up.
In September, budding group Paper Bird released their newest album (co-written by none other than John Oates of Hall & Oates) to the pleasure of indie-rock fans everywhere. This album comes with the inclusion of the newest addition to the band, lead vocalist Carleigh Aikins. Following an official album release party and performance at Twist & Shout, the band played a two-night gig over this past Thanksgiving weekend at the Bluebird, which was a much-anticipated couple of shows due to the initial excitement of their album debut.
Big Gigantic is one of the bigger names in electronic music today, and Denver is lucky to call the duo its own. Between endless collaborations and a perpetual ride on the festival circuit, Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken have established themselves as masters of the industry. When they’re not traveling the country and bouncing between festivals, you can find Lalli as a special guest for countless shows around town. With their combination of electronic and funk comes a diversity that is totally unique to the genre and has worked in the duo’s favor.
The Magic Beans
This space-funk jam band from just up the canyon in Nederland upped the ante and signed with Go4Dindas Management two months ago. Based out of New York City and Nashville, Go4Dindas is responsible for LOCKN’ Festival, along with bookings at the infamous Capitol Theater in New York. This huge step comes not too long after joining Boulder-based Madison House, which was recently bought by big dog AEG Live. And considering the exponential growth of their own headlining music festival, Beanstalk, all we can say is, “Team Bean!”
In with the old, out with the new. That’s what happening with Cash Money Records, who recently separated from Lil’ Wayne and has since paired up with Denver’s budding talent, Trev Rich. Considered by many as the first ever breakout hip-hop artist from Denver, Trev Rich is credited for putting our city on the rap music map, a genre that has had a more difficult time finding the spotlight with so much competition from the electronic and jam scenes. We’re looking forward to seeing what doors Trev Rich will open for his fellow rap/hip-hop artists.
Probably the most recent and exciting thing that has happened to this beloved folk band is playing its music with the accompaniment of the Colorado Symphony this past fall. A growing name within the folk and bluegrass communities, Elephant Revival is also know for their activism—working with a number of nonprofit organizations for humanitarian causes. They’ve also recently earned themselves a headlining slot at Red Rocks, and manage to sell out smaller shows all across the Front Range. In a business that is moving more towards big venues, overwhelming crowds and ticket-bots, Elephant Revival is a breath of fresh air, remaining intimate and humble with each step forward.
Change can be scary, but The Motet has accommodated change to the band with grace and style. This year, they said goodbye to family man and Portland-based Jans Ingber, who was their lead singer. They found a rock-solid replacement for the frontman, and things have been looking up ever since. They’ve made the rounds during their latest national tour, which included a stop at Washington D.C.’s The Hamilton. Each festival slot gets increasingly later on the docket, and thus closer to headlining status, and Red Rocks has already reserved a date for the band in 2017 as the main act. In the words of keyboardist Joey Porter, “Keep On, Don’t Stoppin’.”
Touring with The Floozies some years back and playing at a number of musical festivals the past few summers gave SunSquabi some momentum. This electronic-jam band kicked off 2016 with a sold-out show at the Ogden and a signing with Boulder-based All Good Records. Their Odyssey EP, in which the band mixes jazz and rock into bass-heavy beats and creates some epic dance music, received a hugely positive response, and guitarist Kevin Donohue predicts big things to come from the band in the next year or two.
Tenth Mountain Division
You may not know of these dudes yet, so we’ll help you get ahead of the game. Founded in the Vail Valley and now flourishing at CU-Boulder, TMD has created a new music genre they’ve dubbed “ski rock,” which won them Z2’s Battle of the Bands this summer and earned them a performance slot at Summer Camp Music Festival, alongside major jam band headliners like Moe. and Umphrey’s McGee. With an extremely loyal following of friends and family, there is no doubt that word-of-mouth promotion will continue to benefit the band. And as soon as TMD graduates to the big leagues, just remember, you heard them here first.