There are a lot of things that can be classified as “so Colorado,” but few events compare to the Spread the Word Music Festival that took place this last weekend. The Colorado-bred music festival popped off on Fox Street Compound here in Denver and took the Mile-High City to a new level of Colorado standards. The lineup included jam, funk, bluegrass, electronic, reggae and rock, covering all the bases for this music-loving city.
In true Colorado form, Friday did not start with a warm greeting like one would have expected. The grey sky loomed over the four stages like an ominous statement of defiance against a hopeful weekend of fun in the sun. This proved that whether it is in our blood or simply forced upon us, we Colorado folk simply refuse to allow a little spritz to ruin a good time.
Friday did, however, start with some truly local treats. At the Entrance Stage, the Elegant Plums gifted effortless jams, and lead singer Taylor Stevens rocked socks without shoes. As the five-piece group diversely played jam, psychedelic rock, reggae and a “Billy Jean” cover, Miguel Dakota and the Differents had another sound going at the far-off Denver Stage. Dakota was a finalist in the 2014 America’s Got Talent competition with his gritty, soulful style and has since created the band of friendly musicians, which was made obvious as the chemistry on stage was undeniable. For those who were looking for old jams instead of new, the Main Stage hosted Ten Years Gone and SYCDVK, which covered legends Led Zepplin and Radiohead, respectively.
From there, Tyler Imbry offered the first real acoustic set of the night, while Midicinal fed the EDM needs of the audience. We’s Us brought ’90s jams — coupled with their music, the lead singers long, rambunctious hair and on-stage drug offerings to the crowd. As the evening headed into the night, it was hard not to notice the light crowd. The stages at Cervantes’ hosting The Runnikine, A-Mac & the Height and Everyone Orchestra stole the thunder from some of the onsight sets.
The main headliners heated up the night, starting with Dead Floyd on the main stage, where the first real populist horde took shape for the highly talented group. Charlie Humphreys, Matt Goldberg, Josh Miller and Stu Crair rocked classic favorites in front of an impressive light show. Bass Physics also hosted a multitude of fans, for the first big EDM show of the day. Skydyed and Aaron Bordas kept the electronic vibes pounding, which proved to be a blessing as the air grew colder and people needed to dance. However, by the end of the evening, what was left of the fan base had headed home to warm up, and hopefully, plan for what was sure to be an equally chilly Saturday.
Saturday’s weather started off with little sun in sight, but at least it was easier to plan for than Friday. The day stayed grey and muggy through the bluegrass musings of Caribou Mountain Collective, the island-folk of Lola Rising, indie-ska of Float Like a Buffalo and two sets of the extremely unique stylings of PandaSayWhat. The sun finally broke out for Whitewater Ramble, which matched the atmosphere of their cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave your Lover” as child fans played in the sand surrounding the stage.
It was around the country set of Grant Farm and taste of funk from Metafonics that a light drizzle finally started falling on the compound. Great American Taxi and A Mac & the Height’s upbeat and dance-inducing sets came just in time to help warm the bodies up. Alex Mckenzie (A Mac) is the reason for the sixth annual Spread the Word Festival, having done the heavy lifting of arranging the acts. As A Mac shook the Entrance Stage, Zolopht — from Grand Junction — stirred up the Denver Stage, infusing their happy, reggae-rock techniques to their dedicated, all ages fanbase.
The most exciting part of the middle day of the festival was Jeff Austin. The former member of Yonder Mountain String Band brought the first real crowd to the festival, filling the main stage area with twirling hippies. Austin played beloved tracks new and old and intrigued his crowd with an update on his side project with Umphrey McGee’s Brendan Bayliss, 30db. The Electronic stage raged Eminence Ensemble after Austin’s performance, but for those less inclined to EDM, Boulder’s Amoramora was bumping the Inspector Gadget theme song against the Denver skyline.
For the first time ever, The Spread the Word Festival housed the Spread the Word Family Orchestra, which boasted members of Pretty Lights, Sunsquabi, Jason Haan of the String Cheese Incident, Denver’s favorite set of pipes Ashley Niven, Analog Son’s Josh Fairman and more on the main stage. They entranced the crowd with epic jams including a killer Nirvana cover, “In Bloom.” To cap off an epic day at Spread the Word Music Festival was another gratuitous EDM production from Lucid Vision and an always thrilling showcase of musical expertise from Tnertle. To say the dogs were barking at the end of this day is an understatement, and there was still a full day of music left.
The third day of an epic music festival is the most important, some might argue. Some others might argue that the most important part is the female-fronted stage, which is where the good times of Spread the Word stayed bumping all day on Sunday. One of the first acts to tackle this platform was Denver’s 300 Days, with Melissa McGinley’s feminine touch on the fiddle. The place to be once one could scrape themselves away from the lady tent was A Mac and Friends, who we already saw but just had to check again.
Not long after that, we missed the strong-willed females over at the Denver Stage and returned for the Sweet Lillies set. The Sweet Lillies confirmed this decision with their soft, wholesome voices and intriguing take on “Land Down Under.” The schedule typically lined up well for fans, offering two stages playing different sounds. However, Boulder’s Policulture and Project 432 took the stage at the same time, both offering different strains of reggae. Mlima handed out temporary tattoos at the entrance stage and had some overpowering moments competing with Solsatellite, a jazzy set with one of the members’ dad on saxophone, despite that it was Mother’s Day.
The rest of Sunday was a tricky balancing act of where to be. The next two sets at the Main Stage boasted Tatanka and the Magic Beans, which are impossible to pass up. Tatanka easily took the cake for the weekend for reggae performances as the sunset a final time on Spread the Word. The jam-royalty of The Magic Beans took priority over the rest of the offered acts, and of course, they did it big. The thing about their sets is always the seeming ease at which they are able to jam out, and the long, funky tunes helped fans stay warm. As Sunday turned into night, it took the remaining hopes and dreams of the festival along with it. CYCLES closed out the main stage, but it was the thunder and rain that took the attention. This came as no shock, in fact, the possibility of it had been looming over like a surprise headliner. Although, this headliner stole the fun from any interest in finishing the festival.
It is easy to lose sight of the abundance of talent that Colorado oozes, which makes events like Spread the Word Music Festival a necessity. In three days the four stages showcased our own celebrities mixed with our previously undiscovered new favorite acts, and with that any Colorado music fan can mark up their calendars with the upcoming dates of each performer. That, my friends, is what the local festival life is all about.